Sikhs Through Others' Eyes

Historians, political figures, philosophers, and scholars speak about Sikhism and the Siri Guru Granth Sahib.

Here are quotes I recently found from some well-known historians, political figures, philosophers, and scholars about Sikhism and the Siri Guru Granth Sahib. These 'outside' perspectives remind us practicing Sikhs that the Siri Guru Granth Sahib is not a 'Sikh Guru', but rather a Guru for the whole world, beyond any religion or lack thereof. The Guru is often described as the 'Guru of the Sikhs' but in fact, nowhere in the Guru Granth does it mention being the Guru of the Sikhs. As Sikhs, we are the fortunate guardians of this universal guide. May these quotes inspire us to spread the word of the Guru to inspire and guide humanity. Quotes and images are courtesy of

Arnold Joseph Toynbee (Historian 1889-1975)
One of the prominent historians in the 20th Century, Amold Toynbee has written 20 volumes on World History. Toynbee has given very high and prominent place to Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji in Sikh History. He calls Guru Ji a divinity of highest rank. He gets emotional when he writes about Guru Sahib’s contribution in the formation of Khalsa. Again and again he emphasizes the fact that there cannot be any person like them.

When Western organizations and U.N.O. became known to Sri Guru Granth Sahib’s teachings, they at once decided to translate them into English and other languages. They decided to publish a book based on the principles and teachings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. For writing the prologue of this book, they did not find anyone more intelligent, intensive and sensible than Toynbee. Since Toynbee had a deep knowledge of many different societies, religions and principles, this task was assigned to him. No one could write better than him. Toynbee in his prologue to this book has clearly mentioned that there cannot be better guide for human beings than the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. This book also explains how Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji inspires its followers to do their best, give knowledge and deep insight to them in the Name of God without rituals or worshipping, God is experienced as an internal and external presence which inspire his followers to a life of service.

Toynbee in his "Sacred Writings of the Sikhs—A Unesco Publications explains, “Although the future of religion is bleak but yet one hope is there in the form of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji which teaches us all God’s message of love and gives direction to life."

Toynbee has also expressed his view that Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s teachings are the best. According to our great Guru's teaching, there is no need for one to leave one’s home in order to search God. Gurmat teaches us how to live in the world but not of it. According to it, true discipline of God is one who exists in this world and yet is a hermit. It teaches us to work hard and honestly to earn money and share with others. Through the constant remembrance of God, it teaches us not to be a hypocrite, cheat or dishonest at any time. A true follower lives according to the teachings given in Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. He sheds all prejudices and personal identity and merges into God. He lives as if he does not exist. Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji has taught the world the supreme way of living life.

Toynbee also writes about his one personal experience. He recalls one accident when he had met an American lady. She wanted to ask something from him for she knew that he had studied different cultures, traditions, religious and views. So she felt that probably only Toynbee could give her the answer. She asked Toynbee if he could tell her who is the most beautiful person in this World? Toynbee immediately replied, “A man with open beard and a complete Gursikh”. She was surprised to hear his answer. She thought a little and then again asked, “who is the most ugliest person to you” ? Toynbee replied, “Sikh who has cut his hair”. This time she became more surprised. These answers grew curiosity in her about Sikh religion and she decided to gain more knowledge about it.

(Forward to "The Sacred Writings of the Sikhs" by UNESCO)

"Mankind’s religious future may be obscure; yet one thing can be foreseen. The living higher religions are going to influence each other more than ever before, in the days of increasing communications between all parts of the world and branches of human race. In this coming religious debate, the Sikh religion and its scriptures, the Guru Granth, will have something special of value to say to the rest of the world."

Max Arthur Macauliffe (Historian 1841-1913)

This eminent scholar has written six books on Sikh history. There is no place for pretence or hypocrisy in this religion….. Flesh, Alcohol Tobacco and other drugs are prohibited in it…. It nor only teaches kindness, love and honesty, but also encourages its followers to accept all human beings as one - thus diminishing all racial differences. The teachings of Buddha and other religious were written when the originators were no more in this world. But the teachings of the Sikh Gurus were written and edited by themselves, thus they are found in their original forms. Battles fought by Sikh Gurus were not against any communalism and orthodoxy but they fought for the betterment of society, to protect people from tyranny and for the upliftment of their souls and their right to worship freely in any way of their own choosing.

