Offerings with Love
From Back to Godhead
By Mohini Radha Devi Dasi
Krishna is self-satisfied and does not need anything, but out of His mercy He will accept our offerings of love and devotion.
Krishna’s supreme opulence surpasses all description and comparison. Millions of goddesses of fortune serve Him in the spiritual realm. He is the supreme controller, the ultimate refuge, and the proprietor of everything. Yet, because of His love for His devotees, the all-powerful Lord accepts their loving offerings.
Krishna consciousness helps us recognize and reestablish our original position as eternal servants of Krishna. As minute parts of Krishna, we should direct all of our activities toward His service with an attitude of love (see Bhagavad-gita 9.27). In this way, as an offering to Him, our entire life becomes shaped on the principle of bhakti, devotional service.
We can offer all aspects of our life to Krishna, but one of the most important and practical offerings is food. Krishna declares that devotees who eat food offered in sacrifice to Him make spiritual advancement but those who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment “verily eat only sin” ( Bhagavad-gita 3.13). Eating food without first offering it to the Lord increases our material entanglement and our false identity as the enjoyers of our senses. Our senses are meant to serve Krishna, who is known as Hrishikesha, “the master of the senses,” the ultimate enjoyer. By offering tasty vegetarian dishes for Krishna’s pleasure, we not only avoid sinful reactions, but also make spiritual progress toward pure devotion.
Krishna tells Arjuna, “If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it.” (Bhagavad-gita 9.26) Out of His causeless mercy, Krishna will accept even the smallest token of our faith—even a little water or a tulasi leaf—if it is offered with love and devotion. When Krishna asks us to make such an offering, He is really inviting us to reawaken our eternal, blissful relationship with Him. The key ingredient in the offering process is devotion.
As the Supreme Lord, the cause of all causes, the proprietor of everything, Krishna is atmarama, self-satisfied. Yet He is so kind to the living entities that to aid their spiritual progress He accepts their offerings. As Srila Prabhupada explains, Krishna does not need food, yet He will accept the offering of His devotee who wants to please Him (Bhagavad-gita 9.26, Purport). The key element in the preparation and offering is an attitude of love for Krishna. Krishna is not hungry, but He hungers for our devotion.
Duryodhana’s Offering Rejected
Krishna does not always accept what is offered to Him. The Mahabharata describes Krishna’s trip to Hastinapura as a peace messenger on behalf of the Pandavas before the Battle of Kurukshetra. When Krishna arrived, Duryodhana invited Him to an opulent feast in a political effort to bribe Him. Duryodhana’s grandiose feast featured many delicious dishes, but Krishna refused to accept an offering motivated by self-interest rather than love. He stated two reasons to accept something: if one is in need, or if it is offered with love.
Krishna is self-satisfied, so He can never be in need. Because Duryodhana’s invitation was not offered with love, Krishna declined it and instead went to Vidura’s house, where He enjoyed a simple meal offered by His dear devotees. Vidura’s wife, Vidurani, felt such great ecstasy at the opportunity to serve Krishna personally that she offered Him a banana peel instead of the fruit, and Krishna ate it with great relish. He could not reject this offering of pure love.
On another occasion, Krishna traveled to Mithila to visit Bahulashva and Srutadeva, two devotees who had pleased Him by their devotion. Bahulashva was the king of Videha, but led a simple and Krishna conscious life. Once, at Dwarka, Bahulashva decided to prostrate himself before Krishna one hundred times, but he became so overwhelmed by feelings of spontaneous love that after only one prostration, he could not rise. Srutadeva was a poor brahmana, but was satisfied with whatever he had and always thought about Krishna. When the Lord arrived in Mithila, Srutadeva danced in ecstasy.
Both Srutadeva and Bahulashva humbly requested the Lord to visit their homes. To satisfy and please these great souls, the Lord duplicated Himself and visited both homes simultaneously. This is another example of Krishna’s reciprocation with His devotees for their transcendental satisfaction.
