THE CHEFS ON KRISHNA PATH, source StephenKnapp.com – On the spiritual path those that are most inclined to lead a peaceful existence that respects the value of all life often adopts the vegetarian lifestyle. It is in accordance with the yogic principle of ahimsa, which is to observe nonviolence and abstain from injuring any being in any way. However, in the process of bhakti-yoga, devotion goes beyond simple vegetarianism, and food becomes a method of spiritual progress. Krishna devotees offer their food to Krishna (either to a Deity or to a picture of Krishna), after which it becomesprasada or prasadam. This means God’s mercy. Thus, the food we eat after it is offered to Krishna becomes a means for our purification and spiritual development.
In the Bhagavad-gita Krishna says, “All that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me.” So offering what we eat to God is an integral part of bhakti-yoga and makes the food blessed with spiritual potencies. Then such food is called prasadam, or the mercy of Krishna.
Krishna also describes what He accepts as offerings: “If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it.” Thus, we can see that the Lord does not need anything, but if one offers fruits, grains, and vegetarian foods, He will accept it. The Lord does not accept foods like meat, fish or eggs, but only those that are pure and naturally available without harming others. So we offer what Krishna likes, not those items which are distasteful to Him.
God is fully satisfied in Himself. He is the creator of all so everything is already His. He supplies us with food through nature, but we show our gratitude to Him by offering it back in a mood of loving devotion. So if His devotee offers something with love, out of His causeless mercy Krishna accepts it. He is never hungry for our food, but for the love and devotion we offer. And then He reciprocates with that love.
So on the spiritual path eating food that is first offered to God is the ultimate perfection of a vegetarian diet. The Vedic literature explains that the purpose of human life is reawakening the soul’s original relationship with God, and accepting prasadam is the way to help us reach that goal.
What are the benefits of offering food to Krishna?
After He glances over and tastes that loving offering of vegetarian preparations, He leaves the remnants for us to relish. Krishna’s potency is absorbed in that food. In this way material substance becomes spiritualized, which then affects our body and mind in a similar way. This is His special mercy for us. Thus, the devotional process becomes an exchange of love between us and God, which includes food. And that food not only nourishes our body, but also purifies our consciousness.
By relishing the spiritual food of Krishna prasadam, it purifies our heart and protects us from falling into illusion. In this way, the devotee imbibes the spiritual potency of Krishna and becomes cleansed of the reactions of karma by eating food that is first offered in sacrifice to God. We thus also become free from reincarnation, the continued cycle of life and death. This process prepares us for entering the spiritual world since the devotees there also relish eating in the company of Krishna.
Not only do we make advancement, but also all of the plants that are used in the preparations as an offering to God are also purified and reap spiritual benefit. However, we become implicated in karma if we cause the harm of any living being, even plants, if we use them for food without offering them to God. Thus prasadam also becomes the perfect yoga diet.
Therefore, the cooking, the offering and then the respectful eating of this spiritualized food all become a part of the joyful process of devotional service to Krishna. Anyone can learn to do this and enjoy the happiness of experiencing prasadam.