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Ernest Trumpp’s critique of Sikhism stands correct. (essay)


May 28, 2024
PART ONE: Recently, I was informed that the narrative of Sikh history that I affirm sounded similar to that of linguist Ernest Trumpp, who died almost a century and a half ago.

Years ago, I had written off Trumpp as a racist based on the opinions of many other well-respected Sikh scholars and saw no need to read any of his work before formulating an opinion about him.

Out of curiosity and based on this person’s observation, I went to take a look at Ernest Trumpp’s actual work.

Before explaining my findings, I must note my “narrative,” or what I believe to be the truth of Sikh history and people.

I take a firm stance that as Sikhi stands today, it is not as it was before the Sikh holocaust, and it has been changed to favor a structure of power that is not Sikh, causing almost irreparable harm to the Sikh identity and philosophy. This is 99% similar to the hijacking theory formalized by Dr. Karminder Singh Dhillon. Though I do not completely ascribe to his idea that the Sat Guru is the conciseness I still asbcribe to the majority of his work.

A group of people and I have worked diligently at reading, questioning, and objectively discussing the Adi Granth without any preconceived notions of religion or history influencing us, including Trumpp. This has allowed us to understand what the writers are saying honestly. We then use what the writers are saying to formulate the perspective of a Sikh before and during the Sikh holocaust. Post-Sikh holocaust, Sikhi or the Sikhs began to deviate sharply from the beliefs, notions, and constructs held by both the writers of the Granth. We then use this authentic perspective to figure out what parts of Sikh history, story, and narrative are true because they would have been accepted by the writers of the Granth and what is false (rejected).

PART TWO: Now, onto Trumpp. Ernest Trumpp was a German linguist who was highly skilled and made a translation of the Adi Granth for the Ecclesiastical Missionary Society (English Missionaries) along with other scriptures from the Indian subcontinent.

EMS employed him and studied the Adi Granth for eight years. At the end of the eight years, he published a book called “THE Ä€DI GRANTH, OR THE HOLY SCRIPTURES OF THE SIKHS.” It is essential to note the goal of the study. Trumpp’s superiors (The EMS) wanted to better understand the Sikhs as a way to make it easier to divide and conquer them via conversion. If you read the archived volumes from the English Missionary Society, also known as the CMS, in Punjab. They write about how to target the individual psychology of a person, literally on what to say to them to convert them and slowly rope them into their region; they track the number of converters, etc. (bizarre stuff).

Anyways, this EMS believed that if they were able to understand the holy book better, they would be able to find a more profound way to play off the psychology of Sikhs to convert them. They had the notion that the identity that the Sikhs had and the psychology of a Sikh played off the writings of their holy book, and studying it would give them a deeper insight into the nature of a Sikh, making it easier to convert them to Christianity during their psychological operations.

These operations were eventually done and did not work to the extent they wanted to in the Punjab because they couldn’t play off of Sikh scriptures and allude them to Christianity because the Sikh mass didn’t actually understand their own book.

Trump was able to take note of my observation above, which is explained in the preface of his book.

  1. Translation and Understanding Challenges: Trumpp faced immense challenges in translating the Ādi Granth due to the archaic language and the lack of native assistance with a deep understanding of the text. He noted that even with the help of Sikh Granthis in Lahore and Amritsar, the translation process was fraught with difficulties because these Granthis themselves lacked understanding of the old grammatical forms and obsolete words. They could only offer traditional explanations, which often contradicted other parts of the text, or sometimes, they could not provide any answers.
  2. Lost Learning: Trumpp observed that the Sikhs had, over time, due to their warlike lifestyle and turbulent history, lost much of their scholarly tradition. This loss of learning meant that even the educated members of the community needed to provide insights into the deeper meanings of the text. This disconnection from their scholarly past led to a gap between the teachings of the writers of the Granth and the contemporary understanding and practices of the Sikh community.
  3. Reliance on Commentaries: Eventually, Trumpp found a few commentaries on the Granth, but these needed to be revised and covered a fraction of the required linguistic and doctrinal explanations. The necessity to rely on these commentaries highlighted the extent to which the original teachings had become obscured. It was no longer part of the active religious life and education of the Sikhs.
  4. Divergence in Sikh Traditions and Mythologizing of Nanak: During Trumpp’s translation work, he sought to deepen his understanding of Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, by exploring various accounts of Nanak’s life known as Janam-sÄkhis. He discovered discrepancies among these texts (different Janam-sÄkhis manuscripts), noting that while they generally agreed on major points, they differed in details, with some narratives omitting or embellishing certain aspects to portray Nanak in a more divine or miraculous light. This observation led Trumpp to conclude that the Sikh tradition had been heavily mythologized.
Now, the findings I have analyzed above made it far easier for the British to fulfill the initial goal of conversion (converting, which is a part of the process of divide and conquer). They didn’t have to try to understand the Sikhs’ holy scriptures because the Sikhs didn’t function off them. Instead, the Sikhs functioned off a strong sense of collective identity, not religion.

The issue is that the Sikhs themselves were not aware that they functioned off strong identity, so they went looking for their religion and found it in the hands of Nirmalas.

By my translating and reading, I have come to share the same sentiment as Trumpp, who writes here:

“Sikhism is a waning religion that will soon belong to history, yet I venture to hope that my labors will not be in vain. The Sikh Granth, which will always keep its place in the history of religion, lies now open before us, and we know authentically what their Gurus taught.”

A month before reading Trumpp, I wrote:

“The Guru is not a person or a god, either. It is naturally imputed knowledge from the creator that resides within all humans.

Sikhi, the Granth, and its writers ask you to invoke, care for, and nurture this knowledge rather than relying on constructs and things external to yourself, as that kills your development and potential as a person.

Today, Sikhs are enslaved into believing that this “Guru” is one of ten physical men or a book. They put their identity in external constructs rather than looking inwardly at themselves.

Doing the exact opposite of what the book asks for, and this (from my observation) leads to a perpetual identity crisis in their young men and women, especially those who come from far more “religious” Sikh families (but this is another conversation).

Today, Sikhi has become a religion that praises one’s historical past rather than looks at oneself in its present place in the world (the here and now), as suggested by the Granth.

The Granth asks you to recognize the delusion of the religious world. And once you come to terms with it, how to live.

To conclude, many scholars who attack Trumpp’s character and not his arguments or make stuff up instead of a defense admit to their own cognitive dissonance.

A significant critique of Ernest Trumpp is that he translated the Adi Granth to fit some Western morality and religious structure. This is just blatantly incorrect. Ernest Trumpp’s study of the Granth is objective (even though I can’t entirely agree with all of his footnotes). Trump even notes that Sikhi does not have a moral structure and does not try to insert “Western morality” into his interpretation.

I could name a couple of people who I believe are currently critiquing and trying to bury Trumpp’s work and those who subscribe to it as a defense mechanism because they are slandered by both Trumpp and the writers of the Adi Granth (when you look at it objectively without distortions).

Still, these sentiments found by the objective study of the Adi Granth, are the truth, and the truth as be its nature, will eventually come home to roost.

*Note: Trump really doesn’t care about figuring out what the writers are repeating in the Adi Granth, as it is too complex and of too little emotional significance for him to try to apply their observations to his life and think deeply about them