Was Sadhu Sundar Singh a fraud committed by the Christian
by Job Anbalagan
Sadhu Sundar Singh
One Mr.G.B.Singh of Sikh Spectrum wrote an article at the following URL:
Mr.G.B.Singh has made certain critical observations about the life and ministry of Sadhu Sundar Singh. In this article, he has broadly touched upon certain aspects of the life of Sadhuji. GB Singh has not produced any evidences to prove his points but has merely based his findings on presumptions and arguments which according to him are logical and reasonable. Mr.G.B.Singh then wanted me to "provide some sensible, logical rebuttal with at least some evidence" to prove my views. I deal with all the issues raised by GB Singh:
(i) How did Sundar Singh at the age of 7 years during 1986 knew by heart the Bhagwad Gita in Urdu language when the same had not existed as a separate text until 1785 when it was published in London. At that time, a Sikh family residing in a Punjab village could not have known this religious book which was not a scripture of popular and intellectual Hinduism. There is no evidence that both Sundar’s mother and the hired Hindu Pundit instructed Gita lessons to Sundar. Could Sunder’s mother and father or siblings read and write Urdu enough to have taught him and were they themselves knowledgeable of the contents of these texts and other scriptures like the Quran.
GB Singh merely questions the wisdom of a seven year old Sikh Boy who had read and understood the Hindu Scriptures, Bhagwad Gita, through his childish faculty of mind, according to the measure of wisdom. Though such a popular text had not existed at that time, the fact is that the Hindu Scriptures, Bhagwad Gita had existed in some form or the other. The child read and understood it to the best of his ability. What kind of evidence GB Singh requires the author of the biography of Sadhu Sundar Singh to prove that Sundar’s mother and the Hindu Pundit instructed Gita lessons to Sundar?
(ii) In his book The Search After Reality, Sadhu wrote roughly three pages on “Bhagvad Gita and Krishna,” and reading this account leaves an impression that Sundar’s knowledge of Gita was minimal and whatever little he knew is strictly from the Christian vocabulary and interpretation.
Yes, the knowledge of the child Sundar Singh was minimal only because he understood the Gita through his childish mind. There was absolutely no need for the child to know about the Gita from the Christian vocabulary and interpretation.
(iii) With respect to Sundar reading “Hindu scriptures till midnight,” I wish he had named at least one of these Hindu scriptures and after reading the chapter on Hinduism recorded in The Search After Reality my doubts have grown. Evidence suggests that in all likelihood Sundar was instructed on Hinduism while at the seminary and not at his father’s house.
The fact is that Sundar read the Hindu scriptures till midnight. What is the evidence that is available with GB Singh to prove that Sundar had not read the Hindu Scriptures till midnight?
The book “Search after Reality” was written by Sadhu after he studied the Hindu Scriptures and mastered the doctrines of Hinduism. What is more important is about the understanding of the doctrines of Hinduism by Sadhu and not about the places where he learnt the Hindu scriptures.
(iv) (Singh has quoted three versions of the testimony of Sadhu Sundar Singh in which Sadhu described his encounter with Christ through a vision in the early morning of 18th December or 3rd December).There might as well be more of these Jesus and other testimonies given out by Sundar just like this one: "I am Christ whom you are persecuting. There is salvation only through Me. If you believe Me now, you will be saved. If you don't believe Me you will be damned forever." What transpired on this fateful day cannot be verified since Sundar is the sole witness. With several accounts available one wonder’s if his testimony is reliable. Sadhu’s psychological make up is prone to seeing visions which is fraught with many pitfalls. In one of the above accounts Sadhu has mentioned the date as December 18th without giving the year. C.F. Andrews, who had known Sadhu personally, mentioned it as “December 1903” and Cyril J. Davey, a Christian biographer for Sadhu has given the date as “December 3, 1903.”
