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What We Eat, And What Our Lordships “Eat”

Wednesday, 24 April 2019 / Published in Articles, Kesava Krsna Dasa / 8,009 views

By Kesava Krsna Dasa

Some of our pujaris insist that only white flour and white sugar should be used in bhoga offerings for our Lordships, while many of us, being health conscious, will avoid eating such adulterated or suspicious foods. Should we feel a guilty conscience if we eat healthily, but the Lord does not?

One may say that Srila Prabhupada liked white flour, but did not his personal cooks use ‘unbleached’ white flour for him? One may also say that our deities are the Supreme Lord, so how can He eat unhealthily? Would such thinking be indicative of devotion laden with impersonalism, heartless jnana, or automated Aisvarya?

Without delving into details, we know of the bleaching and other unnatural processes involved in the manufacturing of these white substances like flour, salt and baking powder, and they are easily available – at least in the West – and convenient. Are ‘convenient’ and ‘easy’ the current by-words for flawless bhoga offerings?

Do such products fit the “uttama-bhoga” bill of being literally “first-class” food items? If we are doubtful of this, wouldn’t it be useful to learn how Krishna is the greatest lover of nature?

On our Iskcon Deity Worship website, Srila Prabhupada is quoted, “As far as the eatables are concerned, all items should be first-class preparations. There should be first-class rice, dal, fruit, sweet rice, vegetables, and a variety of foods to be sucked, drunk, and chewed. All the eatables offered to the deities should be extraordinarily excellent.”

Generally, these first-class foods are as natural as possible. Even to buy flour and sugar from health stores might not be without ‘suspicious’ intervention, but at least they are nearer to nature. With most of our devotees and congregation members working for a living, would it be too pricey to buy more natural items from these places, to offer for the Lord?

Yet, many devotees demand fastidious naturalness for their own dietary needs. If a demand exists to use baking powder or salt without aluminium for instance, is it not right that the Lord should first, as a priority, be availed aluminium-less baking powder and salt? Because baking powder and similar items are also adulterated.

The same website also lists prohibited bhoga, and white sugar is among them: “Common forbidden foods include meat, fish, eggs, onions, mushrooms, garlic, masur-dal (red lentils), burned rice, white eggplant, hemp (marijuana), citron, saps from trees (if not boiled first), buffalo and goat milk products, and milk with salt in it. Also, one should not offer canned or frozen foods to the deity, and it is best to avoid offering foods containing unhealthy substances such as yeast and white sugar.”

If extra expense is incurred by purchasing organic and natural products, it is a minimal price to pay to help develop a personal relationship with the Lord in His Arca-vigraha feature. Should we even ask, if the disparity between what we prefer to eat, and what the Lord is supposed to eat, be proper or not?

If the Lord is treated with an inferior dining experience – when the means are there to ‘excellently’ improve – then, as He is apt to reward us for our level of devotion accordingly, could this form of neglect impact on our greater communal ability to gel in full cooperation? Because impersonalism does affect the way we live and serve.

If this continues, our sense of self-importance of self-preservation will diminish our ability to understand that such eating disparities exist. And when we desire to offer something for the Lord, the ‘easy’ and ‘convenient’ option is chosen. We can also fail to distinguish between what to buy and what not to buy. Srila Prabhupada is again quoted from the same website:

“Regarding purchasing things in the market, these items are considered as purified when we pay the price for them. That is the general instruction. But when we know something is adulterated, we should avoid it. But unknowingly if something is purchased, that is not our fault. Things which are suspicious, however, should be avoided.”

Is it wrong to use proper brown flour? Otherwise, how can the Lord have white chapatis, or white rotis…? We will no doubt feel offended if our same personal fastidiousness for choices of food and the ingredients thereof are not met, but we must also know and anticipate how the Lord must feel, as a Person.

“Since it is offensive to offer anything to Krsna that He will not accept, one should be extremely cautious not to offer (or eat) anything questionable.”

