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Professor Puran Singh: Scientist, Poet and Philosopher

Discussion in 'History of Sikhism' started by Tejwant Singh, Nov 28, 2004.

  1. Tejwant Singh

    Tejwant Singh United States
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    Mentor Writer SPNer Contributor

    Jun 30, 2004
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    Professor Puran Singh: Scientist, Poet and

    Dr H.S.Virk

    Puran Singh was born on 17 February 1881 in a small
    village, Salhad, District Abbotabad, now in Pakistan.
    After passing his F.A. examination in 1899 from DAV
    College, Lahore, he sailed for Japan in 1900 and
    joined as a special student of Pharmaceutical
    Chemistry in Tokyo University. He was sponsored by
    Bhagat Gokal Chand and the enlightened Sikh elite of
    Rawalpindi for higher studies in Science and
    Technology in Japan. Puran Singh was a highly
    volatile and emotional young man. His thought and
    personality were shaped by four climactic events in
    early life: his Japanese experiences, his encounter
    with Walt Whitman, his discipleship of Swami Ram
    Tirath, and his meeting with Bhai Vir Singh, the great
    sikh savant.
    In Tokyo, Puran Singh studied Japanese and German
    languages, since the medium of instruction for science
    and technology was German. Japanese society was
    passing through a phase of transition under Meiji
    Revolution towards the end of nineteenth century. It
    was opened to European Science and Technology and most
    of the teaching faculty was hired from Europe and
    America. Puran Singh was introduced to Walt Whitman
    during his studentship in Japan in 1901 through an
    American Professor teaching at Tokyo University. He
    read ¡¥Leaves of Grass¡¦ and was so much infatuated
    with Whitman¡¦s verse that it became the condition of
    his poetic and craft.
    Puran Singh had a multi-dimensional personality and
    it will be impossible to sum up all his achievements
    in this memorial lecture. I shall try to highlight
    salient features of his personality. The list of his
    literary works is given as Annexure I.

    (A) Puran Singh as a Scientist

    There was hardly any opportunity for a foreign trained
    scientist in the early twentieth century Punjab. To
    pay off the debt of his parents for his education in
    Japan, he set up a manufacturing unit in 1904 for the
    preparation of essential oils in Lahore. After a
    quarrel with his partners, he dismantled the whole
    unit. In 1906, Puran Singh moved to Dehradun and set
    up a soap factory at Doiwala. This unit was later
    sold to a minister of Tehri-Garhwal state. In April
    1907, he joined as Forest Chemist in the Forest
    Research Institute (FRI) at Dehradun. He worked in
    FRI till 1918 and made significant contributions to
    research1-2 which were published in Indian Forester
    and Forest Bulletin. He was the founder Head of
    Chemistry of Forest Products in FRI and published 53
    research articles dealing with:
    (i) Studies on Essential Oils,
    (ii) Studies on Fats and Oils,
    (iii) Production of Tannins,
    (iv) Production of Drugs and Pharmaceuticals, and
    (v) Promotion of essential oils, sugar and drug
    industry in India.
    Puran Singh was very keen to promote essential oil
    industry in India. He worked on the isolation and
    analysis of essential oils from eucalyptus globulus,
    khus, geranium, winter-green, sandalwood and camphor
    oil. After retirement, he established a Rosha Grass
    farm at Chak No. 73/19 in district Sheikhupura (now in
    Pakistan) but the project failed due to lack of
    government support and the floods which devastated the
    entire crop in 1928. Puran Singh was quite innovative
    in research15-16. He improved the quality and
    production of tannins in India, determined the oil
    values of forest oilseeds, introduced drug yielding
    plants in Indian forests, carried out calorimetric
    tests of Indian woods and patented a novel technique
    for decoloration of raw sugar, as crystal sugar was
    reluctantly used by orthodox Indians due to use of
    bone charcoal in its purification. His research
    activity was disrupted due to his involvement in
    revolutionary activities in Dehradun and thus a
    brilliant scientific carreer came to an end, after he
    took voluntary retirement in 1918, to avoid
    harassment at the hands of imperialist Indian
    government. His scientific papers are given as
    Annexure II.

    (B) Reminiscences of Japan
    Puran Singh is emphatic about his love for Japan and
    hate for the slave India. He left his ¡¥savage¡¦
    Punjab when he was in his teens. He sums up his
    impressions about Punjab after his return from Japan
    as follows3: ¡§In the cities of Punjab it seemed all
    life had turned into brick and mortar. The Hindu
    system of caste had made even the plan of building new
    houses and new cities miserable. I almost cried
    amongst these heaps of dead bricks. Nature is crowded
    out. Sunlight is shutout. There is no free
    opportunity in the country for genius to shine¡¨.

    Puran Singh was accorded a rousing welcome in Japan.
    He was a brilliant student of Tokyo University, a
    great orator, a revolutionary in the offing and a
    handsome young man. He represented not only India but
    also the land of Great Buddha, which made him a
    privileged student. In his Japanese reminiscences3,
    Puran Singh recounts his meetings with Japanese
    friends, Buddhist monks, the great artist and writer
    Okakura; his love and regard for Japanese flower
    shows, Japanese tea ceremony, Geisha and the Japanese
    housewife. He was so much infatuated with Japanese
    life and culture that he became a Buddhist Bhiku in
    Japan. He was all praise for the Japanese woman:
    ¡§The Japanese woman in her own racial dress is surely
    not a denizen of this earth. She trails a heaven in
    her garments¡K¡K¡K¡K . I have learnt all my Buddhism
    from the Japanese women. Buddha and Guru Gobind Singh
    both are the sacred inspirers of Japanese womanhood
    and man-hood¡¨. ¡§The delicate waists of the Japanese
    girls so artistically and so passionately caught
    forever by their obies made me feel jealous as well as
    pure in the contemplation that in the very clothes
    were the bonds of eternal union with one¡¦s self¡¨.
    Puran Singh is very critical and harsh in his
    criticism of India of early twentieth century. If we
    read between the lines, his critical remarks are
    applicable to some extent to free India of 21st
    century also. There has been hardly any revolutionary
    change in social and cultural life of India after
    ¡§In India the Government official is dreaded like a
    snake. All things official are suspected. People are
    afraid and the officials adopt the attitude of
    vain-glorious bullies¡¨. ¡§So I found in India that
    humanity is generally brutalized and demoralized by
    excessive idleness and non-development of material
    resources. Ethics and aesthetics are but polite arts
    of the idle rich. The richest houses are hovels, they
    have no music of love, their hearts are empty, their
    homes are as living graves. The wives labour like
    galley slaves. The country is doomed, the people are
    damned¡¨. ¡§Theological superstitions and communal
    biases brutalise almost every Indian; even those of
    great erudition and culture are stuck in the same
    quagmire. The life in India on the whole is
    hopelessly inartistic, filthy and barbarous as
    compared with the life in Japan¡¨.
    (C) Puran Singh-Walt Whitman Identity

