The Sakhi of Sacred Thread
(Article taken from . "Bedtime Stories" written by Santokh Singh)
When Guru Nanak attained the age of nine, the day was fixed for him to wear the sacred thread prescribed by Manu, the originator of Hindu rituals and the caste system. After worship and recitation, Pandit Hardial started to put the sacred thread around Guru Nanak's neck. Guru Nanak stopped him and asked, "Dear Pandit, what is the use of putting this thread around my neck ? What authority is attained by wearing it ? What special deeds of faith one can perform by wearing it in addition to those which are already performed without it ?"
Pandit Hardial replied, "O Nanak, one gets spiritual birth by wearing it. you get the liberty to go to the kitchen upon wearing it. you get the freedom to participate in the religious rituals of the world. Brahmins and Kshatris are impure without wearing it and cannot take part in religious rituals and ceremonies. They do not have the right to perform the Saradh—feast of serving food every year to Brahmins so that it may reach the dead ancestors. Without this their ancestors face the pangs of hunger and thirst in the next world.
Guru Nanak further asked, "If one gets spiritual birth by wearing it, the thread should be put around the soul. What is the use of wearing it if the wearer continues to tell lies, back-bite and do other lowly deeds after wearing it like the Brahmin administering it. The sacred thread should be such that its wearing may make the wearer compassionate, contented, celibate and truthful in his dealings. Dear Pandit, if you have a thread of this type, I am ready to wear it. This type of thread will not be broken, nor soiled or burnt when the body is cremated. That True Thread will always remain with the soul even when the body is burnt."
Pandit Hardial,in a bid to make Guru Nanak understand, said further, "O Nanak, we are not starting this sacred thread ritual for the first time today. This ritual has been performed for a long time. Nobody has refused it before you." In order to expose Brahmins' greed to eat and get offerings behind the facade of this ritual, Guru Nanak recited:
A thread of cotton is spun and the
Brahmin twists it, a goat is slaughtered
and eaten and everyone is asked to wear the thread. (Guru Granth Sahib, Ang. 471)
Pandit Hardial came to understand this hymn and was convinced that Guru Nanak would not wear that cotton thread around his neck. He also saw that if the common people grasped the meanings of what Guru Nanak had said, they would stop wearing the thread. He would be deprived of the goat and other offerings for performing this ritual from them also. On account of this fear he put the thread in his bag and returned home.
ho ho karae thai aap janaaeae
Practicing egotism and selfishness, they try to impress others by showing off.
bahu karam karai kishh thhaae n paaeae
They perform all sorts of rituals, but they gain no acceptance.
thujh thae baahar kishhoo n hovai bakhasae sabadh suhaavaniaa 5
Without You, Lord, nothing happens at all. You forgive those who are adorned with the Word of Your Shabad. 5