Are we to assume that the Lord will happily accept the “questionable” bleach and aluminium that taints our offerings of love? Is this something that is irrelevant, compared with the ‘bigger picture’ of daily temple functionality? Or is it impractical to ideally conform, and in any case, the Lord is merciful? Can we follow Sri Prahlada’s example of having his poisoned food purified?

These matters apply more for our formally installed deities. Because They may be miles away from us and we see them less frequently, this lapse of time and distance might also encourage a less intimate relationship leading to the said disparities.

When Krishna and Balarama dine with Their cowherd friends in Goloka, we learn that They share and swap different food items with sakha equality. Even if we view our deities with Aisvarya vision, do we have a right to eat superior, healthier food than They? That is even more of an offence.

“So Krishna is so kind that He, although He is all-pervading, universal, He has agreed to accept your service just to give you liberation from this misunderstanding, no atma-tattvam. This is Krishna consciousness movement, that Krishna, God, is great. How great He is, you cannot imagine. But still, He has agreed to accept your service, becoming small. That is greatness.” (SB lecture, 2.1.2, Paris 1974)

Since Krishna has become “small” for us, perhaps our observances of apparently small things and redressing them will help magnify our own devotion to true “greatness.”

Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa

Kirtan: Are there rules?
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17 Responses to “What We Eat, And What Our Lordships “Eat””

  1. Payonidhi Das says :

    Mother Saci used to cook the most healthy and best offering for the household Salagrama Sila and offer it to her son Lord Caitanya ,she was always concerned for His ” health” ,so why should we not be in offering the best possible for Lord Caitanya and Krsna..if devotees only eat what Krsna has eaten,prasadam then that makes sense..

  2. paramatma says :

    Thank you for reminding us of a most important area in our devotional service. Actually bhoga offering begins from selecting the right items which are pure and wholesome. In cooking for Krsna, our devotion starts from selecting the best quality ingredients. Sadly, in modern times it is so difficult to find pure natural items. The modern method of producing food is contaminated in so many ways. Purchasing organic may be the best but this may not be easily available in some places.

    I found that it is very easy for a devotee to grow his own little garden for Krsna. The devotion begins from this point—producing wonderful varieties of fruits and vegetables for His pleasure. This is easy especially if you live in the tropics and there is some land space in your yard. I have been practically doing this for the past ten years and ever since I have found no need of purchasing any fruits and vegetables from the market. I grow fruits like mangoes, sapodillas (chocos), coconuts, lemons bananas, jackfruit, cherries, breadfruits around my house, and below the fruit trees I use cut car tires and fill with soil to grow all my vegetables—cabbages, varieties of spinach, celery, ochro, eggplant, string beans, bitter melon, tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, etc., as well as all herbs like ginger, mint, oregano, coriander, turmeric, lemon grass, etc. There is always extra that can be sent for the Temple Deities. I never spend more than two hours a day in the garden. In other words one can have his regular job or services in the temple, and still find time to plant something for Krsna. Apart from quality bhoga grown with devotion you save quite a bit on food bill. I even make some extra cash as several devotees have now been purchasing bhoga from me.

    To reiterate—the finest foods to offer are the ones grown with love and devotion right in our own gardens. As Prabhupäda told devotees in France, “Anything grown in the garden is a hundred times more valuable than if it is purchased from the market.”

    Ys

    Paramatma das (Guyana)

  3. Puskaraksa das says :

    We should not loose sight that the main ingredient of our offerings should be bhakti, illustrated twice by the words bhaktya – with devotion and bhakti-upahritam – offered in devotion, in this famous verse:

    patram puspam phalam toyam
    yo me bhaktya prayacchati
    tad aham bhakty-upahrtam
    asnami prayatatmanah

    patram–a leaf; puspam–a flower; phalam–a fruit; toyam–water; yah–whoever; me–unto Me; bhaktya–with devotion; prayacchati–offers; tat–that; aham–I; bhakti-upahrtam–offered in devotion; asnami–accept; prayata-atmanah–of one in pure consciousness.

