Sikhs's most controversial western Historian, Mcleod
Chandigarh, July 21, 2009
The man from faraway New Zealand who came to Punjab in the 1950s
as a Christian missionary but ended up being a globally-reputed
historian on Sikhs has passed away. W.H. Mcleod, who dedicated
over four decades of his life in researching Sikh history, died
in Dunedin Monday night, his wife of 54 years, Margaret, informed
Mcleod, 77, the son of a sheep-farmer in New Zealand had come
to Punjab, the north Indian border province that has a Sikh majority
population, as a Christian missionary in 1958. Soon after settling
down in Batala town, 40 km from Amritsar, Mcleod found his interest
in Christianity waning and was drawn to Sikh history.
"Mcleod played a major role in establishing and popularising
the academic study of Sikhism outside India. He leaves behind
a body of work on Sikhism which will be a source of reference
to the coming generations of Sikh scholars," Roopinder Singh,
author of "Guru Nanak: his life and teachings" and a
senior journalist, told IANS here.
Described by many as an "unsung success story" who
acquired "global repute" with his work as a historian,
Mcleod left New Zealand in 1958 to work as a missionary in northern
Punjab. He taught Punjab history at Baring College in Batala town
before his interest as a missionary started to fade.
Unimpressed with the existing studies at that time on the 10
Sikh Gurus, Mcleod got immersed in Sikh history and religion and
even Punjabi, a language he learnt to speak with ease. He lost
all interest and contact with the church as he pursued Sikh history.
"It (his death) is a huge loss to the Sikh community. He
always added a fresh perspective to the development and history
of the Sikhs as opposed to the traditional view of romanticising
it overly," said Punjab-based author of the book "Sikhs
Unlimited" Khushwant Singh.
Sikhism is one of the youngest religions in the world founded
by Guru Nanak Dev (born 1469) in the 15th century. The religion
had 10 gurus till the early 18th century. The 10th master, Guru
Gobind Singh, ordained that after him the holy book of the Sikhs,
the Guru Granth Sahib, would be the eternal guru.
Mcleod wrote several books, including "Guru Nanak and Sikh
Religion" (translated into Punjabi by Amritsar's Guru Nanak
Dev University), "The Evolution of Sikh Community",
"The Sikhs - History, Religion and Society", "Sikhs
of the Khalsa" and many others. He did his PhD on Sikh history
from the University of London.
Some of his books and research came in for criticism from Sikh
scholars but there were many who admired his tireless work on
"He became an international authority on the religion, perhaps
the best known outside Punjab and India, and the man who has done
more to introduce Sikhism to the world outside India than anyone
else," said I.J. Singh, an academic. (ians/NRIpress)
In July 1987, the Punjabi University, Patiala, published Commemoration
Lectures holding that McLeod’s observations about the authenticity
of the Kartarpuri Bir were ‘unfounded and misleading.’
The present publication is a disappointment because instead of
responding to their criticism of Mcleod and of continuing the
academic debate, he has stopped it by omitting altogether any
reference to those two related books or their contents. The book,
can, thus, serve no academic purpose, because mere reiteration
of exploded assertions cannot constitute a piece of research.
Psychoanalysis of W. H. McLeod
Based on Discovering The Sikhs — Autobiography of a Historian
S.S. Sodhi and J.S. Mann
Science is a part and parcel of our knowledge, but it obscures
our insight when it holds that the understanding given by it is
the only kind there is. ~ Carl Jung
The main thrust of this paper is to psychoanalyze Dr. McLeod’s
recent book Discovering the Sikhs. As it is an autobiography,
an attempt will be made to critically look at his personality
functioning using many psychological paradigms. The following
Western psychological paradigms will be used.
i. Growing Up Absurd (Paul Goodman)
ii. Man in Search of Meaning (Victor Frankle)
iii. Gandhi’s Truth
Identity vs. Role Confusion
Intimacy vs. Isolation
Generativity vs. Stagnation
Integrity vs. Despair (Erik Erikson)
iv. One Dimensional Man (Herb Marcuse)
v. Divided Self, Interpersonal Perception, Politics of Experience
(R. D. Liang)
vi. DSM IV- The “Bible” used by American Psychiatric
vii. Blaming the Victims (Dr. Ryan)
viii. The Voice of Experience, Science & Psychiatry (R. D.
In Discovering The Sikhs, Dr. McLeod attempts to highlight that:
1. He wants to explain his method (of doing research) dealing
with the Sikhs, to the Sikhs (p. 1, Discovering Sikhs). “It
is a historian’s quest for the truth” (p. 3, Discovering
2. “I am a Western historian and the society I study is
not my own,” “using Western methodology” (p.
4, Discovering The Sikhs).
