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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Turn Food into Prasadam [spiritual foodstuffs]



KARMA-FREE EATING

In addition to prana carried by mantra, the power of transcendental pictures should not be minimized in the mind. While to some, these may look like any other very nice photo or painting, we should recognize that material senses see all and know all. 

Spiritual paintings or photo's are more potent than most realize. And that is part of it – realization. Prabhupada has they are windows into the Spiritual Sky. What we may not immediately have realization of spiritually, we can use our intellect to gain philosophical realization about, within our brains. 

Whether we feel it or not, whether we experience it or not, using our intellect we can understand God IS present in His pictures. He doesn’t need our belief to be there. Like gravity, He exists with or without our belief. :)

Next, through Gods sublime power and transcendental energies, Krishna can change matter to spirit. By placing an iron rod into fire, we all know that soon the rod becomes as hot, acting like the fire. Similarly, food prepared for Krishna, then offered to Him with sincere love and devotion, will become spiritualized. Such food is known as Krishna “prasadam” [pronounced praa-sHad-aam]. Meaning: "the mercy of Lord Krishna." 

To eat prasadam is a basic part of bhakti yoga. In other types of yoga one must unnaturally suppress the senses, whereas in bhakti-yogi one can engage his or her senses in a variety of enjoyable spiritual activities, such as the taste of delectable food offered to Lord Krishna. 

In this way, one’s senses gently and progressively become spiritualized, thus a person can experience increasing transcendental pleasure through engagement in devotional service. These spiritual delights undoubtedly exceed any material experience.

Quote via Lord Caitanya: 

"Everyone has tasted these foods before. However, now that they have been prepared for Krishna and offered to Him with devotion, these foods have acquired extraordinary tastes and uncommon fragrances. Just taste them and see the difference in the experience! Apart from the taste, even the fragrance pleases the mind and makes one forget any other fragrance. Therefore one should know that the spiritual nectar of Krsna's lips must have touched these ordinary foods and imparted to them all their transcendental qualities."

The perfection of vegetarianism is to eat only that which is offered to Lord Krishna. Oh, it’s nice to be a vegetarian, and it is pious. Please consider there is still some degree of life, even within a vegetable, that must die for us to eat and survive. What to do? 

There is an easy, spiritual solution. By offering our vegetarian food to Krishna with mantra, we free ourselves from any karmic reaction of taking the life of even a plant. 

Furthermore, because we offered it with love, we can now experience an arousing of our soul's original rapport with God, Lord Sri Krishna. Details on how to do that, follows.

The HOW TO’s of FORMULATING and OFFERING PRASADAM

Purchasing & Preparing Food

Upon walking the aisles of a grocery store, trying to pick foods to offer to God, it can be difficult to recognize what can be offered and what cannot. 


"If one offers Me (Krishna) with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or water, I will accept it." ~ Bhagavad-gita 9.26


We now have a code, here and elsewhere, thus stating not to offer meat, fish, and eggs, because these are all living entities of various types. But do offer God sattvic/pure foods prepared from vegetables, fruits, nuts/seeds, beans, grains, and milk products. This action of offering, will increase our love and devotion as well as connection to Him. 

Both coffee and caffeinated tea are not acceptable considering these contain a drug. Some people like the flavor of such beverages, so if you still want to drink them, simple – start out by using the caffeine-free coffee or Postum or herbal teas. There is actually a large variety of coffee substitutes these days. 

…There’s always a solution when we want a solution. :)

You may wish to know that many companies impart meat, fish, and egg products into foods you’d never expect contained them. Not all that appear vegetarian, are vegetarian. So you need to become a bit of a label reader in this age of kali. 

Example: A number of yogurt and sour cream companies include gelatin, which is made out of hooves, horns, even bones from animals who have been butchered. Additionally, unless the package states otherwise, cheese often contains rennet which is an enzyme extracted from the stomach tissues of slaughtered calves. 

However, there are relentless cheeses, usually in health food stores. Not all in those stores are rennet-less either, so ask. They don’t mind.

Attempt as much as would be doable, trying to use fresh, natural, (veggie) organic ingredients.

It is essential to be hygienic when preparing food to offer up to God. Maintain a clean kitchen, wash your hands thoroughly and as soon as you go into your kitchen. Now during the preparation process, we do not taste. The meal is not for us but for the pleasure of God, so we keep it free of bacteria that comes from the mouth, hands, etc. However, know that what we offer God, God gives back. So we can partake of His remnants. He is so kind that he leaves it all for us, merely it becomes spiritualized.

Next, position the various portions of the food on special plates and cups reserved particularly for this function. [You can use anything and do not have to get mine, but if you are going to get something anyway, I need a job so please do it through my link. Thanks.] Plates and cups can be small, usually are, and only require small portions placed upon them anyhow. Simply they’re only for the Lord and no one else is to eat off of them. They belong to God. :-) 

Now, if you don't have a special plate or plates, just do your best finding plates no one ever ate off before, and are clean. But eventually need to upgrade. :) Heck, go to the dollar store to get started. They have affordable beginners cups/plates etc. These days they often have specialty isles in Wall-Mart or similar stores, with some inexpensive silverware. Hopefully over time you’ll see how enjoyable it is to serve Krishna in this way, thus getting more and more into it, eventually able to afford some nice silver or at lest stainless steel plates and cups for the Lord. ......Yes, I realize I might be, what appears as undermining my own need for employment, but hopefully you will at least get some incense through me. :)

 

Offering


Offering food has an invisible, mystical and spiritual effect. It may be invisible to us, but on a spiritual level the food has “changed.” It has been accepted by the Supreme Lord, due to a person’s love and sincere effort. Therefore we receive great benefit! How does one do this?

