bad guest


Sometimes the rules of spiritual hospitality appear to make no sense whatsoever by modern standards. I don’t claim to understand them myself. In this age of regarding our homes as our castles, of being wary of the other—defensive even—I am committed to exploring the standards of an earlier age, come what may.

So what happens when a bad guest appears, someone who is unappreciative, who seems to delight in the inflicting of mental anguish, whom no one in their right mind would ever knowingly invite into their home? It can happen.

The ancient Hindus used to say that the guest is God. They believed that this was literally true—that the gods disguised themselves as guests as a kind of test of the host’s mettle. They said that hospitality was to be offered first, and questions were to be asked later—at least until after a meal (or better yet, a feast) were offered. Since Vedic times, Indian culture has emphasized that a level of care for guests be provided which has, at times, bordered on the extreme. The host was urged to not only provide for the basic needs of the guest, but for all the guest’s needs and wants.

The basics included providing water to drink or to wash the guest’s feet, a comfortable place to sit or sleep, and food. Yet a guest’s demands could sometimes become humiliating and sometimes hazardous to the host, as when guests wished to satisfy their sexual appetites.

This happened to Anasuya, the wife of the sage Atri. While her husband was away on a long journey, Anasuya was confronted by three mysterious guests who applied to her for hospitality. These guests were the gods Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahma disguised as beggars. They said they were Brahmins from far away, and in need of food, they were directed to her house. So as not to dishonor her vow of providing hospitality, Anasuya prepared a meal.

Yet as Anasuya was about to offer them food, one of the guests said that they could not accept offerings from anyone who was clothed. Anasuya would have to disrobe first.

Anasuya immediately realized that she was being tested by someone powerful. If she refused she would commit the sin of refusing the Brahmans her hospitality. If she disrobed, she would dishonor her husband and betray her vows to him. Anasuya then chanted a mantra and summoned all the Karma she had accumulated in her life. Immediately the three gods were transformed into crawling infants, and one by one she suckled them. She thus met the requirements of hospitality without compromising her fidelity to her husband.

At least for a little more than a day, I have been once again living alone… but Derek arrives later tonight. Whereas at times I felt like I was trapped in a bad movie with no means of escape, I honored my vow of hospitality and feel that the difficulties of the last 10 days have finally passed. What the next days will bring is anybody’s guess, but I doubt that I will have to resort to another vacation.



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2 Responses to “bad guest”

  1. 1 Frank Manning
    May 8, 2016 at 4:24 pm

    Happy to see you back, Dan, and to see that you survived the last 10 days. Dealing with two versions of the same set of events can be awkward and difficult. Yet, I’ve seen through some of the smoke, so I think I can correctly evaluate some stuff. I’ll call you later or e-mail you.

  2. 2 Willow54
    May 9, 2016 at 9:27 am

    You know, it really is a pity that things have had to come to this, when your clear motivation is only to try and do right by these damaged kids.

    Reading your earlier post about not suggesting life for you was ‘a rosy picture’ when it was actually anything but, I don’t think any of the readers here expect you to do that, but equally I don’t believe we need to hear every last detail about what goes on there with any of your guests, and especially not Alex, given that there are plenty of detractors out there who will no doubt take the opportunity to say “I told you so” when they get the opportunity to interpret your comment about his ‘mask coming off’ and ‘revealing his true intention’ for being at your place.

    Clearly Alex has had some ulterior motive for coming there, which was not made apparent in the rather expansive postings he made during the first few days of his stay with you. Like I said, I don’t think that private interaction between you and him needs to be amplified here for everyone to know. We all read that stuff he wrote, and we can take from it what we want in regard to deciding what kind of person Alex is now. If he has decided to try and use you for whatever personal purpose, given the help you have continued to afford him, like you say, that is up to him, but it is nevertheless pretty sad in the circumstances.

    It is an age old saying that some people just cannot be helped. You have responded to the “I told you so’s” in the past by saying that the guy needs help to get his life back on track. I think we all get that, but if he has bitten the hand that has literally been feeding him one too many times, well, that is for you to decide and no-one else. Meanwhile I wish you and your enterprise every success for the future, whatever it may bring. Better luck with Derek when he arrives!

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