Monday, July 10, 2017

"The Beauty and Science of Temple Culture" Significance of Offering Food to God "Prasadam"

Why Do We Offer Food To God Before Eating It?

In western tradition, people pray before eating their meals. They pray to God as Thanksgiving. In India in almost every temple, food is offered as "Bhog" or " Naivedyam". Once the Lord “partakes” from the offering, the remaining food is considered sacred and blessed and is thereafter consumed by the devotees as “Prasadam”.

There are many reasons why we offer food to God.

1. God has provided many varieties of edibles in unlimited abundance. Whatever we have been receiving is nothing else but the sheer grace of God- even the meals that we eat! Hence, God doesn't need a 'Bhog', it is our way of acknowledging his grace by offering the food to Him. It is said in Hindi "Tera Tujako Arpan'. I offer to you what is Yours. Then I accept it with reverence as Your gift to me. We thus cultivate this sentiment that whatever I receive and gain throughout this life span, is all of God and comes to me by His grace.

Once the food is offered to God, it becomes 'Prasadam". We always share the Prasadam. We do not eat it alone. Thus we learn to share whatever we have. Another important point is when we receive Prasadam we never complain about its quantity, quality or taste. We never criticize Prasadam. We eat it with a cheerful attitude and unconditional acceptance. When this attitude is internalized in our way of lives, it helps us live a more fulfilling life. We learn to receive pains and gains alike as a gift or Prasadam of God.

2. Once the 'Bhog' is offered to God, the value of food transforms from materialistic to spiritual. It no longer remains a nutritious meal alone, it also becomes a spiritually nutritious , which nourishes the soul alike! When the food becomes Prasadam and reaches to the different parts of our body, it cleanses the soul and removes negativity from our mind, body and intellect.

3. Often we forget to "Thank" God after we get what we desire. By Thanking God or remembering Him before eating food, we develop the habit of Thanksgiving.

4. The scriptures say that God is poorn kaam and param nishkaam. He is the original creator of unlimited universes. Even then devotees sing songs to wake him up in the morning. They prepare different varieties of food and offer them as Naivedyam or Bhog with great love and reverence. They offer different Shringars and also sing lullabies to make Him sleep. While God does not need any of these things, the one and the only reason why devotees do these is that the intent and love with which these are done is to establish a devotional relationship with God. Even God also craves for these types of sentiments! Bhavgrahi Janardanha"- God receives and accepts our devotional sentiments and He has proved it by the examples of Sudama and Vidurani.

Does God really accept our offerings?
Someone has nicely explained, "A Guru-Shishya Conversation" which with simple example answers the question "Does God really come and eat our offerings?"

A Guru-Shishya conversation:

The shishya who has many doubts in mind, asked his Guru:

"Does God accept our 'Naivedyam' (offerings)? If God eats away the 'Prasadam' then from where can we distribute it to others? Does God really consume the 'Prasadam', Guruji?"

The Guru did not say anything. Instead, asked the student to prepare for classes.

That day, the Guru was teaching his class about the Upanishads. He taught them the 'mantra': "Poornamadam, Poornamidam, ......Poornasya Poornamaadaaya...." and explained that: "Every thing came out from "Poorna or Totality." .

Later, everyone was instructed to practice the mantra by-heart. So all the boys started practicing. After a while, the Guru came back and asked that very student who had raised his doubt about Naivedyam to recite the mantra without seeing the book, which he did.

Now the Guru gave a smile and asked this particular shishya who had doubts: 'Did you really memorize everything as it is in the book? The shishya said: "Yes Guruji, I've recited whatever is written as in the book.

The Guru asked: "If you have taken every word into your mind then how come the words are still there in the book?" He then explained: "The words in your mind are in the invisible form. The words in the book are there in the visible form."

"The offering made to God is done in visible form but God takes the food in invisible form. Hence the food doesn't become any less in quantity. While GOD takes it, we take it as Prasadam. "

Hearing this the shishya felt guilty for his disbelief in God and surrendered himself to his GURU.

Meerabai has very nicely explained this devotional sentiments in her one of bhajans which we also can sing while offering food to Shree Krishna...

Shyam rasiya mere man basiya, ruchi ruchi bhog lagao rasiya.

O Shyamsundar! You always dwell in my heart, Kindly accept and relish these various foods offered.

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