Kamaljeet Singh Dogra, a member of the Sikh faith and an engineer who lives with his family in Orlando, Florida, has translated this set of verses about God, offered by the founder of the Sikh religion, from Punjabi into “simple American English.”
One of the Guru Nanak’s radical ideas was that people could and should experience God directly without priestly intermediaries. This theme of individual responsibility for one’s spiritual virtue runs throughout the book, as in this representative stanza: “Fruit of the seeds one sows, / Are what one gets to eat. / Nanak Says [sic], by His will, / Cycles of birth and death repeat.”
The book is highly accessible and organized. Singh Dogra begins with a general introduction of this “Scripture” and follows that with a practical guide to the pronunciation of Punjabi, which is helpful because the book delivers the verses in the original Punjabi along with Romanized phonetic pronunciation on the left-hand pages and his own English translations on the right. Part 2 of the book includes a stanza-by-stanza commentary and Part 3 is a glossary of words.
This is a book that has been assembled with obvious care and commitment. The translation approximates the original’s rhyme scheme, although English is less efficient or perhaps less allusive than Punjabi, as what is said in two lines in the latter requires four lines in the former. The English is indeed simple and addresses a loving, eternal, omnipresent deity: “Your will is sweet O’Lord [sic]. / Your blessings creatures crave. / You are secure for ever [sic] Lord, / Formless yet everywhere.” Singh Dogra’s book could easily draw in general readers interested in the basic ideas of Sikhism and also how poetry played a role in its reaching everyday people.