    Puran Singh- Whitman identity is so complete as to
    almost suggest the idea of poetic reincarnation4.
    Both had a similar philosophy of poetry and regarded
    the poet as a person possessed in whom the utterance
    became the message. It will be in order to trace
    briefly the story of their affinities by drawing
    parallels from their life and works.
    Walt Whitman was motivated by reading Emerson in
    1854. He admits, ¡§ I was simmering, simmering,
    simmering, Emerson brought me to boil¡¨. Puran Singh
    got the real inspiration after his meeting with Bhai
    Vir Singh during the Sikh Educational Conference held
    at Sialkot in 1912.
    Walt Whitman feels that the scientists and the poets
    are born of the same father- stuff and the poets have
    to fuse science into poetry. Wordsworth defined
    poetry as the impassioned expression which is the
    countenance of all science. Puran Singh fully
    realized the truth of it in his own life. For him,
    poetry and science were not two opposite poles of
    reality as is often believed. There is no apparent
    contradiction between his scientific self and
    literary self. He was a distinguished chemist by
    profession as well as a creative genius in Punjabi
    literature. We see the imprint of his scientific
    career on his literary writings6:

    (i) ¡§I am for the physics of the soul which is the
    physics of the beauty of the body too¡¨.
    (ii) ¡§The very radium of mind, has been slowly
    allowed to degenerate into sinking lead¡¨.
    (iii) ¡§Impertinent desires dim his faith and bend it
    beyond the limits of elasticity¡¨.
    (iv) ¡§We, too, if we rise not to our full moral
    stature, shall soon become fossils, not Sikhs¡¨.
    It is remarkable that Walt Whitman and Puran Singh
    adopt not only the same style (free verse) but also
    the same form and content for their muse. Both sing
    of common people, ordinary things and God in the world
    of men and matter. Both are singers of glory of their
    native lands. While Whitman is more athletic and
    sensuous in his songs, Puran singh is more feminine
    and puritan in love. Puran Singh identifies the
    Khalsa ideal of Guru Gobind Singh in the writings of
    Walt Whitman7. He called him, ¡§A Guru Sikh born in
    America to preach the Guru¡¦s ideal to the modern

    (D) Commentary on the Poets of East and West10

    Puran Singh, a unique synthesis of a poet,
    philosopher and scientist, rose like a comet on the
    firmament of modern Indian literature. After Tagore,
    he was the first Punjabi poet whose works were
    published in England during 1921-1926. Ernest and
    Grace Rhys, the Irish scholars, introduced his book,
    ¡¥The Sisters of the Spinning Wheel¡¦ to the West.
    It is divided into four sections:
    (i) Poems from the Land of Five Rives
    (ii) Poems of a Sikh
    (iii) Poems of Simrin, and
    (iv) Readings from Guru Granth.
    ¡¥The Spirit of Oriental Poetry¡¦ is another
    master-piece of Puran Singh published by Kegan Paul,
    Trench, Trubner and Co. in England in 1926. It
    established him as a poetic genius in India and
    abroad. Puran Singh demonstrated his mastery of world
    literature in this book11 by an inter-comparison of:
    (i) The Poetry of the West,
    (ii) The Poetry of Japan,
    (iii) The Poetry of Persia ,and
    (iv) Modern Indian Poetry.
    He translated Jayadeva¡¦s Gita Govinda from original
    Sanskrit into lyrical English verse. The folk songs
    of Punjab, the poetry of Shrinagar and Vairagam also
    find a prominent place here.
    Puran Singh defines the poet of the East as a Bhakta,
    the disciple of the Divine. According to him, ¡§Our
    idea of the poet is that of a man who can, by the mere
    opening of his own eyes, enables others to see the
    Divine, whose one glance can be our whole knowledge.
    Whatsoever weighs down the inner self and seeks to
    imprison it in illusion is foreign to the spirit of
    poetry. It is irreligious. True poetry must free us.
    There is no freedom in sorrow and renunciation,
    however perfect. Freedom lies in the full realization
    of the Divine within our own soul¡¨.
    Puran Singh¡¦s commentary on the poets of East and
    West shows his rare insight and critical approach in
    view of his above definition of the poet. Some of his
    comments on the great poets of the East and West are
    as follows:

    (i) ¡§Shakespeare¡¦s imagination
    could not go beyond the lower spirit-world from
    which ghosts come to graveyards at night and fly away
    at the breaking of the dawn. This great dramatist was
    not able to pierce Reality beyond the
    surface-movements of an ego fettered by its own
    desires. Life is an infinite paradise. They who
    write tragedies are not yet enlightened. The function
    of poetry is to help us win our own paradise¡¨.

    (ii ) ¡§Tennyson devotes much time
    to seeking that his verses rhyme well. I cannot
    endure him for his fault of being faultless. He is a
    wonder-palace of English literature, a great
    aristocrat and great artist, but nothing more¡¨.

