by purujit dasa
Regarding your question about why we do not eat meat and yet we eat plant life, the answer is that we do everything as Krishna recommends. Everything we eat is first offered to Lord Krishna, and because Krishna does not eat meat, therefore we also do not eat meat. The fruits, grains, and vegetables which we offer to the Lord are not caused any suffering by our offering them to Krishna. Rather they are greatly benefited because to be offered for the pleasure of the Lord will grant for the living entity within the plant body certain liberation in the near future. Everything that we do in Krishna Consciousness is ultimately beneficial to all living creatures because we are working under the recommendations of the Lord Himself who is the well-wisher of all His part and parcel children.
Srila Prabhupada's letter to Ann Clifford -- Los Angeles 2 August, 1969
Lord Krsna says in the Bhagavadgita:
bhunjate te tv agham papa
ye pacanty atma-karanat
The devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins because they eat food which is offered first for sacrifice. Others, who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment, verily eat only sin.
Jivo jivasya jivanam- in this material world one living entity is a food for another living entity. As humans we also have to kill another living entity in order to survivebe it an animal for those, who are meat eaters, or a plant for those who are vegetarians. Even unknowingly we daily kill so many bacterias, insects etc, so in reality this material world is a true slaughterhouse even though the illusory energy makes us think that everything is ok. We are bound to kill and consequently suffer the results of our activities and this is called samsara -or the cycle of birth and death. Therefore here, in this verse, Lord Krsna is instructing the civilized class of human beings on how to take eatables without the unnecessary implications in sinful reaction. The food, which we take should first be offered for sacrifice and this article will explain how you can make such sacrifice as instructed by our spiritual master Srila Prabhupada in your home.
The secret is to offer food to Krsna. Because Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, He's not under the material law, nor is He suspectible to sinful reaction. He's the Supreme lawmaker. And just as king or a president is above law, Krsna, or God is above all law. So if we offer it to Him, no sinful reaction is incurred and because Krsna is the most merciful, He leaves His karma- free remnants for us to take. This however is only possible if we make our offerings through the medium of a bona fide spiritual master. He in turn offers it to his spiritual master. His spiritual master offers it to his spiritual master and in this way, the offering is passed through the whole disciplic succesion until it reaches the lotus feet of Lord Krsna. Because the spiritual master has a direct relationship with the Supreme Lord, He can give us proper guidence on how to prepare the foods and only when we offer our foodstuffs through the medium of a spiritual master will Krsna accept it because the spiritual master is Lord Krsna's authorized representative.
Regarding offering food: The custom is to offer the foodstuff first to the Spiritual Master; we cannot do anything directly. The Spiritual Master accepts the offering on behalf of his disciple, and offers the same to Krishna. After Krishna's eating, the Spiritual Master eats it, and then the devotees take it as Mahaprasada. This is the system. Everything is offered to the Spiritual Master first, with the prayer ``Nama Om Visnupadaya . . .''
Srila Prabhupada's letter to Jadurani -- Los Angeles 15 February
How can Krsna eat our food? The answer is Krsna is omnipotent. What it means is that Krsna can eat with His eyes, walk with His ears, smell with His hands etc. Krsna's senses are absolute. In this way He's taking our offerings simply by glancing at them through His picture and leaves them still on the plate. We can thus enjoy Krsna's prasadam. If we take the remnanats of foodstuffs of a patient suffering from tuberculosis, we will contaminate that disease. Similalry if we take Krsna prasadam, we will "contaminate" ourselves by becoming spiritualized. Simply by taking prasadam, we will become immune towards the contamination of the material nature. Srila Prabhupada specifies in his commentary on the Bhagavadgita that accepting prasadam enable one to: 1. advance steadily in life, 2. purify the body, 3.and create fine brain tissues which will lead to clear thinking. If we love Krsna and if we can simultaneously derive such a great benefit from simply taking delicious foodstuffs offered to Krsna, why not make sure that the process is applied properly according to rules and regulations?