In his book, "The Sikh Religion," Macauliffe writes:

"Unlike the scriptures of other creeds, they do not contain love stories or accounts of wars waged for selfish considerations. They contain sublime truths, the study of which cannot but elevate the reader spiritually, morally, and socially. There is not the least tinge of sectarianism in them. They teach the highest and purest principle that serve to bind man to man and inspire the believer with an ambition to serve his fellow men, to sacrifice all and die for their sake."

Macauliffe deems it necessary to draw the reader's attention to another significant feature of Sikhism which distinguishes it and separates it from other philosophical and religious systems of thought:

"The Sikh religion differs as regards the authenticity of its dogmas from most other great theological systems. Many of the great teachers the world has known, have not left a line of their own composition, and we only know what they taught through tradition or second-hand information.... Guru Nanak was not a priest either by birth or education, but a man who soared to the loftiest heights of divine emotionalism, and exalted his mental vision to an ethical ideal beyond the concept of Hinduism or Mohammadanism"

Pearl S. Buck (Author, Noble Prize winner 1892-1973)

while giving her comments on the English translation of the Guru Granth Sahib (From the foreword to the English translation of Guru Granth Sahib by Gopal Singh Dardi) wrote:

"I have studied the scriptures of the great religions, but I do not find elsewhere the same power of appeal to the heart and mind as I find here in these volumes. They are compact in spite of their length and are a revelation of the concept of God to the recognition and indeed the insistence upon the practical needs of the human body. There is something strangely modern about these scriptures and this puzzled me until I learned that they are in fact comparatively modern, compiled as late as the 16th century when explorers were beginning to discover the globe upon which we all live is a single entity divided only by arbitrary lines of our making. Perhaps this sense of unity is the source of power I find in these volumes. They speak to a person of any religion or of none. They speak for the human heart and the searching mind.

The hymns in Guru Granth are an expression of man’s loneliness, his aspirations, his longings, his cry to God and his hunger for communication with that being. It speaks to me of life and death; of time and eternity; of the temporal human body and its needs; of the mystic human soul and its longing to be fulfilled; of God and the indissoluble bond between them."

Swami Nitya Nand (Spiritual Leader)

Swami Nitya Nand (who left his physical body at the age of 135 years) writes in his book Guru Gyan:

"I, in the company of my Guru Swami Brahma Nanda, while on a pilgrimage tour, reached Punjab. There we met Swami Satya Nanda, Udaasi (a Hindu ascetic) He expounded Guru Nanak’s philosophy and religiosity so eloquently that Swami Brahma Nanda experienced spiritual bliss. During the visit to the Golden temple in Amritsar his soul was so impressed that he became Guru’s devotee. After sojourn in Punjab we went to Hardwar. One day I saw tears in his eyes, though he was healthy. When asked about it he answered, "I have sifted sand all my life. The truth dwells in the house of Guru Nanak. I have to take another birth in that house then only I will attain Mukti (salvation). As he said that his spirit passed away.

I too contemplate incessantly on Wahéguru (wonderful God) as manifested by Guru Nanak. For many years I practiced Yoga Aasnas taught by Yogis, but the rapture and serenity I feel now was never attained before. "


Swami Nitya Nand used to practice Yoga in order to attain God. But he couldn’t attain him with yoga alone. He writes that at one place, when he meditated according to the principles of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, he was able to achieve the experience of God. He writes that as he remembered God as told in Gurbani, he was able to attain spiritual peace which he had not been able to experience through his yoga practice previously. So this Swami was not able to recommend yoga as a sole means to attain God and spiritual peace. He too becomes a follower of Guru Granth Sahib Ji which is the ultimate source of delight for him. It gives tranquility to his mind and soul.

 Bertrand Russell (Philosopher, Mathematician 1872-1970)

"If some lucky men survive the onslaught of the third world war of atomic and hydrogen bombs, then the Sikh religion will be the only means of guiding them." When asked, isn’t this religion capable of guiding mankind before the third world war? He said, ‘Yes it has the capability, but the Sikhs haven’t brought out in the broad daylight the splendid doctrines of this religion, which has come into existence for the benefit of the entire mankind. This is their greatest sin and the Sikhs cannot be freed of it."

Read more quotes on

Add a Comment