    (iii) ¡§Wordsworth exhausted himself in the delight of
    preaching the evident moral of beauty. He is more
    preacher than poet, and often redundant and
    exasperating in his sermons. He is , however the
    true naturalist:¡¨

    (iv) ¡§William Blake is the poet of our hearts.
    He has the spiritual vision and he is
    a companion of the soul¡¨.

    (v) ¡§ Carlyle¡¦s ringing prose-poetry pierces
    the soul, it has in it the flutter of a bird wounded
    by an arrow from the unseen¡¨.

    (vi) ¡§ It was Goethe who first saw the loftiness of a
    truly Eastern intuition, and perceived the gleams that
    hide in the hearts of the seers of ¡¥Simrin¡¦. In
    true devotion to Truth, and lifetimes of imagination,
    Goethe is a modern prophet. The literature created by
    him is nearest in its effect to the Bible¡¨.

    (vii)¡§ Rabindra Nath Tagore is a beautiful
    illusion of many minds and resembles none in
    particular. Like Tennyson, his originality is of the
    lion eating other people¡¦s flesh and making it his
    own. The Upanishadas feed him and Upanishadas come
    out of him. His vague and mystic suggestiveness is
    good preaching, but he creates no life, he pleases and
    enthralls, but there it ends. His poetry has not
    enough blood to inspire in another something like
    itself. Tagore is not so bold a thinker on spiritual
    matters as Vivekananda or Rama Krishna Paramahansa¡¨.

    (viii) ¡§The poems of Sarojini Naidu are full of the
    sweetness of life¡¦s romance. In
    her poetry, she is more Persian and Urduic in her
    style than Bengali. It is a pity she has cast in her
    lot with that class who love to remain all their life
    mere school boys and girls and treat the world as a
    debating club where poems can be read, songs sung and
    politics discussed endlessly. We have lost a crystal
    stream of passionate verse in the dryness of Indian

    (E) A Poet of Sikh Spiritual Consciousness (Surta)12

    It is extremely difficult to classify or categorise
    the poetry created by Puran Singh. The resemblance
    between Walt Whitman and Puran Singh as persons and
    poets is so striking that one cannot resist the
    temptation to call them ¡¥mirror images¡¦ of each
    other. Both were poets of free verse (vers libre).
    Puran Singh¡¦s Punjabi verse is classified under
    three headings:
    (i) Khule Maidan (The Open Wide Plains),
    (ii) Khule Ghund (The Open Veils), and
    (iii) Khule Asmani Rang (The Wide Blue Skies).
    The common strain of all three titles is Khule, which
    means in Punjabi, at once open and wide and spacious.
    In fact, the poems of Puran Singh reflect the
    amplitude of his soul. Puran Singh covered diverse
    fields in Punjabi poetry (Annexure IV). He
    re-interpreted the epic tale of Puran Nath Yogi in his
    own characteristic style. His poems on ¡¥Punjab¡¦ are
    considered to be the most patriotic in Punjabi
    literature. Some of his poems covering this theme
    are: Punjab nu kookan main (I call my Punjab), Punjab
    de darya (Rivers of Punjab), Javan Punjab de (The
    Youth of Punjab). However, I find a subliminal
    theme12 running in the poetry of Puran Singh, which I
    call ¡¥Sikh Spiritual Consciousness¡¦. A beautiful
    essay on ¡¥Surta-Soul Consciousness¡¦ explains this
    concept in the book, ¡¥The Spirit Born People¡¦
    written by Puran Singh in the form of lecture notes
    to be delivered to the Sikh youth of Punjab13.
    Puran Singh elaborates the concept of Surta in his
    two poems in Khule Ghund:
    (i) Surt ate Hankar (Consciousness and Ego), and
    (ii) Guru Avatar Surat.
    Surta determines the state of mind and consciousness
    and it has to be kept tuned to the Guru¡¦s Shabad.
    Puran Singh illustrates the rise and fall of Surta by
    quoting examples from world history in his essary13.
    According to him, the Sikh history is a mere
    reflection of Sikh Surta. The Sikhs will become
    fossils if the Surta is dead.

    (F) Puran Singh¡¦s Views on Sikh Gurus14
    As usual, the world is too inert, too late, to welcome
    is prophets who bring an altogether new message. So
    it has been with the Sikh Gurus. The Hindus just
    condescended with a superior air to say that the Sikhs
    are of them-¡¥born out of them¡¦. Culturally and
    academically and even racially this was not wrong, but
    inspirationally, it was an attempt to thwart all the
    potentialities of the Guru¡¦s universal message.
    After Buddha, it was Guru Nanak who for the first time
    championed the cause of the masses in caste-ridden
    India. The rich aristocracy and the degraded priests
    of Hindus and Muslims did not listen to the Guru, but
    the oppressed people followed him with joy. He made a
    whole people throb with love and life. For more than
    a century and a half his message was secretly flaming
    in the bosom of the people when the genius of Guru
    Gobind Singh gave them the eternal shape of the
    Disciples, the Khalsa.
    Guru Gobind Singh is the Guru of the modern times.
    Assuredly Guru Gobind Singh is the Guru of the modern
    times. Assuredly the slaves of India have not
    understood Him so far and are not capable of
    understanding His genius. The shadow of his large
    personality falls far away above the head of
    centuries, and the so-called best intellectuals of
    India, when they spread out their mind to understand
    the Guru, get bruised by mere thorns and give Him up
    as something not as spiritual as Guru Nanak. It they
    cannot see Guru Gobind Singh as the highest, brightest
    culmination of Guru Nanak, assuredly they do not
    understand that King of revolution of religious
    thought, the great Guru Nanak.
    The world of thought has yet to understand the Ten
    Gurus in the splendour of their thought which has been
    misunderstood due to the Brahmanical language they had
    to employ to express themselves and to the Brahmanical
    environment which always has been inimical to the true
    progress of man.
    The Guru Granth of the Sikhs is the most authentic
    account of the Guru¡¦s soul. It is a pity that some
    Sikh enthusiasts and half-baked scholars, perverted by
    the thought of the age, have tampered with the
    meanings they themselves wish to give it. But the
    authentic word of Guru Granth can never be lost to the
    world. And as the Bible is translated into different
    languages, so Guru Granth will have to be put by poets
    of different nations into their own language direct
    from their own souls. Life alone can translate life.
    The Guru Granth is the history of the Sikh soul, and
    its translation is to come through the great figure of
    the social reconstruction of human society as the
    Khalsa, where shall reign love, and not hatred.
    Without the Word of the Guru, and the ideal, the
    Khalsa, which stands for the sovereign society, there
    is no key to the heart of Guru Nanak and his anthems
    for the liberation of man. Its interpretation lies in
    our human soul, not in the meanings of this life
    creative music. The destruction by the Guru of the
    Brahmanical Citadels of superstition (as in Guru
    Nanak¡¦s Asa-Ki-Var or in the great Kabits and
    Sawayyas of the Tenth Master, Guru Gobind Singh, or in
    the Vars of Bhai Gurdas, the great exponent of Sikh
    ideals), is symbolic of the destruction of all lies on
    which human society might be wrongly founded and
    misguided. Guru Nanak is universal, but he is mostly
    the Prophet of the future. Freedom of the human mind
    and soul is the Guru¡¦s passion.
    The Guru did not eschew politics-in fact he made the
    liberation of the people the cause of the assertion of
    his heroism; but surely, if the Sikh lives on the
    surface only, like the Englishman, for mere politics,
    votes and such inanities, one straying from the
    Guru¡¦s path forthwith becomes a tratitor to his case.
    All freedom is but a spiritual tradition of the life
    of the Khalsa: if the Khalsa spirit is dead, all
    freedom fails. The Khalsa is the son of the Guru who
    brings everywhere his Heaven and its delectable