What Krsna likes:
patram puspam phalam toyam
yo me bhaktya prayacchati
tad aham bhakty-upahrtam
If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it.
The first principle is love. Krsna does not need our offerings, He's the proprietor of the whole universe and He's served by thousands of Goddesses of fortune with the most exquisite preparations in the spiritual world. What can we do compared to Them? We can give Krsna our love only. And Krsna will accept it. It is just like a child offering father a sweet. The father is the owner of the sweet, yet when the child offers, he's very happy and he takes the sweet from a child and eats it with great pleasure. Similarly, if we offer Krsna even an insignificant humble offering, but we do it out of love, Krsna enjoys it very much. Here, in this verse Krsna asks for a specific group of eatables and if we love Him, then we must give Him whatever He wants and not whatever we want. This is a very important point.
Leaf, flower, fruit, water -these four groups of eatables represent: vegetables, grains, milk, fruits, nuts, beans etc. Although Krsna can eat anything and everything, He, as individual person, reserves a right to be a vegetarian. We therefore prepare foodstuff for Krsna out of these. It is also important to put a tulsi leaf on each preparation.
There are innumerable recipes available. The most common meals, which the devotees of Krsna offer are: subji(vegetable stew), lentils, rice, chapati, paratha, puri, chutney, sweet rice, halava, kheer, kachori, kitri, samosa, gulab jamuns, rasagulla.
What Krsna does not like:
Concerning the use of sour cream in the temple, it should be stopped immediately. Nothing should be offered to the Deities which is purchased in the stores. Things produced by the karmis should not be offered to Radha-Krishna. Ice cream, if you can prepare, is o.k., but not otherwise. Now, you have such a big stock of this sour cream, so sell the stock at any cost. Who is the rascal who has purchased without permission?
Srila Prabhupada's letter to Puru -- Vrindaban 6 April, 1976
So far as offering to Krishna apple cider, this can be done only if it is prepared by devotees. These food manufacturers do not take proper precautions in cleanliness nor do they have devotion to Krishna in their labors so it is not very acceptable offering. If you can make this preparation yourself then it will be alright.
Srila Prabhupada's letter to Rukmini -- Los Angeles 19 December
Krsna will never accept a food, which is cooked by a nondevotee, because a nondevotee has no love for Krsna. Therefore preparations made by nondevotees such as cheese, sour cream, bread, or any cooked/precooked food purchased in a supermarket or given to you by a nondevotee, cannot be offered. We can accept raw ingredients like rice, flour, fruits, but otherwise we make everything ourselves.
These ingredients are not suitable for offerings(as we can understand from Srila Prabhupada's letters):
meat, fish, eggs, garlic, onion
So far foodstuffs offered do the needful. Whatever is available and also very nice, that is offerable, as long as no meat, fish, eggs, garlic, onions, or other very objectionable foodstuffs are there.
Srila Prabhupada's letter to Upendra -- Calcutta 19 February, 1972
Cocoa and chocolate are not to be taken as they are intoxicants.
Srila Prabhupada's letter to Surasrestha, -- Los Angeles 14 June, 1972
Regarding your other questions, yes, you may wear any clothing that you find comfortable; no, it is not very good to use yeast in preparing prasadam. It is better to prepare bread in the process as you have seen done in the temple.
Srila Prabhupada's letter to Vibhavati -- Los Angeles 15 July, 1969
Because mushrooms grow in a filthy place, they are not usually offered to Krishna.
Srila Prabhupada's letter to Himavati -- Delhi 17 November, 1971
So far the cucumber pickles: As far as possible we should not offer to the Deity things which are prepared by nondevotees. We can accept from them raw fruits, grains or similar raw things. So far cooking and preparing, that should be strictly limited to the initiated devotees. And aside from this, vinegar is not good; it is tamasic, in the darkness, nasty food. So I think we shall not accept this pickles.
Srila Prabhupada's letter to Kirtanananda -- Hawaii 24 March, 1969
Step by step guide:
For offerings we will need to set up an altar. For a starter a picture of Panca Tattva and Srila Prabhupada on a clean shelf will suffice.