    If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it. – Bhagavad-gita 9.26

    Further, the words prayata-atmanah, stress the importance of being in pure consciousness…

    Here, we see that the Lord stresses the fact that whatever is to be offered to Him may be simple, but if there is love, then He will accept this offering…

    To the contrary, one may wonder if there is no love, whether He will accept the offering or not…? However, Krishna knowing the heart, we may assume that out of mercy, He will encourage the slightest spark of devotion for the welfare of the conditioned jiva…

    Nevertheless, it is not that because the Lord will accept simple offerings, without transformation, such as fruits and flowers, just as one may offer some light to the sun, that He will not accept delicious preparations cooked and offered with love and devotion…

    In the above article, the author has stressed the value of organic and wholesome food for heath reasons, for these material bodies to remain healthy. Of course, remaining healthy is laudable, if it is with the intention of being able to serve the Lord, as long and as well as possible.

    However, being overly health conscious and thereby bodily conscious may not be the ultimate level of consciousness to be developed in this human life. In that regard, I remember my early days in the temple in 1981, where a middle aged man kept criticizing prasadam and all the more maha prasadam, for dietetic reasons. As it is, he was so health conscious that he kept committing aparadhas towards prasadam. The next year, he died in a car accident, while being in very good physical shape, for his age. As it is, he became the healthiest guy in the cemetery!

    In that respect, Srimad Bhagavatam stresses that one instant of pure consciousness is better than one hundred years living like a tree… (be it a healthy tree!).

  4. Puskaraksa das says :

    Besides, we have to realize that Krishna doesn’t have a material body like ours, and is not subjected to birth and death.

    In this way, Lord Jagannath accepts 54 offerings a day in Puri!
    Not to speak of all the offerings he tastes in all mandirs and comes to taste in all of His devotees’ residences…!

    However, a compromise has to be found, in between whatever quantity of rich food the Lord may be able to appreciate and whatever our material bodies are capable of tolerating.

    Hence, on one hand, in temples, rich maha-prasad has to be distributed to many, so that each one may get a small quantity of it. On the other hand, larger quantities of more simple and healthy food may be cooked, such as rice, dahl, subji, capatis for the devotees to remain healthy and be able to perform their service properly.

    So, a grihasta should also strike a compromise in between whatever tasty and richer food he may wish to prepare, in smaller quantities, for the pleasure of the Lord, and whatever staple food he may offer and eat on a regular basis, for bodily maintenance.

  5. Hare Krsna dasi says :

    Please remember that most sugar is “purified” by running it over bone char, which is made of the bones of slaughtered cows:

    (See item 2, under “Uses”)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bone_char

  6. Paramatma Prabhu certainly has an Eden-like Bounty, idealistic situation. Unfortunately that ideal is absent in the cities and suburbia.

    Puskaraksha Prabhu wrote: “In the above article, the author has stressed the value of organic and wholesome food for heath reasons, for these material bodies to remain healthy.”

    Can you show where I wrote such a thing? Did I emphasise ‘healthy’ for the Lord, or for our bodies? I hope this is not another failed, presumptuous mind reading attempt.

    Ys Ksava Krsna Dasa.

  7. Puskaraksa das says :

    Dear Kesava Krishna Prabhu

    You should read over again the above article, where the author has written:

    “Some of our pujaris insist that only white flour and white sugar should be used in bhoga offerings for our Lordships, while many of us, being health conscious, will avoid eating such adulterated or suspicious foods. Should we feel a guilty conscience if we eat healthily, but the Lord does not?

    One may say that Srila Prabhupada liked white flour, but did not his personal cooks use ‘unbleached’ white flour for him? One may also say that our deities are the Supreme Lord, so how can He eat unhealthily?”

    This is only the beginning of the article but, without being a presomptuous mind reader failing in his attempt (as per your kind wording), you may be able to decipher whether the above mentioned article deals with health issues or not…

    More on this topic?

    “Yet, many devotees demand fastidious naturalness for their own dietary needs. If a demand exists to use baking powder or salt without aluminium for instance, is it not right that the Lord should first, as a priority, be availed aluminium-less baking powder and salt? Because baking powder and similar items are also adulterated.” etc. etc. etc.

    NB: Some of this may have prompted Puskaraksha das to write: “In the above article, the author has stressed the value of organic and wholesome food for heath reasons, for these material bodies to remain healthy.”