    (G) Puran Singh¡¦s Concept of Khalsa Democracy14

    The Sikhs are creations of the Guru¡¦s universal love.
    They are by their very birth of His spirit citizens of
    the world. The world of thought has yet to understand
    the Ten Gurus in the splendour of their thought which
    has been misunderstood due to Brahmanical environment
    which always has been inimical to the true cultural
    progress of man.
    The Khalsa is the ideal, future international state
    of man: it is an absolute monarchy of the kingdom of
    heaven for each and every man, the absolute democracy,
    distribution of bread and raiment of the kingdom of
    labour on this earth-all in one. It is democracy of
    feeling all on this physical plane of life, where most
    misery is due to man¡¦s callousness to man. It is
    brotherhood of the souls where intensity of feeling
    burns out all differences.
    In the realms of the soul, each is to have his own
    measure of the Guru¡¦s joy and sorrow and love and
    feeling and spiritual delight, according to his
    individual capacity. This will constitute the measure
    of the real aristocracy of each one¡¦s genius; but
    bread and raiment, the barest necessities of the
    physical body shall, in this kingdom of love for the
    Guru, never be denied to any one. If the Guru¡¦s
    ideal state, or even an approach to it, is ever made
    by man, no one will thenceforward die of hunger or go
    naked. Death cannot be prevented, innate differences
    cannot be destroyed; but physical privation will be
    prevented here on this earth by man himself. Let
    mountains be high, flowers small and grass low, but
    all shall be clothed with the beauty of God and fed
    with His abundance. The true vindication of the
    Khalsa commonwealth and its ideals as announced by
    Guru Gobind Singh, have yet to appear in terms of the
    practice of those ideals by those having faith in the
    Guru. The modern world, is, however, busy evolving
    its version of the Guru¡¦s Khalsa state out of social
    chaos. This much be said at once, that the Khalsa is
    more than a mere republic of votes of little men who
    must be influenced to give votes. It is more than the
    Soviet, which aims at the change of political
    environment and Law, to bring the Heaven of equal
    distribution on earth, because without the
    transmutation of the animal substance of man, of
    selfishness into sympathy, there can be no true
    The Guru Khalsa state is based on the essential
    goodness of humanity, which longs to share the mystery
    and secret of the Creator, and longs to love the
    Beautiful one living in His creation. The Guru thus
    admits man to an inner kingdom of the soul, where each
    and every person receives such abundance of pleasure
    and the beauty of His Love, that selfishness dies
    itself. Inspiration to the higher life drives out the
    lower. Each one, according to his worth and capacity
    to contain, has enough of the inner rapture of the
    beauty of God in him, so that he lives quite happy and
    contented without interfering in anyone¡¦s affairs or
    robbing any of his rightful freedom to increase his
    own pleasures. This endless self-sacrifice in utter
    gladness of a new realization is the sign and symptom
    of the true ¡¥Nam¡¦ culture of the Guru. No one can
    be man of truly human society, who has not obtained
    this divine spark which puts the self at rest, which
    thereby imbibes a nobility from God to leave
    everything along and gaze at Him with unending repture
    and renunciation. Man need to be truly and inwardly a
    divine aristocrat to be truly democratic in this
    In the constitution of the Khalsa commonwealth, the
    greatest act of genius of Guru Gobind Singh was when
    he transferred the divine sovereignty vested in him to
    the God-inspired people, the Khalsa. When speaking of
    the people, the Guru speaks of the people whose
    personality is transmuted into the divine personality
    of self-less being. As the chemist talks of pure
    elements just as they occur in nature, the Guru refers
    to the ¡¥pure¡¦ of the cosmic Spirit and not as they
    are found with their blind animal instincts. In this
    one act lies our history and the future history of
    human progress.
    In the Khalsa constitution, the people inspired by
    the natural goodness of humanity, by the spontaneous
    Divinity of God, by the Guru¡¦s mystic presence in all
    beings, are made supreme. They are the embodiment of
    Law and Justice fulfilled for ever in the love of
    Man. This state has but the Guru as personal God. In
    this state, the law of man¡¦s natural goodness is the
    only law.
    Puran Singh is emphatic in his criticism of democracy
    of mere votes and elections. ¡§Great men are true
    representatives of the people. So they have been in
    all ages, for true greatness is always representative.
    But the giants are gone and now the tiny dwarfs
    flutter and shake their wings. They have not the soul
    in them to take any responsibility. They have
    misunderstood democracy. By the introduction of the
    idea of democracy into politics, perhaps, that tall,
    Himalayan kind of human personality has been made
    impossible. All have become sand grains in one great
    level desert. All ideals are in the melting pot and
    from the great liquid will crystallize the New Ideals.
    Then the world tired of these dwarfs will cry for
    its old Himalayan giants again. Down with Democracy
    will they cry as they once cried Down with Kingship.
    Puran Singh seems to contradict Mahatma Gandhi:
    ¡§There is no such thing as Swaraj, self-government:
    we are always governed best by a noble man, not by
    ourselves if we are not so noble. The rest are mere
    words, votes, democracy.¡¨
    Democracy, the dream of modern civilization was
    established in this part of Asia in the exact modern
    sense in the realization of the spirit of Man. And
    the mortal fallacies which poison the human thought
    among the Soviets, were avoided by the Khalsa. The
    Khalsa made democracy its daily practice, driven by
    the inner feeling that is reborn of the spirit of the
    Guru, that all men are brothers. Democracy is not
    conceived as a social system, but as true inner
    spirit-born feeling. Democracy is the moral feeling
    that naturally wells up in the Informed Ones.
    The humblest brick-lifter has equal rights of joy and
    life with the king. A labourer who feels richer than
    a king and a king who feels poorer than a
    labourer-this is democracy of the spirit. The
    alternations of the outer conditions of life, even
    political resolutions cannot secure the equal
    distribution of land and wealth and labour; they
    cannot transmute human nature. Unless the change be
    wrought within, the volcanoes will burst forth again,
    and the lava shall flow as before, and all our
