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Nanak and the Thread

Young Nanak refuses to take the Hindu traditional thread (janao) in a family ceremony....

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      When Nanak was older, but before he was a teenager, his parents decided it was time for him to do the ceremony that Hindu boys do to become men. When a boy comes of age, a huge ceremony is made in honor of him. This was their family tradition. They had a family priest to give him a thread that was imbued with powerful, ancient mantras. The thread was called a janeo. He was supposed to wear this thread over his shoulder for his whole life and it would help him meditate and it would mean that he is high caste and not low caste. People used to believe that everyone was born high or low. If a person is low caste, they can never do great things and they can never really know God. All they can do is lowly tasks.

     Now if this thread ever broke, Nanak would have to get another sone put on, so he would always have the remembrance of God. It would be a sign of honor that he belonged to the high caste.

     His father called the whole family and their friends and guests. Everyone came to participate in this special ceremony. It was a very important occasion. Nanak always wondered why people do different ceremonies and rituals when God is inside of everyone. When all the guests had gathered, the priest explained, “Now you will be a true high-caste Brahman. This thread, this ‘janeo’, is the foundation of our religion. If you wear it, you shall not be a low caste person. You can become great and happiness will come to you in this world and the afterworld. It will always remind you of God.”

     The child Nanak was both rebellious and wise, so he refused to put on the thread. He told the priest, “I can remember God without a thread.  When someone dies, they leave their body and this sacred thread behind. Only the soul goes on. If you could give me something that goes with my soul, I will wear that.”

     The priest said, “This is an ancient ritual passed down in the most sacred writings. Dear child, you are very young, do you think you are wiser than we priests!? If you wear this thread you can be a man of God.” The beloved child started saying things which the adults could not understand. He said, “People do so many bad things and then they think if they put on a thread they are men of God. This thread will break and a new one will have to be put on. This kind of thread will get old and fall apart”

     Now the priest got angry. Mehta Kalu, Nanak’s father got angry too. We was very embarrassed because all the guests were there. His father thought, “What is he doing? If he doesn’t wear a thread, how will he be successful? How will he find a good woman to marry? How will he make a living. He’ll just be a low caste person!”

     The angry priest, not expecting a good answer asked, ”Well than child, what kind of thread would go with your soul?” Nanak said, “Meditating on the Naam is how to wear a true thread. Meditating on the Naam brings honor and grace. The Naam will go with the soul and will never break. The Naam can go with us into God’s house.” A lot of people didn’t know what to think about what he said. A lot of people wore threads their whole lives. But Nanak only believed in truth and not in doing something because everyone else did it. He loved the Truth and he spoke the Truth. And sure enough, Nanak remembered God his whole life without a thread. He lived the Truth! The highest thing is living the Truth. 

Storyteller:  Gurumeher Kaur
Topics:  Bed Time, Gurus, Guru Nanak
Age ranges:  1 - 6, 7 - 12