Prasadam : Food for the soul
Prasadam literally means “mercy” and devotees of ISKCON use this term to describe pure vegetarian food that has been offered to Lord Krishna. Food that has been offered to the Deities in the temple is known as maha-prasadam.
Most Food contains karma which binds us to the cycle of birth and death because although it may be vegetarian one may still harm other living entities in the process of obtaining it: The farmer may accidentally kill insects during the cultivation of crops or the plants may feel some pain when they are uprooted. However, when the food is prepared for the pleasure of Krishna He accepts the love and devotion present in the offering and removes all sins from it. The karma present in the food is therefore transformed into spiritual energy. Honouring (eating) this sanctified prasadam is the basis of bhakti-yoga and helps one to make tangible spiritual advancement. Sharing and distributing prasadam is also very important!
Prasadam nourishes the body, mind, and soul. It can liberate anyone from material bondage and bestow krishna- prema, love of Godhead. Prasadam is so powerful because food offered to the Lord becomes transformed into a spiritual substance nondifferent from Him. In a purport to Bhagavad-gita (4.24) Srila Prabhupada explains how this is so: “The Absolute Truth covered by maya is called matter. Matter dovetailed for the cause of the Absolute Truth regains its spiritual quality.”
From this quotation we can see how the concept of prasadam extends beyond food to anything with a connection to Krishna. As soon as something or someone is connected to Krishna, it, she, or he becomes spiritualized—Krishna-ized.
The secret of this conversion is love. Krishna is attracted by the humility and love of His devotee. The spice of love is the tasty ingredient that induces the Lord to eat an offering. Devotees therefore try to do everything with love. Their words, thoughts, and actions are heartfelt.
What Can We Offer to krishna
Krishna explains in the Bhagavad-gita that “if one offers me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it.” Krishna does not accept meat, fish or eggs. Onions, garlic and caffeine are also not offered because they cause disturbance to the mind and are therefore not beneficial for meditation and spiritual life. One should use fresh, natural ingredients as far as possible. One should also pay special attention to all labels of items bought in supermarkets: most cheeses contain non-vegetarian rennet, some yogurts contain gelatin and many non-vegetarian products are hidden behind e-numbers, preservatives, flavours and colours.
Preparing and Making an Offering
Cleanliness is next to Godliness, so one should keep the kitchen very clean. As the food is to be offered to Krishna, the Supreme enjoyer, one should not taste anything before the offering is made. The most essential ingredients are love and devotion, so while cooking one should remember that one is cooking for Krishna’s pleasure. Listening to a devotional CD helps create a nice meditative mood in the kitchen.
A portion of each preparation is arranged in Krishna’s personal plate and bowls. Fresh water is offered in His cup. A Tulasi leaf is placed on each preparation.
One may chant the maha-mantra Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare three times while ringing a bell.
Offering with Love
The Chaitanya-charitamrita relates that the great devotee Madhavendra Puri saw his Deity, Gopala, eat a large offering of food and replace it with spiritual food, prasadam. Although the prasadam looked the same, the unoffered food had become transformed.
Srila Prabhupada says that to achieve the same result is very easy. “Even the poorest of the poor, without any kind of qualification,” can offer Krishna something, he says. If anyone offers even a leaf or a little fruit or water in “genuine love,” the Lord will be pleased to accept it.
We can develop the required love for Krishna in the company of those who already love Him. We get that company in two ways: by physical proximity to a pure devotee and, more important, by associating with a pure devotee’s instructions. So in the absence of the physical association of a devotee, when we, for instance, cook something at home under his direction, we are in his company. And when, with whatever love to which we have access, we make our offering to Krishna through such a pure devotee, we can be confident he will offer it to the Lord on our behalf and the Lord will accept it.
You can order prasadam to your door this weekend! The Festival of India has organized a Prasadam delivery service. Just follow the link to see the menus and place your order.