Welcome…

Swagatham, and Varaverpu, words of welcome that rained down from sound-clouds of Shiva and spelt out in Bharat Varsha aeons ago, in the oldest structured languages in which humanity anywhere found articulation, augmented into Sanskrit and Tamil, virtually rivers of wisdom, flowing like Ganga and Kaveri over the linguistic-scape of present day India; these words attained local definitions as Ahlan wa Sahlan in the Arab world, Yokoso, Huanying, Hwan-yeong, Selamat datang in the Far East, Sbagata, Khush aamdid, Hosgelnidiniz, Barukh ha-ba, Bienvenida, Bienvenue, Benvenuto, Willkommen, Kalosorisma, Akeyi, Failte, E Komo Mai, Dobro pozhalovat in several other parts of the planet, all mean ‘welcome’, the  greeting used to receive visitors or guests everywhere. The word ‘welcome’ ornaments spaces at points of entry, visible on doors, sign boards and hoardings as one enters a new city or state, shopping arcades, hotels and homes. One of the most beautiful words in English, it is a compounding of ‘well’ and ‘come’, with slightly different connotations. The root of ‘well’ can mean a shade close to ‘wellness’ or ‘well being’, or carry the added nuance of desire or pleasure; ‘well’ also links with ‘weal’, the root of ‘wealth’, to imply the sense of blessing. ‘Come’ is derived from old English ‘cuman’, also carrying the root of ‘comer’, meaning one who arrives, or perhaps closer to the Greek, to mean one who is received. Thus ‘welcome’ in its earliest sense denotes an invitation to come and be well, or to be well in coming. Either way, it is an invite to be ushered into goodness of a new place, where one has just arrived.
 
The art of welcome is founded on age old practices of hospitality. Athiti Devo Bhava, translating to ‘guest is equivalent to God’, says the Upanishads. The credo has since become a clarion call, guiding conduct of Indian societies, and, commercially, the hospitality industry. Drawn specifically from Taittriya Upanishad, the verse states, ‘mathrudevo bhava, pitrudevo bhava, acharyadevo bhava, athitidevo bhava‘. It literally means, ‘be one for whom the mother is God, be one for whom the father is God, be one for whom the teacher is God, be one for whom the guest is God’. Mathrudevah, pitrudevah, acharyadevah, athitidevah are all single words in Sanskrit, denoting devah or divinity associated with each. Tithi in Sanskrit stands for calendrical date; in primitive times, when means of communication and transport were limited, it was not always practicable for guests to schedule arrivals and departures, so athiti effectively means ‘without a fixed calendrical time’, depicting a visitor’s characteristic, as he or she who could barge in anytime. Devah becomes Devo in euphonic combination while following certain consonants; it means God, and bhava means ‘be’ or ‘is’, thus athiti Devo bhava together mean, ‘be the one for whom the guest is God’. The act of primary worship in Vedic tradition consists of five steps, known as ‘panchopachara puja’, and the same is observed while receiving guests: the first step is fragrance (dhupa), while welcoming guests, it is ensured that rooms are filled with pleasing fragrance, as it enhances the guest’s experience and keeps him or her in good humour. The second step, revealing of times lacking in electrification, is lighting the lamp (Deepa), and placing it between the host and guest to afford visibility, the third is refreshments, offering fruits and sweets made of milk to the guest, the fourth is putting a mark or tilak on guest’s forehead with vermilion or sandalwood paste, finally ending with offer of a flower (pushpa) as gesture of goodwill. The flower stays with the departing guest, as a fragrant reminder of happy memories of the visit. Some practitioners of hospitality are masters of the art, always cordially willing with accoutrements of endearing receptions. An appropriate beverage, food, comfortable seating, thoughtful enquiries about the comer’s journey or general situation, combine delightfully to make the guest feel at home. Recipients of such hospitality would know what it means, and if he or she is also a practitioner of the art, it is with full awareness that it is valued and appreciated by the recipient. 
 
