How to offer food to Krishna?
There is a common misunderstanding that devotees of Krishna are vegetarians. Actually this is not true. Even if one becomes a vegetarian eating vegetarian food is still sinful and will still cause karmic reactions and will still bind the person eating it to take birth in the material world over and over and over again and suffer perpetually. So simply becoming a vegetarian is not very helpful in spiritual life.
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.
So we can see unless the food is first ‘offed for sacrifice’ the person who eats that food is only eating sin. And the result of eating sin is that one becomes sinful. Krishna consciousness is only possible for those who are not sinful so Krishna consciousness is not possible for one who eats sin. Therefore even if one is a strict vegetarian it will be completely impossible for him to become Krishna conscious unless he restricts his eating to only food that has been offered to in sacrifice (yajna).
This is a very common reason why aspiring devotees of Lord Krishna fail to become Krishna conscious. They fail because they continue to eat food that is not offered to Krishna. Even though they may become strict vegetarians this does not help them very much, because vegetarian food which is not cooked by a devotee and offered to Krishna with love and devotion is simply sin. So when they eat this vegetarian food that is not prasadam they become sinful. And a sinful person can never become a devotee. Krishna confirms this in Bhagavad-gita 7.28:
Persons who have acted piously in previous lives and in this life, whose sinful actions are completely eradicated and who are freed from the duality of delusion, engage themselves in My service with determination.
Srila Prabhupada states in his purport to this verse: “Those eligible for elevation to the transcendental position are mentioned in this verse. For those who are sinful, atheistic, foolish and deceitful, it is very difficult to transcend the duality of desire and hate. Only those who have passed their lives in practicing the regulative principles of religion, who have acted piously and who have conquered sinful reactions can accept devotional service and gradually rise to the pure knowledge of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Then, gradually, they can meditate in trance on the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That is the process of being situated on the spiritual platform. This elevation is possible in Krishna consciousness in the association of pure devotees who can deliver one from delusion.”
So we should understand it very clearly that sinful people can not become Krishna conscious and if one eats food, even if it is vegetarian food, that is not Krishna prasadam, meaning not cooked by a devotee of Krishna and offered to Krishna with love and devotion, he is eating only sin and because of eating sin he will become sinful. And because he is sinful he will not be able to become Krishna conscious.
It is very important to understand this simple scientific fact. If we eat anything which is not Krishna prasadam we are eating only sin and we will become sinful because of this. And we have to know it clearly that for a sinful person it is not possible to become Krishna conscious. So a devotee of Krishna can NEVER eat anything that is not Krishna prasadam.
And another common mistake is to try to offer unofferable things to Krishna and then to try and fool ourselves that these things have now become Krishna prasadam because we offered them to Krishna… Krishna only accepts foods in the mode of goodness. That means foods from the four groups of grains, milk products, vegetables and fruits. And He does not accept things in the mode of passion including garlic and onions. And it is a great offense to offer to Krishna foods that have been cooked by non-devotees. So once something is cooked by a non-devotee it can not be offered to Krishna, if you offer it to Krishna that is offensive and will not be good for you and of course it will not be accepted by Krishna and will not become prasadam…
We have to understand exactly what it is that Krishna accepts when we offer Him some food. It is not that Krishna is hungry and needs us to offer Him some food otherwise he will starve… No. Krishna is complete and full in Himself, He has plenty of food, and anyhow the food that we can offer Him is already His. It is not that we have anything to offer to Krishna, whatever we have already belongs to Krishna. So Krishna is not hungry and He does not need to be fed by us. But Krishna has given us a little independence. He has given us a little free will. We can choose to cook some food for our own pleasure or we can choose to cook some food for Krishna’s pleasure. That is our free will. So if we choose to cook for our own pleasure, to suit our own taste, then we are in maya and whatever we cook, even if it is vegetarian and even if we go through the motions of offering it to Krishna will not be accepted by Krishna and will not become prasadam and will be only sin and we will become sinful by eating it. Why? Because we did not cook it for Krishna. We cooked it for ourselves.
