By Jaya Govinda Caran Das
‘So for Krsna He could eat anything He likes. He is God. But still, He recommends, patram puspam phalam toyam yo me bhaktya prayacchati. Why? Because we have to take Krsna’s prasadam, so therefore He is recommending, “These things you can give Me.” Patram puspam phalam toyam. So that is our food. We are devotees of Krsna. We are meant for eating the remnants of foodstuff offered to Krsna.’ Srila Prabhupada 73/07/18 London, Bhagavad-gita lecture 1.21-22
When I heard about it for the first time it was in the year 2002, but it sounded too unbelievable so I took it as mere gossip. One year later in Mayapur Dham the topic came out again when I was having an informal conversation with one of Bhakti Caru Swami’s secretaries and at that time it seemed more plausible.
However, I totally forgot about it till the last month, December 2006, when one devotee asked me if Krsna can accept chocolates. I also noticed that devotees who had been abstaining from eating chocolates for 12 years or even more, were freely eating them on the street. So I told to myself, perhaps it was not a gossip! Later on, one member of the temple council confirmed it to me, Yes, she said, ‘The consumption of chocolate in ISKCON has been authorized!
To be honest, I did not know what to do, write to my spiritual master asking for advice, or run into the first chocolate shop I find, because I have to recognize, I was a chocolate addicted and the only idea of eating chocolates without any feeling of guiltiness made me so glad. So I had already one foot inside the chocolate shop but somehow I managed to restrain my mind and I walked home.
The next day I found myself in a chocolate shop, ‘just to find out prices’ my dear mind told me. ‘Black chocolate 90% pure cacao, mmmm sounds good. Oh my God, my favorite one, white chocolate with pistachios” And that was the end of my self-restrain. ‘Nothing to worry about’ my dear mind told me again and she added ‘It has been allowed!’And so, few minutes later I was devouring that chocolate, actually I bought four pieces. The first bite was tremendous, like nectar, however, when I finished the last chocolate, my psychological satisfaction had increased so much that I felt satiated and to my surprised I felt guilty.
I think I don’t have to explain the troubles I experienced due to the aphrodisiac quality of cacao and sugar, and later on all those red pimples weren’t’ pleasurable at all. Still, my tongue was requesting me, ‘Kindly give me one more chocolate’, as Srila Prabhupada says: Tongue is the bitterest enemy of the living being. The tongue is dragging. Jihva. “Kindly give me this immediately. Kindly give me this wine immediately. Kindly give me this tea immediately. Kindly give me this cigarette immediately. Kindly give me this meat.” Bhagavad-gita 1.21-22 73/07/18 London
The consumption of chocolates amongst devotees of Krishna is a catchall issue, because there is no any direct instruction from Srila Prabhupada prohibiting it, if there is please let me know I am anxious to learn about it. At the same time deep within us we know that eating chocolates is not good for the development of our Krishna consciousness. I really don’t want to get into the back and forth of endless arguments in favor and against it, as it is stated: tarko apratisthah srutayor vibhinna [Cc. Madhya 17.186] A great logician can easily defeat one who is not so good. So I find not so helpful to create forums and debates without a writing statement from our previous Acaryas. However, I take the exemplary life of Srila Prabhupada as my guide; mahajano yena gatah sa panthah [Cc. Madhya 17.186] That is the process recommended in the Sastras, to follow the previous Acarya and Srila Prabhupada was not a chocolate eater, not compulsive not moderate.
If Krishna does not accept then who should I offer it to?
I also came to know that it was forbidden to offer chocolates to the Deities. This really did not make any sense to me. In one hand a devotee is allowed to eat chocolates and on the other it is forbidden to offer them to the Deities. My first question was, if the Deities do not accept chocolates why should I eat them. A devotee must only eat foodstuffs offered to Krishna. One may argue that you cannot offer to the Deity but devotees still can eat them. However, my question is, what difference is there between Krishna Deity and Krishna paramatma. If I cannot offer to the Deity but I offer to Krishna or Vishnu closing my eyes what is the difference? Krishna is omnipresent.
There is the story of Vallabha Acarya who wanted to present a poem of his own composition to Caitanya Mahaprabhu. All the writings had to go through Svarup Damodara and he would decide whether a particular writing was fit to be presented to Caitanya Mahaprabhu or not. Vallabha Acarya had composed some verses glorifying Mahaprabhu and in one of the verses he said that Jagannatha was non-moving wooden Krishna and Mahaprabhu was moving Krishna. Svarupa Damodara got very much upset and scolded Vallabha Acarya because he was discriminating between Jagannatha and Mahaprabhu. Svarupa Damodara told Vallabha Acarya that his poem was not in accordance with the Vaisnava siddhantha. The Deity is non-different from Krishna and Krishna is non-different from the Deity.
In this way, if I cannot offer my chocolates to the Deities then how can I offer them to Krsna or who should I offer them to? There must be some reason why Krishna does not accept chocolates don’t you think so? If I just ‘Sri Visnu’ my chocolates I might get a Karma free pleasure but what about my Bhakti Sir? I can be a karma free bhogi but if I don’t eat prasadam offered to Krishna surely I will not develop love for Krishna. Moreover, if Krsna does not accept my chocolates and I still eat them it is clearly that I am just gratifying my tongue: ‘Tongue is the bitterest enemy of the living being. The tongue is dragging. ” Jihva, Kindly give me this, immediately. Kindly give me this wine, immediately. Kindly give me this tea, immediately. Kindly give me this cigarette, immediately. Kindly give me this meat.” Bhagavad-gita 1.21-22 73/07/18 London.
A psychosomatic factor
The Vaisnava tradition emphasizes many activities such as fasting, striking bell in a temple, fast of grains during Ekadasi, waking up early in the morning, take bath etc. These activities accentuate sattva guna in the physical sense and invigorate our desire for self-realization in the psychological sense.
These are psychosomatic activities, they simultaneously are physical as well as psychological. (Note that here we use the word psychosomatic as pertaining to the relationship of the mind and body)
Eating also has a psychosomatic effect, eating of vegetables for example will invigorate our sattva guna in the physical sense and strengthen our desire for self-realization in the psychological sense. For this reason items such as onion, garlic, mushrooms, though they are not drugs and are purely vegetarian, are forbidden. Same is the case of chocolates. Chocolates accentuates tama and raja gunas in the physical sense, and strengthens our desire for sense gratification and sleepiness in the psychological sense.
Sastra does not force us to follow
Actually there is no such thing as forbidden. Sastra just illuminates our path and ultimately it is up to the sincere sadhaka to follow it or not. If I want I can even eat meat, but because I am committed to go back to Krisna in this life I have decided by my own will to follow those valuable instructions.
We have to remember that Mahaprabhu has taught us that even authorized delicious foodstaffs have to be given up if one is seriously trying to go back to Godhead.
Finally I am quoting a Bengali saying: bhajana kara sadhana kara murti yanre haya. (?) You may be very great devotee. That’s all right. But it will be tested at the time of your death, how you remember Krsna. That will be the last examination. Srila Prabhupada Bhagavad-gita 1.28-29, 73/07/22 London
So one should always keep in mind that at the end of our life we should make a final choice, whether chocolates, cakes, coca cola or Krishna, it is up to us only.