Q. What is the significance of wearing Tulasi and tilok? Why should one fast in Caturmasya? Why do men wear shikas? Why should one offer food before eating it? [Editor's Note: Caturmasya is the four months of rain, from July to October]
Tulasi and Tilok: The way we dress ourselves has an influence on our consciousness. This is one of the reasons for wearing tulasi beads and tilok. For example, the meditation in wearing tilok is that one is marking one's body as the temple of God. So the devotee considers their body and the body of all others beings as a temple where God resides. We try to maintain that conception in all our activities. The tilok and tulasi neck beads remind of that fact, and those who see the devotee marked in this way are also reminded similarly.
Caturmasya and Shika: It is a standard vaishnava practice, to observe simple austerities during these months, because they are auspicious times, and we receive spiritual benefit by observing these little austerities.
Vaishnava men are indicated by the shika. This quickly identifies us a worshipers of Lord Krishna or Vishnu, as opposed to Buddhists who keep shaven heads with no shika.
Offering food: The food that we eat is given by God, Who is the actual proprietor of everything. When one does not acknowledge this, but cooks for his own self, he is considered a thief. Therefore the food that he eats is considered to be sinful and binds one to sinful reaction. However, one who realizes God as the real proprietor and is in love with the Lord, would offer the food to Him in love and then partake of it. Krishna recommends that one does everything as a sacrifice to Him and that would purify one from any reaction.