Devotees such as Vidura, Bahulashva, and Srutadeva were fortunate to serve Krishna personally when He appeared on this planet. Their offerings were spontaneous and pure, and we can make spiritual progress just by hearing about them.
A Special Devotee in Puri
Krishna also accepts offerings in His deity form. The deity is not simply a representation of Krishna but is Krishna Himself. Krishna’s form as Jagannatha, “Lord of the Universe,” shows special mercy toward surrendered souls, and countless devotees throughout history have appealed to Him to accept their offerings. In Jagannatha’s temple in Puri, Orissa, a special class of priests follows strict regulative worship of the Lord, who appears with His elder brother, Balarama, and sister, Subhadra. Only certain brahmanas are allowed to cook and offer the prescribed fifty-six daily preparations, a fact that makes the pastimes of Dasia Bauri, preserved in the local oral history of Puri, especially sweet.
Dasia Bauri came from a low-caste family and lived near Puri, in a village called Baligram. Dasia was poor and uneducated. Forbidden entrance to the temple because of his caste, he showed unflinching faith in the Lord. Once, Dasia gave a coconut to a brahmana who was on his way to the temple. He requested the brahmana to offer the coconut to Lord Jagannatha on his behalf, but to bring it back if the Lord rejected it.
The brahmana proudly laughed at Dasia’s childish foolishness, but said he would offer the coconut. Once he was inside the temple, the brahmana held the coconut before Jagannatha and repeated Dasia’s message.
“Dasia Bauri has sent this coconut for You. Please accept it; otherwise I will take it back.”
Suddenly, Jagannatha extended His arm from the altar and took the coconut directly out of the brahmana’s hand, to the brahmana’s great surprise. Dasia Bauri’s sincere devotion was so great that the Lord personally accepted his indirect offering. Since the Lord is situated in the heart of every living entity in His Paramatma feature, He could see Dasia’s strong desire to please Him, and so He accepted the simple offering.
On another occasion, Dasia Bauri went to Puri carrying a large basket of mangoes for the Lord. When he reached the Lion’s Gate entrance to the temple, a group of brahmanas started fighting over who would take the mangoes inside the temple to offer to the Lord. Dasia Bauri told them that he did not need them to offer the mangoes for him.
The brahmanas were bewildered, as they were proud of their position, and did not think the low-caste devotee eligible to offer anything to the Lord. Dasia’s faith was unshaken, however, and he simply stood back a short distance and focused his gaze on the Nilachakra, the large wheel on top of the temple. In that way he saw the form of the Lord, because the name, form, and paraphernalia of the Lord are nondifferent from Him. Nilachakra is nondifferent from Jagannatha.
When Dasia held up two mangoes and showed them to the Nilachakra, they disappeared. Dasia repeatedly offered mangoes in this way until his basket was empty. A crowd gathered around Dasia and watched the mangoes disappear, as if by magic.
When Dasia told the brahmanas that Jagannatha had eaten the mangoes, they rushed into the temple and found mango skins and seeds lying all around the altar. Mango juice was dripping down Jagannatha’s smiling face. The brahmanas then understood that Dasia Bauri was a great devotee of the Lord, and their pride vanished. Dasia Bauri’s offerings showed the world that the Lord looks only for faith and love, not high birth, education, or the opulence of the offering.
The Lord Eats a Boy’s Offerings
Even a child can manifest symptoms of sincere devotion. About fourteen miles from Jagannatha’s temple stands the temple of a deity named Ålarnatha. Lord Brahma installed this four-armed deity in Satya-yuga, millions of years ago, and since then the worship has been the responsibility of certain brahmana families. Once, it was the responsibility of Sri Ketana, who had a son named Madhu. When Sri Ketana had to go out for several days to beg alms for the temple, he gave his son the service of offering meals to Ålarnatha.
After the boy’s mother finished cooking, she gave the plate to Madhu and told him to offer it to Lord Ålarnatha. He did not know the proper offering procedure, but his father had instructed him to simply ask the Lord to take what was placed before Him. Madhu sat in front of the Lord, told Him that he didn’t know how to offer anything properly, and requested that He take the offering. Then Madhu went outside to play, so that the Lord could eat.