The date could be either 18th December or 3rd December, 1903. What is important is not the actual date of this incident but the fact of this incident. Jesus appeared to Sadhu in a vision in the early morning of a day in December 1903. Yes, it was a personal testimony of Sadhu Sundar Singh and nobody else was there to witness this event. What is important is the transformation of the life of a Sikh youth who had opposed the gospel tooth and nail earlier. It is the subsequent life of Sadhu which bore testimony to this life-changing incident in his life. Just because there is a small discrepancy in a date, you cannot brush under the carpet a very big precious stone of diamond that is lying on the floor of your house.
It is not the vision seen by Sadhu but the changed life of Sadhu which is more important. The transformed life of Sadhu is the evidence of the vision seen by Sadhu.
(v) With unending stream of supernatural visions, Sadhu has left for us enough evidence to question his mental health. For example in a cave 13,000 feet above the sea level on the Kailash range of the Himalayan mountains, Sadhu met an ancient “Christian Rishi” named “Maharishi of Kailash.” This Rishi showed Sadhu a marvelous account of his own immense age and wonderful powers and imparted Sadhu with a series of visions of an apocalyptic character. Incidents such as these alerted men like Principal Susil Kumar Rudra of St. Stephens College who on occasions conversed with C.F. Andrews about his ever growing skepticisms of Sadhu’s visions.
Maybe, there are people like Susil Kumar Rudra who do not agree with the visions seen by Sadhu Sundar Singh. But, Sadhu had reportedly seen the Kailash Maharishi not in a dream or a vision but in reality. Nowhere it is recorded that Kailash Maharishi “imparted Sadhu with a series of visions of an apocalyptic character. Of course, Kailash Maharishi shared his own visions with Sadhu Sundar Singh.
(vi) Sadhu loved Jesus with a tremendous passion and just about every facet of his life was fashioned to follow Christ to the minutest details. So much so that he went on pilgrimage to the Christian holy places in Palestine in the hope of dying at exactly the same age Jesus was crucified. Poor Sunder was greatly disappointed when he lived through the thirty-fourth year of his life without the anticipated death. Why? Because Jesus was thought to have died at the age thirty-three and Sadhu was unable to duplicate through intensive meditation the age of death of his Savior on himself.
Sadhu did not go to Palatestine in the hope of dying at exactly the same age Jesus was crucified. GB Singh wrote something out of his own imagination, not based on the recorded biography of Sadhu Sundar Singh.
People like A. J.Appasamy, etc, wrote the biographies of Sadhu Sundar Singh because they were witnesses to the life of Sadhuji.
The first biography of Sundar Singh that brought him to the attention of the Christian world was "Sadhu Sundar Singh: Called of God" by his good friend Rebecca Parker, whom he referred to as his spiritual mother. This has been in print since 1918.
Two friends of Sundar wrote brief biographical accounts of his life. "Sadhu Sundar Singh: A Personal Memoir by C. F. Andrews" especially tells of the early years when Andrews and Sundar were friends.
"The Vision and the Call: A Life of Sadhu Sundar Singh" by T. E. Riddle is surely the best short introduction to Sundar Singh. Riddle was a New Zealand Presbyterian missionary who translated a number of Sundar's books from Urdu to English.
"The definitive biography of Sundar Singh by A. J. Appasamy" brings out the evidence concerning the life of Sadhu Sundar Singh. Appasamy had collaborated with B. H. Streeter on a 1921 study called "The Sadhu: A Study in Mysticism and Practical Religion". He stayed in touch with Sundar and visited him as late as 1928. In 1958 he released his biography, a reverent account of his friend which glossed over some of the complicated problems in interpreting Sundar's person and work.
"The Riddle of Sadhu Sundar Singh" by Eric J. Sharpe offers the first real attempt to interpret Sundar taking account of all his complexities. The book is no doubt controversial in some circles, but should help towards a deeper understanding of a complex and fascinating figure.