A basic method to offer food is a simple prayer, with folded hands or on knees. Example: "Dear Lord Shri Krishna, please accept this foodstuff," plus chant the "Hare Krishna" mantra 1 or 3 times.

If you want to take it further, learn and chant each of the Sanskrit prayers 1 or 3 times. [You don't need to chant the English too, but it is good to learn what it means…gradually is fine.]) Some have taken these mantra's/prayers along with them on paper while making their offering, learned it that way. Don’t make it a difficult or stressful thing, but fun! Because it is.

A few simple pronunciation helpers:

“v” is usually pronounced like a ‘w’ (except if it appears at the beginning of a word).

Letter “E” at the ‘end’ of the word is often “A,” as in “say” or “tay.”

c is sometimes pronounced as ‘ch’

The Sanskrit spelling as Krsna is pronounced Krishna. :-)

Caitanya is pronounced Chaitanya.

Just try your best “with heart.” In the beginning of the Hare Krishna Movement, many would criticize the devotees to Prabhupada because they did not pronounce the Sanskrit perfectly. He would always defend us, saying we are trying, and spoke about sincerity

I’ve tried to help with the pronunciation by sometimes darkening the next syllable.

It's not, plus auspicious, to add the ringing of a bell.

1. Prayer to Srila Prabhupada:

nama om vishnu-padaya krsna-presthaya bhutale
Srimate bhaktivedanta-svamin iti namine

"I offer my respectful obeisances unto His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who is very dear to Lord Krsna, having taken shelter at His lotus feet.


namas te sarasvate deve, gaura-vani-pracarine
nirvesesa-synyavadi- pascyatya-desha tarine

Our respectful obeisances are unto you, O spiritual master, servant of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami. You are kindly preaching the message of Lord Caitanya deva and delivering the Western countries, which are filled with impersonalism and voidism."

2. Prayer to Lord Caitanya:

namo maha-vadanyaya, krsna-prema-pradaya te,
krsnaya krsna-caitanya, namne gaura-tvise namah

"O most munificent incarnation! You are Krishna Himself appearing as Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu. You have assumed the golden color of Srimati Radharani. and You are widely distributing pure love of Krsna. We offer our respectful obeisances unto You."

3. Prayer to Lord Krsna:

namo brahmanya-devaya, go-brahmana-hitaya ca,
jagad-hitaya krsnaya, govindaya namo namah

"I offer my respectful obeisances unto Lord Krsna, who is the worshipable Deity for all brahmanas the well-wisher of the cows and the brahmanas and the benefactor of the whole world. I offer my repeated obeisances to the Personality of Godhead, known as Krsna and Govinda."

It’s a good idea to wait a few minutes after offering, politely giving the Lord time to partake. [He really doesn't need time, its more for respect, getting it thru to ourselves, and to avoid thinking its ours the nanosecond the offering is complete.]  

Simultaneously, as one who raised children, and having friends with little kids, no child should be in the background waiting out of hunger. In such cases, & other times when waiting is impractical, simple rise and transfer the “maha” or the Lord’s food from His plates to a large serving container (not a person’s eating plate). Wash with special cloth, the Lords plates and put them away. Now, what was removed directly from the altar is especially potent. Its all prasadam. The portion in the pots, salad bowls, etc. - all prasadam. But foods directly from the Lord plate is called “maha pradsad” and is extra potent.

Be practical, just be sincere of heart and stay focused while making the offering. That’s why it can (sometimes) be better to do a short, simple offering if we are less likely to be interrupted, or our minds less likely to wander - than to do something fancy with our mind off to Hawaii or thinking about the laundry, that annoying person at work, something else. Or Sundays could be a day to do it bigger. Mix it up, just come to a clear decision before starting the week, month, even the day.

The purpose of preparing and offering food to Krishna is to express your love and appreciation of Him. Krsna accepts your devotion, not the mechanical aspect of an offering. However, that doesn't mean we shouldn't make offerings etc at times we’re not overflowing with love, No. Remember, love is a verb. We offer, sing, etc regardless of how we feel or don’t feel. Actually this is the way we will become elevated and “will” feel it. And that we should do so sincerely to the best of our ability for that day or time, is to our advantage. The “Supreme” Personality of Godhead, Krishna, is complete in and of Himself--He doesn't require one thing--but out of His enormous love He lets us offer Him food in order for use to develop our love and connection with Him, thus it becomes reciprocal.

Once the food has been offered and transferred from Gods special dinnerware, His dishes and utensils (with separate cloth other than those used for humans dirty dishes), if you wish you can invite visitors or family to honor/consume the prasadam!! :-) Because Krsna accepts it, it is non-different from Him, and for that reason by eating it you’ll automatically become purified. This may be a hard concept for some to understand. Keep in mind, it is spiritual - very different from out average comprehensions.

All which you offer up to Krishna on your home altar becomes prasadam - mercy of the Lord. Incense, flowers, water, food, even cloth upon the altar—all you offer for Krishna’s joy becomes spiritualized. As we offer the Lord something with authentic love and devotion, He returns it, and we can enjoy it as prasadam! :) Also, He enters into the offering making the remnants non-different from Himself. You can deeply respect the things you've offered, and can share them with others too. Giving out of prasadam is a wonderful activity! 


For a free online veggie cookbook click here---->> on “The Higher Taste