These practices, it would appear, carried over to distant lands of nascent communities and yet-to-be cultures, aided by large scale migrations of mankind. The ancient scriptures speak of the great flood that triggered movement of people from southern parts of Bharat Varsha, to northern regions, and therefrom to various parts of the planet. These include not only humans but also avatars and incarnations of cosmic power, and their retinue, including animals, some of them beastly only in physical form but intrinsically powerful and benevolent in spirit. Thus Shiva, Rama, Krishna, Parvati, Ganesha, Karthikeya are believed to have travelled around the earth, leaving primal imprints that influenced lives widely across geographies. The cultures of hospitality in present day countries of the Far East and Middle East, Africa, Europe, Artic regions and Americas bear striking similarities largely due to these foundational currents. The Vedic scriptures abound in illustrative anecdotes of how ignoring a guest would invite wrath of the cosmic spirit. Abhijnanasakuntalam, the classical dance drama in Sanskrit verse, written by Kalidasa, exemplifies it in the act of Sankuntala, who, while daydreaming of her lover King Dushyanta, ignores, by oversight, the visiting sage Durvasa (believed to be an incarnation of Shiva), and in so doing incurs his ire attracting curse on herself, by which she gets totally wiped out from Dushyanta’s memory. On realising her unintended lapse, she pleads forgiveness and the sage subsequently softens his curse to allow for redeeming the situation, which follows after a series of trials.
 
For Jews and Christians, hospitality has been an integral part of their belief systems. The call to welcome the stranger is anchored in the Torah and was an index of Hebrew community’s faith in the Almighty. When a traveller came to town, he waited by the  community well, and it was incumbent upon townspeople to feed the visitor and provide overnight shelter. Such travellers were always strangers, folks unknown to the community, and opening homes to these people was risky, as much as it would be in this day and age. The human need for hospitality is a constant, just as apparent as human fear of the stranger, and substantially so in our times. Nonetheless, hospitality featured dominantly in the Hebrew identity. The risk did not define the people, but their hospitality did, for they were strongly aware that it was central to the character of their God. The same was true in the early Christian communities. Paul reminded the Romans to offer hospitality to the alien, and in letter to the Hebrews, the people were exhorted to be hospitable to all, for in so doing some also attracted added blessings by entertaining angels without being aware of it. In Acts, the early deacons practised hospitality throughout the community, welcoming those in need. In Matthew’s community, hospitality still measured the faithfulness of people. Welcoming prophets, righteous ones and disciples, whom Matthew called ‘little ones’, was part of a disciplined custom.
 
Discipline is the key to faithful hospitality. In her book ‘Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith’, Kathleen Norris narrates the story of an Alzheimer’s afflicted nun. Though her memory was fading, she still insisted on being moved in her wheel-chair to the door of her nursing home to enable her to greet every guest. Another of her ministerial colleagues commented that she was no longer certain about the purpose for which she was into the act, but hospitality was so deeply ingrained in her that it had become her life itself. Norris maintains of having read in an essay on monastic spirituality, which affirmatively holds that only people who are basically at home in themselves can offer hospitality, in turn breaking through insularities. Welcome just does not occur as a practice of hospitality, it has to be conditioned into one’s behaviour, so that one pays attention to dismantling those barriers and biases constructed, sometimes intentionally, and many times unintentionally, around perceptions and perspectives constituting attitudes towards life in general. 
 
