The Parables of Sadhu Sundar Singh

Sundar Singh (1889-?) was born into a Sikh family in Punjab. At that time, the British were ruling over India and Christian missionaries ran English medium schools into which many well-to-do families sent their children for education. Sundar Singh was sent into one such school.

Sundar hated reading lessons from the English New Testament which was read as a daily textbook in the Mission School where he went. Of course, at the beginning he did like the teachings of Christ; but, he abhorred the fact that the New Testament was given too special a preference.

When Sundar was 14 years old, his mother, who was a model of piety for him, died. Sundar's life was shaken. He began to grow bitter against Christianity and the teachings of Christ. In a rage of anger, one day, while he was in his early teenage years, he got hold of the English New Testament and set it to fire  (Later, after he had came to know Christ, he grievously mourned this act as a grave sin). But, Sundar had no peace in his heart. He sensed a deep vacuum within.

One night, three days after burning the Gospel, Sundar lay in distress in his room. He still didn't know the truth. He cried out to God in his misery calling on Him to reveal Himself to him if He was there. But, if not, Sundar was determined to end his life by throwing himself in front of the train that passed close by his house at 5am every morning. Early in the morning, a bright light filled the room, and Christ gave His vision to Sundar. Sundar saw the nail-pierced hands of Jesus. He was not expecting that Christ would be the true God who would answer his prayer. Later, he wrote:
I do not believe in Jesus Christ because I have read about Him in the Bible - I saw Him and experienced Him and know Him in my daily experience. Not because I read the Gospels, but because of Him of whom I read in the Gospels, have I become what I am. Already before my conversion I loved His teaching; it is beautiful. But my doubts were not swept away until I became aware that Christ was alive. (TLC)
After this experience, Sundar knew that Christ was alive and He is God. He immediately went to his father and told him of what had happened with him. His father, however, didn't want his son to publicly embrace Christ. Against his father's wish, Sadhu cut off his long hair (one of the symbols of being a Sikh) and was baptized in 1905 in an English Church in Shimla. Soon, persecution arose. Sundar was even poisoned, but he escaped miraculously. He joined a Christian training center for a short time; but, soon became disinterested. He saw that the Western method of bearing testimony had no relevance for the Indian context. To him, the Gospel had to be given to the Indian in an Indian cup.

Sundar donned the saffron robe (the robe of the Sadhus, holy men in the Indic religions), and traveled mainly barefooted throughout India, preaching Christ wherever he went. He also climbed the Himalayas and went into Tibet many times where he was persecuted and tortured but was each time delivered miraculously. He came to be known as the Apostle with Bleeding Feet. The Sadhu had many mystical experiences in his quiet times of prayer and recounts some of the visions in some writings.

In the summer of 1929, he made his final trip to Tibet and was never seen again.

This post updates the parables of Sadhu Sundar Singh. (Wiki, CCEL, Sadhu Sundar Singh)

The Parables

One day when I was in the Himalayas, I was sitting upon the bank of a river; I drew out of the waters beautiful, hard, round stone and smashed it. The inside was quite dry. The stone had been lying a longtime in the water, but the water had not penetrated the stone. It is just like that with the people of Europe; for centuries they have been surrounded by Christianity, they are entirely steeped in its blessings, they live in Christianity; yet Christianity has not penetrated them, and it does not live in them. Christianity is not at fault; the reason lies rather in the hardness of their hearts. Materialism and intellectualism have made their hearts hard. So I am not surprised that many people here do not understand what Christianity really is. (GOSS)

Sometimes during sickness the faculty of taste in the tongue is interfered with, and during that time, however tasty the food given to the sick person may be, it has an ill taste to him. In just the same way sin interferes with the taste for spiritual things. Under such circumstances My Word and service and My presence lose their attraction to the sinner, and instead of profiting by them he begins to argue about and to criticize them. (AMF)

Many who are immersed in sin are unaware of its load, just as one who dives into the water may have tons of water upon him, but is wholly unaware of its weight until he is choked in death. But he who emerges from the water and seeks to carry some away soon finds its weight, however little he takes up; and he who, finding the burden of his sin, comes to Me in penitence will freely receive true rest, for it is such I come to seek and to save (Matt.xi.28, Luke xix.10). (AMF)