3. I was deposited in Punjab (Kharar-Batala) in 1958, where I
discovered lack of direction and started searching something in
the history of Punjab (p. 5, Discovering The Sikhs).
4. I came in contact with another missionary, Dr. Loehlin who
had done some work in Sikh history. In five years since my arrival
in India, I collected enough data and left for London to do a
Ph. D. on Guru Nanak under Dr. A. L. Basham, the author of The
Wonder That Was India.
5. Dr. McLeod claims that Professor Basham knew nothing about
Guru Nanak and little about Punjabi language (p. 39, Discovering
Sikhs). Hence his thesis was his own work which was “stamped”
by Professor Basham on June 30, 1965. It could be seen that Professor
Basham stated in his book The Wonder That Was India (p. 481) that
Nanak taught the doctrine developed by Kabir. Further to Professor
Basham’s historical knowledge about Lord Krishna, it is
stated in The Wonder That Was India that Lord Krishna died a depressed
person in Gujrat after Yadvs killed each other in a drunken brawl!
6. Dr. McLeod got his Ph. D. in 1965 from University of London
after seven years of total exposure to Sikhism. It is interesting
to note that there were many famous historians living in Punjab
such as Ganda Singh, Harbans Singh, Fauja Singh and Kripal Singh,
yet Dr. McLeod chose to work under Dr. Basham who knew nothing
about Sikhism. No ethics committee was set up to examine his thesis
proposal and none of the members of his thesis committee were
Punjabi knowing Sikhs. It must be pointed out that his other students
(Pashaura Singh, Oberoi and Fenech) followed the model set by
him to become “instant historians” of Sikh history.
Their thesis proposals, too, were not examined by the ethics committee.
No input was sought from the ethnic community under study and
no exposure was provided to these students about Social Science
Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC, 1993) guidelines.
7. After receiving his Ph. D., Dr. McLeod’s academic career
can be divided as follows:
a. Baring Christian College, Batala 1965-69 (He claims that during
this period, his religious beliefs dwindled to zero and he started
looking for “Truth” in Sikh history.)
b. 1969-2002: Teaching at the University of Otago, undermining
Sikh traditions but missing teaching in North American universities
and obsessively displaying doubts, skepticism in his search for
the “truth.” He was not at all empathy oriented to
Sikh ethos and traditions and went as far as comparing Bano, Kartarpur
and Damadama version of Guru Granth Sahib to figure out which
one was the “Real Live Guru of the Sikhs.” (The readers
are directed to Dr. McLeod’s article to the “Sikh
Scriptures: Some Issues” in a book on Sikh Studies edited
by G. Barrier (1979, pp. 97-111).
As a Western historian, Dr. McLeod claims that he has the authority
to look for truth and if in the process, traditions get destroyed
and trampled over, so be it! As a Sikh psychologist trained in
the Western tradition with twenty-seven years of teaching experience
(1968-95) in the Western universities and practicing psychotherapy
for eight years (1995-2003), I would use his book Discovering
the Sikhs (Autobiography of a Historian) to psychoanalyze him
using psychoanalytical method and hope the "truth" about
him will emerge.
I have another advantage. I met Hew and his wife, Margaret, in
Halifax, Canada in October 1991. It gave me a chance to observe
his research orientations and family dynamics or co-dependency
they had on each other. This meeting led me to write my article
entitled “Pathology of Pseudo-Sikh Researchers With Linear
Myopic, Left Brain and Mystified Western Realities,” which
has been declared as absurd by Dr. McLeod in Discovering The Sikhs
(Discovering The Sikhs, p. 201).
Thirdly, I come from Kharar hence have a first hand knowledge
of what kind of missionary work was done by Dr. Ryburn who was
supposed to be replaced by Dr. McLeod. I would like to discuss
cognitive dissonance which Hew might have experienced after meeting
the seventy-eight Rice Christian Children of Kharar School and
he did not know what to do with them.
In chapter one, The Reason Why, Hew tries to justify his Western
methodology of looking for truth in Sikh history. He also claims
that he was a shy introvert and had “impoverished social
skills.” In Halifax in 1991, I found him a bit anxious,
at times confused, dependent, fearful, melancholy, self-conscious,
unappreciated, unfulfilled, suffering from wishy-washy obsessive-compulsiveness
with linear one-dimensional thinking. His historical research
training took place in New Zealand; hence he was not exposed to
Afro-centric or Khalsa-centric ethnic paradigms of research. As
a result, he was not interested in wonder stories of Janam Sakhis
or mythology and miracles of religions.
In chapter two, Hew tells us that he was the second born son
of Margaret and Bruce McLeod. Dr. McLeod’s grandfather and
his father never attended church but his mother was a believer
in Presbyterian denomination of Christian faith. Applying Adlerian
psychology it can be inferred that being a second born son to
a non-believing, shy father and a devoted Christian mother had
profound influence on Hew’s early development. He may have
internalized his non-relatedness and non-believing attitudes from
his father through reaction formation (DSM IV), which later on
destroyed his belief system.
