Part 4 – Honouring Prasada
After the morning’s exhilarating class by HG Jagattarini mataji, would come the much anticipated time for breakfast. Infact, we would be waiting for breakfast since the previous night’s dinner. In the Chitanya Caritamrta, in the summary given by Srila Prabhupada in Chapter 4, one can find the following lines :
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu narrated this story for Lord Nityananda Prabhu and other devotees and praised the pure devotional service of Madhavendra Puri. When He recited some verses composed by Madhavendra Puri, He went into an ecstatic mood. But when He saw that many people were assembled, He checked himself and ate some sweet rice prasadam.
So, we too were ready for the breakfast prasadam after hearing about the pastimes of Madhavendra Puri. Our symptons of ecstacy would be seen there. There were a few devotees who had to sacrifice their time of hearing lectures to attend to their chores in the kitchen. Our heartfelt thanks to all of them !
For those whose cooking service begins early in the morning, it is best to rise very early and chant at least some rounds before cooking, rather than starting to cook without chanting and having all their rounds left to do later.
Prem prabhu is one of the most humorous devotees in our Melbourne sangha. He also gives great inspirational classes for the young and was responsible for driving me and other devotees to the farm and back.
Krishna is offered foodstuff in goodness. The foodstuffs in the modes of goodness are wheat, rice, pulse (beans, peas), sugar, honey, butter and all milk preparations, vegetables, flowers, fruits, grains. So these foods can be offered in any shape, but prepared in various ways by the intelligence of the devotees. The ingredients are always the same as above, whether you fry them, boil them, bake them, powder them, or whatever way they are combined or cooked, the idea is that they must come from this group of foodstuffs. So you can make your own recipe if you like, so long as the ingredients are within this group. This foods group is stated by Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita, and we follow accordingly.
– Letter to: Kris, 13 November, 1968
These 2 devotees are largely to be thanked, for all the delicious preparations that keeps appearing, not only during the retreats but at the temple as well. On the left is Vijay prabhu and looking at him is Vaishnav Charan prabhu. In my 3 years of being in the presence of devotees, I have to highlight these 2 as one of the most humble, quiet, hard working, friendly and observant devotees, I have ever seen. They wake up early in the morning, get in a few chanting rounds, rush to the temple for the mangal aroti, do a few more rounds, get into the kitchen, starts cooking for hours and then they wait in the long line to get their share of the Lord’s remnants ! I have so much to learn. So much progress required.
The Skanda Purana states that there are four pure things: ekadasi vrata, the heart of a devotee, Ganga water, and grains cooked by a Vaisnava.
The main thing is that whenever prasadam is offered to the Lord, everything should be very respectfully and cleanly presented and prepared. In Jagannatha Puri, the Lord eats 56 times. So the Lord can eat as many times as you can offer. But only thing is whatever is offered must be with respect and devotion. (He is neither hungry nor poor, nor unable to eat, but He accepts everything, when such eatable is within the groups of vegetables, fruits, flours, milk, water, etc. is offered to Him with love and devotion, and faith. He wants our love only, and that makes Him hungry for eating as many times as you may offer. He is absolute, therefore, all contradictory points coincide in Him. He is hungry and satisfied simultaneously. So the purport is that everything should be offered very cleanly and pure things should be given.)
– Letter to: Aniruddha, 16 June, 1968
As there were many people, we had to use the lecture room for honouring prasada. The devotees would cover the entire floor with a plastic sheet on which all would be seated.
After offering to Krishna, you’ll enjoy. After offering nice prasada, Krishna is full, Krishna is not eating—you’ll enjoy. That is Krishna consciousness. Don’t reject anything.
– Lecture, Los Angeles, November 13, 1968
Uddhava says to Krishna, “My dear Krishna, I have taken things which You have used and enjoyed, such as garlands of flowers, saintly articles, garments and oranaments, and I eat only the remnants of Your foodstuff, because I am Your menial servant. So, therefore, I am sure that I shall not be attacked by the spell of material energy.”
– Nectar of Devotion
That is the Vedic system, that the people sit in rows behind their plates and servers pass down the rows and put a very small portion of each foodstuff on each plate, unless there is some objection by a person then nothing is given. Then if anyone wants more, the servers pass up and down the rows continually and give more if anyone requests. In this way nothing is wasted and everyone is satisfied. Letter to: Kirtiraja, 27 November, 1971
There were so many preparations throughout the 3 days. In this instance above, we have soup, bread, salad, flavoured tea and spicy pasta ! Yummmmmm! Everyone ate to their heart’s content. And the devotees serving prasada would ensure that you are forced to eat more and more. I usually don’t eat a lot but during retreats and festivities, one is not left with much choice. No limits.
Hari Sauri Prabhu has described Srila Prabhupada’s honoring of prasada in such a devotional mood.
He ate very slowly and carefully. By watching Prabhupada take prasada it was easy to understand that the Lord’s mercy, prasada, is to be rendered service by the devotee. Prasada should be eaten as humbly as one performs other forms of devotional service. Completely free from lust and other mundane attributes, Srila Prabhupada’s devotion was apparent even in the most basic activity of eating.
There is this specific statement in the Padma Purana: “A person who honors the prasada and regularly eats it, not exactly in front of the Deity, along with caranamrta (the water offered to the lotus feet of the Lord, which is mixed with seeds of the tulasi tree), immediately can achieve the results of pious activities which are obtained through ten thousand performances of sacrificial rites.”
– Nectar of Devotion
There was always some free time after breakfast and before the next lecture commenced. And once you have had prasada to your heart’s content, it was just enough time for those who needed to catch up on their sleep.