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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Your guest, your honour

Ashok Vohra

The Upanishads, Manusmriti, Ramayana and Mahabharta provide answer to the questions, `Who is a guest?' and `How should he be treated?' The term for `guest' in Sanskrit is `atithi' -one who visits your place without prior notice.

The Taittriya Upanishad, commands, “Do not turn away anyone who comes seeking your hospitality“. It enjoins that the atithi be treated as god at par with one's mother, ancestors and teacher. This command is explained in the Mahabharta by Lord Krishna: “Finding an old person, a child, a tired traveller or a vulnerable one at the door, a householder should offer him worshipful hospitality, with the same exuberance in his heart, as he would to his own teacher“.

According to the Mahabharta, “The one who appears at the door at the proper time, even if he were an outcaste or such a one as partakes of the flesh of dog, deserves to be worshipped with the offering of food“. However, Manusmriti goes a step further. It does not make a distinction between appropriate and inappropriate time of the guest's arrival. It commands that irrespective of the time of arrival, be it suppertime or otherwise, the needs of the guest must be attended to.

Without bearing any displeasure, the host should treat the guest with grace and courtesy. The guest, according to Manusmriti, should be “offered a seat and water, as well as food according to the host's ability“.
According to the Ramayana, “food should be offered with all the ceremony and honour.
In addition, the guest may be provided a “place for resting and greeted with kind words“. If the host is unable to offer food, he should at least provide him with “a stretch of earth to lie down, a bed of straw, a bowl of water, and pleasing speech“ says Manusmriti. This deep concern for the guest in the Indian tradition is there because at the transcendental level, the host and the guest are identical. The host sees his own self in the guest.
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The way to react

Neela Sood

We get disturbed once in a while. To what extent we are disturbed directly depends on how intolerant we are to the environment in which we are living. Behavior of people in such situations differs from man to man. For example, a few snap back instantly, few start shouting, a few seethe with un-controllable anger, which gets manifested in the form of some, abuses and even assault at times.

It is also too much to expect most of us to be like Socrates who even after having been treated with a bucket of ice cold water over his head by his ill-tempered wife in the presence of his friends and admirers had the capacity to project the incident as an act of timely first aid by his caring wife who “had come to know“ that his head had become very hot consequent to a long talk he had delivered. Nor we can be like Sant Tuka Ram who after having been hit with a sugar cane on the head by his wife replied wittingly to her that she saved him from taking the trouble of breaking it in to two pieces, one for each of them.

Then what to do? An incident from Buddha's life has the answer. Once, while moving with his disciples, the Buddha asked one of them to bring water from the nearby pond only to be told by his disciple that the water was muddy. He asked his disciple to wait and then get it. This time water was clear. Buddha told his disciple that last time when he went the horse cart had just passed, leaving the water in the pond turbulent and muddy. Similarly, when confronted with such provocations in day-today life withdraw your self for some time or engage yourself in some other activity.
Act when you feel that the tempers have already cooled.

It can save us from many unsavory situations; and above all from the bout of anger, which harms us, first and then others.
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