Being second born to his older brother Ian, may have produced
in him goal striving, urge to power, feeling of relative inferiority
to an acquired feeling of superiority, an urge to sharply dichotomize
and categorize as a means of self discovered truth through obsessive-compulsive
behavior. According to Dr Adler, neurotic researchers try to raise
their self-esteem by destroying the belief system of others. Organ
inferiority (height of the person, et cetera) produces self-centeredness.
Second born child always wants power to change hands (from tradition
to truth). In discovering Sikhs, Hew tells us that “The
power of the Head Boy appealed to me enormously” and “I
was also the Regimental Sergeant-Major of the School’s cadet-corps.”
It can be inferred that this Adlerian strive for power may be
manifesting in Hew to become Sergeant Major of Sikh research (a
VIP) producing many sepoys dancing around the “truth”
The influence of Dr. McLeod’s father for making him a VIP,
Rev. J. Hays for making him a Presbyterian minister and his own
desire to become Principal of one of New Zealand’s better
secondary schools motivated his undergraduate and graduate career.
University years provided Hew opportunity to interact socially
and spiritually with members of opposite sex through Student Christian
Movement where people failed to notice that he was a Head Boy
at Nelson! This non-recognition was hurting Hew’s self image
which he compensated by becoming a Divinity student and also becoming
a member of the executive of Otago University Student Association.
It can be easily seen that use of religion to gain power and mobility
had entered Hew’s personality functioning.
Hew started having doubts about his Christian belief system in
1955 but kept quiet due to insecurity. It took him eight years
to become a non-believer, but in the meantime, he was ordained
and used missionary money to leave New Zealand and live in India
and used missionary school facilities of India to educate his
children in Woodstock School in Landour near Mussoorie, India
during Punjab Years (1958-69). It represented for Hew years of
positive disintegration (Dubroski), cognitive dissonance (Festinger)
with problems of becoming (Allport) and total conversion (William
Before he could leave New Zealand for missionary trip to replace
Dr. Ryburn in Kharar, India, he had to be ordained. He showed
his ambivalence and anti-social, non-conforming personality and
doubts in the Lordship of Christ by replacing the Christian Clerical
Collar with a tie and going through the ceremony that for him
was devoid of meaning (Divided Self and Politics of Experience,
R. D. Liang), (DSM IV). Hew is silent about how he resolved his
doubts in the Lordship of Christ!
During his stay in Kharar, it became clear to Hew that he was
not a missionary type. He could not relate to the Christian community
of Kharar, its children and make sense of their cognitive styles.
Hew could have taken time to figure out the role various Christian
Institutes of Kharar played in the life of seventy-eight Christian
children. He could have looked at British education system as
a Cultural Imperialism (Carnoy). But there is no power, ego pedestals
for a missionary in doing this kind of radical research; hence,
after five years of stay in Kharar, going to Golden Temple many
times and appreciating the respect Sikhs showed to Guru Granth
Sahib, collecting material for further studies is Sikhism, he
sailed to New Zealand and then back to England to do a Ph.D. in
the School of Oriental and African Studies where Professor Basham
Later in 1979, he questioned the very identity of Guru Granth
Sahib. Knowing that Basham did not know ABC of Sikhism or Punjabi
language, Hew still accepted him as his thesis advisor. On June
30, 1965 these non-Sikhs, non-Punjabi supervisors gave Hew a Ph.
D. from University of London on the thesis he wrote himself and
got it approved without any input from his supervisors. No wonder
his research is one sided, non-holistic, linear, left brain, perceptually
selective and myopic. An eclectic training with various Ph. D.
level courses would have opened “Hew’s Doors of Perception”
(A. Huxley) and may have landed him a job in North America, which
he desperately wanted.
Mission schools were opened in Amritsar and Batala after the
Empire of Maharaja Ranjit Singh was taken over by the British
colonizers. He does not say a word about the conversion of Maharaja
Dalip Singh by missionaries and the motivation of Amritsar, Batala
or Kharar missionaries to produce Rice Christians out of Harijans.
Hew misses the concept of Cultural Imperialism (Canvoy), while
discussing the non-motivation of his history students in Batala.
As a missionary, McLeod found Batala a better campus than poverty
At Batala, Hew became a confirmed atheist and experienced "truthful
bliss" while his wife stayed agnostic. He also arrogantly
declared that for him, Adi Granth was not his Guru and he has
the right to analyse it. His atheistic belief system may have
become existentialism of Sartre or he may have become a Marxist.
