Sunday, 21 December 2008

Mcleod talking about Jap Sahib

Mcleod has written a number of books on Sikhism, he completed his doctorate many years ago, and has published a number of books since. In one of his recent publications he writes:
"The style of Jap is simple in the extreme, consisting solely of words testifying to the awesome greatness of Akal Purukh without any pretence of sentence construction. We can accept it as probably the work of Guru Gobind Singh." Mcleod 2007. Oxford University Press. YMCA Library Building, Jai Singh Road, New Delhi
"Most of the poem does not have even a rudimentry sentence construction" .p.61. Ibid.
I would argue that:
Jap Sahib is a poetical compostion, most poetry does not involve itself in sentence contruction. The Jap Sahib is written to give qualitative feelings (warrior spirit), over grammatical and other minute details. Jap means contemplation, repetition, meditation, therefore it is to be repeated, and memorised. Therefore to compare the Jap Sahib to prose, is unfair, uneducated, and is an attempt to find criticism by evaluating Jap Sahib unnecessarily outside of the framework of its style. This is methodologically flawed, and the condescending tone of Mcleod is poor. It would be interesting to find out what he actually means by pretense in the sentence.
Another one of Mcleods well calculated methods, is his belief of authenticity being credited via proof. He employed this method in his analysis of the Janam-Sakhis. (The life stories of the Gurus, mainly Guru Nanak.) Talking about this endevour he argues that little of the Janam Sakhi can be seen as historical truth.
" Concerned Sikhs were, however, uneasy with it as it specialized in miracles and wonder stories that educated Sikhs could accept only with difficulty"
" The Puratan version offered plenty of miracle stories, but these lacked the grotesque nature of the Bala version."
To look at a hagiographic scripture as historical literature seem quite fruitless in the first place. To evaluate fables, allegorical tales, in the light of history seems to be quite absurd in my opinion. This is like viewing many of the tales of miracles in most world religious scriptures as historical events. Whether they are from Hinduism, the bible, the Qur'an, all of them would fail under objective examination. When most religious literature is subjective, allegorical, didactic, instructive, religious, surely they should naturally be examined in that way?
In conclusion Mcleod is not a theologian, a linguist, or a philosopher. He is a historian with peculiar methods for dissecting the Sikh tradition with his scalpel. He endevours to perform his operations on areas of the Sikh canon that have no real need to be operated on, with procedures that are utterly useless for the operation. It is of no suprise that his conclusions are a Frankenstein mismatch due to his methods, that seldom have any conclusive outcome. In general his work leaves the reader with no new research, or understanding, than they began with. Unless the reader was completely devoid of any knowledge of the Sikh Dharma in the first place. The later would be impressed by his work, while the learned in Gurmukhi watch with great amusement.

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