THE SIKH WAY OF LIFE
BY RANBIR SINGH
Dr. Amiya Chakarvárty the renowned Indian scholar teaching in Boston University, was invited to participate in an international seminar in connection with the 500th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak. I asked him which, in his opinion, was the best written book on Sikh religion in English. ‘Sardar Ranbir Singh’s, said my old teacher unhesitatingly. I was embarrassed since I had not heard this name until then,
Ranbir Singh, the, little known author of The Glimpses of the Divine Masters, The Sikh Way
of Life and a couple of other works is no more. He died in Delhi on April 21 after a brief illness.
A well-to-do businessman he did not have to write for money. Nor did he write for name; he lived essentially a cloistered life screened from the media glare. He took to writing because of an inner urge. An evolved soul, what he wrote touched the innermost fibres of his readers, sounded most convincing and swept them off their feet. They came to him again and again
It was a’ small coterie. Though it included such eminent scholars as Dr. Suniti Kurnar Chatterji
who said: The Glimpses of the Divine Masters is a remarkable compilation of the most beautiful incidents and deathless episodes in the lives of the Gurus with copious selections from their discourses and teachings Dr. N.C. Mudaliar remarked I like to have this book with me always. Every sentence of this book impresses me and provokes my spiritual thoughts.
Dr. K. R. Srinivas Iyengar,. Vice-President, Sahitya Akademi observed: The Glimpses of the Divine Masters and The Sikh way of Life are a series of vivid snaps but cumulatively the effect is panoramic. Great events, great figures, great confrontations pass before the eyes and build up the story of a great movement, a great religion, and a great people. The author has written these books with a mind stored with knowledge and a heart in total allegiance to the Gurus and hence these two books speak with an authority and immediacy that the reader cannot miss.
Dr. Ganda Singh, the noted Sikh historian, wrote. Tke.Sikh Way of Life is the resu1t of author’s deep study of the Sikh scriptures and other relevant Literature for some 40 years. We are grateful to the author for giving to the spirituaI minded students of religion a thought-provoking and a life inspiring handy volume.
However, the highest tribute came frome Dr. Edward A. de Bittencourt of Santiago who opined: The book (Glimpses of the Divine Masters) is not only of the highest devotional value, but it is also a veritable jewel in hagiographical literature It is a book to which we will return again and again, compelled by the magnetic style born of sincere devotion.
After my encounter with Dr. Amiya Chakarvarty I had another surprise in store for me. I found that Ranbir Singh, spoken so highly of by Dr Chakarvarty, was no other than our tenant. I had met him just once along with his son when he came to negotiate the lease of the property. I now made it a point to see him at the first opportunity
You never mentioned about your writings, I complained. You are too big an author for that, he said in utter humility.
When I told him about Dr Amiya Chakarvarty he turned still more modest. He, then, hastened to inscribe the two books for me graciously.
Glimpses of the Divine Masters is designed to talk about the Sikh Gurus rather than being the conventional biographical sketches, these are highly subjective accounts projecting the events of their, lives that illustrate what the great Gurus stood for. They are indeed stray episodes and yet they make a running narrative. Each sketch is complete in itself and read together they make a fascinating story of a new movement, a resurgence of saint-soldiers reincarnated, at the call of the Divine Masters.
The author has made an admirable attempt in this volume to explain the true meaning of religion and how it is relevant for the proper development of human character. The illumined hearts of the Sikh Gurus, while in constant touch with the Eternal Reality, ‘revealed to the suffering’ humanity the true meaning of ‘life. In fact, Sikhism is divinity reflected through Nanak in the form of 10 Gurus and then through .the Holy Granth, the Living God. It is a way of life, a practical way, leading man to its cherished goal.
Aim of Life
The Sikh way of Life is a companion volume. It holds out a magnificient hope that the life of the spirit-born person blossoms like a flower with joy everlasting and the man remains in a state of eternal bliss, not after death in some unknown region, but even now and here in this very life. The author believes that religion has suffered most from the clergy. The simple truth of life has been garbled and complicated. Senseless dogmas., rituals and rites have done untold damage to it. Truth is buried deep under the heap of myth and superstitious practices. The new man, the modern mind refuses to accept it. Mr Ranbir Slngh removes the false layer and tells what the true religion is: What is the purpose of life? What good Sat Sangat, association with the holy, does? What profit is derived from seva, unselfish service?
Guru Teg Bahadur was written at the instance of the Chief Khalsa Diwan on the occasion of the tercentenary of the martyrdom of the ninth Sikh Guru. It is a highly readable life-story of the Guru with English rendering of his hymns done by Dr Harbhajan Singh and Prof Parman Singh. It is an amazing story of a martyr and a poet giving his life not for his own but other people’s religion.
Ranbir Singh was no author, he never claimed to be one. He was an evolved soul. What be wrote was dictated by deep conviction and a sincere urge to share his experience with others. This made him an artist and a writer of rare talent.
Not long ago he sent me his translation of Guru Nanak’s Japji in Urdu. I showed the manuscript to Ali Jafri, the noted Urdu poet, who was staying with me. He was amazed to see-the lucidity and vividness of the style of writing. He would not believe that it was done by a non-professional. Sardar Jafri made it a point to go over to the author and pay his respects to him.
Born in a village in Jhelum district of West Punjab in 1899, Ranbir Singh was a staunch freedom figther in his time. He discontinued his formal studies during the non-cooperation movement and graduated from the National College in due course. A prosperous.businessman with branches in New York and other important: capitals of the world, he lived an utterly austere life and tried his best to help the deserving causes in his quiet way. He was a member of the governing council of the Khalsa College, Amritsar, the Chief Khalsa Diwan and also of several other institutions. He never sought the limelight or publicity He had all the luxuries of life but lived above them
Hearing about his grave illness, it. is said, his eldest son came from the. U.S.A. and asked him. ‘If an angel of mercy came and gave you another 10 years would you care to live? No ! was his determined reply. 1 am perfectly at peace. I have had my innings. I must now go." He closed his eyes and breathed his last.
He was an embodiment of the sikh way of life. He lived the life of atrue sikh. When his time came he departed like a true sikh, without any regrets.
10th June 1980