He claims that his becoming a missionary was a “youthful
aberration.” At a conference organized by Punjabi University,
Patiala, 1969, Hew’s book, Guru Nanak and Sikh Religion,
was aggressively criticized by Sardar Kapur Singh. It is unbelievable
that Hew did not care to find out the reasons; his Eurocentric
research had started to bother Sikh scholars. His ego would not
let him do that!
Hew and Margaret claim that they did not feel guilty after leaving
the Christian faith. A question can be raised regarding their
use of Christian facilities in Kharar, Batala and Landour and
travels all over the world with missionary money. Is it possible
that they unconsciously wanted to exploit the faith they had left
behind? It does provide a glimpse into the selfish streak in their
personality-functioning (DSM, IV), which could be broadly called
a psychosocial-pathological behavior? Dr. McLeod goes on to justify
his attack on Janam Sakhies as mythical stories, Jats influence
on panth, Kartarpur Bir, travels of Guru Nanak and regression
in Sikhs brought by Guru Amardas.
On one hand he keeps on asserting that an outsider should be
very careful in dealing with the sensitive issues of Sikh studies
such as Guru Granth Sahib, yet he still tried to let loose people
like Pashaura Singh and Oberoi to dig like drain inspectors and
destroy the traditions so dear to the Sikhs. It appears he got
vicarious satisfaction (Bandura) by putting Sikh researchers such
as Oberoi, on Sikh Chairs at University of British Columbia as
he could not himself land a job in a North American university.
It is amazing that a Ph. D. from University of London could be
so myopic as not to recognize the dangers of planting a Eurocentric
Sikh researcher on a Chair created by the donations of rural Sikhs
of India who have made Canada their home and felt that a Sikh
scholar at the University of British Columbia would help them
find ways of enhancing their needs of transmitting Sikh traditions
to second generation children. It is a known fact that Government
of India objected to the creation of a Sikh Chair at University
of British Columbia, but McLeod came to their rescue by recommending
an anti-Sikh researcher to put cold water on their enthusiasm.
Hew felt upset when Sikh’s call him Reverend. He also felt
upset when he was called an agent of Government of India. A man
is known by the company he keeps. His association with missionaries
of Kharar and Batala and Dr. Grewal and his student Indu Banga
at Indian Institute of Advanced Studies in Simla is taken as a
proof of his affiliations. Also foreign missionaries had a great
deal of difficulty getting Indian visas, I do not think Dr. McLeod
was ever denied one. Sikhs have not forgotten how Royal Family
of Kapurthala was converted to Christianity by missionaries and
also how Maharaja Dalip Singh was made to undergo ceremonies of
humiliation from 1850-1860 before he agreed to become a Christian.
There is no doubt that Sikh’s showed a “Burnt Child
Dreads the Fire” approach to McLeod’s writing, but
Hew should remember that he came as white missionary to India.
Sikhs still have in their “Collective Unconscious”
memories of how missionaries of Ludhiana, 1832 - on, spied on
the Kingdom of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and Western friends of the
Sikhs such as Henry Lawrence, General Ventura, Lord Ellenborough,
Lord Harding, Major Broadfoot and Lord Dalhousie to mention a
few, cheated Sikhs of their hard earned empire and Sir John Login,
a missionary, converted Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s son Dalip
Singh, to Christianity at the tender age of eleven through brain
washing and making him and his mother Rani Jindan suffer.
In chapter six, Otago Years (1971-2002), Hew claims that he introduced
a second year paper on Historical Methods and Interpretation and
used his classes to show how ignorant Sikh scholars were attacking
a “faithful, truth-finding historian.” I hope the
outline of the above-mentioned course was not lopsided and Eurocentric
as all his writings were! He also claims that he had gotten Janam
Sakhi published by Guru Nanak University Press through the influence
of Professor Grewal who later on was his associate at the University
of Toronto. Some Sikh scholars claim that Mr. Grewal had connections
with Government of India.
During these years, Hew was collecting Rahitnamas to prove that
Khalsa with 5 K’s was not created in 1699 by Guru Gobind
Singh but was a later invention. He also took time to go to Gurdwara
Panja Sahib to get the exact measurement of the panja of Guru
Nanak Devji. McLeod, a keen destroyer of Sikh faith and tradition,
claims the following about Panja Sahib. According to him:
a. It is unquestionably a late aetiological legend dating from
the early nineteenth century (Discovering The Sikhs, 87).
b. The story of Panja Sahib is an anecdote set in the Village
of Hasan Abdal.
It is clear that Hew does not care for the sentiments of the
Sikhs but wants to needle them from time to time with the intentions
of cutting Guru Nanak to “size” to point out whether
incisions of the panja were sharp or smooth! What else do you
expect from a historian with linear cognition!
In 1985, Hew was given a grant by Government of India to visit
Indian universities. It can be inferred that the events of 1984
may have motivated Government of India to make him go to universities
and talk about the Sikhs and their traditions as seen by him.
