Athithi Devo Bhava! – Part 2 GOD at our Dwaar
We saw in the first part of this series that an Upanishad saying goes, “Maatru devo bhava, Pitru devo bhava, Aachaarya devo bhava, Atithi devo bhava” (Mother is verily God, Father is verily God, Master is verily God, the Guest is verily God), while in Tamil language a similar proverb goes, “Maata, Pita, Guru, Deivam” (Mother, Father, Guru and God).
Earlier, Sri Swamiji had also pointed out that in the hierarchy, an ordinary guest cannot take a place above the Guru, as seemingly indicated by the Sanskrit saying above. Therefore, here the term guest (atithi) must actually denote God Himself. Please read on…
Once there lived, in holy Pandarpur, a poor couple who had taken up the vow of serving a sadhu or two with few dry chapatis before they took their meal on Dwadasi (the twelfth day of the lunar fortnight). They had been following this practice for years. On one Dwadasi however, a wealthy man arranged for a sumptuous meal for all the sadhus of Pandarpur. Hence not a single sadhu came to this poor couple’s doorstep. They stood outside and invited the sadhus who passed by their home. But none paid heed to their call. The couple was in tears, as it seemed that their life-long vow was about to be broken that day. They did not have their meal. They were at a loss to know what to do. Just then, to their joy, a sadhu came to their doorstep and demanded dry chapatis! They invited the sadhu inside and served him with utmost humility and love. After eating the ‘love-stuffed’ chapati, the sadhu showed them his real Form! Lo! Their atithi that day was not a bhakta but the Bhaktavatsala – Lord Panduranga Himself! Indeed it was Bhaktavatsala who had come eagerly to their home!
‘Atithi devo bhava’! When we see God in every guest who comes home, God becomes eager to meet us at our home!
There once lived a divine couple at Puri Jagannatha Kshetra (Orissa). Their doors were always wide open to all holy men.Sadhus were offered food in their home. One day, the husband found a leprosy patient at his doorstep and without any hesitation invited him in for food. The wife was naturally aghast at this move and tried her best to stop him; but the man was firm.
“Kalyani! Atithi devo bhava! Have you forgotten this?” he said, softly yet firmly, to his reluctant wife.
His next move horrified her all the more! He addressed the guest, “Respected sir! Please take this humble seat and make yourself comfortable.”
He then turned to his wife and ordered, “Kalyani, bring a pot of water.”
The lady of the house went in and returned with a pot of water. What happened next filled her with greater horror!
The guest sat on their simple wooden chair. Her husband held the dirty feet of the guest that were infected and dripping with pus, and reverentially placed them on a brass plate.
The wife shivered from head to toe as she thought, “Good God! He is going to do Paada puja (washing the feet with water, etc. in an attitude of worship) to this leper. The stench is unbearable! I cannot remain here any longer. This husband of mine will next instruct me to sip the water that washed the disease-stricken dirty feet of this man! I cannot accept it!”
Thinking thus, she ran away to the backyard of the house, out of her husband’s sight.
The husband, with his heart full of love and with great reverence and compassion, washed the feet of this unique guest. He then took a little of that water from the brass plate with utmost respect, sipped it and sprinkled a little on his head. He then led the guest inside the house and served him food with immense love.
When the guest had partaken of the food, the man fell at his guest’s feet and said softly, “Namaste atithi deva.”A bright flash of blue light dazzled his eyes! With wonder he looked up and what did he behold? Verily the Lord of the Universe! The very spirit of all Vedas and Shastras! The one rare to attain even through toughest sadhana! The man found himself standing right in front of the smiling Lord Jagannatha Himself!
‘Atithi devo bhava’! When we serve the guest who comes to our door as verily God, God comes to our door to enjoy our loving service!
A lady once came to see Yogi Ramsuratkumar. She said to him, “Bhagavan, I am a simple woman. I am not capable of doing great work. Please instruct me with some simple work that is within my capability. I will carry it out sincerely.”
Yogi Ramsuratkumar said to her, “Feed every beggar who comes to your door.”
The lady was very happy. This was an easy job that she could carry out without difficulty. Days passed and she fed every beggar who came to her door. One night a beggar knocked at her door. She offered him twenty-five paise and closed the door. The beggar accepted the paltry sum without any complaint and left. After a month or two this lady went to Tiruvannamalai to have darshan of Yogi Ramsuratkumar. On seeing her, Yogi Ramsuratkumar, fanning himself with the hand fan that he usually held, said, “Dear lady, which hotel in Chennai offers food for twenty-five paise ?” He went on uttering this over and over again.
The import of Yogiji’s words dawned on her like a thunderbolt!
The lady was taken aback and felt ashamed. She fell at the great saint’s feet and sought his forgiveness.
‘Atithi devo bhava’! When we serve every guest as verily God it certainly reaches Him and Him only!
Therefore, here guest (atithi) does not refer to an ordinary man but verily God Himself!
Today, all of you have gathered here from far and wide. What has drawn you all here? ‘PREM’ (LOVE)! The bond of Love between you and me has drawn you all here. What else can it be? There is nothing other than this. Many of you are running the Divine Name Centers (Namadwaar) in your Towns/Villages/Cities and go about knocking at each door seeking alms – alms of chanting the Divine Name! Your efforts shall not go in vain.
“HARE RAMA HARE RAMA RAMA RAMA HARE HARE!
HARE KRISHNA HARE KRISHNA KRISHNA KRISHNA HARE HARE!”
– the only way for redemption in Kali Yuga, is going to reverberate in every nook and corner of the world!
Based on a discourse (in Tamil) by HH Sri Sri Muralidhara Swamiji.