:: Bethakji ::

What should be our behaviour in Baithakjies ?

A. What will we carry with us ?

It is necessary to know what the things which we should carry with us whenever we may have to travel to any Baithakjies. If we do not know about the things we needed at the Baithakjies then we will be at loss when we reach there. The following are the minimum requirements to carry with us:

s1. Cloth to wrap round you when you take your bath. 2. Cloth to dry your body after bath. 3. Fresh cloth i.e., cloth that is not worn prior to this [Note : we have a word use in the tradition to show sanctified state viz. "Apras". It expresses a super cleanliness] . This cloth could be of silk or it could be washed but dry. Men should choose a dhoti and bandi. (Bandi is a dress worn on the torso with strips to tie the cloth in place). If you do not have a bandi you can use upper cloth (once dipped in water but dry) as you should not move without covering the torso. 4. Women should wear a sari, choli and Chania. (choli is a kind of blouse but with strapped ends to tie and Chania is a cloth used in the place of peti coat) Hence they have to carry these things. 5. The used chlothes have to be kept in a bag of kaltan (Kaltan is a textured cloth considered to be of usable in all conditions). 6. Things required for offerings to Sri Mahaprabhuji are : a. Misri (Crystalled sugar). b. Cashew nut. c. Dried grapes called Draksh and other dry fruits. d. Peanuts. e. Fresh fruits. All according to your capacity. 7. If there is any facility to prepare things at the Baithakjies you can take with you the required ingredients for "Dudh ghar" and "Nagari". 8. You have to take with you a good quality dhoti, uprana (upper cloth), two garlands of Tulsi (Basil Beads) a "Gomukhi" for japa with beads in it. 9. "Koru Kanku" (the word "Koru" wherever is used indicates a thing that is not used before and dry. "Kanku" is the red powder used to place on your forehead called kumkum). 10. Perfumes depending on season. (Hina in winter, Mogra in Summer, Kevda in rainy season or Radamb or Rose). If you have carried flowers with you. you can prepare a garland. These are minimum items which you require. If you desire to prepare your own dishes take with you the required vessels.

Apart from this whichever Baithakjies you visit if you find any object, wanting which may enhance the comfort of Sri Mahaprabhuji, you can procure them from the local market and offer them. Try to offer utmost seva in all these places because it is seva done to Sri Mahaprabhuji.

B. What sort of "Apras" will I keep in Baithakjies ?

Before we try to observe "Apras" let us understand what "Apras" means. Many modern Vaishnavas without understanding the actual meaning of "Apras" try to criticize about "Apras". the original word for "Apras" is "Asparsa" i.e., do not touch me or keep away from me indicating a pure, clean state.

Those who take a bath in "Apras" should bot touch any other person who is not in such a state of "Apras" . There is a scientific reason for this keeping apart the reach of touch. it is believed that a touch passes unseen electric currents into the body of the person touched. This produces vibrations carried to the mind of the other person.

The first condition of seva is concentration of mind. To keep the centred round an object it is essential to keep the mind fresh and pure. The outward purity adds to this state of mind. As long as we are not clean, fresh and pure it is not possible to keep the mind pointed out on a fixed object. Both mind and body are interrelated and require maintenance of a pure state.

Hence it is insisted upon in our tradition that after purifying the body by a bath we should keep ourselves aloof from the touch of others who are not in the same state of purity.

Seva in all possible manners should be performed in seclusion. Seva done in public spirit does nit yield required results because of the lack of concentration seva also points out to our attachment towards that person. We should not show our love in the open. It is an intimate matter between two persons. Even seva is a kind of delicate relationship between the worshipped and worshipper. The words used to indicate this are : Sevak and Sevya".

Hence "Apras" is considered to be an in evitable aspect of seva.

The procedure is as follows : you have to set aside the dress at one side and wear the cloth brought with you before taking the bath. The Indian word for the bathing space is called "Parnala". You now enter this. Before you take the bath you should have finished with cleaning the teeth and mouth. You should now think in terms of giving a purifying effect to the outer body. One reason for keeping the body fresh by a wash is that we should not enter the presence of Mahaprabhuji with a badly smelling body. He should not feel unpleasant with your body odour.

When you enter the "Parnala" you should find out a stick or a cloth of "Kaltan" so that you can turn the knob of the vessel in which water is stored. it should not be touched in a state of impurity when you open the knob you should begin with wetting the heap. Then the stream should be directed on to the body. All parts of the body should get wet. do not allow any part to remain dry. even the cloth you have put on round the waist should not remain dry. Put your fingers in nose and ears and make them wet. Before finishing the bath see that you gurgle properly. You see that the bathing space is once again washed after the gurgle. When the bath is finished you can turn the knob off with your hands. You have to maintain silence when you are taking bath.

Dry your body with a fresh towel. Remove the wet cloth from your waist, sqeeze it and come out of the "Parnala" . Then put on the "Kora dress" in an organised manner. Dry the towel and the sqeezed cloth on a line. Take "Charnamrut".