    leveling of conditions will be in vain. The Guru
    visualized this and leaving the outer surfaces of
    human nature untouched, changed the inner springs of
    Guru Gobind Singh was neither a Caesar nor an
    Aurangzeb. He was the true king of the people and a
    comrade of the people. In the truest representative
    spirit, Guru Gobind Singh founded the true democracy
    of the people in which there were no dead votes or
    votes won by mental persuation or interested coercion.
    Democracy was a feeling in the bosom of the Khalsa
    and it gave an organic cohesion to the people who
    founded both society and state on the law of love, on
    Justice and Truth , not an impersonal system of the
    will of the blinded mob-representation by sympathy and
    not by dead votes. The Khalsa-state is an Ideal;
    Sikhs may die, it does not. It is immortal.
    (H) Genesis of Hindu-Sikh Divide14
    It might seem that owing to the hostility of an
    environment, and the not unoften deliberate attempts
    of the Hindu society to obliterate the Sikh ideals,
    Sikhs tend to deny any relationship with Hindu
    society. The Sikh may deny him or not, the Hindu has
    already denied the Sikh. The great Hindu culture and
    its innate influence on Sikh culture, however, cannot
    be denied. It would be to deny one¡¦s parentage. Such
    denials add nothing to the stature of the Sikh. All
    that is lofty and noble must be and is fully reflected
    in the soul of Sikhism, for matter of that, not Hindu
    culture alone, but all human culture itself. The Sikh
    is rather spiritualistic in his consciousness than
    The songs of the Ten Gurus and the lives of
    unparalled martyrdom have created a new race-emotion
    in the Punjab; the Sikhs are a new nation in its
    inspiration and its remarkable cohesion of the masses.
    The brief Sikh history and tradition inspire the
    Punjab peasants as no manner of religious `fervour did
    before, which goes to show that the Sikh has a
    tradition and culture of his own which the Hindu has
    been unwilling to receive, though he wishes at times
    to pat him on the back as a kind of off-spring. It is
    unfair of the Hindus to condemn the Sikhs for their
    attempts to cut themselves away from the mass of
    Hindudom. They make it a grievance that the Sikhs wish
    to make their church stand apart.
    In view of the political solidarity of India it is
    mischievous for any one to suggest that we are not of
    the Hindu and not equally of the Muslims. It is
    mischievous to multiply the points of difference with
    the Hindu, which are not fundamental.
    The Gurus have shown to Hindus the way to freedom of
    mind and soul and also to political freedom. The
    Hindus, out of the spirit of vain intellectual pride
    have withheld themselves from the resurgence that
    Sikhism would bring. For the Hindus, the way to
    survival and freedom is the Guru¡¦s way. Unless they
    accept Guru Granth as their new Gita, the old
    scriptures and the stories from Ramayana and
    Mahabharata can no longer inspire new life into the
    mass of people whose backbone has been crushed by
    systematic metaphysical and theological burdens.
    Political slavery has been the result of their
    metaphysical mentality.
    The Hindus in the Punjab have much to answer for.
    They find more in Bhagavat Gita and the old Vedas than
    in Guru Granth. They relate themselves to the bards
    of Vedas more than the Gurus.
    The Hindus failed Guru Gobind Singh: but Guru Gobind
    Singh has not failed them. They have not understood
    him; he understood them. As they have grown so
    apathetic, almost antagonistic to the message of the
    Gurus, it is essential that the basic unique character
    of Sikh culture should now be expressed.
    (I) Physics of Spirituality14
    In the scheme of human progress there is such a
    thing as the physics of spirituality; the Hindu has
    ignored it, the Western races have realized it.
    Because of their comprehensive vision, the Khalsa
    shall have the spiritual and temporal sovereignty and
    all shall submit to it, soon or late. Only those
    shall be saved, who gather under this flag. The
    Hindus, so far, have not seen the significance of the
    Guru¡¦s creation, the Khalsa. Great Hindu
    philosophers like Tilak, Aurobindo and Tagore are
    reinterpreting the Gita and the Upanishads in order to
    come abreast with modern Western thought and
    scientific conclusions. But they do not see that more
    than four hundred years ago, their own country-men,
    the Sikh Gurus, actually worked all these modern
    tendencies into the constitution of the mind and
    society of this unhappy land, by creating the Khalsa.
    Their lives gave birth to a new country in this old
    one, and peopled it with a new race, with a universal
    religion of faith in man, and fired it with the
    spiritual passion for progress. Out of the Gurus came
    a daring, colonizing race, lovers of land and
    agriculture, ready to start a new page of life at
    every turn. And of all the older texts the Sikh texts
    alone need not be tortured to come abreast with modern
    developments: they have woven the philosophy of the
    ancient scriptures in an organic whole. The Sikh
    life is the vindication of natural manhood and
    Some modern typical Hindus are trying to interpret
    Upanishads and the Gita in modern modes. But such
    attempts are against the traditional faith that has
    gathered round these books. And, however easily they
    may be interpreted in the modern modes, they have
    never shown the great reactivity that is attributed to
    them. In the past the teaching of the Gita has never
    been harnessed to action nor the Upanishads to love of
    the people. There has been no phenomena of
    transmutation of personality by a higher Being¡¦s
    personal touch on any large scale, as in Sikh history.
    The Upanishads are examples of mental splendour,
    unique and truly glorious. But without Buddhism and
    now without Sikhism in India, and without the modern
    spirit of the West, which lives and works and attains
    to knowledge by the experimental method, which is, as
    I term it, ¡¥ physics of spirituality¡¦, the
    Upanishads and Bhagavat Gita could never have been so
    interpreted. On the other hand, from my close and
    devoted study of the Guru¡¦s hymns, I assert that many
    revolutionary tendencies are found in the Sikh
    thought, song and life. No texts need be turned upside
    down for it. It was atrocious not to have seen this,
    and to have ignored Sikh history, from the main
    features of the hostility of the racial environment in
    which Sikhism took its birth. The Sikh believes in
    one great culture of man which is yet to come. There
    is more future and past in Sikhism while there is all
    the emphasis on the past in Hinduism.