Once I was sitting upon the shore of a lake. As I sat there I noticed some fish who came up to the surface and opened their mouths. At first I thought they were hungry and that they were looking for insects, but a fisherman told me afterwards that although they canbreathe quite well under water they have to come up to the surface every now and again to inhale deep draughts of fresh air, or they would die. It is the same with us. The world is like an ocean; we can live in it, carry on our work and all our varied occupations, but from time to time we need to receive fresh life through prayer. Those Christians who do not set apart quiet times for prayer have not yet found their true life in Christ. . . . (GOSS)

A mother once hid herself in a garden amongst some densely growing shrubs, and her little son went in search of her here and there, crying as he went. Through the whole garden he went, but could not find her. A servant said to him, “Sonny, don’t cry! Look at the mangoes on this tree and all the pretty, pretty flowers in the garden. Come, I am going to get some for you.” But the child cried out, “No! No! I want my mother. The food she gives me is nicer than all the mangoes, and her love is sweeter far than all these flowers, and indeed you know that all this garden is mine, for all that my mother has is mine. No! I want my mother!” When the mother, hidden in the bushes, heard this, she rushed out and, snatching her child to her breast, smothered him with kisses, and that garden became a paradise to the child. In this way My children cannot find in this great garden of a world, so full of charming and beautiful things, any true joy until they find Me. I am their Emmanuel, who is ever with them, and I make Myself known to them (AMF)

Have you ever seen a heron standing motionless on the shore of a lake? From his attitude you might think he was standing gazing at God's Pow er and glory, wondering at the great expanse of water, and at its power to cleanse and satisfy the thirst of living creatures. But the heron has no such thoughts in his head at all ; he stands there hour after hour, simply in order to see whether he can catch a frog or a little fish. Many human beings behave like that in prayer and meditation. They sit on the shore of God's Ocean ; but they give no thought to His Power and Love, they pay no attention to His Spirit which can cleanse them from their sins, neither do they consider His Being which can satisfy their soul's thirst ; they give themselves up entirely to the thought of how they can gain something that will please them, something that will help them to enjoy the transitory pleasures of this world, and so they turn their faces away from the clear waters of spiritual peace. They give themselves up to the things of this world which pass away, and they perish with them. (GOSS)

The heat and the sun's rays, falling upon salt water, cause evaporation, which gradually becomes condensed into clouds, which again descend in the form of sweet, fresh water. The salt, and all the other things in the water, are left behind. In the same way the thoughts and desires of the praying soul rise to heaven like clouds ; then the Sun of Righteousness cleanses them from the taint of sin by His purifying rays. The prayer then becomes a great cloud which falls in showers of blessing, life, and strength upon the earth below. (GOSS)

I was talking once with a very learned man, a psychologist, who assured me that the wonderful peace which I experienced was simply the effect of my own imagination. Before I answered him I told him the story of a person who was blind from birth, and who did not believe in the existence of the sun. One cold winter day he sat outside in the sunshine, and then his friends asked him: 'How do you feel now?' He replied: 'I feel very warm.' 'It is the sun which is making you warm ; although you cannot see it, you feel its effects.' 'No, he said, 'that is impossible; this warmth comes from my own body; it is due to the circulation of the blood. You will never make me believe that a ball of fire is suspended in the midst of the heavens without any pillar to support it. 'Well,' I said to the psychologist, 'What do you think of the blind man? 'He was a fool!' he answered. 'And you,' I said to him, 'are a learned fool! You say that my peace is the effect of my own imagination, but I have experienced it.' (GOSS)

The cross is like a walnut whose outer rind is bitter, but the inner kernel is pleasant and invigorating. So the cross does not offer any charm of outward appearance, but to the cross-bearer its true character is revealed, and he finds in it the choicest sweets of spiritual peace. (AMF)

During an earthquake it sometimes happens that fresh springs break out in dry places which water and quicken the land so that plants can grow. In the same way the shattering experiences of suffering can cause the living water to well up in a human heart. (GOSS)

