The book concludes with a full translation of the Siddh Gosht itself. While the Siddh Gosht has been translated in full elsewhere, this represents the first time that it has been the subject of a monograph released in the West, and it is certainly worthy of this treatment.
The translation is broken into topical sections for ease of reference, and retains a good deal of Sikh technical vocabulary, explained in the glossary. While this is an atypical way of addressing this problem, it is effective in retaining the distinctive flavor of the text. The differences between these two are described briefly. The late Giani Sant Singh Maskeen seems to have been the primary giani consulted, and is cited at numerous points in the volume. This approach works quite effectively in the sections treating current interpretation of the Siddh Gosht itself, and adds a new perspective to the debate about the context for its composition.
The inclusion of the gianis' interpretations allows the text to be treated as part of a living tradition. The Siddh Gosht has been translated by a number of other scholars, most recently by Shackle and Mandair in their Teachings of the Sikh Gurus Routledge, The Nayar and Sandhu translation reads more as a prose translation than the Shackle and Mandair translation and contains more untranslated terminology. The translation may therefore be slightly less accessible to the uninitiated, but may allow for points of comparison with other South Asian texts.
The Socially Involved Renunciate is a welcome contribution to the small body of works on Guru Nanak, although it suffers at times from poor editing and from an inconsistent theoretical framework. This last concern is more likely to bother more experienced scholars.
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The book works well as an introduction to Guru Nanak's writings, and could be used in a classroom setting for that purpose with some guidance. The earliest signs of renunciation were seen with the 'sacha sauda' incident and went on with 'tera tera' when he managed the Modi Khaana as the Sultan's Store Keeper General.
Giving up a householder's life and becoming an ascetic and living in isolation for the traditional 'sages' was no renunciation because they still had to go back to the ordinary householders with their begging bowl for food, to the very ones they had abandoned. Guru Nanak's renunciation was the inner one. Principal Satbir Singh has beautifully described the true renunciation in his book 'Gur Bharee'. Fully armed and riding a horse, the Guru had just returned from an excursion.
You allow yourself to be addressed as 'Sachaa Patshah' - the True King. What sort of Guru are you? Guru Hargobind replied: "Inernally a hermit, and externally a prince. Arms are for the protection of the poor and destruction of the tyrants.
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Baba Nanak had not renounced the world but had renounced Maya and self ego. To this, Ramdass spontaneously said: "This appeals to my mind! This was the same message of Guru Nanak when he met Gorakhnath. The message of a true renunciation lovingly imparted in the Siddh Gosht. This is just a preamble. I have still to write how Guru Nanak equipped himself and Mardana suitably with mountaineer's gear.
I just wanted to add that the same Samarth Ramdass, who was a Maharashtrian, came back home and imparted the same knowledge to Shivaji. He was Shivaji's Guru. Shivaji, as most people would know, was the Marathi warrior who stood up to the Mughals Aurangzeb.
Surinder jio, I did think of that but stopped short as Maharashtraians had already started to compare and equate Guru Gobind Singh with Chhatarpati Shivaji. I thought that would open a Pandora's Box. As for Guru Nanak's mountaineering expedition, he had equipped himself with a strong rope, a snow pick, a sturdy leather belt equipped with hooks. And, of course, suitable winter apparel. Bhai Mardana was similarly equipped, in addition to carrying his Rabab, for the 'Fire Nights' to sing the celestial bani.
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