1.After cooking, we may put samples of all the different preparations into separate cups. If you make chapati, puri, parathas etc simply rest them on the plate. Do not forget to offer a cup of water.
2.Then we rest the plate on the altar. While ringing a bell, we may recite the following mantras
nama om visnu-padaya krsna-presthaya bhu-tale
srimate bhaktivedanta-svamin iti namine
namas te sarasvate deve gaura-vani-pracarine
"I offer my respectful obeisances unto His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who is very dear to Lord Krishna, having taken shelter at His lotus feet." "Our respectful obeisances are unto you, O spiritual master, servant of Sarasvati Gosvami. You are kindly preaching the message of Lord Caitanyadeva and delivering the Western countries, which are filled with voidism and impersonalism."
namo maha-vadanyaya krsna-prema-pradaya te
krsnaya krsna-caitanya-namne gaura-tvise namah:
"O most munificent incarnation! You are Krishna Himself appearing as Sri Krishna Caitanya Mahaprabhu. You have assumed the golden color of Srimati Radharani, and You are widely distributing pure love of Krishna. We offer our respectful obeisances unto You."
(Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila19.53)
namo brahmanya-devaya go-brahmana-hitaya ca
jagad-dhitaya krsnaya govindaya namo namah:
"I offer my respectful obeisances to the Supreme Absolute Truth, Krishna, who is the well-wisher of the cows and the brahmanas as well as the living entities in general. I offer my repeated obeisances to Govinda, who is the pleasure reservoir for all the senses."
(Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 13.77, citing Visnu Purana 1.19.65)
You may recite each of the above mentioned mantras three times in a row one after the other (3 x Nama om,3 x Namo maha,3 x Namo brahmanya) and finish with the Hare Krsna mahamantra 3 times as well.
Yes, you may say the prayer to the Spiritual Master 3 times, and also the Namo Brahmanya . . . prayer 3 times, when offering Prasadam. That is very nice to say the mantra 3 times. Also, you may, after offering to the Spiritual Master, offer to Lord Caitanya by saying the prayer, Namo Maha Badanyaya . . . 3 times, and then offer to Krishna thrice.
Srila Prabhupada's letter to Balai -- San Francisco 22 March, 1968
As Krsna is completely independent, He's not obliged to accept our service, and we should therefore pray that Lord will take take our offerings. When the offering is made, let the Lord enjoy His meal in privacy. You can remove the offering after 15-30 minutes.
Regarding your questions: Yes, leave Krishna's plate for 15-20 minutes or more, not more than half an hour.
Srila Prabhupada's letter to Balai -- Los Angeles 25 January, 1968
In a meanwhile you may chant Hare Krsna on your beads. When you are about to remove the offering, clap your hands three times and ring the bell. This is a signal for the Lord so He knows that you are about to remove His plate. While ringing the bell we chant the Nama om Vishnupadaya mantra and after that we remove the plate from the altar. Now the food is prasadam and we can fully enjoy it and share with others. Before we do that, we should wash Krishna's plates and cups and wash the altar.
All the offering paraphernelia should be kept nicely in a clean place.
Plates & cups
If we already have a Krsna conscious altar, we should get nice offering plates & cups. The plates& cups will be used
only for Krsna to eat from. Ideal is stainless steel plates& cups, but those from Dollarama will do. They should be
alwayskept clean and in a clean place. Important rule: The plates & cups need to be washed immediately after
the offering is removed.
Besides the offerings themselves it is also important how nicely we arrange them on the plate. Think of Krsna taking what you have prepared. Give Him the best pieces and sufficient quantities. No spilled water, or other liquids. If it happens though, the remedy is to have a...
A handy cloth is essential. This cloth we will use strictly for Krsna's plates and cups. There should be two pieces of cloth-one for washing and one for drying. As mentioned before, the cloth comes handy if you spill something on a plate while you arranging the different preparations too. Besides the offerings themselves it is also important how nicely we arrange them on the plate. No spilled water, or other liquids.
