Offering hospitality is not a matter of formality but one of consciousness. A guest must feel welcome.
A grihastha should ensure that his guest does not leave his home dissatisfied. Love and warmth is the principal element in hospitality to guests. The process of serving should not be ritualistic or mechanical. Srimad Bhagvatam [1. 13. 5-7.] describes how king Yudhisthira and his family welcomed Mahatma Vidura to Hastinapura after a very long period of absence. “With great delight they all approached him (Vidura), as if life had returned to their bodies. They exchanged obeisances and welcomed each other with embraces. Due to anxieties and long separation, they all cried out of affection. King Yudhisthira then arranged to offer sitting accommodations and reception. After Vidura ate sumptuously and took sufficient rest, he was comfortably seated. Then the King began to speak to him, and all who were present there listened.”
Srila Prabhupada in his purport says : “King Yudhisthra was expert in reception also, even in the case of his family members. Vidura was well received by all the family members by exchange of embraces and obeisances. After that, bathing and arrangements for a sumptuous dinner were made, and then he was given sufficient rest. After finishing his rest, he was offered a comfortable place to sit, and then the King began to talk about all happenings, both family and otherwise. That is the proper way to receive a beloved friend, or even an enemy.
According to Indian moral codes , even an enemy received at home should be so well received that he will not feel any fearful situation. An enemy is always afraid of his enemy, but this should not be so when he is received at home by his enemy. This means that a person, when received at home, should be treated as a relative, so what to speak of a family member like Vidura, who was a well-wisher for all the members of the family.”
Hospitality should be offered with feelings of genuine love and devotion, considering the guest to be the embodiment of the Supreme Lord. The Lord says in the Bhagvad Gita, “ if one offers Me with love and devotion, a leaf, a flower, a fruit or water, I will accept it.”
So the Supreme Lord accepts service rendered with love and devotion and the guest, who is a representative of the Lord must also be served with the same consciousness. Krishna was invited by Duryodhana for a feast but did not go to his house to have the kingly fare. Instead, the Lord preferred to go to the home of Vidura, His devotee, and enjoyed the simple meal served by him.
Reproduced from the Grahastha Manual by Radhanath Swami Maharaj.