The term xenophobia is fairly well known to all. There are cultures around the world that are still xenophobic, arising from deep distrust of the outsider. Ravindranath Tagore, in his collection of discourses titled, ‘Sadhana, The Realisation of Life’, begins by stating that “The civilisation of ancient Greece was nurtured within city walls. In fact, all the modern civilisations have their cradles of brick and mortar. These walls leave their mark deep in the minds of men. They set up a principle of ‘divide and rule’ in our mental outlook, which begets in us a habit of securing all our conquests by fortifying them and separating them from one another. We divide nation and nation, knowledge and knowledge, man and nature. It breeds in us a strong suspicion of whatever is beyond the barriers we have built, and everything has to fight hard for its entrance into our recognition”. In sharp contrast, civilisations and communities in Bharat Varsha evolved in forests and alongside rivers, in intimate connect with nature. The need to divide and possess, wall human lives within narrow spaces, was never felt, as individual power was realised in consonance with other myriad forms of life around, and not in isolation. The fact of being the highest form of creation was recognised by humans just as a final link in the ecological chain, as integral part of entire flora and fauna, in the hospitality extended by each constituent to enliven the other, resulting in harmony of the whole, in reverence to the cosmic spirit residing in the orderly manifestation of Nature. Nature’s hospitality to all forms of life is readily conspicuous in the all pervading oxygenated air, and water occupying major portion of earth’s surface. According to a study, the measure of oxygen inhaled by a human being over a twenty four hour period, if quantified in terms of its market value, equates to a whopping, hold your breath, Indian Rupees 1.3 million, the equivalent of USD 20000/-. Yes, that is what it takes Nature to sustain a human being for a day and night. Multiply that figure by over seven billion to arrive at the mind boggling value of Nature’s hospitality, imperative to keep every human alive on a daily basis. 
 
It is interesting to observe that in Greek, the word for stranger, xenos, also means, in respective contexts, ‘guest’ and ‘host’. In the contemporary era of balkanisation, walled countries, bordered states, and gated communities, xenophobia, or fear of the stranger, leads to morbid nationalism, racism, jingoism, and even genocide. It degenerates to greed and selfishness, obsessive keenness in one’s own material comforts, with total disregard for the other, even in an emergency. How else can there be a rational explanation for ongoing refugee crisis, where thousands fleeing from violence and misery in their countries of origin, are meeting with callous response from affluent nations capable of stretching their arms receptively, at least temporarily, to offer shelter and alleviate suffering? To welcome another, is xenophilia, or love of the stranger or deemed outsider, who is also, contextually, the guest, as embodied by prophet Jesus, and host, as depicted in the evening grouping of disciples after their long walk on the road to Emmaus. 
 
How does one nurture the divine act of hospitality? It entails continual practice, by bringing to bear who we are, what we have, where we are. At times it may be generous, at times meagre, extracted out of one’s own difficult pecuniary circumstances, just as Sudama’s modest gift of rice flakes to Krishna; in all times, it is the gesture itself, the practice that defines beauty of the encounter, the profile of participants, of grace investing essence of the moment. Welcoming another requires attention to the other, even setting aside our discomfort in the trauma and alienness of the other, in generously accommodating its claim, at least for a limited period, on our resources to cope with the situation as it presents itself. The divine is realised in blessings, accruing in several proportions higher than the element of grace featured in the welcoming act. Be it the current refugee crisis arising from some unsettled regions, or acts of terrorism and strife elsewhere, trials and tribulations appear in mystifying forms and events, to periodically awaken humanity out of its stupor, wrench it out of comfort zones aggrandised on avarice and hatred, envy and unlimited lucre, to enable due appreciation of supreme energy in the One, wherefrom all things emerged, and evanescence of life, impermanence of every form and matter, as even a supercontinent such as Pangaea that clustered Eurasia, Americas, Africa, Antarctica, India and Australia at a time in the hazy past over three hundred Ma, subsequently splintered into multiple continents and landmasses, and these continents are not static as outwardly perceived to be, but continue to drift, to regroup to newer geographical configurations in deep time. In the whirligig of time, all things shuffle around; a distant outsider, or a bordered out entity in the neighbourhood, rattled by extraneous circumstances today, may well be a richly endowed, magnanimously inclined, and graciously welcoming host tomorrow, and vice versa, provided, provided, and provided humankind everywhere adhere to principles of dharma, the order that sustains. 
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44 thoughts on “Welcome…