During this period he also got Commonwealth Fellowship from University
of Toronto. It will be very interesting to find out what kind
of grant proposals were made by him to the Government of India
and to the Commonwealth Society.
Eurocentric researchers such as John Simpson, Will Oxtoby, Milton
Isreal, Joseph O’Connell, Ainslie Embree, Jack Hawley, Mark
Juergensmeyer and Jerry Barrier had started gathering at the University
of Toronto. Hence McLeod was invited to put the Canadian Sikhs
in their place with the blessings of Fabian, Consulate General,
Government of India stationed in Toronto in 1985. There is a documented
evidence (minutes) of University of British Columbia President’s
meeting with Fabian that Government of India was against setting
up Sikh Studies Chairs at University of British Columbia with
the money collected by rural Sikhs of Punjab who had settled in
Canada. When the Chair was approved, thanks to Government of Canada’s
contribution, Hew helped all Canadian Sikhs by recommending Oberoi
to sit on that Chair and produce non-relevant anti-Sikh research.
It must be stated that Hew’s Otago years were not without
purpose. He was getting grants from Government of India and Commonwealth,
planning to start University of Toronto Sikh Studies program to
produce and plant “historians in a hurry” in various
North American universities.
On February 2, 1987, at the age of fifty-four, because of his
excessive work, on-the-go type A personality, Hew suffered stroke
on the left side of his brain which affected his right side of
the body. His written competencies were not affected. He claims
to have written three books while recovering from stroke! “Talk
of death wish or denial producing depression and Obsessive Compulsive
Disorder behavior”(DSM IV). His oral competencies were affected
and he developed problem in spoken language especially in the
area of “switching.” Spiritually speaking, Sat Guru
wanted to show His annoyance with Hew, who was producing un-truthful
material on Sikhism and alienating an already troubled minority
of India. His atheist academic outlook had overpowered his behavior
and he had lost all capacity to enjoy “the other kinds of
seeing.” He was back in Toronto in 1988, even though he
suffered a near death stroke in 1987. I call this type of personality
driven, egocentric, self-destructive and insensitive to the needs
of his partner, Margaret.
Canada Years, 1988
As Hew’s motivation was to train some Sikh scholars in
Canada, he found an ex-granthi (Pashaura Singh). While at Calgary,
Pashaura Singh finished his degree and wrote M. A. thesis on Bhagats
(Kabir and Farid) under the supervision of non-Sikhs who did not
know Gurbani. Mr. Singh, who declared Kabir as a semi-illiterate
person in his M. A. thesis, got admission to newly minted and
funded program by Canada Council and the local Sikh community.
It is very interesting to note that even though the University
of Toronto Sikh scholars applied and got Social Science Humanities
Research Council of Canada funding, they violated every ethics
guideline set by the secular body.
When this violation was brought to the attention of Dr. Carole
Murphy, Director, Fellowship Division, Social Science and Humanities
Research Council of Canada, Ottawa and Dr. Adel Sedra, Vice-President
and Provost, University of Toronto, they investigated and stopped
the funding thereby producing banishment from Toronto of this
Eurocentric group. The credit for leading this attack rests with
Dr. Jasbir Singh Mann of California. The readers are referred
to a well written book, Planned Attack on Aad Sri Guru Granth
Sahib Academics or Blasphemy, edited by B. S. Giani (1994) to
see for themselves why we should not feel disgraced by what we
did to stop this unethical non-sense that went on in Toronto with
funds provided by Canada Council or Toronto Sikhs.
McLeod is upset that his other instant scholars such as Fenech
and Oberoi were also mistreated. A brief summary and hypothesis
of Dr. Fenech's thesis are given and the readers can make their
own judgments. Fenech (1994) states that:
i. The purpose behind Sikh Martyrologies is to demonstrate the
profound victory in what at first appears to be a defeat (So Baba
Dip Singh was actually defeated.)!
ii. The motivation of Sikh martyrs came from the taunt or Mehna
not from their faiths in Gurus.
iii. Guru Teg Bahadur's martydom was instigated by Brahmnic taunts.
iv. Guru Gobind Singh’s Zafarnarna is an example of a taunt.
This shameful and lopsided research done by an instant Sikh scholar
of Maltese extraction was again published by Oxford University
Press, Delhi and Hew feels very proud of imposing such half baked
scholars on the Sikhs and feels upset that we do not give a warm
welcome to their degrading research about our role models and
Gurus. McLeod feels that those who rose against Dr. Oberoi earned
a black mark against their name. The University of British Columbia
made a wise decision by first not changing their minds about Sikhs
Chairs under the influence of Government of India and then removing
Oberoi for violating norms of SSHRC (Canada). If Minister of Education,
Province of British Columbia had his say, Oberoi would have been
fired. Anybody who wants to meet this Sikh scholar can see him
on the streets of Vancouver, clean shaven, holding hands of his
keshadhari children and claiming that at least he got a University
of British Columbia professorship out of the stupidity of the
Dr. McLeod keeps on complaining that his work and research was
very severely treated in print. Did he ever think why so many
Sikh scholars such as Judge Gurdev Singh, S. Daljeet Singh, Jagjit
Singh, Kharak Singh, Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon, Gurtej Singh, Dr.
