Prasad: Food Offered to God

Q: What is the best thing I ever ate?

A: The best food I have ever eaten was prasad–food that was offered to God first. My best friend Shyamdas was an accomplished Bhakta, a devotee of Shri Krishna. His yoga practice mainly consisted of cooking. He was a great cook. Everything he cooked he cooked for God. He never ate anything that wasn’t first offered to God. He could prepare a 7-course meal in 20 minutes! He offered the food on his altar in front of his beloved deity, Shri Nathji, a form of child Krishna who holds up the Govardhan Hill with the little finger of his left hand to provide shelter to all the residents of Jatipuri (a small town in Northern India).  After Shyamdas would prepare and cook the food he would then offer the food to Krishna, allow some time for Krishna to eat the food and then Shyamdas would provide us, his guests with the “leftovers” from Krishna’s meal. Never have I eaten food that was filled with such love, devotion and magic. This was food not prepared for money like in a restaurant. It was prepared for no other reason than to please God. In your mouth, the taste was like nectar, it never made you feel too full and always provided an incredible sustainable kind of energy and to eat prasad regularly, was to transform the cells of ones body into luminous lightness because Prasad not only nourishes the body it nourishes the soul. Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, remember me in all you do, offer everything you do to me and you will be assured of eternal happiness. So when you eat food that has been offered to God, it makes you feel happier.

Q: What motivates your food choices, why do you eat the way you do?

A: I am a joyful vegan because it seems to be the best way to follow the principles of yoga as found in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra and the Bhagavad Gita.  Because my ultimate goal is enlightenment, I feel that it is logical to assume that if I want to be happy and free, then being cruel to others, enslaving, stealing their freedom, killing and eating them would not help me to move closer to my goal. Since what is realized in the enlightened state is the oneness of being, practices that help us dissolve the false separation between ourselves and others might help. Practices that help us to cultivate kindness would naturally lead to enlightened awareness.  Our culture does not emphasis the development of compassion. It is based on exploitation of others and the Earth. I do not believe that the Earth and other animals belong to us and are here for us to harvest and exploit.  I believe in the principals of yoga, which seem to lean towards compassion and other-centeredness rather than cruelty and self-centered gratification and I feel that eating vegan food and also importantly vegan food, which is first offered to God, helps me to live more aligned with these yogic principals.

Patanjali lays out specific directives especially in chapter two of his Yoga Sutra, where he talks about how an aspiring yogi, one who seeks enlightenment, should relate to others. He refers to these directives as the five yamas. The yamas suggest that as long as you see others and not the Divine Self then, don’t hurt them (ahimsa), don’t lie to them (satya), don’t steal from them (asteya), don’t abuse them sexually (brahmacharya) and don’t be so greedy as to cause their impoverishment—all of which are linked to eating a vegan diet. All of us cause pain to others, even if we are vegan—but by eating a vegan diet we at least reduce the amount of pain and suffering we are causing.

Further on Patanjali describes asana in terms of our relationships to others. He suggests that our relationships should consistently come from a place of joy: sthira sukha asanam PYSII.46. sthira=consistent, steady + sukha= joy, happy+ asana=seat, relationship to the Earth, (Earth being all beings and things).

In many places in the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna gives advice to the wanna-be yogi, Arjuna saying basically, do what you do but remember me when you are doing it—offer all of your actions to me, even the food you eat. When you eat only prasad, food first offered to God, it allows you to cultivate more consciousness of what you are eating. You’re not driven by appetite cravings and mechanically just stuff your mouth—instead you take time and prepare the food as a gift –not for yourself but for God. This time between preparing, offering and then eating the food allows devotion, the remembrance of God, in one’s heart to be cultivated. Food offered to God should only be of the highest quality, it should be pure and free of negatively, so naturally it should be food that did not contribute to suffering—for me this obviously means vegan food. Pattram puspam phalam toyam /yo me bhaktya prayacchati tad aham bhakti-upatrtam /asnami prayata-atmanah BG IX.26: “Whatever is offered to me with a pure loving heart, no mater if it is a leaf, a flower, fruit, or a sip of water, I will accept it.” Eating offered food regularly changes the actual cells and tissues of your body, resulting in a refined, lighter more spiritual body.

“What’s the best thing you ever ate?” by Lauren Ladoceour for Yoga Journal June 2013