Krishna is transcendental, and each of His senses can do the work of the others. He can eat with His eyes and leave His remnants behind as prasada, His mercy for the devotees. Madhu did not realize this, and thought that the Lord was supposed to eat everything on the plate. When he returned to the temple, he was surprised that the Lord’s meal seemed untouched. Afraid that his mother would be angry that the Lord did not accept the offering, Madhu offered the meal again.
“My dear Lord, You have not eaten the food I left for You. My father has instructed me to make this offering for You while he is away. I am a little boy and do not know how to offer anything to You in a proper way. Please eat this; otherwise my father will be angry with me.”
He again went outside to play, but when he came back, the meal was still untouched. Crying, he pleaded with the Lord to accept the offering. When he returned, he saw that the Lord’s plate was empty, and he brought it to his mother.
“Where is the prasada?” she asked.
Madhu told her that Ålarnatha had eaten everything, and so they were forced to fast. Devotees do not eat anything except Krishna’s prasada.
This happened for three days. When the boy’s father returned, he asked for some prasada, but his wife told him that Ålarnatha had eaten the offerings for the past three days. Sri Ketana thought that his son had hidden the prasada, fed it to dogs, or eaten everything himself. He told Madhu to offer the meal again. He would hide behind a curtain to watch.
Madhu offered the plate of food to Ålarnatha the same way he had before and then went outside. From his hiding place, Sri Ketana saw the Lord stretch out His arm and take a cup of sweet rice. Sri Ketana jumped out from behind the curtain and grabbed the Lord’s hand. Hot sweet rice flew out of the cup onto the Lord’s body. Sri Ketana told the Lord to stop taking everything, because his family would not have anything to eat. He had never heard of a deity eating, and although he was technically a brahmana, he did not have faith in the process of devotional service.
The Lord then declared that He was pleased by Madhu’s simple devotion but is never pleased with any offering, no matter how opulent, if it lacks devotion or is made by a materialistic, faithless person.
A Devotee’s Burnt Finger
Real service to Krishna is selfless, uninterrupted, and unconditional. Even apparent obstacles do not hinder the expression of pure devotion, which surpasses everything. Loving exchanges between the Lord and His devotee are inconceivable; they should not be held to material standards. Thus, the deepest significance of offerings made to the Lord is not exactly what is offered, but how it is offered.
In this regard, Srila Prabhupada has taught that Krishna accepts the intent and devotion of the offering more than the offered item itself. A story in the Brahma-vaivarta Purana (recounted in The Nectar of Devotion, Chapter 10) illustrates this concept by showing how a poorbrahmana achieved spiritual perfection by constantly remembering the Lord and worshiping Him by concentrated meditation. The brahmana’s devotion was so pure that he burnt his finger while meditating on preparing sweet rice for the Lord and testing its temperature.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura has taught that we should not try to see Krishna directly but should serve Him in such a way that He will be pleased to see us. The mental offerings of the poor brahmana were so sincere that the Lord accepted them and watched His devotee with great pleasure. When the brahmana burnt his finger, the Lord sent a celestial airplane to bring him to the spiritual world. Because of his unalloyed devotion, he became one of the Lord’s eternal associates.
Offering Everything to Krishna
All of these examples show how Krishna accepts the sincere offerings of His devotees without regard for external distinctions such as age and social class, yet He rejected Duryodhana’s opulent reception because it was devoid of love and faith. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.27.16–18) Krishna tells Uddhava, “One should worship Me in My deity forms by offering the most excellent paraphernalia” but “even very opulent presentations do not satisfy Me if they are offered by nondevotees” or without love.
Krishna is looking for our effort, which extends beyond food offerings and into every aspect of our lives. In fact, one of the nine main principles of devotional service is atma-nivedanam, offering everything to the Lord, including our mind, body, intelligence, and possessions. So let us offer our hearts to Krishna. By His mercy, our lives will become perfect offerings to Him.