Despite his family’s please, bribes, and threats, Sundar wanted to be baptized in the Christian faith. After his father spoke words of official rejection over him, Sundar became an outcast from his people. He cut off the hair he had worn long like every Sikh man.
sundar singh becomes sadhu sundar singh:
Against great opposition, he was baptized on his birthday in 1905, in an English church in Simla.October 1906, he set out on his journey as a new Christian, wearing a turban and the yellow robe of a Hindu sadhu, an ascetic devoted to spiritual practice. Singh viewed himself as a sadhu, albeit one within Christianity rather than Hinduism, because he realised Christianity could not penetrate India unless it was in an Indian way.Conventional Indian churches were willing to grant him a pulpit, but their rules were foreign to his spirit. Indeed, he felt that a key reason the gospel was not accepted in India was because it came in a garb foreign to Indians. He decided to become a sadhu, so that he could dedicate himself to the Lord Jesus. He was convinced that this was the best way to introduce the Gospel to his people since it was the only way which his people were accustomed to. As a sadhu, he wore a yellow robe, lived on the charity of others, abandoned all possession and maintained celibacy. In this lifestyle, he was free to devote himself to the Lord. Dressed in his thin yellow robe, Sundar Singh took to the road and began a life of spreading the simple message of love and peace and rebirth through Jesus. He carried no money or other possessions, only a New Testament.
“I am not worthy to follow in the steps of my Lord,” he said, “but, like Him, I want no home, no possessions. Like Him I will belong to the road, sharing the suffering of my people, eating with those who will give me shelter, and telling all men of the love of God.”
His journey begins:
Quite soon he put his new faith to the test by going back to his home village, Rampur, where he was shown an unexpectedly warm welcome.
This was poor preparation for the months that were to follow. Scarcely tough enough to meet physical hardship, the sixteen-year-old sadhu went northward through the Punjab, over the Bannihal Pass into Kashmir, and then back through Muslim Afghanistan and into the brigand-infested North-West Frontier and Baluchistan.
His thin, yellow robe gave him little protection against the cold, and his feet became torn from the rough paths. Not many months had passed before the small Christian communities of the north were referring to him as “the apostle with the bleeding feet.” This initiation showed him what he might expect in the future. He was stoned, arrested, visited by a shepherd who talked with strange intimacy about Jesus and then was gone, and left to sleep in a way-side hut with an unexpected cobra for company. Meetings with the mystical and the sharply material, persecution and welcome, would all characterize his experience in years ahead. From the villages in the Simla hills, the long line of the snow-clad Himalayas and the rosy peak of Nanga Parbat, rose in the distance. Beyond them lay Tibet, a Buddhist country that few foreigners had already visited. Ever since his baptism, Tibet had beckoned Sundar, and in 1908, at the age of nineteen, he crossed its frontier for the first time. The state of the people appalled him. Their homes, like themselves, were filthy. He himself was stoned as he bathed in cold water because they believed that “holy men never washed.” Food was mostly unobtainable and he existed on hard, parched barley. Everywhere there was hostility. And this was only “lower Tibet” just across the border. Sundar went back to Sabathu determined to return the next year.ױ
He had a great desire to visit Palestine and re-live some of the happenings in Jesus’ life. In 1908 he went to Bombay, hoping to board a ship to the region. To his intense disappointment, the government refused to give him a permit, and he had to return to the north.
It was on this trip that he suddenly recognised a basic dilemma of the Christian mission to India. A brahmin had collapsed in the hot, crowded carriage and, at the next station, the Anglo-Indian stationmaster came rushing with a cup of water from the refreshment room. The brahmin—a high-caste Hindu—thrust it away in horror. He needed water, but he could only accept it in his own drinking vessel. When that was brought, he drank and was revived. In the same way, Sundar Singh realised, India would not widely convert to Western-style Christianity. That, he recognised, was why many listeners had responded to him in his Indian sadhu’s robe.
sadhu Sundar singh theological training:
There was harder disillusionment to come. In December 1909 he began training for the Christian ministry at the Anglican college in Lahore. Singh’s biographers depict his experience at college as that of an unhappy misfit. He did not form relationships with fellow students, and only met them at meal times and designated prayer sessions. From the beginning he found himself being tormented by fellow students for being “different” and no doubt too self-assured.
Although Singh had been baptized by an Anglican priest, he was ignorant of the ecclesiastical culture and conventions of Anglicanism. His inability to adapt to Anglican life hindered him from fitting in with the routines of academic study. Much in the college course seemed to Singh irrelevant to the gospel as India needed to hear it. After eight months in the college Singh decided to leave in July 1910.
It has been claimed by his biographers that the cause of Singh’s withdrawal was due to remarks made by Bishop Lefroy about the requirements of an ordained Anglican priest. The strictures, as the biographers report it, are that Singh was told he must now discard his sadhu’s robe and wear “respectable” European clerical dress; use formal Anglican worship; sing English hymns; and never preach outside his parish without special permission. Never again visit Tibet, he asked? That would be, to him, an unthinkable rejection of God’s call. The stipulations laid down by the bishop, however, were normative for all Anglican priests of that day in India.
With deep sadness he left the college, still dressed in his yellow robe, and in 1912 began his annual trek into Tibet as the winter snows began to melt on the Himalayan tracks and passes.
to be continued…