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Langar Disguise

Once Guru Gobind Rai disguised himself, while playing a trick to help his Sikhs learn about what selfless service truly ...

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Have you ever heard that God lives in cozy homes? For us our homes are the same as the Guru’s home, because in our homes we treat each other with respect, we're always friendly to everyone and we feed anyone who comes - just like the Guru's langar.

Langar is where we feed everyone any time, any day, day or night. Everyone is welcome to eat langar. They may be strangers. They may be smelly or pretty; they may be black or white, they may even be from Mars or Venus, it doesn't matter, everyone is fed side by side. Can you imagine if your home was just like a langar hall?

This is the story of how we learned that our homes are the Guru’s home.

Hundreds of years ago the 10th Guru, Guru Gobind Rai was our leader. He was young and strong. He often laughed out loud and his love for God was deep and constant. Those who were near him experienced joy and bliss. It was a world filled with fun challenges and deep devotion! The Sikhs always wanted to know, what kind of lesson would he teach next!

Once he declared to his beloveds, "Everyone must make langar in their own homes! Oh, Sikhs of mine, listen... your house is a langar hall to feed all travelers and guests. Feed the needy. No one should ever leave your home without being served!"

Everyone listened to what he said and the Sikhs became famous for serving and taking care of others. Still Guru ji wanted to test just how ready the Sikhs were. Were they only ready sometimes or were they ready all the time?

So one day, very early in the morning, something funny happened. It was the divine mischief of the master, the complete man. Guru Gobind Rai himself put on a disguise! He dressed just like a common traveler! 

Now normally, Guru ji always wore clothes that were perfect and clean, without even a single wrinkle. But that morning he put on dirty old clothes so no one would recognize him. 

He went to the homes of his devotees - their langar halls. He came at the most inconvenient time. It was early in morning so the Sikhs were just waking up. They were getting ready for the day, washing up, starting their prayers. He would knock on the door and say, "Sorry to disturb you, I am just a humble traveler. Do you have any chapatis that I can eat?"

Uh, ummm, it’s really early, you must be on an early schedule! Sorry but we don’t have anything ready for you right now. Food will be cooked later. Come by later and we can feed you then.

The master was testing his beloveds. He wanted to show them one simple thing in an unforgettable way. He showed them that they were still a little little bit selfish and not yet completely selfless. They still needed some time for themselves. They weren't there for others at every moment.

And so the Master went from door to door, "Sorry to disturb you at this time I'm a traveler, do you have any daal that I can eat?"  One man replied, “Excuse me? Oh, It’s so early, it’s not breakfast time yet. Besides daal takes a long time to cook. We’ll be happy to serve you.... please just come back later.”

As the master went from one house to another, he smiled and his eyes twinkled. Not one Sikh was ready to serve him yet.

Finally he came to the house of a man named Nand Lal. Nand Lal was a wise poet, and he loved the True Guru. Even though he was 23 years older than Guru Gobind Rai, he became his devotee. His heart blossomed in the Guru's court. He was full of devotion and love, and he always prayed to be at the feet of the True Guru.  

The beloved Nand Lal hopped up to greet his guest, "welcome, welcome friend". Guru in disguise said, “Excuse me Sir"... Nand Lal quickly replied, "Come in, come in! Please sit down and relax." The Guru said, I am just a humble traveler, do you have any food...” And Nand Lal quickly replied without hesitation, “Sir, you don’t need to ask. Food is just now coming.

He was so happy to get the chance to serve. He immediately brought whatever food he could. There was some raw dough, there was daal that was just half-cooked, some raw vegetables and some butter. He placed the un-cooked food in front of his guest... with great grace and honor!

Nand Lal generously said, "Help yourself to everything here. Have as much as you want....  However, If you will allow me to, I will roll the dough and cook it to make warm chapaatis; I will cook the daal until it is soft and I will cook the veggies until they are very yummy. It is my honor to serve you, in the Name of My Master, please relax and enjoy yourself."

Bhai Nand Lal really loved to serve. Guru ji was very happy. Guru ji enjoyed the food. And the food was full of loving energy. Bhai Nand Lal ji truly took the Guru’s order to heart: “No one leave your house without being served...” Whoever knocked on his door was sure to leave Nand Lal's house completely satisfied. And in this cozy and loving way, God lived in the home of Bhai Nand Lal.

The next morning, Guru Ji  told everyone, "In our city, there is only one temple of hospitality, only one real langar. And that is Bhai Nand Lal's home. Nand Lal speaks the language of love and devotion. Nand Lal blesses us all. His commitment is pleasing. It is this love that wins all hearts. Running such a Langar the Sikhs become truly rich. In this way Bhai Nand Lal's langar is most successful.

The Sikhs smiled and realized that their beloved Guru ji had tested them. Even though they were friendly, they still hadn't gone all the way. Bhai Nand Lal was 'tyar bar tyar,' always ready!! He was in a divine state, he happily provided langar to everyone without hesitation or excuses. When you become selfless, then you never have excuses and you are always happy.  Bhai Nand Lal became the example of how all of us need to treat guests.

As Sikhs we never stop learning and improving ourselves. He taught us that love has no limit and serving has no limit. Whoever comes to our home, we give them the deepest respect. We treat them as the great person they are. We even treat them like a saint.

Bhai Nand Lal said, "Getting water for the saints is equal to being the greatest emperor of the world. Cooking food for them is more pleasant than all the paradises put together. Preparing the Guru's langar is equal to all wealth, riches, and magical super-powers. Holy people take care of the poor, and one feels humble just being around them. The Guru's Holy Word is within all things... everywhere."

This was the mischief of Guru Gobind Rai. Yes he had disguised himself and tricked his Sikhs, and then he taught them, and all of us, an unforgettable lesson. A lesson about how to treat each other. A lesson in how to be a good host. A lesson in how to serve & how God lives in cozy homes.