  1. Your articles are always interesting, Raj. The concept of dharma was very important in my family of origin. I can feel welcome or unwelcome even when visiting blogs. The example of the Alzheimer resident in the nursing home resonated with me. I asked a member of the Greatest Generation once what advice she would give to a young person wanting to make the world a better place. She said, “Be welcoming.” I was impressed because in a small way everyone can make the world better per her advice. Thanks for your thoughts. You are always welcome when visiting my blog 🙂

    • Thanks very much Anne. I am, by now, an athiti in your site, barging in anytime without notice, as it feels good doing so at all times. The lady of the Greatest Generation was spot on with her comment. Welcoming we might as well be, as we ourselves are all at best visitors, thanks to gracious hospitality of the Eternal Spirit…best wishes.

  2. ” ‘welcome’ in its earliest sense denotes an invitation to come and be well, or to be well in coming”

    It’s very cool that these two meanings can come together in one word.

    And this is interesting: “It is interesting to observe that in Greek, the word for stranger, xenos, also means, in respective contexts, ‘guest’ and ‘host’. ” so xenophobe could mean a fear of one’s guest!

    And there’s a certain irony in the fact that so many US xenophobes come out of the Judeo-Christian tradition, which was once so focused on hospitality. But the tradition has a decidedly unfriendly side, too. I guess that’s what they’re latching onto.

    • A perceptive observation that is, Georgia. I do not want to pass a comment on xenophobes of any nationality or religious affinity. May it be noted that the route to xenophobia is through a narrow outlook on life, in the delusion that what one owns is one’s own, an offshoot of agriculture and ownership of land which later widened to other properties and acquisitions, in turn enlarging to bordered states and nations, accompanied by greed, possessiveness, and hatred for people outside these concerns. In the ultimate analysis, everything in planet earth belongs to everyone. Just for a moment spare a thought on where would you be but for Nature’s hospitality that is keeping you alive…best wishes.

  3. This is a very intetesting post, Raj. The Irish are well known for being a welcoming nation, although I have seen the other side of this too, arising out of ignorance and fear, usually.
    In Irish mythology, hospitality was very important indeed. Bres, a High King of the Denann was made a victim of the first satirical poem ever composed in Ireland, (and these poems were powerful, they caused boils to errupt on the recipients face!) because of his lack of hospitality, Cuchullain was put under a geis (a curse/ taboo) not to refuse hospitality, so that when he was offered a meal containing dog flesh, he was obliged to eat it even though it would lead to his downfall, rather than risk offending his host. There are many stories of such geisa. And many stories demonsteating the importance of showing good hospitality to your guest, even if they are strangers. They would often be honoured with feasting lasting 3 days and nights, for example, before the reason for the visit was addressed. Interesting to see the similarities in stories and cultures here. 😊

    • That must be one hell of a poem, Ali, to cause blisters on the person listening to it. Such is the power of spoken word. In one of the Tamil epics, the aggrieved protagonist utters a curse that burns an entire Kingdom to ashes. Ireland is endowed with bewitching natural beauty because of her enchanting mythology and culture, reflecting in the refinement existing in Irish societies. Some of my favourite poets and writers are Irish…best wishes.

      • Absolutely, Raj… I’m glad poetry doesnt have that power now! Although I think rather it was the magic of the poet himself, rather than the poem. Irish writers do have a particular ‘feel’ to their writing, perhaps something to do with their heritage, even if they dont themselves realise it. I am enjoying learning from other mythologies on your blog. All the best, Ali

  4. Hi Raj,

    Your posts are so power-packed that I have to sit upright and command my mind, which has the quality of wandering away very soon, to stay on the page! Still it refuses to listen and I have to re-read some parts to bring it back!

