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Two Kinds of Food – A Spiritual Story

Two Kinds of Food – A Spiritual StoryOne day while traveling with a companion, Nanak took shelter in the house of a poor, low-caste Hindu carpenter named Lalo. He took a liking to Lalo and stayed with him for two weeks. Then he heard that people were gossiping. They said, “Nanak is a high-caste Hindu; why should he be staying with a low-caste man? It is not proper.”

One day a wealthy landlord of the neighborhood decided to give a big feast and to invite all the four castes of Hindus — brahmins, military, merchants and manual laborers. A brahmin friend of Guru Nanak came to him and told him about the feast. “You really must go,” he said. But Nanak did not believe in castes, and considered all men equal. He did not like the idea, and said, “I do not belong to any of the four castes, so why invite me?” “Ah,” said the brahmin, “now I see why people call you a ‘heretic'. Malik, the landlord, will be very displeased with you if you refuse his invitation.” And he walked away.

Nanak did not go to the feast, and, sure enough, afterwards Malik came and confronted him. “Why did you dishonor me by staying away?” “Well,” replied Nanak, “I do not crave fine food. But if this offends you, then I will eat some of your food.” But Malik was still not happy, and accused Nanak of ignoring his own caste and eating and staying with Lalo, a low-caste man.

“Then give me my share of elegant food from your banquet,” said Nanak,” and turning to Lalo he asked him to bring him something from his stock of simple food. When both foods were set before Guru Nanak, he took Lalo's coarse food in his right hand and Malik's fine food in his left, and squeezed them both. Lo and behold, from Lalo's food milk flowed out, and from Malik's, blood!

This is from A Story of Stories by C.M. Kay.

What Is the Spiritual Moral / Meaning of the “Two Kinds of Food” Story?

The Two Kinds of Food story whispers the truth of unity amidst apparent divisions. Through the lens of caste, it unveils a deeper truth—an admonition against the arbitrary constructs that divide humanity. The societal labels that define and segregate humanity into compartments dissolve under the gaze of spiritual wisdom.

In the dwelling of Nanak and Lalo, we witness the convergence of souls beyond societal barriers. Nanak, an embodiment of spiritual enlightenment, finds solace and kinship in the heart of Lalo, a humble carpenter. Their connection transcends the societal norms and distinctions, highlighting the insignificance of external labels in the realm of spiritual unity.

The narrative unfolds further as Nanak confronts the rigidity of caste divisions during Malik's grand feast. In his refusal to conform to societal expectations, he challenges the very notion of hierarchical structures, affirming the equality of all beings. His act of squeezing the foods symbolizes the revelation of truth—the revelation that transcends the material and exposes the essence of existence.

From the simplicity of Lalo's fare flows milk, a symbol of purity, sustenance, and nourishment. Contrastingly, from the opulence of Malik's feast oozes blood, a stark portrayal of the toxicity and discord perpetuated by artificial divisions. This miraculous revelation isn't merely a physical transformation but a spiritual awakening—a manifestation that pierces through the facade of societal norms to reveal the truth that lies beneath.

At its heart, the parable of the Two Kinds of Food reverberates with the sanctity of equality and compassion. It challenges the artificial barriers erected by society, beckoning us to look beyond the superficial to witness the unity that binds us all. It invites us to embrace the essence of our shared humanity and to recognize the inherent divinity within every soul.

Nanak's actions stand as a testament to spiritual rebellion against the confines of societal norms. His refusal to partake in the feast based on caste distinctions serves as a beacon, guiding us toward the realization that spiritual truth transcends the limitations imposed by human constructs.

The Two kinds of Food parable holds a profound invitation—to transcend the limitations of our perceptions, to embrace the unity that underlies diversity, and to recognize the inherent divinity within each being. It calls upon us to dissolve the barriers that breed inequality and disharmony and to foster a world rooted in love, compassion, and equality.

In its simplicity, the Two Kinds of Food story echoes the eternal truth that the essence of humanity lies not in the artificial divisions we create but in the unity that binds us together. It invites us to partake in the feast of universal kinship, where the milk of compassion flows abundantly, nourishing the soul, and where the illusion of division dissolves into the oneness of existence.

Personal Reflection Questions

Spiritual stories are an opportunity to reflect on your own life. Here are 10 questions you can use to go deeper with the teachings in this story:

  1. In the story of Nanak and Lalo, reflect on the significance of Nanak choosing to stay with a low-caste carpenter despite societal expectations. How does this challenge your own notions of social hierarchies?
  2. Consider the brahmin friend's insistence that Nanak attend the feast. How does this highlight the tension between Nanak's belief in equality and the societal norms of caste? Can you identify instances in your own life where societal expectations conflicted with your values?
  3. Explore Nanak's response to the brahmin, stating, “I do not belong to any of the four castes, so why invite me?” How does this resonate with the concept of transcending labels and categories in your own understanding of identity?
  4. Reflect on Nanak's decision not to attend the feast, even when pressured by societal norms. How does this prompt you to consider moments in your life where you resisted conforming to societal expectations for the sake of your beliefs?
  5. Consider the confrontation between Nanak and Malik after the feast. How does Nanak's response, “I do not crave fine food,” challenge conventional notions of material desires? In what ways do you find resonance with this perspective in your own life?
  6. Reflect on the accusation that Nanak ignored his own caste by staying with Lalo, a low-caste man. How does this accusation echo societal judgments based on appearances and stereotypes? Can you identify instances where you have been judged based on preconceived notions?
  7. Explore Nanak's unconventional request for both coarse and fine foods from Lalo and Malik. How does this symbolic act of squeezing the foods and the outcomes—milk from Lalo's and blood from Malik's—resonate with the theme of inner purity versus external appearances in your own life?
  8. Consider Nanak's willingness to eat Lalo's simple food, even if it offended Malik. How does this exemplify the importance of staying true to one's principles, even in the face of criticism? Can you recall instances in your life where you maintained your authenticity despite external pressures?
  9. Reflect on the profound symbolism of milk flowing from Lalo's food and blood from Malik's. How does this imagery speak to the idea of purity of intentions and actions? How might this inspire you to examine the true nature of things in your own experiences?
  10. Consider the overarching theme of the story—Nanak's commitment to equality and rejection of societal norms. How does this narrative challenge you to question and reevaluate your own beliefs, biases, and preconceived notions about others?