If by any chance you happen to be a Tulsi plant cultivator, then do not hesitate to put tulsi leaves on each preparation in each offering. Krsna loves it! If you do not happen to be a tulsi cultivator, you can keep dry tulsi leaves.
The water is offered each and every time along with a meal. The only exception is when we offer milk/dalia/kheer -in that case water is not required
The bell is very much needed. How will Krsna know that you want to offer Him some nice foodstuffs unless you ring a bell? Any small bell will do.
Cooking is an elaborate topic by itself, but shortly you may note down a few essentials.We should always keep in mind that Krsna is not any ordinary man, He's the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the master of all universes. He's witnessing every single detail and even pays attention to the state of our mind while we cook. The kitchen should be kept very clean. your hands should be kept clean too by washing them throughout the process. If you take a shower before you enter the kitchen you will feel refreshed and it will affect your cooking nicely. One should not pass urine/stool after he/she starts cooking. This should be done before or after. Nor should one eat, or drink while the cooking is going on.We should understand that we are cooking for Krsna, not for ourselves, therefore at any time we should try to enjoy the foodstuff, which is being prepared in the mind. It should not be tasted, nor smelled(unless you are suspicious of burning something). There should also be no talking while cooking. In conclusion, any sense gratification should be avoided. The more we try to meditate on our pleasure, the less we will meditate on the Lord's pleasure. Playing Srila Prabhupada's bhajans or listening to his lectures is not a rule, but we find it quite helpful in fixing the mind on Krishna while cooking. Nondevotee should not be permitted to enter to kitchen as they will lust over the food and Krsna will not accept it.
Prasadam and Mahaprasadam
As soon as Krsna takes your offering, the samples, which you have offered on the altar become mahaprasadam. This mahaprasadam should be treated extra carefully. When you add the mahaprasadam back to the pot, where you prepared the preparation in the whole pot becomes mahaprasadam. If you do not, the pot is still prasadam though.
To throw prasadam away is a great great offense.
Prasadam is non-different from Krsna Himself, that's why it is very important to treat prasadam with respect. This is not an ordinary food. By taking this food living entities become free from all miseries. So, we should completely avoid throwing prasadam out. Everything should be eaten or distributed to the last grain of rice. If, however, there is a situation where prasadam needs to be thrown away(your nondevotee friends do not finish the meal, or if the meal is burned) you can give it to animals, throw it in a river or lake, or put on a branch of a tree, or dig a hole and put it in soil.
Before takiing prasadam you might recite this prayer:
(Sung before honoring the Lord's prasada--from Gitavali)
jodendriya tahe kal,
jiva phele vishaya-sagore
ta'ra madhye jihwa ati,
ta'ke jeta kathina samsare
krishna baro doyamoy,
koribare jihwa jay,
swa-prasad-anna dilo bhai
sei annamrita pao, radha-krishna-guna gao,
preme dako chaitanya-nitai
1. This material body is a network of ignorance, and the senses are one's deadly enemies, for they throw the soul into this ocean of material sense enjoyment. Among those senses the tongue is the most voracious and uncontrollable; it is very difficult to conquer the tongue in this world.
2. Lord Krishna is very merciful and has given us the remnants of His own food just to control the tongue. Now please accept that nectarean Krishna-prasada and sing the glories of Their Lordships Sri Sri Radha and Krishna, and in love call out "Chaitanya Nitai!"
Glorification of the Lord's Prasada
(from the Mahabharata)
vishvaso naiva jayate
"O King, for those who have amassed very few pious activities, their faith in maha-prasada, in Sri Govinda, in the Holy Name and in the Vaishnava is never born [again]."
More quotes from Srila Prabhupada
Regarding your questions: Yes, leave Krishna's plate for 15-20 minutes or more, not more than half an hour. After offering
the plate, the balance in the pots should be distributed immediately. The plate can remain on the altar while the rest is being distributed.