A newborn child has to cry, for only in this way will his lungs expand. A doctor once told me of a child who could not breathe when it was born. In order to make it breathe the doctor gave it a slight blow. The mother must have thought the doctor cruel. But he was really doing the kindest thing possible. As with newborn children the lungs are contracted, so are our spiritual lungs. But through suffering God strikes us in love. Then our lungs expand and we can breathe and pray. (GOSS)

Although fish spend their whole life in the salt water of the sea, yet they do not themselves become salty, because they have life in them; so the man of prayer, though he has to live in this sin-defiled world, remains free of the sinful taint, because by means of prayer his life is maintained. (AMF)

A woman was traveling along a mountain track, carrying her child in her arms, when the child, catching sight of a pretty flower, made such a spring out of its mother’s arms that it fell headlong down the mountain side, struck its head upon a rock, and died on the spot. Now it is perfectly clear that the safety and sustenance of the child were to be found in its mother’s bosom, and not in those fascinating flowers which were the cause of its death. So acts the believer whose life is not a life of prayer. When he catches sight of the fleeting and fascinating pleasures of the world he forgets My love and care which are far greater than those of the mother, and, neglecting that spiritual milk which I provide for him, leaps out of My arms and is lost. (AMF)

Just as the bee collects the sweet juice of the flowers and turns it into honey without injuring their colour or fragrance, so the man of prayer gathers happiness and profit from all God’s creation without doing any violence to it. As bees also gather their honey from flowers in all sorts of different places and store it in the honeycomb, so the man of God gathers sweet thoughts and feelings from every part of creation, and in communion with his Creator collects in his heart the honey of truth, and in enduring peace with Him at all times and in all places, tastes with delight the sweet honey of God. (AMF)

Now in very cold countries a bridge of water is a common sight, because when the surface of a river is frozen hard the water beneath still flows freely on, but men cross over the icy bridge with ease and safety. But if one were to speak of a bridge of water spanning a flowing river to people who are constantly perspiring in the heat of a tropical clime, they would at once say that such a thing was impossible and against the laws of nature. There is the same great difference between those who have been born again and by prayer maintain their spiritual life, and those who live worldly lives and value only material things, and so are utterly ignorant of the life of the soul. (AMF)

Once there was a man who noticed a silkworm in its cocoon; he saw how it was twisting and struggling; it was in great distress. The man went to it and helped it to get free. The silkworm made a few more efforts, but after a while it died. The man had not helped it ; he had only disturbed- its growth. Another man saw a silkworm suffering in the same way, but he did not do anything to help it. He knew that this conflict and struggle was a good thing, that the silkworm would grow stronger in the process, and so be better prepared for its new stage of life. In the same way suffering and distress in this world help us to get ready for the next life. (GOSS)

The world is like an ocean. We cannot live without water, it is true, but it is also true that we cannot live if we allow the water to engulf us, for there is life in water and also death. If we make use of water we find that there is life in it, but if we are drowned we find death. In this world we are like little boats. A boat is only useful on the water; for there it conveys men from one shore to another. But if we drag it overland, through fields, or into a town, we find that as a vehicle it is utterly useless. The place for a boat is on a river or on the sea. But this does not mean that the water must be in the boat. For if it is in the boat, the boat will become useless; no one would then be able to steer it over the water. It would fill with water, sink beneath the waves, and whoever was in it would be drowned. The boat must be in the water, but the water must not be in the boat. (GOSS)

People do not believe, because they are strangers to the experience. Once when I was wandering about in the Himalayas, in the region of eternal snow and ice, I came upon some hot springs, and I told a friend about them. He would not believe it. ' How can there be hot springs in the midst of ice and snow?' I said: 'Come and dip your hands in the water, and you will see that I am right.' He came, dipped his hands in the water, felt the heat and believed. Then he said: 'There must be a fire in the mountain.' So after he had been convinced by experience his brain began to help him to understand the matter. Faith and experience must come first, and understanding will follow. We cannot understand until we have some spiritual experience, and that comes through prayer. ... As we practise prayer we shall come to know who the Father is and the Son, we shall become certain that Christ is everything to us and that nothing can separate us from Him and from His Love. Temptations and persecutions may come, but nothing can part us from Christ. Prayer is the only way to this glorious experience. (GOSS)