J. S. Mann, Gurbakhsh Singh, Tarlochan Singh, Ganda Singh, Fauja
Singh, Harbans Singh, Justice Choor Singh, Balwant Singh Dhillon,
Surinder Singh Kohli, Surinder Singh Sodhi, Gobind Singh Mansukhani,
Madanjit Kaur, Saran Singh (Sikh Review), Noel King, Pamela Wylam
(Manjit-Kaur), James R. Lewis, Surjit Singh, Bachiltar Singh Giani,
Sangat Singh, Avtar Singh, Dr. H. S. Dilgeer, S. S. Kapoor (London),
Tharan Singh, Arvindpal Singh Mandair, Pritpal Singh Bindra and
finally Jathedar Manjit Singh of Sri Kesgarh Sahib had to publish
material against him. Did he ever care to “discover”
the hurt he has caused the Sikhs because of his “egostonic”
(DSM IV) behaviour?
He claims that all the above scholars were bent on demonizing
his group. While discovering Sikhs he forgot that Sikhs used to
say in their ardas, adee so charree. Sikhs, he should have known
by now, can extend a hand of friendship to even a missionary of
Kharar, but to protect their nation and religion they can also
take the person to the cleaners. The examples of S. Bhagat Singh
and Udham Singh can be cited from the recent history.
Discovering the Sikhs, an autobiography of a Historian by Dr.
Hew McLeod is a very troubling book written by a very troubled
person. If Hew could have stayed in Kharar to look after the well
being of seventy-eight Christian children and cared for Christian
Boys School, he would be remembered in Punjab as Dr. Ryburn is
still remembered. Incidentally, the Kharar School is in ruins
and Marshal Press is also closed because various missionaries
came to Kharar, used school’s resources and left for greener
As a psychologist, I would advise him to start reading the books
mentioned at the beginning of this article; he should have read
it at the time of doing his Ph. D. It will help him in becoming
holistic and forgiving. Furthermore,
a. He may need to undergo psycho-spiritual therapy to get back
to his pre-morbid condition.
b. He should gain ability to capitalize from past experiences.
c. Social responsibility could also come to him.
d. Perception of reality and social sensitivity after losing
his ego chains is also suggested.
e. Decreasing dichotomy between his real self and acquired self
f. Develop Universal Cosmic Consciousness and stop seeing lines
between “Snatanic Sikhs and Khalsa Sikhs.”
g. Undergo positive disintegration by the process of de-automatization
through prayers of self-regard.
h. Become an instrument of Super-power attributive Will.
i. Kill egotism, a neurosis of the soul and I-am-ness.
j. Replace argument with experience, rational with metaphoric,
abstract with concrete, symbolic with perceptual, differential
with existential, analytical with Gestalt, linear with holistic
and Buddhi with mannas.
k. Stop cultivating his linear garden of Sikh research, light
a candle, and let the beautitude appear without efforts or documentation.
l. Seek Satorie, atonement with life at this phase of your life.
m. Train himself in mental silence.
n. Stop de-naturing nature by using language and labels.
o. Train himself into choiceless attention.
p. Develop wise passiveness and awareness without comparison.
q. Say his prayer of self-regard to become seer and the seen.
r. Use meditation to dwell upon something to produce a metaphoric
s. Use transcendental operationalism to develop a mind which
has no boundaries.
t. Know that without mysticism a historian is a monster.
u. Enjoy the fathomlessly strange, enigmatic “other kind
v. Get out of the automatized, caged, cultural and educational
conditioning of New Zealand.
w. Through mind fasting lose his attachments.
x. Leave the control of five senses; pass through shadow, ego
biosocial existential, transpersonal bands to enjoy eternity-infinity.
y. Get related to the Ground of Being.
z. Through de-automatization, come to his senses by losing his
In summing up, I would like to provide Dr. McLeod a summary of
Khalsacentrism as is experienced by the common Sikh person. Also,
as Blacks have developed Afrocentric guidelines to do research
on Blacks in North America, I feel the following guidelines of
Khalsacentric research will come in handy if he does not want
to produce more Eurocentric role-dancing, anti-Sikh researchers.
