Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Story of Nachiketa Part 9 (Kathopnishad)


The first lesson taught by Dharam Raj: 
Treat the guests with respect and courtesy – 
Serve them with humility; with love and respect.

In the next verse, Dharam Raj further warned: 
आशा प्रतीक्षे संगतां सूनृतां च - इष्टापूर्ते पुत्र पशून्च सर्वान्  
एतद वृङ्क्ते पुरुषस्य अल्पमेधसो -यस्यानशनन् वसति ब्राह्मणो गृहे

Aashaa Prateekshe Sangataam Su-Nrataam ch 
Ishtaa-poortay Putra-Pashoon ch Sarvaan
Aetad Vrnktay Purushasya alpamedhaso 
Yasyaanashnan Vasti Braahmano Grahay

Hopes, expectations, merits of being in the company of good people (Satsang), sacrifices and good deeds performed for the welfare of children and cattle - all are destroyed in the case of ignorant people in whose home a guest stays without being offered any food. 

Most people - according to their religious backgrounds - go to Temples, Gurdwaras, Mosques, Churches and other religious places with hope and expectation of achieving something that will make their life easier and happier. May it be for the material wealth, good health or even a wishful hope for the ‘after-life’ such as heaven - but nonetheless, some kind of hope and expectation is always there. 
Dharam Raj warns that all above mentioned ‘Punya’ (good karmas) may go to waste if a wise and honorable saintly guest is insulted and not treated with proper respect and courtesy in one’s home.

Now… this may seem to be a far-fetched, exaggerated statement. How can one lose all the Punya or good deeds just by doing one wrong thing of mistreating an honorable saintly guest? 

… A hard-working employee of ten years, with a good reputation, suddenly became greedy – got caught stealing some money and got fired at the spot. He lost his credibility, and his ten years of hard work instantaneously went into drain.

One wrong move can spoil the whole game. 
One wrong turn can take us away from the destination. 
One can do hundred favors and nice things for others but one wrong doing can make them forget every good thing done in the past and completely spoil the relationship. 
According to Bhai Gurdas:
“Tanik hi kaanji pare doodh phat jaat hai”
‘Just a few drops of lemon juice can spoil the whole pot of milk.

Similarly, one mistake - of mistreating or insulting a pious saintly person can ruin all the previous Punya - good karmas.

On the other hand, treating guests with love and respect, offering them good food and drinks - engaging with them in good conversation can bring lots of joy to everyone. Conversing with wise people may answer many unanswered questions - sharing doubts and unresolved issues, and asking for guidance and assistance may solve many problems. Everyone can provide us some knowledge from their life’s experience. Everyone can teach us something – but only if we have the humility and willingness to learn. 
A nice advice from Sant Tulasi Das:
                   तुलसी इस संसार में सबसे मिलियो धाए 
                   ना जाने किस भेस में नारायण मिल जाए 
"Tulasi is sansaar me sab se milyo Dhaaye
 Na jaane kis Bhes me Naraayan mil jaaye"

“Treat and greet everyone with respect and passion. 
 One never knows in what form, or under what disguise God may come… to provide help”

Keeping good relationships with everyone we know, or even don't know, has its own merits; not only in the spiritual world but in the material world also. Healthy discussions with friends and guests are always enjoyable and beneficial. But we can only share wisdom by respecting each other’s thoughts and opinions, not by arguing or ridiculing the ideals and thoughts of others. 

Serving food is certainly a nice gesture, which makes the guests feel they are welcomed and loved. It creates a happy and enjoyable environment and feelings of affection between the host and guests. Now a days, many corporations have also started ‘lunch-on meetings’ with the clients and employees to discuss business matters over lunch or dinner. They have also realized that good food certainly plays a big role to create a warm, cozy and friendly environment for good and healthy communications.
But of-course that is business and we are usually courteous towards most of our invited guests. However, Dharam Raj is talking about extending this gesture and courtesy to all guests; invited or uninvited - known or unknown. A custom – a common practice that was quite prevalent in olden days; not only in the ancient Indian or Hindu culture, but among most other ancient cultures as well. Unfortunately, it seems to be disappearing in the modern world*.

But then again, exceptions are always there. 
There are many wonderful people around even now a days who are always ready to help everyone and anyone - and there were many who did not follow such traditions even in those days.  
That is why Dharam Raj was unhappy with his consorts because Nachiketa had to stay at the doorsteps for three days; unattended. 
Even though Nachiketa was an uninvited guest - an unknown young boy who had obviously come with some hope and expectation - to ask for something or to get some help - but nevertheless, he was a guest. He should have been treated well – should have been offered some food and place to stay. 
This was a custom, expected to be followed by all well-cultured, sophisticated households. Those who did not follow this tradition were considered self-centered egotistic and uncultured*. 

What happens next is truly amazing; something that we don’t see very often. A rare phenomenon that is hard to find in the history of Guru and Shishya (disciple) – Gyani (Enlightened) and Jigyaasu (seeker) or the king and beggar.

                                      ‘Rajan Sachdeva’ 

    To be Continued

*Many traditions and customs change or disappear over the period of time because of the changed circumstances. 
It’s not just the mentality and the life style of the people that has changed these days. There are few other factors too. Most importantly, security and welfare of oneself and protection of one’s family and belongings also need to be considered while entertaining unknown visitors. In today’s urban life style, where so many undesirable incidents are reported every day, following the old customs of welcoming the unknown visitors into homes may not be possible.  
However, even today, admirably Sikh Gurdwaras and many Hindu Temples continue to follow this great tradition and provide Langar (free cooked food) every day-throughout the year; not only in India but all over the world - to everyone - regardless of their ethnicity and religious or cultural back grounds. 


  1. Thanks Rajanji
    A great learning expeience

  2. Amazing, I am so happy that you are breaking this wonderful work of wisdom in such depth, love it Uncle Ji ! God Bless

  3. Very enlightening. I am glad you added the note at the end. It is important to realize that times change and not everyone's situation is the same.


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