The Science of Offering to the Lord
Love manifests as ‘service’ to the beloved. When we love someone, we like to serve him or her. And we invest our energy – physical, mental, intellectual and everything that we have at our disposal while rendering that service. The process of offering (nivedana) to the Lord is one of the most significant processes of expressing our devotion to the Lord. Offering nicely prepared food to the Lord brings one closer to the Lord and thus helps one in reestablishing the loving relationship with the Lord. The Lord is so merciful that He accepts the insignificant offerings made by His devotees. An offering to the Lord is an expression of love and gratitude on the part of the worshiper, for all the gifts the Lord has bestowed him with.
Everyone needs food for one’s survival. Everything that exists is the property of the Lord. The food we eat is also given by Him. So, a devotee offers food first to the Lord before he himself eats. The mood of a devotee in offering food to the Lord is, “Since this food is Krishna’s, let me offer it first to Him. Then I will take the remnants as prasadam and get nourished so that I can serve Him.”
The Lord is pleased by the devotional feelings with which the offering is being made than the content of the offering itself. Lord Krishna accepted a few morsels of chirped rice from Sudama, a poor brahmana, although he was hesitating to make such an insignificant offering to the Supreme Lord. Lord Rama accepted fruits half eaten by Sabari, an ascetic lady, as they were offered with great love and affection. However one should not imitate such great souls, but rather offer foodstuffs to the Lord according to the best of one’s capacity, following the principles enjoined in the scriptures, and pray sincerely to the Lord to forgive any mistakes committed in the process of offering.
Consciousness while Cooking for the Lord
A mother who loves her child is not complacent while cooking for her beloved child. Similarly the devotee who is cooking for the Lord is in the consciousness of pleasing his beloved Lord. The cook meditates that he is cooking for the pleasure of the Lord, and not to satisfy one’s own tongue. One cooks with a feeling that the preparation is an expression of one’s love and gratitude towards the Lord, and is confident that the preparation would be accepted by the Lord. This consciousness of the devotee manifests in the precision in his or her cooking.
Nectar of Devotion mentions the example of a brahmana who cooked sweet rice for the Lord Vishnu in his mind, with no physical ingredients. With a sincere intent to please the Lord by offering Him sweet rice, he cooked sweet rice in his meditation, and in the process burnt his finger. Impressed by his sincere devotion, the Lord had sent an airplane for him that carried him to Vaikuntha, the abode of the Lord. If a sincere mental offering could have such immense effect, one can imagine the benefits of cooking physically with the same devotion to please the Lord.
The Lord accepts our offerings
One may ask whether the Lord who is the possessor of all opulences in full would accept our offerings or not? The Lord Himself in His timeless Vedic classic Srimad Bhagavad Gita answers this question –“If one offers me a leaf, a flower, a fruit or water ‘with love and devotion, I WILL ACCEPT IT.” The Lord assures that He will accept any insignificant offering if that offering is made out of love and devotion for Him. Thus love and devotion for the Lord is the main ingredient in any offering.
One may argue that Sudama and Sabari had the privilege of offering to the Lord directly, while He was performing His pastimes on this planet, but what about us? One must understand that the Lord’s pure spiritual form is imperceptible by our material vision in this age. Therefore, He mercifully manifests in the form of the Archa-vigraha or a Deity made of stone, wood, metal or paint. Such a Deity is non-different from the Lord. One can offer nicely prepared delicacies to the Deity form of the Lord, and accept the remnants of such foodstuffs as prasadam.
Srila Prabhupada, the founder acharya of ISKCON says, “We should worship Krishna treating Him like a king, and at the same time consider that He is dependent on us for His survival.” Thus, offering naivedyam or any other service to the Deity of the Lord is a combination of reverence and intimate love.
Benefits of accepting Prasadam
We are what we eat! If one accepts vegetarian foods in mode of goodness, he is more likely to be in mode of goodness. According to the Bhagavad Gita, the characteristics of the food in mode of goodness is to increase the duration of life, purify one’s existence and give strength, health, happiness and satisfaction. So, the person remains peaceful. And further, if the person eats food offered to Lord Krishna, i.e., Krishna prasadam regularly, he will make spiritual advancement.
By eating together, one stays together. Eating sanctified food offered to the Lord helps in developing loving relationships among the family members. In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna says, ‘the devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins because they eat food which is offered first for sacrifice.’ If one eats the remnants of the food offered to the Lord, then gradually one becomes spiritualized. It is said in Bhakti Rasamrita sindhu that realization of God begins with the tongue – Sevonmukhe hi jihvaadau – If one engages one’s tongue in the service of the Lord by chanting His holy names and eating the remnants of food offered to Him, then gradually one realizes God.
The Supreme Lord is the benefactor of all sacrifices. One who knows this understands that everything belongs to Him and one has to accept only those things necessary for him. He does not unnecessarily kill animals for the satisfaction of his tongue or unnecessarily wasting his money for alcohol and futile partying in bars and fast food centres. Instead, he accepts healthy sanctified food offered to Krishna. Such a person can, as mentioned in Bhagavad Gita, attains peace. If everyone maintains individual purity in eating, the whole world becomes peaceful and thus united.