    But it’s just a guess… or as you would kindly put it “another failed, presumptuous mind reading attempt”!

  8. ananda dd says :

    Hare Krsna.
    Living in the mode of goodness in the countryside is the best place to live for all manner of reasons especially for devotees. The mode of goodness is exactly what “simple living – High thinking ” is all about for the lifestyle of devotees in this material world- and this should be our choice of domicile. Why on earth would we live in towns and Cities, perhaps temporarily but just to facilitate preaching otherwise we just get sucked into the lower modes of nature. The mode of goodness is the best basis for our lifes and lifestyle. And as Paramatma Prabhu illustrates clearly is the best for our devotional lives. Our offerings become a wholesome activity from seed to consumption-complete and perfect.And we know exactly where our ingredients come from-surely the most important point of offering with devotion. This is our measure of devotion-growing our own food in the mode of goodness for the Lords pleasure.What could be more devotional?
    This is the whole idea behind “simple living -High thinking” otherwise what is our lifestyle, what is our economy,what is our dependancy– it has to be Cow protection, and Land. In towns of course there is every opportunity to grow something for Krsna and in the Cities too. This is not a reason not to grow vegetables and fruit just becuse we live in towns and Cities. And the countryside is never too far away that it is not accessible too grow our own food.
    If we dont show the example to the world of the alternative to food production without animal slaughter then who will? Our mandate for every member of Iskcon is to fulfill this instruction from Srila Prabhupada as our life and soul, its so important. If we come to iskcon without knowledge of Deity worship and we practice this at home then there is no reason why we cant grow our own food to offer to that Deity.
    Ultimately we have to eat and we have to offer our cooking to the Deity so either we produce our own food or else we depend on some non-devotee to use what ever chemical,non vegetarian violent method of growing that food, thats not a good idea or choice. No we have to depend on Cow protection and Land as explained in Bhagavad-Gita 18.44. We have to depend on the mode of goodness not the lower modes of nature.This is why when you are situated in the mode of goodness then all the economic problems are solved.
    your servant Dusyanta dasa. lovely Wales.

  9. Puskaraksha Prabhu,

    If I may reiterate more clearly, nowhere in the article did I “Stress” that organic and other health foods are meant for us, “for these material bodies” as you wrote. The thrust or the “stress” of preferable organic or healthy alternatives was for the Lord, and repeatedly so.

    “In the above article, the author has stressed the value of organic and wholesome food for heath reasons, for these material bodies to remain healthy.”

    To say I “stressed” for our material bodies is alien to the spirit of the article. The implication is that this mentality can lead to the said incident you highlighted of the fussy Maha prasada individual who met with an accident.

    This is why I used the word presumptuous. After relooking over the sentences and paragraphs you provided, your presumed “stress” on the material body is absent, whereas the article’s “stress” is that for the Lord, repeatedly.

    This is not a matter of semantics, but of implying something based on the wrong “stress.”

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  10. Puskaraksa das says :

    Dear Kesava Krishna Prabhu

    It seems you got annoyed by this point I had noted, which you picked out from my earlier comment: “In the above article, the author has stressed the value of organic and wholesome food for heath reasons, for these material bodies to remain healthy” which may explain your initial snappy reaction…

    However, I would like to state that this was not really a reproach from my side… As it is, this concern for good health is rather in the mode of goodness and is to be expected from the side of a number of devotees.

    As it is, the genesis of this line of mine can easily be traced back in the following introductory paragraph of your above article:

    “Some of our pujaris insist that only white flour and white sugar should be used in bhoga offerings for our Lordships, while many of us, being health conscious, will avoid eating such adulterated or suspicious foods. Should we feel a guilty conscience if we eat healthily, but the Lord does not?”