This is a very basic and a very fundamental principle of Krishna consciousness. And it is a point that 99% or more of today’s ‘devotees’ do not understand or follow. A devotee does not do anything for himself. He does everything for Krishna. So when a devotee goes to the market to purchase things he is not purchasing things because he thinks, “that looks nice, I will enjoy eating that…” That thought and consciousness of being the enjoyer is maya, illusion, sinful. We are not the enjoyer, Krishna is the enjoyer, we are meant to be enjoyed by Krishna. We are meant to be servants of Krishna. So when a devotee goes to the market and sees something very nice he is thinking of how he can prepare this nice thing in a very good way and offer it to Krishna and he is thinking of how Krishna will enjoy it.
A devotee does not consider his personal likes and dislikes. He has no concern for that at all. A devotee is only concerned with what Krishna likes and he is only concerned in preparing the food in the way that Krishna likes it. And he does not care. He may not like it himself personally but his pleasure is in seeing Krishna happy. So he purchases the food that Krishna likes and prepares it in the way that Krishna likes it and he offers it to Krishna with love and devotion and Krishna accepts this love and devotion with which the devotee prepares and offers the food to Him. Krishna does not need the actual food, but He does taste it because Krishna is attracted by the love and devotion His devotee has put into the food while preparing and offering it to Krishna. So Krishna accepts the love and devotion of the devotee who has prepared this offering for Him. That is what Krishna accepts. So if there is no love and devotion Krishna is not interested, He has no need for the food, and He is not interested in something that some person has prepared to satisfy his own personal sense of taste.
Therefore it is a very great offense to think of enjoying the food before it is offered to Krishna. Because we are preparing the food for Krishna therefore Krishna should be the first person to taste and enjoy it. We can not even think of enjoying the food in our minds or that will spoil the offering. That is the reason that it is forbidden to taste any food before it is offered to Krishna. If anyone tastes the food then the offering is spoiled and it is can not be offered to Krishna.
It is amazing that so many devotees have forgotten or never understood these essential basic fundamental principles of cooking for Krishna. Without very sincerely following these basic principles no one can become Krishna conscious. It is impossible to eat sin without becoming sinful and it is impossible to become Krishna conscious if we are sinful.
So if anyone wants to become a devotee of Krishna he must make this very serious vow that he will only eat Krishna prasadam, foods cooked by devotees and offered with love and devotion to Krishna. We can not eat anything that is not real Krishna prasadam and expect that we will be able to become devotees of Krishna.
Of course we have to learn how to cook for Krishna. The standards for cooking for Krishna are quite high. One has to be exceptionally clean. One has to have taken a bath before he cooks for Krishna and has to be wearing clean clothes. And the kitchen has to be very clean. There is an English saying: “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” and that is very true. We can not offer something to Krishna that was prepared in a dirty kitchen. And there are some important principles and one of these is we have to keep separate “Krishna’s pots” and our own personal eating plates and spoons and cups, etc. We can not use anything in preparing food for Krishna except Krishna’s things. So that means we can not use Krishna’s cooking things for ourselves. So if we are using a pot to cook for Krishna in we can not eat out of that pot ourselves for example. If we are using a spoon for mixing Krishna’s food in the cooking pot we can not later use that same spoon to eat from ourselves. We have to keep Krishna’s things and our eating things separate.
We have to be thinking of Krishna while we cook. It is not that we can be thinking of some material subject matter and at the same time be cooking for Krishna. A very good way to keep our minds on Krishna is to listen to Srila Prabhupada giving a class while we are cooking for Krishna. While we are cooking our hands are busy but our ears are free. So while we are cooking for Krishna is the perfect opportunity to hear from Srila Prabhupada and this will keep our mind on Krishna and stop it from wandering onto material subject matters.
When we have finished cooking for Krishna we have to arrange the food nicely on a plate that we will offer to Krishna. And that plate has to be Krishna’s plate and it can not be used for any other purpose except for offering food to Krishna. And if we have made some drink we can put that in a glass or we can offer a glass of water with Krishna’s meal.
Now a very important understanding for the actual offering is that really we are not offering anything to Krishna directly. We are actually cooking for Srila Prabhupada and we will offer the food to Srila Prabhupada. Because Srila Prabhupada is a pure devotee of Krishna and it is Prabhupada who has come here to the material world to save us and it is Prabhupada who is accepting our service on behalf of Krishna. That is what the spiritual master does. He accepts the service of the disciples on behalf of Krishna. So we cook for Srila Prabhupada and offer to Srila Prabhupada and then Prabhupada will take our offering and offer it to his spiritual master and in this way the offering will go to Krishna through the disciplic succession.
