Friday, 27 July 2012

Why Offer Food to God?





A typical Indian-style offering of sabji (cooked vegetables), dal, pilau rice, chapattis, pakoras and tomato chutney. There will often also be a sweet such as khir (aromatic rice pudding) ladu or burfi- but Krishna will accept any offering as long as it is n the Mode of Goodness... even homemade pizza! It's the love that's important.

Sri Sri Radha Ramana Bihari (Radha and Krishna) and Gauranga from our local Hare Krishna temple.





patram puspam phalam toyam

yo me bhaktya prayacchati



tad aham bhakty-upahrtam


asnami prayatatmanah

-Bhagavad Gita 9.26

"If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or 

water, I will accept it."


In the Bhakti Yoga tradition of the Gaudiya Vaisnavas, one very beautiful way in which we can connect with God (Radha and Krishna) is by offering Him some foods (naivedyam) which are in the mode of goodness; these are pure vegetarian foods which are free from eggs, fish, meat, onions, garlic and mushrooms; God does not accept these foods. Those who practise other forms of yoga will also know about the Three Modes of Material Nature to which everything in the material world (as opposed to the spiritual world) belongs; Tamas (ignorance), Rajas (Passion) and Sattva (Goodness). If we want to develop spiritually, our diet should only include those foods belonging to the Sattva Guna; these are dairy foods from cows (ideally nonviolent produce from cows who are respected and not slaughtered later), fruits, vegetables, grains and beans and nuts. Eggs, meat and fish are not included. Neither are stimulants such as tea, coffee, tobacco, alcohol, betel/ supari or recreational drugs. Onions, garlic and mushrooms are also not offerable and should not be eaten; onions and garlic are rajasic and disturb peace of mind, making it harder to meditate. Mushrooms grow in unclean conditions and in the darkness. See here and here for my other posts on this. I've seen lots of information about the yogic diet recently on the internet, and it seems that as yoga becomes ever more popular in the West, so aspects other than just the physical excercises are being adopted- it's a holistic lifestyle thing. Actually, it's not that hard to adapt your diet, and it doesn't mean only eating Indian food, either. With a bit of ingenuity you can adapt all kinds of recipes- that was the whole raison d'etre of this blog, in fact! (I realise it occupies a very small niche indeed in the blogosphere, but these recipes can be enjoyed by anyone and everyone.)
So back to offering naivedyam-  I guesss you are wondering that if God is all-powerful, then why does He need to eat food from us? -Well He doesn't need to! (At least, He doesn't as long as our perception of Him is as the all-powerfu Supreme Being; when we come to realise His original form we will naturally want to look after him in the mood of eg: a close friend or a parent-  read "The Nectar of Devotion" by AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada to learn more about this.) He accepts our offerings (See Gita quote above) because He wants to taste our love for Him more than the food itself. Bhakti yoga is all about connecting (that's what the word yoga means) with God on a soul level- in other words, we are not our bodies, but we are embodied souls, or jivas. As we are embodied in this material world, we find it hard to remember our real identity, as jivas who are at once part and parcel of God, yet separate from Him. We exist to lovingly serve God, and He in turn loves us and will nurture and sustain us. This is just a very, very simplified outline of why we make offerings  of naivedyam. It's a loving exchange with God. I recommend "Kitchen of Love", a fantastic cookbook about food and spirituality, for further reading on this subject. (It's available form Amazon, or also through me.) If you want to know a bit more about Bhakti Yoga philosophy, look here on my page "What is Bhakti Yoga?"

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