Making prasadam - help!

Margaret Dale - April 15, 2007 10:10 pm

OK prabhus, I need your help here because this issue is where I lost it last year.


When I first came in contact with KC, I got the "Higher Taste" book and offering food to Krsna seemed so easy. make it, offer it, let Krsna eat for a little bit, then ta-da, you have prasadam. In the BG, Krsna says, "If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it." I guess I have always emphasized the first half of the verse. So I'm chugging along, offering food, and fully aware of the fact that my consciousness is nowhere near where it should be. Unfortunately I am often ravenous by the time I get to make a meal, so yeah, I'm thinking about eating it, but for me it is an austerity to let Krsna have a first go at it while my tummy is rumbling and I'm literally salivating. I know that is far from the proper attitude, but it's an improvement over just stuffing my face willy-nilly and we all do the best we can where we are, right? Hopefully with continued reading, chanting, etc, my consciousness will be purified and my standards will be raised in the future, but that's where I am now. So this bit troubles me some but I can live with it.


Where I fall down is trying to follow the standards set forth in the "beginning arcana" handbook. FYI, I don't have any murtis at my house, just a couple of photographs I use for offerings. My thought is that these deities are being served very nicely at Audarya and I am being allowed to provide a little tiny bit of extra seva as a stupid neophyte. The handbook says that you can't offer garlic, onions, vinegar, and I am assuming the list can be expanded to soy sauce, tofu, soy milk, mushrooms, etc because Krsna won't eat them, so don't even bother. All of these ingredients I find in just about everything I offer (now you all know.... :Nail Biting: ). A lot of what I offer is premade, another bad thing, I know. Yes, I know I should cut them out and someday I will obtain the level of goodness, but right now it's not happening. But then if I don't offer the food, I am eating only sin. So are the offerings I'm making useless? Does it matter that I am thinking of Krsna while preparing food, if only thinking that I can't taste it yet because he has to eat it first? Does it matter that I am making the offerings on the order of guru parampara? Does it matter that I am hoping to make better offerings in the future based on what small sacrifices I am able to make today? Or is it all just useless, and Krsna gets one look at what I've offered, turns up his nose, and leaves me to eat sin?


The other issue is the process of offering. Please forgive me, as I am a stupid neophyte. I understand the reasoning behind all the rituals and the reason why we do rituals at all, but what happened last year was that I started to follow strictly the rituals for offering food, and within a couple of weeks I got so frustrated with how much time I was spending and how much extra work it was that I just gave up. I'm not making excuses for my laziness, just recognizing that this is a really weak spot for me. So again, is it better to make an imperfect offering, or should I just throw up my hands in despair and forget about even trying?


Believe me, I've got lots of other issues and anarthas to work out, but this is the one I'm about to trip and fall on right now. So any words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated.

Syamasundara - April 15, 2007 11:31 pm

I don't have any words of wisdom, but Srila Rupa Gosvami says:


smartavyam satatam virnur

vismartavyam na jatucit


Always remember Krsna and never forget him. Everything else should be done in function of that.

I'd say it's better, at least at he beginning, to make hasty, hypocritical, or sub standard offerings than to exclude Krsna from your existence altogether, which is so unreal.


I am in Italy now (two more days :Sleepy: ) and pasta here is a serious matter. It can be fluted, smooth, rough, hand-made, etc, all according to the dressing. Spaghetti here is calibered (103 fish, 104 whatever, etc) :Nail Biting:


So anyway, Saturday night we had a farewell/anticipated birthday dinner for me and my father made a kind of pasta called mezzi ziti ( http://www.barillaus.com/images%5CZiti_s.jpg ) which is nasty eva (really nasty), long as spaghetti, but you can't wrap them on the fork, so smooth and slippery you have them in your throat before you can taste them... yuck.


I don't know how far I can squeeze this into the analogy, but my sisters and I hate mezzi ziti, and my father seems to like them (sorry I can't think of pasta as an uncountable thing, spaghetti means strings, and they all refer to plural things, cuz they're many!), so he makes them every single time. I get off the hook since I became a vegetarian and cook separately, but my sisters always eat them half-heartedly. The point is that they don't reject the food or stop coming. They will stop coming though, because recently they tried to tell him how little they like mezzi ziti, and my dad dismissed them somehow or other every time. So, the consciousness in the gesture is important.


I think I already talked about these things to someone, and it could very well be you. Do you remember the story of the lady in Vrndavana making kitchri for these two lovely boys at the time of the gosvamis, but she wouldn't take a bath and would stir the food with the same twig she'd clean her teeth with meanwhile?

Cooking according to the highest possible standard is an expression of care, but Krsna really only eats what Radha makes, and Radha is devotion. In our offerings, whether pukka or improper, he will only take the devotion. The same verse you quoted mentions the fact that the offering be made with devotion twice (bhaktya... bhakty upahrtam).

