The Lord as Guru in North Indian Religion: Hindi Sant Tradition and Universals of Religious Perception

Gold, Daniel Richard

     This study explores "the forest of sant tradition, identifying its characteristic landmarks and examining the paths they define. . . . we . . . map out sant tradition within its various contexts and make the piety of the sants meaningful to a Western public interested in problems of religion. To do this we have developed a general analytic framework which opens the sants in North India to a larger religio-historical universe. . . . [B]y the time we have finished our detailed analysis of the sants in North India we hope to have demonstrated that our categories of eternal heritage, singular personality, and holy man do have bases in a psychological reality." The study utilizes its "general analytic framework" or "grammar" in the second chapter, "where we look at the immanent foci in the specific socio-historical and religio-cultural contexts of North India. This examination . . . provide[s] a preliminary presentation of sant tradition in contrast to more familiar forms of Indian religion, isolating some of the distinguishing features of the holy man. Chapter 3 . . . treat[s] sant tradition at length, dealing in particular with problems that a holy-man focus presents in time, problems revealed in part by Radhasoami theology. In Chapter 4 we . . . see how these problems are resolved in greater Indian religious contexts derived from the world religions -- Hindu, Buddhist, and Islamic. Comparing the forms of religious expression inspired by the holy man these contexts will then provide a basis for questions about the historical genesis of the Hindi sants. This treatment of the material . . . answers to what might be taken as the first phase of our grammatical investigation -- a structural analysis, the labeling of the data to be studied in terms of a specific set of categories. . . . Chapter 5 will commence the second phase of our grammatical investigation, which consists in examining the theoretical implications of out structural analysis. This . . . entail[s] taking more seriously some of the formal relationships among the immanent foci: the ways their distinctive characteristics are complementary with one another and the different dynamics of hidden and revealed they present."
     [T]owards the end of our study, our universal theory will have developed sufficiently to enable us to formulate two specific theses about the sants. One concerns the reasons for the florescence of the sants as holy men during a specific period in North Indian cultural history. It involves looking at the sants in relation to their socio-historical contexts. The other concerns the basis in religious perception for the idea of a sant tradition. This entails examining more closely the distinctive characteristics of the holy man in relation to those of other foci.