Holy Cakes

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A devoted old woman had one prayer: that Guru Har Rai would eat the bread made by her own hands. She made her living by spinning, and one day was able to make some extra money with which she bought the wheat flour and other ingredients for making bread. She made two cakes and took them to a spot where the Guru passed daily. She sat down next to the cakes, focused her mind on the Guru, and began praying. The Guru felt the strength of her prayer. He mounted his horse and, on his way to the chase, went joyfully right to where she was waiting.

She had almost given up hope of his coming when he arrived. He said that he was very hungry from the chase, and wished to have something to eat. She offered him the cakes, which he ate on horseback, without washing his hands. He then said to her, "This is the most delicious food I have ever eaten." She was overjoyed and thanked the Guru for visiting her and accepting her hospitality. He shared his spiritual teachings with her and finally blessed her with liberation from rebirth.

Meanwhile, the Sikhs who had accompanied the Guru were astonished that he had taken food from a strange woman, eaten it on horseback, and not washed his hands. They asked him why he had done so. He gave them no reply, but continued on through the forest. The next day, they prepared sweet cakes with great cleanliness and took them to the forest with the Guru, to eliminate his need to eat unclean food from someone of lower caste. After a while, the Sikhs offered the Guru the cakes they had made, but he said, "I ate food from that woman's hands because she was holy. The food you have made for me, with great ceremony, is not pleasing to me." The Sikhs replied, "O Guru, yesterday you ate two cakes on horseback from that old woman. There was no clean and sacred place to eat; the food was in every way impure. Today, with great care we have made the purest cakes, yet you reject them. Why is this so?" The Guru gave this explanation, "With great faith and devotion, that old woman made those cakes out of what she had earned by the sweat of her brow. Because of this, the food was very pure and that is why I ate it. I was hungry for love; in the matter of love for God, no rule is recognized."