    1. Life and Works of Puran Singh by H.S. Virk, Indian
    Journal History of Sciences, Vol. 28, pp. 277-285
    2. Professor Puran Singh (1881-1931): Founder of
    Chemistry of forest products in India by H.S. Virk,
    Current Science, Vol. 74, pp.1023-24 (1998).
    3. On Paths of Life by Puran Singh, Punjabi
    University, Patiala (1982) p. 129.
    4. ¡§Puran Singh: Toward A Whitmanesque Vision¡¨.
    Studies in Punjabi Poetry by Darshan Singh Maini,
    Vikas Publishing House, New Delhi, (1979).
    5. Puran Singh di Vartak, Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi
    (1967), p. 14.
    6. Spirit of the Sikh: Part II ( Vol. 1), Punjabi
    University, Patiala (1980),p. 117.
    7. Walt Whitman and The Sikh Inspiration by Puran
    Singh. Punjabi University, Patiala (1982).
    8. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
    9. Puran Singh: Jeevani ate Kavita (Life and Poetical
    Works). Edited by M.S. Randhawa, Sahitya Akademi, New
    Delhi (1976).
    10. Puran Singh¡¦s Commentary on the Poets of East and
    West by H.S. Virk, in ¡¥Advance¡¦ (March-April ,
    1992), Chandigarh.
    11. The Spirit of Oriental Poetry by Puran Singh.
    Punjabi University, Patiala (1969).
    12 . Puran Singh-A Poet of Sikh Spiritual
    Consciousness by H.S. Virk, in Khoj Patrika (Special
    Issue on Puran Singh) Edited by Rattan Singh Jaggi,
    Punjabi University, Patiala (1981).
    13. The Spirit Born People by Puran Singh. Punjabi
    University, Patiala (1976).
    14. Puran Singh¡¦s Views on Sikh Gurus, Sikhs and the
    Khalsa Raj by H.S. Virk, in Journal of Sikh Studies,
    Vol. XI, No. II, (1984), p. 116-125.
    15. ¡¥Vigyani Puran Singh¡¦ by H.S. Virk, in
    Professor Puran Singh¡VIk Shardhanjli, Edited by
    Amarjit Singh, Punjabi University, Patiala (1978).
    16. Sade Vigyani, Scientific Essays by H.S. Virk,
    Centre for Promotion of Science, Guru Nanak Dev
    University, Amritsar (1990).