    In his Paramātma Sandarbha (105.6) Srila Jiva Goswami describes, there are six ways to understand a book. He cites a verse from Bṛhat-saṁhitā to substantiate the point:

    upakramopasaṁhārāv abhyāso ‘pūrvatā phalam arthavādopapattī ca liṅgaṁ tātparya-nirṇayaḥ

    Hence, the six ways to understand the meaning of a book are:
    1) upakrama — the author’s preamble
    2) upasaṁhārau — the author’s concluding words
    3) abhyāsa — what is repeated by the author again and again in the course of the book
    4) apūrvatā-phalam — or what is unique to the book and not found in other books
    5) artha-vāda — the author’s own declaration of his intent in writing the book, and
    6) upapattī — the application of logic to understand the author’s intention.

    Hence, we can easily understand from process 1, 5 and 6 that your background – where your coming from, so to speak – from your own words is “many of us, being health conscious”, which translates into “Should we feel a guilty conscience if we eat healthily, but the Lord does not?”

    Hence, you are not only questioning whether these health conscious devotees will and even should accept to honor mahaprasadam containing what you are judging to be “adulterated or suspicious foods” such as “white flour and white sugar”, but you are also introducing the concept of the Lord eating healthily or not – “if we eat healthily, but the Lord does not?”, as if the transcendental Supreme Lord was sharing or was to share the same concern in regards to health as us, having material bodies…

  11. Puskaraksha Prabhu,

    Even with these six points, shouldn’t the overall intent and purpose of a written work favour the author in any case?

    Anyway, let’s not get bogged down on this relatively trivial matter. We are still friends…? Of course we are.

    All the best, and Hare Krishna.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  12. Visakha Priya dasi says :

    It’s really amazing how the influence of Kali-yuga colors our perceptions and influences us to misunderstand one another. I just read the whole article and it seems to me that its purpose is to remind us that the Lord comes first. Srila Prabhupada was concerned that we shouldn’t become hung up on healthy foods, thus neglecting to honor mahaprasadam in the association of devotees.

    In other words, we shouldn’t reject white flour and white sugar just because they are refined and thus less nutritious. But to reject them because they are viciously adulterated is another matter. In the same way, we are now subjected to genetically modified vegetables, which are suitable neither for Krsna nor for us. They are not suitable for Krsna because they are not grown with love but with the wicked intention of making more profit, and they are not suitable for us because they are physically harmful. If they were grown and cooked and offered with love but somewhat defective materially, we should still accept them enthusiastically, and I see no indication in his writings that Kesava Krsna thinks otherwise. However, it seems to me that what he is pointing out is that some devotees will make great efforts to procure excellent quality products for themselves but will not do so for Krsna on the plea that white flour and sugar were approved by Srila Prabhupada.

    As things now stand, they are still temples in Vraja, in Varsana especially, where the pujaris do not use white sugar. They use something called “boura”, which, to my shamefully limited knowledge of cooking and cooking ingredients, is finely powdered dried up sugar cane juice. Also, when it comes to puffed rice, there are two varieties: the commercial one, big and nicely bleached white, and the brown one, which pakka brahmanas use.

    But then again, we hear that Srila Prabhupada condoned the use of “Vitamin E enriched” milk in New York City in the seventies rather than deprive Krsna of rasagullas and sandesh. So, if we cannot follow the wonderful example of Paramatma Prabhu and other such great souls, which really is the way Srila Prabhupada wanted most householders to go, then we should just hold on to our bead bags and book bags and keep going, praying for Mahaprabhu’s causeless mercy to descend upon our struggling selves.

    Hare Krsna!
    Your servant, Visakha Priya dasi

  13. Praghosa says :

    Vishaka Priya wrote:

    “we are now subjected to genetically modified vegetables, which are suitable neither for Krsna nor for us. They are not suitable for Krsna because they are not grown with love but with the wicked intention of making more profit”

    Gmodified or not, most all foodstuffs, including vegetables, are produced for profit, no?

    Ys Praghosa dasa

  14. Visakha Priya dasi says :

    Dear Pragosha Prabhu, your comment is well taken. At the same time, are there not gradations of edibles and non edibles? Greed is there in both cases, true, but isn’t there an added element of perversity in the case of genetically modified vegetables? Is the milk of a thoroughbred cow and the milk of a monster produced by mixing pig’s genes with cow genes to be equated just because in both cases the intention is to make a profit? I look forward to your reply.

