The fashion conscious are marveling at what a straight piece of cotton or silk can do. Devotees of Krsna have long known the spiritual advantages of the sari and the dhoti.
Love for God, Krsna. How wonderful it would be! Divine, universal love is all we need to save the world and conquer all difficulties. If every thought and action were saturated with love for God, surely we would realize our desire for eternal peace and happiness. "Dreams, dreams," we say, and we sigh and shake our heads. Love for Krsna and for all living entities is certainly laudable, but what does it have to do with practical things like getting dressed in the morning?
One answer is that loving God means to think of Him always, and thinking of Krsna in all circumstances has been made simple and sublime by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who taught us to constantly chant the Lord's holy names: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. While driving, working, cleaning, studying, and yes, dressing in the morning, we can think of the beautiful form of Krsna and chant His names.
Everyone knows, however, that love is more than internal meditation. It is action. So Krsna also instructs, "Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer or give away, and whatever austerities you perform do that, O son of Kunti, as an offering to Me."
Doing everything for Krsna may seem to be a negation of our own desires, but it's actually the way to discover our real, spiritual identity. Just as the hand gets true nourishment by serving the stomach, we will find satisfaction by pleasing our source, Krsna. In fact, we'll find much more satisfaction than if we try to delight our mind and senses independently.
Now, back to getting dressed in the morning. How do you get dressed for God?
Well, first of all, you can dress neatly, in clean and simple clothing. Simple clothing can help to foster humility and chastity, and by freeing you from the whims of fashion, it can give you more time to contemplate that it's the eternal soul, not the temporary body, that is of ultimate importance.
Devotees of Krsna traditionally dress in simple saris or dhotis straight pieces of cotton or silk, wrapped and tied with uncomplicated elegance. And such attire is beginning to attract the fashion conscious too.
Connoisseur magazine, a publication that also advertises quarter-million dollar necklaces, glorifies the sari in its April 1986 issue. Quoting from India in Luxury, Connoisseur describes sari-clad women as "moving much more beautifully than anyone in a fashion show." The piece concludes that "The sari's radiance, vigor, and variety, produced by a single straight length of cloth, should give us in the West pause and make us think twice about the zipper, the dart, and the shoulder pad." For a devotee, we might add, a sari, being traditional Vedic attire, helps us remember Krsna.
The Detroit News recently published directions for wrapping a sari. Stating that Indian culture is "practically eternal," the News thus supported the devotees' conviction that Vedic fashion is adornment for the soul.
Alas, the dhoti hasn't fared so well in Western fashion magazines. But the dhoti also one unsewn piece of cloth, is the comfortable, versatile garment men are vainly searching for when they browse through stores full of jeans and suits in the local mall.
Endless variety, enough for all fashionable and practical purposes, is easy to achieve by varying the fabric. For a hot Indian summer, choose loosely woven cotton or silk chiffon. For a cold Michigan winter, try heavyweight silk or densely woven Egyptian cotton. Saris and dhotis can be folded and draped in many ways, changing the look of the same piece of clothing.
There are plain scarfs, embroidered saris, printed, tie-dyed, and gold-edged saris. The single- and double-ikat saris have brilliant flower and animal designs created by an ancient technique of dyeing the thread before weaving. From South India there's cotton that looks like silk; from Benares, cloth as fine as butterfly wings.
We urge everyone interested in reviving his or her natural spiritual position of love of God to constantly chant His holy names. And for simplicity and natural elegance, why not try on a sari or dhoti when you get up tomorrow? That will help you remember Krsna, who always wears a yellow silken dhoti, and bring you one step closer to loving Him.