Cow milk and basmati rice are the best standard, but I don't see much harm in using and offering soy milk, if the offering is delicious and is made with devotion. In Vrndavana Krsna has goats and buffalos, too, and if they don't keep them for their milk I don't know what for. Then again, Krsna only drinks the milk of selected cows that graze selected grass...

It's not like you are offering meet anyway.

The examples are countless. SP accepting an onion soup during his first days in NY, Krsna eating banana's peels at Vidura's, the above kitchri story.

As far as your "does it matter?" questions, of course it all matters.

You could become friends with your mind and play with quantity and quality. During the week you could make emergency offerings (some devotees say Sri Visnu three times in their mind, or glorify God somehow), but on a Sunday morning you could start preparing a nice (sumptuous or not) lunch since after breakfast, by reading the Caitanya Caritamrta, stories like the Cida dahi Panihati festival, or the story of Madhavendra puri and the Annakut festival. If they don't make you want to make the best offering ever, I don't know what would.

Then you actually start cooking, because you did all the chores on Saturday, and you make treasure of all the good sensations, when you were reading, while cooking, etc. Since you have pictures, you may just want to recite some prayers with the plate in front of the picture, then do the dishes and clean around, and when you go back you'll take the remnants of the Lord (hey, if you apply yourself you may find none one day!). Once a week sounds reasonable for this kind of "sacrifice" but that will in turn foster your love, purify you, and change you, and believe me it won't feel like a sacrifice at all.


As far as willy nilly it's the second time i've heard it in one day... what does it mean?

Syamasundara - April 15, 2007 11:57 pm

After all if you had a child or a pet you might feed them some time with special love, some time automatically, but you definitely wouldn't starve them.

Sri Krsna is not any less real than a pet or a child, which are really just the bodies that cover over the soul that ironically doesn't need to eat.

If we have difficulties offering food to Krsna it means that our conception of Krsna is just that, a conception, that our mind can bear, but also tweak or dismiss according to its needs.

So, as you can see, rituals bring us closer to reality as abstract and unnatural as they may appear.


You know, I had never realized this last point, so I am really grateful for the chance you've given me to elaborate on it, me who has said so many nice words so far, but recently has been making way too many emergency offerings if at all...


Tomorrow I'll try to improve my standards.


Sri Krsna prasada ki jaya!

Margaret Dale - April 15, 2007 11:58 pm

Thanks for your thoughts.

Willy-nilly, in my understanding, means without thought or care, randomly.

Syamasundara - April 16, 2007 12:10 am

Oh! Happy birthday!!


What better occasion to make a feast? :Nail Biting:

Bhrigu - April 16, 2007 12:49 pm

Here's my 2 cents, Margaret:


Yes, it is better to offer premade food imperfectly than not at all, and since you are doing it and so many other things under the direction of Guru Maharaja, it will surely be for your benefit. So don't worry too much. The offerings are surely not useless.


On the other hand, Prabhupada quotes a statement from the Chandogya Upanisad (ahAra-zuddhau sattva-zuddhiH sattva-zuddhau dhruvA smRtiH smRti-lambhe sarva-granthInAM vipramokSaH) which means that from purity of eating purity of existence arrives, from purity of existence perpetual remembrance, and from attainment of remembrance deliverance from all bondage. So it really is important that we eat pure food. In some GV missions the lists of "forbidden" or unofferable foods are very lenghty: for us, it is just onions, garlic, mushrooms and alcoholic or alcohol-derived items (plus of course meat, fish, eggs and their byproducts). Guru Maharaja eats soy, and I have never heard him say that that would be unofferable. Prabhupada also approved of soy, at least in one letter. So the list isn't really that long.


Now, the problem arises when you don't have the time to cook yourself (or don't have another devotee to cook for you!). I think that all devotees should learn at least some cooking, since serving good prasadam is such a great way of preaching, and most of all, since you will then not have to depend on all kinds of premade food, which, even if without any impure foodstuffs, is much less pleasing to Krishna than the simplest rice cooked by yourself. I have no idea what your schedule is like, but if you have very little time, try making large batches once or a couple of times a week, offer everything then and put some of it in the fridge for eating later. Try to see your cooking as the devotional activity that it is, just like chanting rounds or reading the shastra.


Re. the ritual of offering, if I'm not completely mistaken it was not supposed to take more than five or ten minutes in the "beginners handbook". Perhaps you have misunderstood something there? What exactly is it that you find so difficult or that takes such a long time? When I offer food to Sri Caitanya and then Guru Maharaja here at home, it takes about fifteen minutes, but during that time, I always do other things (clean up the kitchen, prepare the table, etc), so I don't really "loose" any time. This extra time is problematic only with some foods that require to be served immediately, such as spaghetti, but in those cases I boil just a small part for the offering and then the rest while the offering is going on so that it will be ready just when the offering is ready.


At any rate, the main point is that your present offerings are not worthless, but please take the trouble to slowly raise the standards, and you will find a noticeable difference. It just takes some time to get used to new things.

Shyam Gopal Das - April 16, 2007 2:51 pm

Guru Maharaj told me in my first week here at Audarya that cooking is essential in Krishna consciousness.