The Guru Grant Sahib: Its Physics and Metaphysics attempts to trace the unifying force behind the trinity of Sikh metaphysics, aesthetics and dynamics. The book brings to a focus all those energies spiritual, artistic and material-which animate and sanctify the Sikh way of life. Naturally in such a quest the Guru Granth Sahib offers the complete answer. Various aspects of the Guru Granth Sahib-its pontifical status, its philosophy, and its aesthetics-have been dealt with exceptional discernment and originality. A rigorous intellectual discipline is applied to bring out Sikh perspective on Cod, man and human destiny and in the process some of the problems of Sikh theology have been resolved with remarkable assurance and finesse. This study is marked by deep personal faith as well as by penetrating insights of a vital and searching intellect.
Though a slim volume, this monograph will nevertheless constitute a well- formulated, lucid and concise statement and will rank as a reliable guide 10 Sikh thought and poetics. In Guninder Kaur, Sikh faith has found a highly accomplished and articulate interpreter or the innermost vision of the Gurus and of the concept of life issuing from it.
Guninder Kaur is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Colby College, Waterville. She has contributed chapters to a number of books, and is the author of numerous scholarly articles, as well as a full-length book The Feminine Principle in the Sikh vision of the Transcendent (Combridge University Press, 1993)
The present essay is the fruit of advice and help, encouragement and inspiration, from various persons and I owe them more than just these words. My father, Professor Harbans Singh, it has been who, by his personal example and faith, channelled-ever so gently, ever so subtly-a basically personality and even dormant impulse towards the literary and academic inquiry of it. I refer, of course, to matters Sikh.
The years at Wellesley have provided open occasion for disciplined learning. Along the way has come artful reinforcement, through course work and personal encounter with students and teachers, of my commitment to explore systematically the philosophy, literature and religiousness of us Sikhs. The most penetratingly sophisticated awareness and continuously engaging discretion of Professor Robert Garis in the matter of letters and words and the delightful yet challenging presentation of the study of religion by Professor J on Levenson have together been a backdrop for this current thematic exploration. It would be presumptuous to assume that I could have possibly digested all that they have offered by way of food for thought. But whatever little I have been able to savour has given me much sustenance in the course of this project.
More immediately and more directly linked to the writing of this essay is the contribution of Miss Lucetta Mowry whose advice was crucial to me. To her, too-for forbearance with my mundane inconsequence--my very deep thanks.
Since the thrust of Sikh scholarship has been upon the philosophical, historical and theological understanding of the Guru Granth Sahib the relationship between its metaphysics and 'physics' remains generally unnoticed. Naturally, undertaking a study of their combination entails both joy and frustration. Without texts by big authorities looming over, one can freely, delightfully adventure along the Guru Granth Sahib. Nevertheless, going through a path that has hardly had any antecedents, having to clear the briars and bushes, can be quite arduous. But, that a 'work' as great as the Guru Granth Sahib, great because of its theme of universal significance, of genuine human import, which has very artistically been expressed, remains unknown and unfelt by so many on this continent as well as at home is most dispiriting. This essaying must satisfy at least two aspirations: firstly, and strictly primarily, to bring Sikh philosophic disposition to a community not familiar with matters Sikh, and then, secondarily, to come to terms with the demands of my own orientation and imagination.
The title of my essay will no doubt be open to many objections. But then what could it be substituted by? I did think for a while of entitling it "An Aesthetic Study of the Guru Granth Sahib"; however, in so doing I was confronted with the intractable dilemma that 'aesthetics' Involves. That is, must we in the Fryian, Clive Bell tradition-art for art's sake-ponder upon the Scripture of the Sikhs in its formal expression, the inter relationship of words and sounds alone or 'violating the aesthetic unity and purity' should we in the Tolstoyan, Tagorean and Radhakrishnanian tradition seek the interest and the implication, the purpose and the significance of it? While sensing this form-content/how-what/ expression itself/ meaning thereof quandary, a further question arose: is it at all legitimate to hold analogous with the Sacred Word something that pertains to the realm of art?
By 'metaphysics' connoting a going beyond to an Impalpable, Intangible, Intrinsic, Ontological Core, and 'physics' connoting a coming towards sensuousness, vitality, palpability, vividness, my title "The Guru Granth Sahib: Its Physics and Metaphysics" surpasses all dichotomies. In the metaphysical sense, the Guru Granth Sahib is Revealed Word; in the physical sense, it is most beautiful poetry. Preceding the sequence of going on to recognizing the metaphysics of the Guru Granth Sahib and to relishing its 'physic' is an essential question-'What is the Guru Granth Sahib?"
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