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Guru Nanak And The Bitter Soapnut (Reetha) Tree

There were forests around Gorakhmata. About forty miles from there, the Guru met another group of Yogis. Guru Ji held spiritual discussions with the Gorakhpanthi Yogis, who lived here. He tried to bring the Yogis to the path of active humanitarian service along with remembrance of God's Name. The story is not mentioned in Janamsakhis. He sat under a soapnut tree and told them that by discarding family life and living in the forests away from worldly life, could not bring salvation. The inner change for attainment of peace and everlasting joy and happiness, could be obtained anywhere by contemplating on God's name.

The Yogis asked, "Master, the fire of desire is not quenched even by endless subjection of the body to discipline. Pray tell us a way to quench it." The Guru replied,

"Destroy the feeling of egoism,
Destroy the sense of duality and attain oneness with Lord,
The path is hard for ignorant and egoistic;
But those who take shelter in the Word and absorbed in it,
And he who realizes that He is both within and without,
His fire of desire is destroyed by the Grace of the Guru, says Nanak."

Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Ramkali Mohalla 1, Sidh Gosht-46, Ang 943.

The shrewd mind of the Yogis wanted to test the Guru further still. Guru Nanak was sitting under a Reetha tree when Bhai Mardana asked Guru Sahib for food, Guru Sahib asked Bhai Mardana to ask the yogis. The Yogis refused and asked Mardana to ask his guru that if he was such a spritual man he would provide. Guru Nanak Sahib Ji asked Bhai Mardana to eat the fruit of the tree they were sitting under. The fruit of the Soapnut tree is normally bitter in taste but When Bhai Mardana Ji plucked the Reetha fruit, he found it was sweet. The Reetha's were sweet on the side which Guru Sahib was sitting, and bitter on the side where the Yogis were sitting.

The Yogis were angry and used their magical powers to set a snake on the tree against Guru Sahib and Bhai Mardana. When Guru Nanak Sahib Ji looked at the snake, it froze.

Even today, the Reetha fruit is sweet to eat and is distributed as prasad. Tree still stands in Gurdwara Sri Reetha Sahib. Not all the nuts given as prasad are yielded by this one tree. About ten kilometers from the Gurdwara, there is a tract of land where such trees are now grown and their fruit is collected and brought to replenish the Gurdwara's stock of prasad. The place is called Nanak Bagichi (lit. Nanak's garden). The garden was grown using fruit from the original tree.

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