    1. The Spirit of Oriental Poetry
    2. The Temple Tulips
    3. The Sisters of the Spinning Wheel
    4. Unstrung Beads
    5. The Bride of the Sky-A poetic drama
    6. Parkasina-A Buddhist Princess (A novel)
    7. Spirit Born People
    8. Spirit of the Sikh : Part I & Part II (Vol. I and
    9. On Paths of Life (An autobiography)
    10. Book of Ten Masters
    11. Guru Gobind Singh-Reflections and Offerings
    12. Walt Whitman and Sikh Inspiration
    13. Swami Rama Tirath
    14. Khule Lekh
    15. Khule Ghund
    16. Khule Asmani Rang
    17. Khule Maidan
    18. Resurrection-Leo Tolstoy
    19. Hero and Hero Worship-Carlyle
    20. Poems of Joy-Walt Whitman
    21. Essay on the Poet-Emerson
    Annexure II: Published Scientific Work of Professor
    Puran Singh
    1. A note on the analysis of cutch and preparation of
    pure catechin by Puran Singh, Indian Forest Mem,
    (1908), Vol. 1, Pt 1.
    2. Note on the Utilisation of Khair Forests in Eastern
    Bengal and Assam by Puran Singh, Forest
    Pamphlet,(1908), No. 1.
    3. Note on the Manufacture of Ngai Camphor by Puran
    Singh, Indian Forest Rec. (1908), Vol. 1, Pt III.
    4. A paper on the Future of Cutch and Katha
    Manufacture by Puran Singh, Indian Forester (1909),
    Vol. XXXV, No.2.,Pt I.
    5. A note on the Manufacture of Pure Shellac by Puran
    Singh, Indian Forest Mem. (Chemistry Series) Vol.
    XXXV, No. 2.,Pt II.
    6. A Chemical Investigation of the Constituents of
    Burmese Varnish (Melanorrhoea usitata, Sup). By Puran
    Singh, Indian Forest Rec. (1909).
    7. Paper on some tanning materials and the manufacture
    of tannin extracts in India (Read at All-India
    Industrial Conference in India held in Dec. 1909) by
    Puran Singh.
    8. Report on the bleaching of some Indian coloured
    Woods by Puran Singh, Appendix. to Indian Forest
    Mem., (1909), Vo. II, Pt 1.
    9. Analytical Constants of Shellac, Lac, Resin and Lac
    Wax by Puran Singh, J. Soc. Chem. Ind., (1910), Vol.
    XXIX, p. 1435.
    10. Note on Calorimetric Tests of some Indian woods by
    Puran Singh, Forest Bulletin, (1911), No. 1.
    11. Memorandum on the oil-value of Sandal Wood by
    Puran Singh, Forest Bulletin, (1911), No. 6.
    12. Note on the Chemistry and Trade Forms of Lac by
    Puran Singh, Forest Bulletin, (1911), No. 7
    13. A Preliminary note on the use of Nickel Hydroxide
    in Tannin estimation by Puran Singh . Soc. Chem.
    Ind., (1911), Vol. XXX, No. 15.
    14. Note on the best season for collecting Myrobalans
    as tanning material by Puran Singh. Indian Forester
    (1911); Vol. XXXVII, No. 9.
    15. Method of distinguishing powellized and the
    unpowellized woods by Puran Singh, Indian Forester
    (1911), Vol. XXXVII, No 10.
    16. Note on Resin-value of Podeophyllum emodi and the
    best season for collecting it by Puran Singh, Forest
    Bulletin (1912), No.9.
    17. Podophyllum emodi by Puran Singh, Indian Forester
    (1912), Vol. XXXVIII, Nos. 4 and 7.
    18. A short preliminary note on the suitability of
    dead wood of Acacia catechu for Katha making by Puran
    Singh. Indian Forester (1912), Vol. XXXVIII, No. 4.
    19. A short Note on the earth eating habits of the
    Indian deer by Puran Singh, Indian Forester (1912),
    No. 7.
    20. Note on the preparation of tannin extract with
    special reference to those prepared from the bark of
    Mangrove (Rhizophora muocronata) by Puran Singh,
    Indian Forest Res, (1912), Vol.III, Pt IV.
    21. Note on Distillation and Composition of Turpentine
    oil from chir Resin and clarification of Indian Resin
    by Puran Singh. Indian Forest Rec. (1912), Vo. IV, Pt
    22. Note on Turpentine of Pinus khasya, Pinus merkusii
    and Pinus excelsa by Puran Singh, Forest Bulletin,
    (1913), No. 24.
    23. The Cultivation of drugs in Indian Forests by
    Puran Singh, Indian Forester (1913), Vol. XXXIX, No.
    24. Memorandum on the oil value of some Forest oil
    seeds by Puran Singh, Indian Forester (1913), Vol.
    XXXIX, No. 6.
    25. Analysis of Gutta made from latex of Palaquium
    ellipticum by Puran Singh. Indian Forester (1913),
    Vol. XXXIX, No. 8.
    26. The composition of Ceara Rubber from Coorg by
    Puran Singh, Indian Forester (1913), Vol. XXXIX, No.
    27. Indian Oak barks as materials for manufacture of
    tannin extract by Puran Singh, Indian Forester (1913),
    Vol. XXXIX, No. 9.
    28. Terminalia tomentosa bark as a material for the
    manufacture of tannin extract by Puran Singh, Indian
    Forester (1913), Vol. XXXIX, No. 9.
    29. Some mineral salts as Fish Poison by Puran Singh,
    Indian Forester (1913), Vol. XXXIX, No. 11.
    30. A further note on the Calorimetric test of some
    Indian woods from Belgaum (Bombay) by Puran Singh,
    Indian Forester (1914), Vol. XL. No. 3.
    31. Preservation of the Latex of Ficus religiosa by
    Puran Singh, Indian Forester (1914), Vol. XL, No. 9.
    32. A Plea for the distillation of the Pine Needle oil
    in India by Puran Singh, Indian Forester (1914), Vol.
    XL, No. 10.
    33. Nickel Tannates by Puran Singh. J. Soc. Chem. Ind.
    (1914), Vol. XXXIII, No. 4.
    34. The Cus-Cus Oil in India by Puran Singh, Chem.
    Drugg. (1914), Vol. LXXXV.
    35. A Further Note on the best season for collecting
    Myrabalans as Tanning material by Puran Singh, Indian
    Forester (1915), Vol. XLI, No. 1.
    36. Note on Arwal (Cassia auriculata) Benth from
    Marwar by Puran Singh. Indian Forester (1915), Vol.
    XLI, No. 1.
    37. A Further Note on the Oil value of some Sandal
    woods from Madras by Puran Singh, Indian Forester
    (1915), Vol. XLI, No. 8.
    38. The Camphor content of Cinnamomum camphora grown
    at Dehra-Dun by Puran Singh, Indian Forester (1915),
    Vol. XLI, No. 8.
    39. Note on the effect of Age on the Catechin content
    of the wood of Acacia catechu by Puran Singh, Indian
    Forester (1915), Vol. XLI, No. 12.
    40. Note on Indian Sumach (Rhus continus Linn.) by
    Puran Singh, Forest Bulletin (1915)., No. 31.
    41. Note on the Addition of fat to tannin extract by
    Puran Singh, J. Soc. Chem. Ind. (1915), Vol. XXXIV,
    No. 5.
    42. Note on the Differentiation of Inn and Kanyin
    Species of Dipterocarpus timber of Burma by Puran
    Singh, Indian Forester (1916), Vol. XLII, No. 5.
    43. Note on the constants of Indian Geranium oil
    (Motia) by Puran Singh, Indian Forest Rec. (1916),
    Vol. V, Pt. VII.
    44. Note on the Burmese Myrabalans or Panga Fruits as
    tanning material by Puran Singh, Forest Bulletin
    (1916), No. 32.
    45. A note on the use of Nickel Hydroxide in tannin
    estimation by Puran Singh and T.P. Ghose, J. Soc.
    Chem. Ind. (1916), Vol. XXXV, No. 3, p. 159.
    46. (i) Note on the Eucalyptus Oil Industry in
    the Nilgris.
    (ii) Note on the Distillation of Geranium Oil in the
    (iii) Note on the manufacture of Wintergreen Oil in
    India by Puran Singh, Indian Forest Rec. (1917), Vol.
    V, Pt VIII.
    47. Note on the Galls of Pistacia integessina by Puran
    Singh. Indian Forester (1917), Vol. XLII, No. 8.
    48. Charcoal Briquettes by R.S. Pearson and Puran
    Singh, Indian Forester (1918), Vol. XLIV, No.3.
    49. Effect of Storage on some Tanning Materials by
    Puran Singh, Indian Forester (1918), Vol. XLIV, No. 3.
    50. A Preliminary Note on the manufacture of wood-tar
    by Puran Singh, Indian Forester(1918), Vol. XLIV, No.
    51. Walnut Bar by Puran Singh, Indian Forester (1918),
    Vol. XLIV, No. 8.
    52. A Note on the Economic Values of Chinese Tallow
    Tree by Puran Singh, Indian Forester (1918), Vol.
    XLIV, No. 9.
    53. Note on the Preparation of Turpentine, Rosin and
    Gum from Boswellia serrata (Roxb.) gum-oleo-resin by
    R.S. Pearson and Puran Singh, Indian Forest Rec.
    (1918) Vol. VI, Pt VI.

