The whole institution of "manorath" has become corrupt. During the times of Shri Vallabh, a manorath was a private affair. By its very nature, a manorath should be a celebration from the heart - a creation of the mind. It should be played out in the mind. If one has the desire to play it out in the material world, it should still largely remain a private affair. Several anecdotes from the lives of the 84 great Vaishnavs demonstrate this - eg Kumbhandas was celebrating a manorath of chak-lila (in the private world of his own mind) when Raja Mansing visited him. When the king's visit disturbed his manorath, Kumbhandas asked the king not to visit him again - least such a thing should disturb his manoraths in the future.
Later, in Shri Gosaiji's time, manoraths were carried out in the haveli at mount Govardhan, some from money offered by Vaishnavs and some by money from Gosaiji's own coffers. It is the former that is used as the precedence for manoraths of today.
I beg to disagree.
The original manorath of this sort is cited as the manorath for Shri Gosaiji's birthday, money for which was raised by the temple servants and Vaishnavs present at the temple. It was a spontaneous affair. It was a large birthday celebration of a sect that had recently received royal acclaim. This is a far cry from the manoraths of today - most of which defy the very meaning of the word !
Let us first consider the manoraths carried out by the lay Vaishnavs today. They are mainly bhog of some sort or the other. The most popular being Rajbhog. But, what are we doing in this sort of manoraths ? Are we actually doing anything that reflects the spirit of a manorath ? We offer an incredible amount of food to the Lord, and than fight, just like the temple servants, to get our "fair" share of the bhog. Everyone counts the greatness of the manorath by the amount of food they get. This goes against the grain of Pushti Marg and its founding principles - that of a personal, private relationship with the Lord. There is no need in this for a public spectacle. Early Vaishnavs have been known to offer very simple foods - Padmanabhdasji offered simple bhog of chick-peas and the Lord preferred this to rich foods offered to him.
Vaishnavs seem to prefer manoraths that offer semblance of wealth and status rather than manoraths that offer pleasure to the Lord. For example, a hindola of gold is seen as far more "important" manorath than a hindola of flowers. A gold hindola, once made, can be reused time and again without any great effort. It is simply a matter of erecting a golden pillar. A hindola of flowers takes far more time and effort to create. It can not be reused and is a labor of love. Yet, a golden hindola attracts a bigger price tag than a flower hindola. Sadly, the sect judges a manorath by the price tags attached to it.
Our role models are suppose to be the denizens of Vraj, who served the Lord with great spontaneity and natural love. Instead of this, over the years, we have become just as ritualistic as other sects, following rules and regulations rather than the spirit of the rules. We are so overwrought by the "right way of doing things" that we have forgotten to be spontaneous in our service to the Lord. It is a great shame that a sect espousing spontaneity has become so rigid in its "seva" that now all "seva" is predictable !
We really should consider revitalizing the whole concept and institution of seva (especially in the Havelies) and manoraths in particular.
Bhagwat Shah ©
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