Thoughts about atithi-seva
By Muniraja dasa
“It was our first visit to India, year was 2000, myself and one another brahmacari were on our way from Mayapura festival to Mombay. We quickly called from Howra station to Chowpatty mandira, if we could spend night there. I had just a moment to speak, and I didn`t become sure if they had accomodation available.
Those who have travelled from Kolkata to Mombay by train now it is not the easiest one, especially when you are pretty sick, like my friend was. After some 36 hours we were in Mombay, it was maybe 9.30 pm. We heard it was a taxi strike. It didn`t seem very promising, we were exhausted and didn`t know were to go.
But then we saw couple of smiling faces with tilak, there was two devotees from Sri Sri Radha-Gopinatha mandira waiting for us.
In the temple one devotee was taking care of us, showing our way to shower, serving us prasadam, asking how our journey went etc. It was already 10.30pm, but he didn`t seem to be in hurry.
After participating to enlivening morning program and honoring excellent morning prasadam, devotees showed our way to metro and Juhu temple. We dried to give some donation, but there was no question it to be accepted. “Absolutely no, we like to serve devotees.” Instead they forcefully paid our metro-tickets.
This incident left a permanent impression to my mind. In material world you don`t get this feeling that someone is your true wellwisher. Of course there are some companies which have nice culture of treating customers, but it is just business, not the same thing. When you visit a temple where devotees manifest true saintly qualities, you become immediately convinced about the process of bhakti, you like to come to that temple again and meet those devotees again.
Although for myself it will take lifetimes to be in a same standard, after this visit to Chowpatty I realized a little more how important it is to take nicely care about visitors.
Sri-Sri-Gopinatha Mandira Ki Jaya!
There are other stories. Couple of big truckdrivers visited our temple and honored prasadam. They told that couple of years back they were in some sort of trouble in, not sure if it was in Ukraina or in Kalinkrad. Their truck broke down or something and they hardly had any laxmi. Somehow or another they ended up in local temple, and were taken care very nicely. They were still moved and pretty much positive towards our movement, propably for the rest of their lives. “It was really positive surprise that we got so nice help in your temple, although we were just two fatty truck-driver dudes without money!.”
Unfortunately it is not always the case that taking care of the quests is stressed. Of course, devotees are not expecting service for themselves, but if you go to a temple where none is interested to help you, to speak to you, you may wonder what kind of impression it will leave to someone visiting first time. Very opulent surroundings, elaborate puja and loud kirtans are not much helpfull, if devotees are not interested about visitors. “Excuse prabhuji, do you know if I could leave my luggage here for 4 hours.” “ask TC. “My dear TC, could you tell… “ask Bh.Joe” “Dear Bh.Joe… “I am just a new bhakta, please ask TP…”
Even in many material companies they know the importance of uncompromising personal service. If someone asks you something, take care of him, don`t try to throw him/her to the others.
Other small detail is that if someone comes to your temple and doesn`t know the local language, it is polite to keep him in discussions. You may feel yourself a bit outsider if others are joking enthousiastically for a half hour but you don`t understand anything.
“Proper reception of a guest can make the difference between a person coming once to the temple and never returning, or becoming a regular visitor and ultimately a devotee of Krsna. The sanskrit word ATITHI means -not scheduled.- An -unscheduled- or unexpected, guest is considered a representative of the Supreme Lord, since his arriving unannounced is just what the Lord might do to test His devotee and see how ready he is to serve Him in any situation. With this understanding, we shoul afford the unexpected guest full hospitality.”
Your servant Muniraja dasa