    It is interesting to note that ‘welcome’, a word we take for granted, was revered so much in most of the countries and cultures. The ancient practice of welcoming the guests as ‘gods’ has diluted due to modern man’s individualistic and self-centred tendencies. That is the price we have paid for being a part of fast paced, competitive, technology driven world! However no country welcomes the refugees for obvious reasons, especially when they happen to arrive in large numbers…a controversial question.

    • A wandering mind is one of my problems too, Balroop. Refugees everywhere are always in large numbers, and countries, if they are truly inhabited by human beings, will have to humanistically respond to it. I was born several years after the erstwhile undivided India was partitioned, thus I have only heard those horror stories from friends belonging to later generations of families who were forced to migrate to the safety of India. But I have really seen the agony of a fleeing humanity in the civil war in East Pakistan that compelled millions to cross the eastern border to India. Just imagine the situation if India had turned her back to those hapless people then, millions of lives would have perished. Today we can look at Bangladesh with a befitting sense of pride and honour…best wishes.

  5. My dear Raj,
    it is always a pleasure to come along here, and clear my mind for the teachings you bring to your posts.. I delight in learning so much more here as you often delve into various customs to bring the similarities into focus as you share your knowledge with us ,,

    I particularly Like this paragraph
    “How does one nurture the divine act of hospitality? It entails continual practice, by bringing to bear who we are, what we have, where we are. At times it may be generous, at times meagre, extracted out of one’s own difficult pecuniary circumstances, just as Sudama’s modest gift of rice flakes to Krishna; in all times, it is the gesture itself, the practice that defines beauty of the encounter, the profile of participants, of grace investing essence of the moment.

    May we all learn the Gift of Welcome..

    Wishing you and yours dear Raj a wonderful week
    Blessings Sue

  6. I, too, found this very interesting in so many ways. Because I own a small shop, I focus on making people feel welcomed. I want them to enjoy themselves in my little world. During the winter, I often bake bread and hand out warm buttered slices while it is still hot. Yesterday, something happened that made me think about hospitality being a two-way street. A woman, speaking to me with a large gesture of her arm, knocked over a tray of six matching vintage 1940 drinking glasses and two of them broke. My first thought was that she must be so embarrassed and so I said it didn’t matter and I told her a story about something I broke once. I didn’t want her to feel badly. After she left, Raj, it crossed my mind that she could have offered to pay for them. I would have said, “Thank you, but it isn’t necessary.” The gesture would have made me feel that we both understood my loss. I wonder if two-way hospitality is the basis of friendship. A common fault of many people (me) is that we extend hospitality happily, until we think it is unappreciated. I certainly know that it shouldn’t matter to me if the woman said she was sorry or not. It is that little tiny voice inside that gets me into trouble. That little voice that said to me, “Well, she could have offered to pay for them.”
    I always find your posts thought-provoking and beautifully written.

    • Thanks Ginene, it is always nice to see you and listen to your stories about tissue, muscles and bones of the wonderful antiques in your cute little shop. Seeing treasured pieces suddenly getting knocked down by a careless hand is enough to temporarily upset one’s equilibrium, and more so if the act is accompanied by nonchalance, as in the incident here. I do not have any soft corner for people who do not regulate their movements in respectful regard to the confines and neatly arrayed items inside a shop. I suggest you consider displaying a board cautioning customers to guard their movements and exercise care while handling products, as breakages if any, caused purposely or by oversight, must be paid for by responsible party. I have seen such displays in many antique shops so people are doubly careful.