There are many who long for heaven yet miss it altogether through their own folly. A poor begger sat for twenty-one years on the top of a hidden treasure chamber, and was so consumed with the desire to be rich that he horded up all the coppers that he received. Yet he died in a miserable state of poverty, utterly unaware of the treasure over which he had been sitting for years. Because he sat so long on the same spot a suspicion arose that he had something valuable buried there. So the Governor had the place dug up and discovered a hoard of valuables, which afterwards found its way into the royal treasury. (AMF)

I and the Father and the Holy Spirit are One. Just as in the sun there are both heat and light, but the light is not heat, and the heat is not light, but both are one, though in their manifestation they have different forms, so I and the Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father, bring light and heat to the world. The Spirit, which is the baptismal fire, burns to ashes in the hearts of believers all manner of sin and iniquity, making them pure and holy. I who am the True Light (John i. 9, viii. 12), dissipate all dark and evil desires, and leading them in the way of righteousness bring them at last to their eternal home. Yet We are not three but One, just as the sun is but one. (AMF)

Some years ago in Tibet I heard a story about a King who wished to send a message to his people. He entrusted the errand to his servants, but they would not do as he wished. The King, who loved his subjects, now resolved to take the message to them himself in order to be convinced of their difficulties. He could not go there as a king, for he wanted his subjects to speak to him freely of all their sufferings and distresses. So he changed his garments, left off his royal robes, and dressed himself like a poor man. Then he went right among his people and said to them: 'I have been sent by the King in order to learn about all your difficulties.' The poor and the distressed had confidence in him and told him all their anxieties, and he saw how he could help them. But there were also some proud people who could not bring themselves to believe that such a poor man was really the King's messenger, so they were rude to him and chased him away. Later on the King came to his subjects at the head of his army in all his royal state, and the people could hardly recognise him again nor believe that it was the same person. They said: 'Then he was a poor man and now he is King.' The proud who had despised him were punished and thrown into prison, but those who had been good to him were honoured and their wants relieved. Even so is it with the Word of Life who became man ; His people did not see His Glory, and they crucified Him. But the days are coming when we shall see Him in His Glory, and we shall know that He is the same Jesus Christ who lived like a poor man for three-and-thirty years upon this earth. (GOSS)

Once when I was travelling about in the Himalayas I saw something which made the love of God very real to me. In a Tibetan village I noticed a crowd of people standing under a burning tree and looking up into the branches. I came near and discovered in the branches a bird which was anxiously flying round a nest full of young ones. The mother-bird wanted to save her little ones, but she could not. When the fire reached the nest the people waited breathlessly to see what she would do. No one could climb the tree, no one could help her. Now she could easily have saved her own life by flight, but instead of fleeing she sat down on the nest, covering the little ones carefully with her wings. The fire seized her and burnt her to ashes. She showed her love to her little ones by giving her life for them. If, then, this little insignificant creature had such love, how much more must our Heavenly Father love His children, the Creator love His creatures! (GOSS)

In grafting a sweet tree on to a bitter one, both feel the knife and both are called upon to suffer in order that the bitter may bear sweet fruit. So, too, in order to introduce good into man’s evil nature, it was necessary that first of all I Myself and afterwards believers also should suffer the agonies of the cross, that they might in future for ever bear good fruit, and thus the glorious love of God be made manifest. (AMF)

With our eyes we can see many things; we can see the drops which are used to heal our eyes; they are in a glass. But when they have been put into our eyes we see them no longer. We feel that they have done us good, but we see them no more. So a person can say : I have medicine in my eyes and cannot see it. When Christ was in Palestine in human form many people saw Him ; but to-day when He lives in our hearts we cannot see Him. Like a medicine He cleanses our spiritual faculty of sight from every kind of sin. Although we cannot see Him, He redeems us ; we know this, for we feel God's Presence in our lives. We cannot say that we feel this with the bodily senses; this consciousness is no emotion, no agitation; when I say feeling I mean that we become aware of Christ's Presence in a real and inward way. (GOSS)

The polar bear lives among the snow, and he is the same colour as the snow. The skin of the Bengal royal tiger looks like the reeds and grasses of the primeval forest. So those who live in spiritual communion with God like the saints and angels have a share in Christ's nature, and become transformed into His likeness. (GOSS)