So we will place the plate with the food and the glass of water in front of a photo of Srila Prabhupada and offer it to him.
There are mantras to chant while offering ‘bhoga’ to Krishna. But the mantras are useless if the offering has not been cooked by a devotee with love and devotion. This love and devotion and actually cooking the offering for Krishna, not for ourselves, is the real essential element of the offering. If we have not put any love and devotion to Krishna into the offering then there is nothing for Krishna to accept and He will not accept because there is nothing for Him to accept…
You can offer to Krishna by chanting Srila Prabhupada’s two pranam mantras then the Panca-tattva Maha Mantra, then the Hare Krishna maha mantra all three times each. It is essential to always chant Srila Prabhupada’s pranam mantras first because it is only through the mercy of Srila Prabhupada that we have any access to Krishna, then it is also essential to always chant the Panca-Tattva maha mantra before chanting the Hare Krishna maha mantra because it is only by the mercy of Lord Caitanya that we have any access to Krishna. There are also two other mantras that we chant when offering prasadam. So it is five mantras in total and we chant each mantra three times. It only takes a few minutes so we should take the time to chant these mantras.
Prasadam Offering Mantras
Srila Prabhupada’s Pranam Mantras:
nama om visnu-padaya krsna presthaya bhu-tale
srimate bhaktivedanta-svami iti namine
namas te sarasvate deve gaura-vani-pracarine
Lord Caitanya’s Pranam Mantra:
namo maha-vadanyaya krsna-prema-pradaya te
krsnaya krsna-caitanya-namne gaura-tvise namah
Krishna’s Pranam Mantra:
namo brahmanya-devaya go-brahmana-hitaya ca
jagad-dhitaya krsnaya govindaya namo namah
Panca-Tattva Maha Mantra:
sri-krsna-caitanya prabhu nityananda
sri-advaita gadadhara srivasadi-gaura-bhakta-vrnda
Hare Krishna Maha Mantra:
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
So they are the five mantras and we should chant them all three times each. Then if one is brahman initiated he chants the first gayatri mantra ten times on his brahmin thread.
The process in the temple or at home with your home alter is that after the Lord is offered food we then offer aroti and kirtan. So after offering there should be aroti and kirtan, then the devotees can honor the Krishna prasadam.
We do not say ‘eat’ Krishna prasadam. Krishna and His prasadam are not different. So we respect or honor Krishna prasadam.
Before honoring the prasadam there is a very short prayer that devotees chant from Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s Gitavali:
1) sarira abidya-jal, jodendriya tahe kal,
jibe phele bisaya-sagore
ta’ra madhye jihva ati, lobhamoy sudurmati
ta’ke jeta kathina somsare
2) krsna baro doyamoy, karibare jihva jay,
swa-prasad-anna dilo bhai
sei annamrta khao, radha-krsna-guna gao,
preme dako caitanya-nitai
“O brothers! This material body is a place of ignorance, and the senses are a network of paths to death. The senses throw the soul into this ocean of material sense enjoyment and, of all the senses, the tongue is most voracious and uncontrollable; it is very difficult to conquer the tongue in this world. O brothers! Lord Krsna is very kind to us and has given us such nice prasada, just to control the tongue. Now let us take this prasada to our full satisfaction and glorify Their Lordships, Sri Sri Radha and Krsna and, in love, call for the help of Lord Caitanya and Prabhu Nityananda.”
It is very good if we can chant this prayer, both the Bengali and English, before honoring Krishna Prasadam. It only takes a couple of minutes and it helps us to remember how merciful Krishna is to us that He has given us this Krishna Prasadam that enables us to control our tongues.
The tongue is the most difficult to control of all the senses. The tongue has two functions: tasting and vibrating. So we can conquer the tongue if we only let it taste Krishna prasadam and only let it vibrate Krishna-katha, talks about Krishna. We should never let the tongue taste anything except Krishna prasadam and never let it vibrate anything except Krishna katha. If we undergo this simple austerity then advancement in Krishna consciousness will be very simple and very rapid for us.
Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!