Some people have the knack of making guests feel that their presence is verily desired by them. One simply feels at home in their presence. Time blows off in their company like a feather in the wind. Even a plain glass of water offered by them tastes no less than ambrosia.
All because of the ‘grace’ with which they offer it. For, grace is the beauty of intention and execution. Grace is simply beauty in motion. It reflects in their walk, in their talk, indeed, in everything they do…For some it is innate. Others can, of course, cultivate it by conscious effort. For, it is this gentleness that enables one to reach out and connect with even strangers. It builds bonds and even sustains them. In short, it makes both the receiver and the bestower happy.
And of all, it is the ‘voice’ that comes first in reflecting one’s grace. It is not for nothing that grieving Lear said of Cordelia: “Her voice was ever soft, gentle and low”. ‘Gentleness’, be it in man or woman, is always looked at as an admirable trait. Indeed, its significance has been relished by men and women across the ages.
For, such a mindset of gentleness makes exchanges between people easy and portrays openness in their interactions, a much sought-after quality among people. The resulting generosity, and warmth simply welcomes even a stranger into their abode. This welcoming of others into their fold with warmth, honours and pleases the visitors so much that when they leave, they will want to return. No wonder, if these people have acted thus out of their belief in the philosophy: the more you give the more you receive.
Intriguingly, this portrayal of ‘grace’ either in receiving the guests or in serving them didn’t appear to be that optional during Ramayana’s time. It indeed looks as though mandated upon people to ardently practice this virtue—at least, that is what the impression one gets from the following scene from Ramayana . On being advised by sage Vasistha, King Dasaratha undertakes to perform Asvamedha yagna in order to supplicate the gods for begetting sons. As arrangements are in progress, Dasaratha says to Vasistha, "O foremost among ascetics, you are an affectionate friend and most reverential spiritual guide to me. The burden of performing the sacrifice which has since commenced shall be borne by you".
Vasistha, having thus taken over the responsibility of conducting the Yagna sacrifice as per the Sastras, summoning Sumantra, the minister, advises him to invite all those kings of the earth that are righteous. He also advises him to invite people of all sects from all the kingdoms in scores duly honoring them.
Thereafter Vasishta, summoning those Brahmans who are experienced in the sacrifice related activities, venerable and righteous architects, skilled workers, brick makers, carpenters, diggers, artisans, account keepers, dancers and actors, men versed in scriptures, advises them to ensure that all the rituals relating to the Yagna are carried out as per the Sastra. Similarly, instructs them to are provide guests with all the comforts and treated well.
He also advises the Brahmans that the people coming from janapadasya rural areas also should be treated vidhivat according to tradition with due satkrtya respect, but not lilayatu in a careless way (I.13.12).
Importantly, he instructs that “ sarve varna yatha pujan prapnuvanti susatkrta: / na cavajna prayoktavya kamakrodhavasadapi(I. 13.13) people from all castes should be well-treated with respect. There should be no insult to any one through kamakrodhavasadapi greed, anger or lust.”
He goes on appealing to them that “everything must be well-managed. However petty a deed may be, nothing should be left out”. And importantly, they are asked to “carry out the work with pritisnigdhena cetasa love and affection in their hearts”.
Finally, Vasishta, drawing the attention of Brahmans who are responsible to serve food to men and women who came from various places for the sacrifice, warns them thus: “ avajnaya na datavyan kasyacillilayapi va / avajnaya krtan hanyaddataran natra sansaya (I.13. 30) Nobody should be offered anything with avajnaya insult, or lilayapi casually. Anything given with contempt undoubtedly results in the destruction of the donor.” This dictum of Vasishta makes it clear that it is not what is served but how it is served to guests is what counts in making people happy. And to ensure that it happens in the way it is desired he warns them that serving the food with contempt is harmful to the dataram donar.
This sane advice of Valmiki Maharshi commands our attention and perhaps wills that we must reflect on it and cultivate the habit of executing everything that we do with pritisnigdhena cetasa love and affection in our hearts, for it alone ensures success, and never ever to offer anything to anybody with disregard. Remember, anything given casually creates discomfiture in the receiver. And certainly, as a donor that is not for what you are giving — rather you are offering it to comfort the other. And, that’s what grace is all about!