If Christ lives in us, our whole life will become Christlike. Salt which has been dissolved in water may disappear, but it does not cease to exist. We know it is there when we taste the water. Even so the indwelling Christ, although He is unseen, will become visible to others through the love which He shares with us. (GOSS)

The planets have no light in themselves. They shine with light which they have borrowed from the sun. Christians are like them. In themselves they have no light, but they shine with light borrowed from the Sun of Righteousness. (TLC)

Just as the sponge lies in the water, and the water fills the sponge, but the water is not the sponge and the sponge is not the water, but they ever remain different things, so children abide in Me and I in them. This is not pantheism, but it is the kingdom of God, which is set up in the hearts of those who abide in this world; and just as the water in the sponge, I am in every place and in everything, but they are not I. (AMF)

Take a piece of charcoal, and however much you may wash it its blackness will not disappear, but let the fire enter into it and its dark colour vanishes. So also when the sinner receives the Holy Spirit (who is from the Father and Myself, for the Father and I are one), which is the baptism of fire, all the blackness of sin is driven away, and he is made a light to the world (Matt. iii. 11, 14). As the fire in the charcoal, so I abide in My children and they in Me, and through them I make Myself manifest to the world. (AMF)

I do not believe that the union of Catholics and Protestants would accomplish a great deal. When you mix two colours you get a third ; so if Catholics and Protestants unite you will have to be prepared to see a host of new sects and varieties arise. I do not believe in unions which are artificially engineered. External unity is futile. Those alone who are united in Christ are really one in Him and will be one in heaven. (GOSS)

The forgiveness of sins does not mean full salvation, for that can only come with perfect freedom from sin. For it is possible that a man should die from the disease of his sin, though he has received full pardon for it. For instance, a man had his brain affected owing to an illness of long standing, and whilst thus affected he made an attack upon another man and killed him. When sentence of death was pronounced upon him, his relatives explained the circumstances and appealed for mercy for him, and he was granted pardon for the sin of murder. But before his friends could reach him with the good news, indeed while they were on the way, he had died of the sickness by reason of which he had committed the murder.

What advantage was this pardon to the murderer? His real safety would have been to be cured of his disease, and then he would have had real happiness in his pardon. For this reason I became manifest in the flesh that I might deliver penitent believers from the disease
of sin, from its punishment and from death; thus taking away both cause and effect. They will not die in their sins, for I will save them (Matt. i.21), and they shall pass from death to becomes heirs of eternal life. (AMF)

To many people life is full of peril, and they are like that hunter who caught sight of a honeycomb on the branch of a tree overhanging a stream. Climbing up, he began to enjoy the honey, quite unaware of the fact that he was in peril of death, for in the stream beneath him lay an alligator with open jaws waiting to devour him, while around the foot of the tree a pack of wolves had gathered waiting for him to descend. Worse still, the tree on which he sat had been eaten away at the roots by an insect and it was ready to fall. In a short time it did fall, and the unwary hunter became the prey of the alligator. Thus, too, the human spirit, ensconced in the body, enjoys for a short time the false and fleeting pleasures of sin gathered in the honeycomb of the brain, without a thought that it is in the midst of this fearsome jungle of the world. There Satan sits ready to tear it to pieces, and hell like an alligator waits with open mouth to gulp it down, while, worst of all, the tiny unseen insect of sin has eaten away the very roots of the body and life. Soon the soul falls and becomes an everlasting prey to hell. But the sinner who comes to Me I will deliver from sin, from Satan, and from hell, and will give him eternal joy “which none shall take away from him” (John xvi.22). (AMF)

Mischievous boys, when they catch sight of sweet fruit on a tree, pelt it with stones, and the tree without a murmur drops upon them, instead of stones, its charming fruit. For the tree has no stones to throw, but what God has given it, it gives without complaining. Be not cast down by ill treatment, for the fact that men fling abuse at you is full proof that yours is a fruitful life. (AMF)

My soul is like an ocean. On the surface there may be waves and tempests, but deep down there is undisturbed calm. (AMF)


The Gospel of Sundar Singh by Friedrich Heiler (GOSS)
At the Master's Feet (AMF)
"The Living Christ", Indian Christian Theology, Vol.I by R.S. Sugirtharajah and Cecil Hargreaves (eds) (TLC)


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