    Your servant,
    Visakha Priya dasi

  15. Payonidhi Das says :

    devotees are more concerned with what Krsna eats and how He accepts their offerings that is the most important thing,

    dvija-strinam bhakte mriduni viduranne vraja-gavam

    dadhi-kshire sakhyuh sphuöa-cipita-mushöau mura-ripo

    yashodayah stanye vraja-yuvati-datte madhuni te

    yathasid amodas tam imam upahare ‘pi kurutam

    dvija—of the brahmanas; strinam—of the wives; bhakte—in the foodstuff; mriduni—palatable; vidura—offered by Vidura; anne—in the foodstuff; vraja—of Vraja; gavam—of the cows; dadhi—the yogurt; kshire—and milk; sakhyuh—of Your friend Sudama Vipra; sphuta—manifested; cipita—of chipped rice; mustau—a handful; mura—of the Mura demon; ripo—O enemy; yasodayah—of Yasoda; stanye—in the breast-milk; vraja—of Vraja; yuvati—by the young gopis; datte—presented; madhuni—palatable foods; te—to You; yatha—just as; asit—was; amodah—happiness; tam—this; imam—this; upahare—in the offering; api—also; kurutam—may be done.

    O Lord Murari, as You enjoyed the palatable food presented by the wives of the brahmanas, the meal offered by Vidura, the milk and yogurt of the cows in Vraja, the handful of chipped rice from Your friend Sudama Brahmana, the breast-milk of Mother Yashoda, and the delicious foods prepared by the young girls of Vraja, I hope the offering I now place before You, You will also enjoy in the same way.

    —Shri Ramanuja
    this vers is found in Srila Rupa Goswamis, Padayvali ,translated by Kusakrata Prabhu

  16. Praghosa says :

    Dear Vishaka Priya,

    Hare Krishna. I couldn’t agree more with you, there are gradations in everything in life, perhaps one of the key reasons why getting everything right in life is effectively impossible. It was just that it appeared in your original comment that the ‘wicked intent for profit’ was only related to those producing GM vegetables.

    No big deal and thanks for all your contributions to Dandavats, Ys

  17. ananda dd says :

    Hare Krsna.
    I hope i am not deviating too far from the original context of the article.
    Even if we dont live in the mode of goodness, the countryside, we can still cultivate that countryside mentality. This mentality is to become as self-sufficient as you can possibly be according to your situation and then its perfectly reasonable to know where your products originated for the offering to Lord Krsna. And because Lord Krsna is the goal of our offerings then it makes it all that more important to source our food products from devotees, from yourself, or from the countryside. The countryside mentality is to make the most of what nature provides naturally even beyond the purview of Agriculture and Horticulture.
    Just as an example of our countryside mentality each time of the year around early summer there is an abundance of Elderflowers which are easily made into Elderflower Cordial which can be used all year round simply by collecting the flowers freely and combining with sugar and water and letting it sit for a few days.
    Then also in the UK there are abundances of Blackberries, many wild apple trees, and farms where you can rent fruit trees for yourself, so these are all accessible and useful for devotees living in towns and cities but you have to develop the self-sufficent mentality and the mode of goodness principles.
    Its all too easy to just use “money” to buy things but this is not our Iskcon mandate.This huge project is really the next big issue that is waiting in the Iskcon wings ready for unleashing on to the devotee community.Whilst there have always been some farms in Iskcon they have not provided the necassary food products to satisfy Iskcon devotees and many farms have developed the wrong mentality toward what and why they are farming, who it is for and importantly who actually is the proprietor, Lord Krsna. because the farmers have based their ideas on the lower modes of nature the farms to date have not actually solved the problems of life as they are mandated to but have actually caused their own problems.
    The mode of goodness does not cause problems and cows are in the mode of goodness so combining these two modes of goodness together should mean that out Iskcon farms have solved the problems.
    Unless and until we as iskcon have followed the mandate as set out in the Bhagavad-Gita and Srila Prabhupada’s multi-farious instructions on this subject we will just be floundering around with no clear way forward for solving any problems at all

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