    Annexure III : Gems of Thought from Professor Puran

    Culture: True culture is that which does not make him
    a Sikh or Mohammadan or Hindu or Christian, but a man.
    Education: True education is that which does not make
    him Indian or English or Japanese or American but man.
    Art: Art is contemplation of the Beautiful by the
    artist. This contemplation lifts us above ourselves,
    above body and mind, and elevates our consciousness;
    it beautifies our vision.
    History: History and biography are both lies, so far
    as these matters are concerned. Who can report the
    soul correctly, which till today remains unrevealed
    and undescribed, for it is always a surprise and a
    revelation. Only fools concern themselves with what
    they call historical events. The greatest events are
    of the soul and they are revealed in one¡¦s own surta.
    Knowledge: True knowledge is not knowing, but being.
    Knowing is always wrong, being is always right.
    Intellect: Intellectual interpretations exhaust
    genius, it is self-spending of consciousness.
    Intellectual Analysis: Beware of the magic of
    Brahmanical Philosophic analysis of everything, even
    the most secret and complex infinites of faith, life
    and love. It killed them, it shall kill you.
    Analysis is the opposite pole of feeling. I worship
    my mother, I love my wife, but what would they be if I
    wished to know them by analysis.
    Superman: The superman is a state of consciousness
    (surta) not a person.
    Surta: Surta is the thread which keeps us linked with
    the spiritual realms.
    Woman: Woman shall be the second best God or God of
    the intellectual on earth.
    Bread, Woman and Bridegroom: Man the animal, cannot
    live without Bread. Man, the mind, cannot be without
    woman. And man, the soul, is dead without the Guru.
    Bread Affairs: The bread affairs engross all political
    activity of man, and the true progress of man is to
    make it so simple as the provision of sunlight by the
    Work: Work makes us spiritual. Let us therefore give
    up all other worship of God but work.
    Ideal State: The habit of working for works¡¦ sake is
    the foundation on which the Ideal state can be
    founded. And that undetermined Ideal State is yet to
    come into being, where all the optimum physical needs
    of man necessary to keep the soul-plant of man in
    vigorous growth are equitably provided.
    Swaraj: There is no such thing as Swaraj,
    self-government: we are always governed best by a
    noble man, not by ourselves, if we are not so noble.
    The rest are mere words, votes, democracy.
    Patriotism: Patriotism was a foolish clannishness. In
    these days man with a patriotic feeling is a brute,
    because patriotism makes him blind to the larger
    interest of the family of man.
    Simrin: Simrin is always cosmic.
    Sadh Sangat: How disgraceful for us that we call a
    mere assemblage of uninspired men a Sadh-Sangat.
    God Realisation: The more we subordinate the Physical
    life to the intellectual and the intellectual to the
    intuitional and spiritual, the more we ascend to God.
    Religiosity: Religiosity has been the curse of the
    world and the worst bondage for the mind of man.
    Guru Grantha: The whole of Guru Grantha is the voice
    of a wedded woman or a maiden pining in love of the
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  3. Arvind

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    SPNer Contributor Supporter

    Jul 13, 2004
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    Tejwant ji, Thanks for sharing this article about this multi-faceted personality. I didnt know, he was a scientist too! In fact, tried to get hold of his picture, but couldnt. He has certainly done a lot of things in very less age.

  4. Tejwant Singh

    Tejwant Singh United States
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    Mentor Writer SPNer Contributor

    Jun 30, 2004
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    Arvind Ji,

    Yes indeed,he was a great man who became a buddhist and then came back into the sikhi fold with even greater fervor.

    In the Sikhi spirit of full disclosure, I must say with great honor that he was my Grandad, Dr. Balwant Singh Malik's first cousin ( from his Bhua's side) and he was instrumental in convincing him to come back to Sikhi not that Prof Puran Singh needed any.

    My grand dad wrote about Prof. Sahib coming back to Sikhi in Khalsa Smachaar to which he was a regular contributor. I am trying to find the original article.

    Regarding his photo, one can see one at the Museum of Bangla Sahib.


  5. Arvind

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    SPNer Contributor Supporter

    Jul 13, 2004
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    Wow, This is very good to know. Thanks for your presence and valuable articles veer ji.

    Sincerely, Arvind.

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