What We Eat, And What Our Lordships “Eat”
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