Khalsacentrism: A life affirming system
Sikhism, which evolved into Khalsacentric living, an assertive
way of life, attempted to decrease the dichotomy between spiritual
life and empirical life. It challenged the initial structure through
‘structural inversion’ and ‘negation of the
negations’. In Khalsacentric living, Sikhs reject the unreality
of life, withdrawal from life, indulgence in asceticism or sanyas,
rejection of varnas, caste systems, ritualism and avtarhood. The
Sikh Gurus developed a life affirming system and advised Sikhs
to model life as a venture of love, honesty and assertive living.
Khalsacentrism believes in Universal Consciousness and deep mystical
saintliness. The Sikh concept of God is One creator -- self-existent,
without fear, without enmity, timeless, un-incarnated, gracious
enlightener, benevolent, ocean of virtue and inexpressible. “And
if you want to play the game of love with Him,” says the
Guru, “come to me with your head on your palm.” (‘Head
on palm’ in Punjabi means ‘toying with the death’
or ‘to be ready for a sacrifice’). Sikhs internalize
these attributes daily by repeating them in prayers.
In Khalsacentric living, family life is a must. There is no room
for recluses, ascetics, hermits. Rejection of celibacy in Sikhism
has made the status of woman equal to the man. Guru Nanak pleads,
“Why call a woman inferior when without woman, there would
be none, and when it is she who gives birth to kings among men?”
Khalsacentrism believes in the importance of work and production.
Work should not be divided through castes. A Sikh strives to break
free from the convoluted cycle of caste versus non-caste. Sikhism
recommends working and sharing incomes. Sikhism deprecates the
amassing of wealth. According to the Sikh scripture, “Riches
cannot be gathered without sin and do not keep company after death.
God’s bounty belongs to all, but men grab it for themselves.”
According to the Gurus, wealthy men have a responsibility of voluntarily
sharing their assets.
Khalsacentrism fully accepts the concept of social responsibility.
A tyrant, who dehumanizes and hinders in the honest and righteous
discharge of a family life, has to be tackled. A Khalsa automatically
takes up the role of the protector of people victimized by a tyrant,
whether it is a helpless Brahmin from Kashmir or a powerless woman
kidnapped by Ghazni for slave trade.
A Khalsa undergoes what modern psychologists call ‘positive
disintegration’ or ‘cognitive dissonance’, because
of his truthful living and reshaping his reality through internalization
of the daily prayers. He evolves into a mystic by losing his ego.
He starts seeing things clearly because his doors of perception
Guru Arjan, Guru Tegh Bahadur, Guru Gobind Singh, his four children
and many followers up to the present time, followed this path
of social responsibility and attained martyrdom. This is Khalsacentrism
in action, as modeled by the Gurus, who challenged the status
quo and stayed defiant to the tyrants. Sikhism teaches politeness
to friends and defiance to oppressors. Through social partnership
and resistance against falsity, the Khalsa becomes ‘an instrument
of God’s attributive will’ and wants to bring halemi
raj or the Kingdom of God on Earth. By reciting and repeating
Naam, the Khalsa stops seeing ‘lines’ in his reality.
He becomes cosmocentric and the whole pain of the universe becomes
his own. Egotism, the neurosis of the soul, dies through naam.
Remembering God in the company of sadh sangat (congregation)
is his vehicle of evolution. It is not the end of evolution as
seen in other Eastern religions. Naam is a method of cosmocentric
reassuring and removing ‘I-am-ness’, the greatest
malady of human beings. Naam awakens the Will of God in human
beings through love, contentment, truth, humbleness, other-orientedness,
self-control and discipline.
Naam removes anger, lust, greed, envy, attachment and pride.
After going through the stages of Naam Simran (reciting and acknowledging
the Divine and its attributes), one becomes a Khalsa. Khalsa defends
the claims of conscience against oppression, and sides with the
good. He becomes the vanguard of righteousness by defining himself
in the image of the Guru. Khalsa belongs to the egalitarian society
and joins the cosmocentric universal culture where only the pure
will be allowed to rule. Through the Khalsa, Guru Gobind Singh
took Sikhism to the ‘Phoenix Principle of Khalsacentric’—A
Life Affirming System.
Khalsacentrism and Sikh research
It is a known fact that Darwin’s Origin of Species (1859)
gave freedom to the imperialists, colonizers and ‘fitters’
to create the culture of the fitters. Using their linear and colonized
mind, Eurocentric historians tried to fit Sikhism into a ‘social
science, no-nonsense paradigm’. They also operated on the
assumption that the researcher is separate from the object of
study and in fact seek to gain as much distance as possible from
the object of study.
Dr. E. Trumpp came to India in 1869 to write a book about Sikhs
for the benefit of the colonizers. Dr. Trumpp’s colonial
mentality and occidental (Westerly) reality were later picked
up consciously or subconsciously by numerous historians, rapidly
trained in social science methodology with European traditions.
They saw the Sikh Gurus as ‘political personalities’
and caused a great deal of hurt and stress to the Sikh community.