Eric J. Sharpe (1933-2000) brings his vast background in interreligious studies, intercultural studies and mission studies to this critical biography of Sadhu Sundar Singh (1889-1929). His esteem for the Sadhu is clear throughout, but his concern for careful historiography is no less evident.
Sundar Singh remains one of the most influential figures in the Indian Christian world. Early studies of his life continue to be reprinted and an edition of his collected writings continues to sell. In the early decades of the twentieth century he became an international symbol for what is now called "contextual" or "inculturated" expressions of Christian faith outside the Western world. But symbols are easily manipulated, and one of the values of Sharpe's work lies in exposing the various agendas which were brought to Sundar Singh and the issues of concern in his life.
Who was the real Sundar Singh behind the symbol and the myths and the faith of those he touched? Sharpe does not presume to answer, but seeks to define important aspects of the riddle of Sundar Singh.
"To a certain extent, this study will cover fairly familiar ground, and I hope that it will be readable by those encountering the Sadhu for the first time. But it will not be a simple retelling of the Sadhu story. I have seen my special task as being to reexamine the Sundar Singh record, as set down by others, in the attempt (which may or not succeed) to place his career in a slightly fuller historical and missiological context than that found in most of those who have previously written about him."
All these authors based their writings on evidences in the form of eye-witnesses or in the form of their personal knowledge of acquaintances with Sadhu. Many of them lived with Sadhu and collected oral evidences from others.
All these authors speak about a Sikh gentleman who was a Sikh wearing the robe of a Hindu Sadhu. In his childhood, he studied Bhagwat Gita. He had harboured prejudices against the Christian missionaries when he studied in a Christian school. He had burnt the New Testament. Then he had seen Christ in an early morning vision. Afterwards, he was persecuted by his parents and others. His life was completely changed by the power of the gospel. People saw Christ in the life of Sadhu Sundar Singh. Sadhu had seen many visions and dreams and wrote some books. He had preached the gospel from Tibet to Kanyakumari and went abroad to preach the gospel. Then he disappeared in Tibet and his dead body could not be recovered.
Can GB Singh prove through the evidences in his armor that Sadhu Sundar Singh cheated the people of India by his figments of imaginations and that no such Sikh gentleman really existed in the state of Punjab?
Who has to produce evidences to prove? How can I produce any evidence concerning the life of Sadhu Sundar Singh because I did not take birth during the life time of Sadhu? I could only point to the evidences collected by the various biographers who had been witnesses to the life of Sadhu. It was not only a single biographer who had compiled the biography of Sadhu Sundar Singh. Rev.Appasamy was a Tamilian by birth and he could not have any vested interest in producing a man called "Sadhu Sundar Singh" and that too from Punjab, out of his imagination. Likewise, Rebecca Parker, an American lady could not have produced the myth of “Sadhu Sundar Singh” out of her imagination, just to preach the gospel of Christ in India. She was a contemporary, having witnessed the glorious life of Sadhu in the early 20th century. Then what about Andrews, etc, who had also recorded the biography of Sadhuji? Are all these authors were "out of their mind"? Was there any need for these authors to preach the gospel of Christ by producing a Sadhu Sundar Singh in the robe of a Hindu Sadhu?
All these authors based their writings on the evidences collected by them. If GB Singh has to disprove the writings of these authors, he has to produce evidences contrary to the evidences produced by these authors. The onus of proving his own views squarely lies on the shoulders of GB Singh. It does not lie on my shoulders or on the shoulders of the authors of the biographies.
Maybe, some people do not agree with certain visions seen by Sadhu Sundar Singh. Their disagreement on this issue does not invalidate the entire life of Sadhu Sundar Singh as presented by these authors.
GB Singh does not throw mud on a person called Sundar Singh. He does throw mud on an Indian Sikh who had lived the life of Jesus Christ in this world.
The following are some of the newspaper reports that reported during the period of Sadhu’s visit to the Western and American nations.