      • Raj, I’ve seen those signs, yes, I wonder if it would interfere with the welcoming feeling I would like people to experience in the shop. Your article made me think of the many sides of hospitality. Somewhere along the path of becoming an adult, I was taught that one should make light of one’s belongings being damaged by another because, naturally, the person would feel terrible already. If I had your way with words, I could think of an elegant way to say it. I’ve seen signs that read: You break it; you’ve bought it. I just like the way that sounds. It is like: No shoes; no service. I will have to think about it. If you have an idea, I’ll use it.
        What I was really thinking about after I read your post was that I hope the people going to new countries will be hospitable in return. I hope the love goes two-ways. Then, lasting friendships will be made. I so admire everyone who has opened their heart and doors. I love what Pope Francis said.
        Ginene

      • ‘Do enjoy your time here, but please move around and handle things with care, if anything broken, it must be considered as purchased and to be paid for’, or something to that effect may just work out fine without ruffling welcome feathers. You are more than welcome, Ginene, if you want to visit this part of the world…best wishes.

  7. The word ‘welcome’ in our country, nowadays, has lost its relevance from overuse. We have now a busy life and always on the go. We barely have time to treat guests with love and respect. “Atithi Debo Bhava” has remained just an adage. But, this was not our culture and forgetting one’s own tradition leads then nowhere.

    Your posts are always a food for thought. So wonderfully you’ve explained the notion in respect of different countries. 🙂

  8. This is a magisterial essay on the subject Raj, if I may be so bold, and I have learned much from your own faultless erudition. The anecdotes and customs you describe are unfailingly beautiful, and one cannot fail to be moved by them. I am also keen on etymology as a means of accessing the deeper meaning of the words we utilise, more often by habit than in any full appreciation of their weight. As much as all this, then the essay is so timely in its delivery, and would more than deserve its place amongst the current reading materials of all citizens of Europe, in particular.

    In gratitude and respect,

    Hariod.

    • Thanks very much Hariod, for your generous compliment. If the tone is magisterial, it is only because it is the voice of Truth and the universal self, finding its way through a humble medium like myself, shaken at some of the recent turn of events and the inequities around, just as many other souls likely to be so impacted but may not be articulating as such. Human aspirations are mostly confined to narrow visions of possessing riches, enjoying special privileges for individual selves and erecting barricades around it to keep it out of bounds for others, without realising that for anything to remain special, it must remain in perpetual conflict with the general. The field of our activities is not limited to the plane of our narrow self in as much as the eye is not designed to be only focused narcissistically on our own image in the mirror. It is obviously engineered to aid a wider vision of the world in its entirety, just as one’s hands and legs attain functional integrity in relation to the whole human body. Hence the moral vision to embrace the wholeness of life as defined by Buddha needs relegation of individual self to a tiny corner of one’s home to create the larger space for love to fill in, to enable the universal self to stride in all glory, motivated by joy and not by desires, where, as laid down in Gita, every action is truly activity-driven serving the universal self, and not narrowly reward-driven
      towards avaricious ends. There is no kingdom of heaven or hell in outer space for humanity to look up to or be fearful about. It is right here by what we choose to make of worldly life; by deciding whether to degenerate selfishly towards individual self and court destruction, or grow gloriously towards the all-powerful universal self, encompassing life in all dimensions. Problems surrounding us are virtually the other side of reality, existing, like banks of the river, to serve the purpose of lending momentum in the direction of wholeness. If the momentum is vitiated in selfishness, possessiveness and hatred, it will hurtle humanity towards chaos and destruction. One can only hope this realisation dawns on everyone sooner than later…with regards and best wishes.

      • A big, tough samurai once went to see a little monk. “Monk!” he barked, in a voice accustomed to instant obedience, “teach me about heaven and hell!”

        The monk looked up at the mighty warrior and replied with utter disdain, “teach you about heaven and hell? I couldn’t teach you about anything. You are dumb. You are dirty. You are a disgrace, and an embarrassment to the Samurai class. Get out of my sight. I cannot stand you.”

        The Samurai got furious. He shook, red in the face, speechless with rage. He pulled out his sword, and prepared to slay the monk.

        Looking straight into the Samurai’s eyes, the monk said softly,

        “That is hell.”

        The Samurai froze, realising the compassion of the monk who had risked his life to show him hell. He put down his sword and fell to his knees, filled with gratitude.

