Prasadam – significance

The Lord says in Bhagvad Gita, “Patram Pushpam Phalam Toyam Yo Me Bhaktya Prayacchati; Tadaham Bhaktyupahritamasanami Prayatatmanah.

Meaning: “Whoever offers a leaf, a flower, a fruit or even water with devotion, that I accept, offered as it is with a loving heart.”

Ever wonder why Prasadam invariably tastes delicious? Throughout the length and breadth of our country Prasad is made according to the cuisine of the state yet devotees from near and far, abroad too can be seen relishing the Prasadam; why so? We come back to the last line phrase of the above shloka; offered as it is with a loving heart. Prasad means that which gives peace. It is the sacred food offered first to the Lord and then shared amongst the devotees present in the temple at that time. The bhava or the attitude of the devotee offering Bhog or Prasada to the Lord makes all the difference. The attitude with which the Prasada is taken brings a change in the devotee.  The grace of the Lord descends through Prasada, brings peace and calm to the unsettled mind, resolving problems in a surprisingly simple way.

Prasad is also referred to as ‘Naivedya’; Naivedya means supplication or ‘a humble entreaty’ to the Lord offering the Naivedya and appealing for an acceptance of the same. Naivedya need not necessarily be food but is usually food which becomes Prasada and distributed to one and all. A beautiful meaning that comes to light is; we are offering our ignorance (avidya), the food symbolically represents our ignorant consciousness, which we place at the Lord’s feet for spiritual enlightenment. After HE charges or suffuses it with knowledge and breathes a new life into it, we share and partake of the same which in turn helps us become divine or move closer to divinity. When we share this Prasad we are actually sharing the divine knowledge; the Lord’s blessings thus gained with our fellow beings.

The faith of the devotee who is eating the Prasad is what makes it divine or any other edible thing. It was MiraBai’s faith alone which turned the poison to nectar; which she drank in complete remembrance of her Lord thinking of it as Prasad coming straight from her beloved Krishna.

Partaking of Prasada is considered to be a sacred act, irrespective of the quality or quantity of the Prasad. The fact that it is coming from Isvara, Lord himself changes the nature or attitude of the recipient of the Prasada. Prasada stands for Prasada buddhi, an attitude of graceful acceptance.

“Swami Tattvavidananda, in his book titled: ‘Heart is the Temple’ explains this beautifully thus: The serenity of the mind symbolised by the Prasada in the temple is eulogised by the Lord in the Bhagvad Gita as follows:

“Ragadvesaviyuktaistu visayanindriyaiscaran, atmavasyairvidheyatma prasadamadhigacchati.

Prasade sarvaduhkhanam hanirasyopajayate,  prasannacetaso hyasu buddhih paryavatisthate.” (2-64, 65)

One may interact with the objects of the world through the senses that are free from attachment and aversion, gaining mastery over them. One who has mastered the mind attains Prasada, the serenity and harmony, will be free from all sorrows. Such a person’s mind is readily absorbed (in Atman).

The Prasada buddhi helps us cultivate a mind that is equanimous in prosperity as well as in adversity out of recognition of the fact that whatever we receive, whether good or bad, is given to us by Isvara. Isvara is the Karma phala data, the giver of the results of our action. They are the outcome of Isvara’s karma niyati, the law regulating the results of the action. Isvara bestows the karma phala, the results of the action accordingly; we receive what we deserve. That is why Isvara is called as sarvagyana, the all-knowing. He does not favour one or discriminate against other. Therefore, we have to learn to treat both prosperity and adversity as Isvara’s Prasada.”

Thus, Prasada prepared, offered and partaken with the right attitude changes the person and the aspirant becomes the recipient of wonderful experiences. It is also said that Prasada should be taken exactly that little quantity which the aspirant can completely digest, and nothing leaves the body as excreta. If Prasad is also gulped and gobbled like any other food then most of it will be leaving our system before it has a chance to leave a lasting impression and good impact on us, and maximum benefit that can be derived is lost.

Prasada is panacea, if taken in the right measure with the right attitude. Prasad becomes the remedy for all ailments, emotional, spiritual and the aspirant feels light and unburdened after eating the Prasad. Prasad is the spiritual elixir, the alchemic preparation capable of bringing out one’s pure innocent self, revealing the true path to self- realization. Prasad is the Grace of the Lord Himself, a cure and an ideal sign telling the aspirant that the Lord has lifted the devotee, lifted the devotee up and going on the path of self- realization.  It is the embodiment of Shakti, energising the partaker and infusing him/her with energy and zest to walk the path of life with courage, and absolute devotion. The Lord manifests Himself in Prasada, but only to those who partake in true faith, with the correct attitude in the apt quantity. Thus, Prasadam should be taken with great faith.

The Hindus also believe that Prasadam is a mental state experienced by Gods and true seers; they bestow boons and are very spontaneously generous towards the devotee who offers Prasadam with the right attitude. It thus began with a mental state (as is mentioned in the Rig Veda)which the Lord ‘saw’ in the earnest devotee and with time changed to more materialistic forms of money, clothing, food items flowers etc. The essence nevertheless remains the same; the humble faithful offering of ‘avidya’ to the Lord to be able to peel away the ignorance and be able to walk the path of self- realisation. Prasadam teaches the aspirant acceptance, humility and tranquillity. It helps maintain equanimity in success and adverse situations of poverty and strife.