When he made his first visit to the West in 1920 (England, America and Australia), many minds of a completely different type from his own were turned to the contemplation and discussion of the man, his experiences, methods of thought and work, and the probable influence of his unique personality and teaching in east and west.
As Christianity came out of the east, it is natural that many earnest Christians in western countries should look again to the East for that new stream of divine life, whose flow should bring a true revival of religion to those myriads upon the Great Wart has cast its black mantle of forgetfulness of God.
The Church of the West, blessed with an early vision of the Savior of the world, has yet to mourn its inability to meet entirely the needs of those for whom He died. The simple gospel, passing through the minds of men throughout the ages, has taken on the color of those minds, and has thus become less potent for its great task; for not in ceremonial appealing to the senses nor yet in mighty organizations is the new birth found. The accretions of the centuries sanctioned by time can offer only a semblance of the life, which is in Christ Jesus, and no other life can satisfy. The cry is “Show me a man like Christ”. A Swedish Archbishop pointed to Sundar Singh and said: “The gospel has not undergone any change in him…In the history of religion Sundar is the first to show the world how the gospel of Jesus Christ is reflected in unchanged purity in an Indian soul”
“Christianity is imperishable”, said another writer, “and out of the east it will come again. The Sadhu is perhaps the first of the new apostles to rekindle the fire on dying altars”.
Archbishop Soderblom, in speaking of Canon Streeter’s book “The Sadhu”, said: “As far as I know there is no other instance in the history of religion of an original and charming saintly character, already surrounded with the glamour of miraculous faith, during his life-time being the object of methodical examination by a scientific investigator – an examination as scholarly in its sound criticism as in its sympathy for its object”.
From his experience in the West, the Sadhu certainly realized the truth of Sir Philip Gibb’s words:
“I do not believe with Anatole France that Europe is dying yet. I think there will be great agonies to go through unless there is a complete change of heart, a tremendous spiritual revival among the peoples of Europe”.
On March 9, 1920, the Sadhu met and talked for an hour with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the following day he spoke at the Church House, Westminster, to some seven hundred clergy of the Church of England, including the Archbishop of Canterbury and six bishops, probably the first occasion when Churchmen of all shades of opinion met together to well one to whom sect is nothing but Christ is all in all.
The Church Times of March 12 gave an excellent account of this remarkable gathering:
“The atmosphere is instinct with expectancy. Slightly before the time announced there enters the strange figure of Sadhu Sundar Singh. He is as a man from another world. His sermon went to the heart of things. To men was given the inestimable privilege of witnessing to Jesus Christ. The angels could reveal truth, could make plain hidden mysteries: but they could not witness; man alone out of his own experience of God’s love and mercy could do that. So the angel spoke to Cornelius, but sinful Peter witnesses”. The writer added, “Nothing I can say here can convey the impression I could wish – that of a man apart, renouncing great possessions, exulting in the saving grace of his Master and speaking with the utmost simplicity. His complete freedom from any self-consciousness made even the Bishops’ gaiters seem a bit ridiculous”.
Dr.Jowett and others introduced the Sadhu to the American people. Curiously enough, when it was known that he was going to America, there were good people who feared the result. Sincerely believing that his mission to the States would be more likely to arouse curiosity than accomplish any great spiritual purpose, a number of devout persons met together for prayer in New York, to ask for God’s overruling providence in the matter.
There was no time for suitable arrangements to be made before the Sadhu’s arrival. The Pond Lyceum Bureau offered to arrange a full programme covering the USA, and ventured the opinion that as a business proposition it would be an even greater success than the one they had carried through for Rabindranath Tagore. They published preliminary announcements, but when the Sadhu realized that this was a business arrangement, he declined to have anything to do with it. The National Bible Institute then made necessary arrangements, covering a couple of months, after which the Sadhu was due to leave for Australia.