        The monk said softly, “and that is heaven.”

  9. A very well articulated post containing so much depth in it. The warm gesture of “welcome” in Indian culture have been beautifully described in this article with the extracts from upanishads. I like the way you crafted this article sir… Great work ..:-)

  10. I really enjoyed this post, Raj. It is so very thoughtful and well written. I like the tradition you described with the 4 parts of welcoming a guest and giving a flower to them as they leave, how beautiful. We all need to practice the art of be welcoming and to also live in a graceful way, hopefully, teaching as we go along. If we all could practice to be graceful with integrity, loving, peaceful…what a world that would be. Blessings!

  11. Hi Rajagopal,

    A great post ( as always!)

    I was particularly shaken by the ‘Cost of oxygenation’ argument that you have provided.You have written, and I quote,
    ” According to a study, the measure of oxygen inhaled by a human being over a twenty four hour period, if quantified in terms of its market value, equates to a whopping, hold your breath, Indian Rupees 1.3 million, the equivalent of USD 20000/-. Yes, that is what it takes Nature to sustain a human being for a day and night. Multiply that figure by over seven billion to arrive at the mind boggling value of Nature’s hospitality, imperative to keep every human alive on a daily basis.”

    Assuming the above calculations are correct, and I have no intention to doubt them, have we gone further to calculate what is the minimum level of flora that is needed to sustain the seven billion of us humans on this planet and what be the cost to sustain that? We haven’t even got round to determining the oxygen requirement of other species….. till now!

    The point I am trying to make is what needs to be done to create a top of the mind recall about the emergent danger levels associated with every unit of flora reduction that may be occurring and what other choices may be available.

    Shakti

    • Thanks Shakti, for dropping by. I am happy that value of oxygen in the air that we take, like many things else, so much for granted has come as a shock to you. An average human being requires 550 litres of pure oxygen to survive for a 24 hour period. The market price of a 2.75 litre oxygen cylinder is ₹ 6500/- . Now you do rest of the math yourself. It is good to be aware that every unit of flora we have in our homes and environment is much more valuable than all other forms of wealth in our possession. Unless existing green cover is preserved as a treasure and enlarged further, and emergent measures taken to control emission levels, planet earth has no future…best wishes.

  12. Raj, a poignant blog post in light of world events. Your listing of words of welcome brought to mind the arrival to airports in various places and their signs. A simple word that conveys so much yet it seems we have forgotten the true meaning. Reading your beautiful words has made me reflect on the importance of welcoming old and new friends.
    Take care xx Luc

  13. Rajagopal,
    This is my first visit to your site, as you so kindly visited mine and left a comment. I found this article very insightful and even, dare I say, uplifting. It’s disheartening to see people so walled up and apprehensive. Nonetheless, although the problem is enormous, it’s encouraging to believe that the solution can be addressed even on a small level. It seems that it’s in our nature to be hospitable, but fear renders us reluctant to be so to anyone outside our walls. Talking to someone, and getting to know them, can alleviate those fears.
    Looking up the etymology of the word “hospitality,” I tracked it down to Middle English, from Old French hoste, from Latin hospes, hospit- “host, guest.” Again, just as you pointed out to the Greek term, there is a single word to describe two seemingly opposing roles. (Stranger, however, is not included in this particular linguistic root.) My own feeling is that I get as much, if not more, joy from being someone’s host as I doing from being another’s guest. For this reason, I volunteer with our local Catholic Social Services’ “host program.” This entails helping newcomers to Canada find the resources they need to establish a life in this country. I may need to assist them in finding English instruction or other educational resources, employment, a place to live, a means of transportation, etc. Later concerns may involve understanding certain laws, such as taxation laws. Because I spend a great deal of time with these people, and because I’m naturally curious about languages, other cultural practices and beliefs, we learn from one another. In short, we become friends. “Curiosity” comes from Middle English: from Old French curios, from Latin curiosus (“careful”) from cura (“care”). Also, because of some of the connotations of “curious”–unusual, different–I suspect that “stranger” is in there somewhere.
    There are many linguistic clues demonstrating ancient traditions of hospitality, and yet we go against our nature to close people out, and to separate ourselves from nature. If we simply realise, however, that we are both host and stranger/guest at different times in our lives, then perhaps we can open a few windows and doors in our walls. By welcoming strangers, we are, in a sense, welcoming ourselves.
    Finally, favourite quote of mine is attributed to Tenzin Gyatsothe, the 14th Dalai Lama: “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”
    Thank you, Rajagopal, for your hospitality and the care with which you respond to those who comment. It has been a great pleasure to visit your site.