Many Eurocentric researchers are driven by greed or other individualistic
motives. For instance, McLeod, who has written a lot about Sikhism
since 1968, indicated through his articles in The Sikh Review,
January and April 1994, that his own contradictions about Christianity
and his repression affected his research of Sikhism. Dr. Mcleod
has dedicated his book Sikhism to Harjot Oberoi, Pashaura Singh,
Gurinder Mann, and Lou Fenech. These flag carriers for McLeod
have disgraced the Khalsa Panth through misinterpretation and
academic suppression of historical evidence that supports Sikh
symbols as spiritual injunction and its promulgation by the tenth
Khalsacentric research on the other hand believes in the essence,
wholism, introspection and retrospection. It rejects the hypothetical,
statistical, interventionist model of research and the use of
European social science methods. A Khalsacentric researcher does
not approach the subject of study with a prestored paradigm in
his or her psyche.
Through retrospection, a Khalsacentric researcher questions to
ascertain if the interpretations of his findings are causing psychic
or spiritual discomfort to the people who belong to the culture
under study. A Khalsacentric researcher looks for the wholistic
reality rather than a detached reality. He looks for the essence
of the culture rooted in a particularistic view of reality. False
propositions of one culture are not applied to study other cultures
to produce a distorted and hurtful knowledge.
A Khalsacentric researcher seeks total immersion in the culture
before rushing to study it. A researcher cannot stay separate
from the object of the study. The distance distorts the view.
A Khalsacentric researcher cleanses the doors of his perception
through introspection of any pre-existing paradigms. A Khalsacentric
researcher uses retrospection to see if the interpretation is
not intentionally made convergent to provide a ‘good fit’
to the existing paradigm of knowledge. A Khalsacentric researcher
does not use ‘freedom of expression’ as a crutch.
His personality is very important and his knowledge of ethno-methodology
of research is very crucial for the research outcome. It must
be pointed out that a Khalsacentric scholar assumes the right
and responsibility of describing Sikh realities from the subjective
faith point of view of the Khalsa values and ideals. He centers
himself and the Sikh community in his research activity.
A Khalsacentric researcher recognizes the pivotal role of history
and uses ideological, humanistic and emancipatory anti-racist
awareness to formulate his hypotheses. Colonial, Calvinistic,
elitist and arrogantly elect behaviour is not accepted in Khalsacentrism.
Part of a mandate of Khalsacentric research is to screen out oppressive
assumptions. A Khalsacentric researcher stresses the importance
of centering Sikh ideas, codes and symbols in Punjab as a place
and the struggle that was put up to oppose the oppressive assumptions.
A Khalsacentric researcher self-consciously obliterates the subject/object
duality and enthrones Khalsa wholism in his research.
The perceptive, which a Khalsacentric researcher brings to the
research exercise, depends upon his experiences, both within and
outside the Sikh culture. When centering Khalsa values, the researcher
must center his own ideals. It is, therefore, important that Khalsacentric
scholars declare who they are and what has motivated them to study
Even though Sikhism has become a living, assertive way of life,
a Khalsacentric researcher can extract the specific values described
in the first part of this article and apply them to ‘discover
himself.’ These values are easily traceable in the Sikh
scripture and ethos.
A Khalsacentric researcher rejects subject-object separation,
encourages collectivism rather than individualism, grounds himself
in complimentarity, leaves false consciousness of Eurocentric
thinking, looks at struggles as a way of transferring human consciousness,
makes research centered in its base community (Punjab), and gets
himself embedded in Punjab experience of last 500 years, familiarizing
himself with language, philosophy and myths of the Sikhs through
A Khalsacentric researcher must examine himself or herself in
the process of examining the subject. The introspection and retrospection
are two integral parts of Khalsacentric research. Introspection
means that the researcher questions himself in regards to the
subject under study. In retrospection, the researcher questions
himself after the project is completed, to ascertain if any personal
biases have entered or are hindering the fair interpretation of
the results. He attempts to know how the community being studied
will feel about the research findings.
The first question that a Khalsacentric researcher asks is, “Who
am I?” In defining himself, he defines his place and the
perspective he brings to the research exercise. The data collected
must include the personal knowledge of the subjective faith of
the researcher, his personality, functioning, experiences, motivation
(repression, projection, spiritual, mystical) in order to provide
some source of validation for the result of his inquiry.
The instrumental, non-believing Eurocentric researchers who take
sadistic pleasure in trampling over the subjective faith of a
minority community, have to be challenged and exposed. May God
forgive them for the hurt they have caused. Perhaps they do not
know what they are doing, because of the acute academic neurosis
has made them linear, non-intuitive, convergent and myopically
Copyright©2003 S.S. Sodhi and J.S. Mann. About the authors