On May 30, 1920, the Sadhu was at the Union Theological Seminary in New York. Then followed engagements in Hartford, Baltimore, Pittston, Princeton University, Brank Presbyterian Church, New York; the Marble Collegiate Church, Brooklyn; Philadelphia, Boston, and other cities. On June 25, he went to the Silver Bay Students’ Conference, and spent four days addressing 800 students and their leaders. Early in July, he was in Chicago, and passed onto Iowa, Kansas and other places, finally arriving at San Francisco, where his journey and work in America ended. Some friends there were moved to give money for the support of “consecrated young men to the Sadhu, who had laid themselves on God’s altar to become martyrs for Christ by carrying the Gospel message to Tibet”.
At Lake George, the following incident took place. In the front row at a certain meeting sat a small child of three and a half years. All through his address, this wee mite scarcely took her eyes from the Sadhu’s face. When he sat down, the audience was almost electrified to hear the question asked in a clear childish treble, “Is he Jesus?”
A writer in the New York Evening News said:
“This tall strong young man has come from India to tell the world of Christianity again. He has an entirely ageless look of both youth and age in one; joy, energy, wisdom…. He has a high glad way about him. He is said to look like the pictures of Christ, and he does; but there is a greater vitality and joy about him than is ever represented in the pictures of Christ. Perhaps the pictures are wrong.
He comes to bear testimony to the endless power; the endless joy of Christ, to tell how he turned from Hinduism to Christ and in that way found peace of mind. To Indians nothing matters but serenity and peace of mind, as perhaps nothing else matters to anyone. He feels no oddity about coming to America to tell the power of Christ, when for some many generations; people have gone from here to tell the same. Christians must tell their experience, their joy that is all…. Sects are strange unnecessary things, the Sadhu thinks. There is one God; why have so many creeds? Piece and quiet come from knowing Christ. Why cause dissension? But still! “This is the world,” he says, resignedly though never without joy. “When all sects are one, it will be world no longer. It will be heaven then”.
Mr.Frank Buchman of Hartford Theological Seminary, who had traveled for some weeks with the Sadhu wrote of him:
“I agree with the newspaper reporters of America who interviewed him, “Nearer the Christ than any living man we have seen”. The leading papers gave him ample space. His pictures appeared in the movies, and he was able to reach influential and lay circles in the various cities. He is Spirit-taught and has almost a medium-like gift of sensing people and situations.
He brings the message of the Supernatural, which this age needs. Men simply flocked to hear him that he had scarcely time for his meals. I have just received a letter from the Headmistress of a leading preparatory school. She said there was a veil of light on every boy’s face as he left the Sadhu’s meeting. He said a true word when he predicted that America would have no spiritual leaders fifty years hence if she kept up her present pace. He has a practical message for America".
Apart from the biographies written by Appasamy, Parker, there are reports published by the secular press in the foreign nations visited by Sadhu. What evidences are required by GB Singh to prove the life history of Sadhu Sundar Singh? It is a great tragedy that an Indian Sikh (GB Singh) throws mud on another Indian Sikh who lived the very life of Jesus Christ. Even the little girl in London saw Christ in the person of Sadhu Sundar Singh. That little girl is no more today. But she will appear as a witness against GB Singh to prove before the Judgment seat of God that GB Singh who was not a witness to the life of Sadhu Sundar Singh sullied the image of an apostle of Jesus Christ.
Who has to produce the evidences in this forum to prove the life of Sadhu Sundar Singh?
Mr.GB Singh, as he lives in USA, should be proud of an Indian Sikh saint who lived the very life of Jesus Christ which the majority of the American Christians have failed to lead. My forefathers in the Tirunelvel district of Tamil Nadu had the wonderful privilege of seeing this man from Punjab who had brought the living Christ to them. My forefathers were witnesses to his life whereas Mr.G.B.Singh was not a witness to his life. If he was not a witness, he had no role to play or to comment on the life of Sadhu Sundar Singh. Legally speaking, he is not a competent witness to speak about Sadhu Sundar Singh.
- Job Anbalagan