There is fixed way of taking "Charnamrut". Let us know about it. After taking the "Charnamrut" touch both ends of the eyes near the brows with it. Place it three times in the mouth. Then touch the throught and chest with the fingers. Put the "Prasadi" kabku" on the forehead in the form of a tilak. If you do not have a readymade "tilakiya" use cane stick, to draw a tilak on forehead. See that you place tilak in a nice way. Then wash your hand. The word used for the purpose of washing hands is "Khasa".

Goto the Parnala once again. Open the knob of the vessel. Take some "Send" and wash your hands properly. The water should fall on the hands properly. The water should fall on the hands in a stream. See that the hands are properly washed over the wrist. See that the water does not flow towards your elbow from the fingers crossing the wrist making it impure.

While washing your hands you should entertain a sentiment of "Vraj Raja" yamunaji in the stream of water. This sentiment is essential because this body made of flesh and skin cab be purified with the sands of vraj and water of Sri yamunaji. so that it can be made useful in seva. While washing our hands we should think of Sri "Gopijana" and make a request to them thus : "Oh ! Vraj Bhaktas ! You have the original rights to offer seva. We are only dasas of your dasas (Servants to the servants). kindly help us in keeping our hands a little pure".

We said you should not talk while bathing. Tie your lips tight. When you open your mouth it is likely that water may flow from it and fall on the parts of body you have just washed. After washing your hands, close your fists and then go to offer seva. While doing so repeat the stotras in your mind.

C. How will you prepare the samagri in a Baithakji ?

Wash your hands in "Apras" with a dedication to offer seva, take the permission of Mukhiyaji, enter the room of Doodh ghar, taking the necessary ingredients for doodh ghar. Vegetables should be washed properly and dried with proper and clean cloth. We have seen beautiful arrangements for the preparation of samagri in many Baithakjies. There should be a platform in the room. Place the "Samagri" in a plate or a clean leaf or you can sit on the ground and make the preparations (known as Sidha Karna). In doing this we should not touch the samagri already prepared for Sri Thakurji.

where there are no proper facilities in a Baithakji. You should see that you will touch anything with your foot. Place a leaf in a plate (Chabidi) and put the samagri in it. When you are preparing the samagri you should tie your mouth with a silk cloth so that nothing drops from your mouth on the preparations. While talking. If you have no cloth to tie over tour mouth, do not try to talk, but simply signal with your hands. If you have brought any sharp instrument like a knife with you from home, you can prepare the samagri quietly without asking some one for the instrument. See that seeds are taken out of fresh fruits. Give your attention and see that all kinds of fruits so well prepared do not get mixed up. If it is a fruit like Kakadi. You have to taste it before offering to see that it is not a bitter kakadi.

Clean dry fruits properly. Remove the stems from the dry kismis (Dakh). place them neatly in a paper or keep it separately in a chabadi (a big round plate like object made of cane). If the crystals of sugar (misri) are bigger and unweilded they can be cut into small pieces. Keep Misri along with dry fruits (suko mewo) whatever other samagri is ready should be kept aside in a orderly manner.

When you use a padia you should see that both ends are broken. Then only you can fill it with Samagri. do not keep either the "Padia" or "Chabadi" half filled. It should be full with Samagri. It is also essential that the arrangement should be beautiful.

The sentiment behind all this activity should be : " Let us prepare most delicious dishes with all love and attachment like the Gopies of ancient times who had offered sweet things, with their own hands, prepared in their own homes. Look at the instance of rajobai Kshatrani who used to feed Sri Mahaprabhuji with her hands everyday. Her aim was always to keep Mahaprabhuji happy by preparing samagri he liked. Let us also try to immitate Rajobai and prepare best things and offer him so that he will be pleased with us.

In preparing the samagri the importance does not lay in the ingredients we are using. It lays in the sentiments we place in the work. This we should never forget or neglect. We can prepare best things if we receive the kindness from Sri Thakurji. Hold a sentiment of humility in your heart. You should also experience the pangs of separation. Your heart should wish love the moment you begin to think of him. Ahanta and Mamata are your enemies. Keep away from them. If you prepare things away from them. If you prepare things with ego behind the work be sure Sri Thakurji will not receive it. When you prepare samagri and arrange them in places see that flies won't drop on them or some dust will collect on them. Cover them properly. If the preparation is liquid place a spoon in it without fail. In this way we should prepare everything with delicate sentiments.

Different samagries have some sentiments held by "Vraj Bhaktas". Each Vraj Bhakta pleases Sri Thakurji with pure and Nirguna love. This sentiment should be brought by us also while preparing the samagries.

Sri Mahaprabhuji is fond of 'Misri" in the place of other samagries. The reason for this is : "Misri stands for love sentiment. it stands out clearly to exhibit the supernatural oceanic form of the sentiments of the sports (lilas) or Sri Thakurji. Sri Mahaprabhuji's heart is full with the sentiments of the lilas of divine being. Hence both Sri Mahaprabhuji and Sri Thakurji accept "Misri" with love.

