Madhava Prabhu and his wife were also there - she gave nice classes, and he lead kirtans. Around 120 devotees assembled, some coming from the neighboring country of Slovakia. I gave every day a 90-minute talk on sheltering relationships - the topic seemed really timely for this community, so it was very well attended and received. I also had books with me and had a nice time at my book table, connecting with the devotees.
For the following week I continued to stay on the farm and gave every evening a 2- to 3-hour program: two sessions with the matajis and 3 sessions for a mixed audience on various aspects of cultural education, which were again very well attended. Furthermore, I was invited to give the Sunday feast class, which gave me an opportunity to meet more devotees and visiting guests.
There are around 60 devotees living nearby in the village - some of them have been in Krishna consciousness for many years. More and more devotees are moving to the area and build their houses on a block of land which they purchased. So there is a lot of potential to develop a strong community. The farm has a lot of land and also some cows, and devotees grow grains. They have their own mill and distribute the stone-ground flour in the nearby cities. Devotees have also established several restaurants in Prague and other cities. In this way, there are quite a lot of activities going on.
"This is the ideal householder's life. The husband and wife live together, and the husband works very hard to secure paraphernalia for worshiping Lord Visnu.
The wife at home cooks a variety of foods for Lord Visnu, and the husband offers it to the Deity. After that, arati is performed, and the prasadam is distributed amongst family members and guests. According to the Vedic principles, there must always be a guest in a householder's house. In my childhood I have actually seen my father receive not less than four guests every day, and in those days my father's income was not very great. Nonetheless, there was no difficulty in offering prasadam to at least four guests every day. According to Vedic principles, a householder, before taking lunch, should go outside and shout very loudly to see if there is anyone without food. In this way he invites people to take prasadam. If someone comes, the householder offers him prasadam, and if there is not much left, he should offer his own portion to the guest. If no one responds to his call, the householder can accept his own lunch. Thus the householder's life is also a kind of austerity. Because of this, the householder's life is called the grihastha ashram."
According to Vaishnava tradition, the hosting family should never sit down with the guest and eat at the same time. They should simply serve and entertain the guests, feeding them up to the neck. It is the biggest calamity, when the guest would like to have more of a certain preparation, but there is nothing left. It is considered the greatest misfortune not to be able to fully satisfy and please a guest. Therefore, the host would never dare to eat before the guest is fully satisfied.
It is also considered to be uncultured to make up the plates in the kitchen and then offer the guest a full plate of prasadam. We can serve a dog like this, but not a Vaishnava! We are meant to offer each item and see whether our guest would like to accept it. Maybe he has a certain diet, or specific likes. So we never simply pile things on a plate without asking him how much of each preparation he would like to have. We first offer a small portion, and then offer each item again. Also, there is a certain order of how we offer each preparation, with a bitter item in the beginning, and the sweet items at the end. If we heap all items on a plate, then the pakora may end up in the sweet rice, and the halava in the tomato chutney...
Whenever we have a person known to us knocking on our door, we have to invite him in, offer a seat and at least a glass of water, and maybe also a little snack or some fruit. We should never have longer conversations on the doorstep, without requesting him to come inside.
"The law of reception in the codes of the Vedic principles states that even if an enemy is received at home, he must be received with all respects. He should not be given a chance to understand that he has come into the house of an enemy. When Lord Krishna, accompanied by Arjuna and Bhima, approached Jarasandha in Magadha, the respectable enemies were given a royal reception by King Jarasandha. The guest enemy, namely Bhima, was to fight with Jarasandha, and yet they were given a grand reception. At night they used to sit down together as friends and guests, and in the day they used to fight, risking life and death. That was the law of reception. The reception law enjoins that a poor man, who has nothing to offer his guest, should be good enough to offer a straw mat for sitting, a glass of water for drinking and some sweet words. Therefore, to receive a guest, either friend or foe, there is no expense. It is only a question of good manners."
Bangladesh is the perfect place to experience our Vaishnava hospitality with its important prasadam culture....
Your servant, Devaki dd