Path to Siva: A Catechism for Youth

52 How Do We Receive Guests?§


A family greets guests to their home with fresh mango juice, home-made treats and welcoming smiles. Hospitality is the gift given to every guest who comes to our door. This is an important duty.§


Hindus and their homes are known throughout the world for big-hearted hospitality. Treating the guest as God is the Hindu way. Even in the rush of modern life, we should never feel guests are keeping us from what we should be doing. We drop everything, no matter how important, to care for company. We know how it feels to be unwelcome, and would never want to send that message to visitors. When guests arrive, even without notice, they are greeted eagerly at the door by the entire family. We are generous with our time and kindly with our words. Our loving care makes each one feel special. This is our ancient and sacred duty. The Tirukural tells us, “The whole purpose of earning wealth and maintaining a home is to provide hospitality to guests. …The host should care for the guests he has. He should watch hopefully for more. He will then himself be a welcome guest in heaven.” Hindu shastras describe the ideal, saying the guest is to be honored by going out to meet him or her, offering water and a seat, lighting a lamp before them and providing food and lodging. There follows friendly conversation on subjects that interest them. Even the humblest home will never fail to honor a guest with food and beverage. The absolute minimum is a chair or mat to sit on and a glass of water to drink. The visit of a holy person to the home is given extra special attention and may involve days of preparation, garland and gift making, cleaning and decorating. As the guest departs, we offer good wishes and gifts, even if only a simple sweet. Then we walk with them to their transportation, palms together, watching until they are out of sight.§


GURUDEVA: Hospitality flows from Siva’s followers like sweet music from a vina. Guests are treated as Gods. Friends, relatives, acquaintances, even strangers, are humbled by the overwhelming, ever-willing attention received.§