Keeping this sentiment in our mind if we are unable to offer any thing else we can certainly offer Misri to Sri Mahaprabhuji.

D. How do we offer seva of Sri Anga of Sri Mahaprabhuji ?

Let us first get ready the "Samagri" then go and take the permission of the Mukhiji. Wash your hands in "Khasa" and go towards the Nijamandir (Sanctum) to attend to the Sri Anga seva of Sri Mahaprabhuji.

First you prostrate before Sri Mahaprabhuji. Then fold your hands and beg to receive the things you have prepared. If you have planned "Kesar Snana" - (Bathing the feet with water mixed with "Kesar") bring best kesar from home and mix it in water and depending on the season take either warm water or cold water. Take a very soft, clean cloth to dry if you have not brought the cloth with you. You can get one from Mukhiaji.

Do bath the "Choutara" with the "Kesar Water" following the instructions of Mukhiji. Just as we wash the feet of the members of Vallabha family with Kesar water, so also we should wash the feet of Sri Mahaprabhuji sentimentally and slowly pass your hands over the whole platform with the feeling of Sri Mahaprabhuji presence there.

Whether it is made of day or not you should be careful while passing a wet hand - do it with delicateness. There should be a wakening in heart and without exerting force to everything softly, one by one. Don't jostle about for priority. All the time recite Astakshara Mantra and Sri Sarvottam. if women are engaged in the seva of "Kesar Snana" they should push the bangles up their arms. Do not wear a ring on fingers and a watch on your wrist while offering seva.

When all the Vaishnavas finish "Kesar snana" they should bring a "Kora" or fresh cloth, which is soft and slowly wipe the "Chontara" (with a sense of delicate limbs which are under seva). In many places Vaishnavas apply oil before bathing him in "Kesar Snana". After drying the body you should see that the place around the "Chontara" also should be wiped dry. Take a dry cloth and clean the place of the "Bhointam" also. Thereafter put kumkum on the forehead, as advised by Mukhia. Tilak should be put twice. Then you have to mark two swastikas. When there are more than one Vaishnava only lay their hands on the shoulder of the Vaishnava who is putting the tilak. They can have the pleasure of Seva as if they too are doing the same.

We have a scientific reason in this act of touching the right shoulder of the chief person who is doing the seva. Those who have experienced electric shocks will know that by touching that person each would receive electric shocks one after other till the electricity is cut off.

In a similar way this kind of touch while performing seva will pass on sentimental vibrations from one person to another providing you too entertain those religious emotions. This needs a deep enthusiasm in heart and concentration when people are engaged in doing seva with a consummate devotion then one can experience these spiritual vibrations passing through body. Hence it is believed that the person who is lending a hand in seva by touch will experience the same joy as the person performing it. When doing seva one should remember that we do not add inconvenience to Sri Mahaprabhuji by our acts.

Unfortunately we do observe that when people gather in crowds they forge the elemental factor of dedicated seva with delicate actions to provide more comfort to Sri Mahaprabhuji and instead of keeping peace, would begin to push each other for priorities, abuse one other for the physical discomfirture they feel, quarrel and express their anger for having been left behind in the seva.

In our tradition "anger" is compared to a "chaindala" or an untouchable. So when you show anger it will make you relieve from "Apras". Either feeling too proud of your devotional sentiments or getting angry easily are harmful to the seva you offer. Rendering of seva in community is also an essential part of the procedure. In this, while one is solely offering seva others can also be benefited by it by sharing it jointly. Hence we are asked not to jostle about. Let us share it in a systematic manner by allowing one person complete the seva. it is not convenient for everyone of the group to do the same seva repeatedly for upteen time. This is prohibited in our system. During this group seva the important factor is your mental attitude rather than insistence of doing it personally.

One other thing is forgotten while doing community seva. Seva is meant for the comfort of the worshipped (Serya). The joy of the "Sevak" (disciple) lies in the comfort you provide for your master. A mother enjoy, her duties towards her child. But a mother will not dress-up a child in all finery on a summer day, because she does not want to put her child to inconvenience. She would like him to move in comfort. A mother cannot find any happiness if her child is in distress. In a similar way a sevak's intentions should be utmost comfort for master. He should never think about himself. This doctrine is an important one.

Hence when you propose to go to any of these Baithkjies your aim should be how best you can provide the maximum comfort to Sri Mahaprabhuji. Think of all those things which will help in increasing to the pleasantness. to believe this is the Dharma of every Vaishnava. So when you perform "Kesar Snana", while filling the "Jharni" or offering "Bhog" give predominence to these thoughts.

So after the "Kesar snana", give the dhoti you have brought with you to Mukhiji. Then set it on the "gadi" along with the uparna and apply "attar" (perfume) with a soft hand. Thereafter put the "Tulsi Mala" and garland of flowers on the gadi. This is how the seva of Sri Anga should be done.