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Professor Puran Singh: Scientist, Poet And Philosopher

Tejwant Singh

Jun 30, 2004
Henderson, NV.
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.
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
Jul 13, 2004
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.


Tejwant Singh

Jun 30, 2004
Henderson, NV.
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.



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Shabad Vichaar by SPN'ers

This shabad is by Guru Nanak Dev ji, and is found on Ang 1331 of Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji. Some of the key words have been translated for you, but you may have a better translation. Some words...

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