    • Thanks Connie, for your gracious visit and observations. I appreciate your interest in etymology, as it really aids in gaining a deeper view of meanings of words. Also noteworthy is your involvement with local chapter of Catholic Social Services and the assistance provided to immigrants. With your other attributes, I can see you going a long way into a successful career and happy life. Be well….best wishes.

      • Rajagopal, I am fascinated by how we communicate with language, as it sometimes seems a rather clumsy tool when trying to communicate certain ideas. The degree to which the language we grow up with influences our thought processes is also fascinating.
        Despite not earning a great deal of money working in a bookstore, I am, indeed, enjoying a happy life. So long as I can meet my basic needs, I’m content to do what I love.

  14. This is such an insightful post on the notion of “welcome” and hospitality. Love how you broke down the word welcome, and I relate when you mention that when we invite someone in to the personal spaces of where we live, we set aside our own discomfort. It reminds me of the times as a kid, my household wasn’t a particularly happy household in Malaysia. My parents fought constantly, my mum always reprimanded me and my brother for the slightest thing we did wrong. However, all this was forgotten in an instant when we had guests over – we were one big family again, at least on the public front, and happily made tea for them and swapped stories. Others before self, I think that was what my parents tried to instill in me.

    I haven’t heard the word “welcome” being used in a while. Certainly see it on doormats and signs on doors, but usually I’m greeted with, “Come in, come in!”. I suppose that is the more colloquial, informal term for welcome these days.

    • Thanks Mabel, you are most welcome. I liked that family story of yours about transformative effect of a guest trooping in. I am sure you will not become a squabbling parent yourself…stay well and hearty.

  15. Raj as others have already stated when one reads such a post one must sit up and pay attention. So much to reflect on in your eloquent words. As a Canadian I like ot think of our country of one that welcomes. We are a multicultural population and I embrace the diversity. How we welcome people, to our country, our city, our home, our blog, this is a fascinating topic. How do we make people feel. Your phrase ‘to periodically awaken humanity out of its stupor,’ really struck me. With the refugee crisis at hand we hope humanity is waking up to the need of so many.

  16. A beautiful and educative post Raj bringing out the meaning of Welcome and also its practice in different cultures. Your words make me realize each greeting or welcome must be with sincerely and feelings. And yes the oriental and Buddhist ways do it so beautifully.

    With kind regards.
    Dilip

  17. I learned hospitality through my parents. They taught me hospitality in my home while I grew up, by befriending all different kinds of people. My father who has always been an atheist, was a very educated man who taught at the university, so I grew up with people from all different countries and walks of life. I think education is an important component of teaching hospitality.

    • Thanks Maria. The values you imbibed appear to show up in your hospitality and the keen interest you bring to bear in the flora and fauna so well depicted in your writings. May your tribe increase…

  18. This makes me happy and sad at the same time…. what’s been transferred from ancient past – from generation to generation, what we’ve learnt and what we are seeing now… where are we going wrong? The ‘self’ looming large? But isn’t there a ‘self’ the other side too? Micro seems a macro … and the macro seems totally insignificant? May be I’ve wandered a li’l away from the topic but this is certainly thought provoking – not just thought though!

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