Letter to: Balai -- Los Angeles 25 January, 1968
If, in the cooking process, food falls on the floor, if it is raw and can be washed nicely, then it can be offered. But if it is prepared and cannot be washed, then it is not to be offered, but can be eaten rather than be wasted. Brijbasi Co. are not ordinary businessmen, they are devotees. So their pictures aren't poisonous. Even it is poison, because we are paying for their goods, therefore if poison is there, it becomes ineffective. Just like we are buying so many things at the market which are not fit for offering to Krishna, but because we are purchasing them, we can offer.
Letter to: Jadurani -- Los Angeles 15 February,
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.) If a preparation is cooked all together, then offer all together. But if it is prepared separately, then the milk, the sugar and the cereal should be offered separately. But if the milk, sugar and grains are all cooked together, that can be done. (Everything should be prepared very carefully and cleanly within the groups of foods listed. And nothing should ever be eaten before offering to the Lord. Best thing is to prepare separately each preparation. No, food which has been offered should never be put back into the refrigerator with the unoffered foods, or brought back into the kitchen. You should prepare as much as can be consumed, and after offering, nothing should be put back in the refrigerator, or kitchen. Refrigerator should always be very cleansed and pure. Everyone should be careful to make only as much as they can eat; they cannot keep any leftovers in refrigerator. I know this is a practice in your country, but in the temples or at homes of any Krishna Consciousness persons, a person should not indulge in such unclean habits. If there is any food extra, that should be kept separately; and if there is a separate refrigerator, not within the kitchen and not having in it any unoffered foods, then you may have such special refrigerator for leftover prasadam. But it cannot be kept within the same refrigerator as the unoffered, unprepared foods. That cannot be. One should never eat within the kitchen, there is ample place to eat so why should one eat in the kitchen? Kitchen should be considered as good as the Lord's room, and nobody should wear shoes in the kitchen, smelling and tasting of foods being prepared for the Lord should never be done, talking within the kitchen should be only what is necessary for preparing the prasadam, or about the Lord, and dirty dishes (those taken from kitchen and eaten from) should not be brought back into the kitchen (but if there is no other place to wash them, then they should be put into sink and washed immediately.), hands should always be washed when preparing prasadam, and in this way, everything shall be prepared very cleanly and pure.) What is the difficulty of enforcing these rules? They are rules, and they are simple rules, and must be followed. One must be prepared to follow the rules for Krishna. Otherwise where is the proof that he loves Krishna. And they are not very difficult to follow.
Letter to: Aniruddha -- Montreal 16 June, 1968
Regarding prasadam offering to the Deities, you will take from the cooked foodstuffs in a plate just sufficient for one man's eating, and this prasadam should be offered to the Deity, not the whole quantity. The rest of the foodstuffs may remain in the oven to keep it hot until the devotees accept and honor it. The plate offered to the Deities must be kept 15-20 minutes so that the major portion of the foodstuffs will be remaining warm in the oven, and the devotees will therefore not be dissatisfied. I think this practice will solve the question.
Letter to: Kirtanananda -- Los Angeles 14 February, 1969
Regarding your question about offering Prasadam, whatever is offered to the Deity actually it goes through the Spiritual Master. The Spiritual Master offers to Lord Caitanya, and Lord Caitanya offers it to Krishna. Then Radha Krishna eats, or Jagannatha eats, then Caitanya Mahaprabhu eats, then the Spiritual Master eats, and it becomes Mahaprasadam. So when you offer something, you think like that and chant the Gayatri mantra, and then everything is complete. At last, ring the bell, take out the plate and wipe the place where the plate was kept.
Letter to: Arundhati -- New Vrindaban 16 June, 1969
We can accept raw materials and take them to our temple but we should not accept any prasadam prepared by them. However, if they insist then we can take fruits and milk and offer them to Krishna. Cocoa and chocolate are not to be taken as they are intoxicants.
Letter to: Surasrestha, -- Los Angeles 14 June, 1972