Gendered Translations of Gurbani | Sikh Philosophy Network
  • Welcome to all New Sikh Philosophy Network Forums!
    Explore Sikh Sikhi Sikhism...
    Sign up Log in

Gendered Translations of Gurbani

PARTAP

SPNer
May 15, 2020
3
3
19
San José, California
Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh

I am a young college student from California. I can read Gurmukhi fairly well, but I have a hard time understanding what the Gurbani means. Because of this, I use English translations when reading Gurbani.

My question is regarding the use of gendered pronouns such as “He”, Him”, “His” etc. From what little wisdom Waheguru has gifted me with, I understand that in Gurmukhi, the One is always referred to as “You” rather than the masculine “He”. Is this correct? If so, why do most translations use masculine pronouns? I always get annoyed by this, as I see it everywhere, in Gurdwaras on projectors, in Gurbani apps. I consider myself a feminist, so this has really had an impact when I read Gurbani.

Is the heavy use of masculine pronouns a result of Abrahamic influences on translators of Gurbani? For example, in Abrahamic faiths, the One is almost always regarded as the Father in Heaven. Thus, they use “He”.

In Sikhi, however, the One is referred to in many ways, including Mother and Father. In fact, feminism is bred into Sikhi. Do translators of Gurbani use “He” because of the Husband-Lord analogy, which is just one of the many analogies used in Gurbani?

It is also very important to note that the analogies and metaphors used by Guru Ji reflect the prevailing attitudes of the times, where women were considered much lower than men. Guru Ji used analogies in a way that not only resonated with the masses, but also exposed the darkest issues of the times. In no way was Guru Ji supporting male domination over women. In fact, Guru Ji placed women as second to the One. Guru Ji considered women as the essence of Divine Love.

So then, when analyzing English translations of Gurbani, why is it always “He”? Can we not use “She”, “Her”, and “Hers” to refer to the Universal One? Can we not refer to the One as “Queen”, in addition to “King” (Maharaj)? This has always bothered me, as I cannot understand Gurbani from Gurmukhi alone, and because I feel very deeply for our fellow sisters in the Panth, who have yet to be fully recognized as true equals in our world.

I feel very awkward whenever I say something like “Always remember and love Waheguru! She’s in your heart. She’s always with you. You are her and she is you!”. I always get confused looks from others, as if I’ve done something wrong. It breaks my heart to see our society like this.

What should translators do, so that we can have the true meaning of Gurbani in other languages? What can we do as Sikhs to further uplift women?

I apologize for any mistakes I may have made. I am just trying to share my thoughts and seek a better understanding. Much Love.❤

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh
 
Last edited:

swarn bains

Poet
SPNer
Apr 9, 2012
571
150
God is genderless. spirituality is genderless, but over the ages male had been dominant. so the word he is used sometimes unintentionally the other time intententially. I translated sggs. in the beginning i started to use he or she both turn by turn in the translation but it was objected to by the masses. then i also used he most of the places but did use she as well to remind people that godliness does not give preference to the gender. it only gives preference to , humility, dedication, love and guru's teaching, no matter the guru is he or she if so.
 

Logical Sikh

Writer
SPNer
Sep 22, 2018
192
51
22
Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh

I am a young college student from California. I can read Gurmukhi fairly well, but I have a hard time understanding what the Gurbani means. Because of this, I use English translations when reading Gurbani.

My question is regarding the use of gendered pronouns such as “He”, Him”, “His” etc. From what little wisdom Waheguru has gifted me with, I understand that in Gurmukhi, the One is always referred to as “You” rather than the masculine “He”. Is this correct? If so, why do most translations use masculine pronouns? I always get annoyed by this, as I see it everywhere, in Gurdwaras on projectors, in Gurbani apps. I consider myself a feminist, so this has really had an impact when I read Gurbani.

Is the heavy use of masculine pronouns a result of Abrahamic influences on translators of Gurbani? For example, in Abrahamic faiths, the One is almost always regarded as the Father in Heaven. Thus, they use “He”.

In Sikhi, however, the One is referred to in many ways, including Mother and Father. In fact, feminism is bred into Sikhi. Do translators of Gurbani use “He” because of the Husband-Lord analogy, which is just one of the many analogies used in Gurbani?

It is also very important to note that the analogies and metaphors used by Guru Ji reflect the prevailing attitudes of the times, where women were considered much lower than men. Guru Ji used analogies in a way that not only resonated with the masses, but also exposed the darkest issues of the times. In no way was Guru Ji supporting male domination over women. In fact, Guru Ji placed women as second to the One. Guru Ji considered women as the essence of Divine Love.

So then, when analyzing English translations of Gurbani, why is it always “He”? Can we not use “She”, “Her”, and “Hers” to refer to the Universal One? Can we not refer to the One as “Queen”, in addition to “King” (Maharaj)? This has always bothered me, as I cannot understand Gurbani from Gurmukhi alone, and because I feel very deeply for our fellow sisters in the Panth, who have yet to be fully recognized as true equals in our world.

I feel very awkward whenever I say something like “Always remember and love Waheguru! She’s in your heart. She’s always with you. You are her and she is you!”. I always get confused looks from others, as if I’ve done something wrong. It breaks my heart to see our society like this.

What should translators do, so that we can have the true meaning of Gurbani in other languages? What can we do as Sikhs to further uplift women?

I apologize for any mistakes I may have made. I am just trying to share my thoughts and seek a better understanding. Much Love.❤

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh
As Someone mentioned in this forum before, SGGS ji first translated in English by Britishers and other english scholars and they interpreted the "One God concept" of SGGS ji as same as that of Abrahamic philosophies.
As there was a lack of People in the sikh community who had knowledge of both SGGS ji as well as Good reader and writer of English language.... Therefore there wasn't really people who could challenge the English translation done by English scholars which had a lot of abrahamic philosophy's influence.
Coming back to topic, Many of scholars are currently translating SGGS ji in English as a philosophy with zero influence of any other philosophy, but as it takes alot of time to Translate SGGS ji itself in its true essence.... We have to wait patiently....
 

Logical Sikh

Writer
SPNer
Sep 22, 2018
192
51
22
I dont remeber the names of people doing the works.... But i have read Dr. Davinder singh chahal's Book on Japji Sahib where he has tried to Translate Japji Sahib in its true sense..... With No outside influence 'course...
So i'd recommend to check that out for a start...
Hope my replies makes sense 🙈
 

Create an account or login to comment

You must be a member in order to leave a comment

Create account

Create an account on our community. It's easy!

Log in

Already have an account? Log in here.

Shabad Vichaar by SPN'ers

The Gurbani Framework calls for the use of GURBANI to understand, explain, translate and interpret GURBANI.


The Gurbani Framework is a response to a variety of distorted translations...

SPN on Facebook

...
Top