Food, Consciousness and Nishtha

Food is an important aspect in the process of Bhakti. There is a direct relationship between Food consumed and the consciousness of the person who consumes the food. In fact it is not an exaggeration to state that food is the most important and the single-most decider in determining the quality of devotional activity a person may perform.

prasadamIt is clear from Vedic literature that there are five sheaths that cover the jeeva’s soul and the outermost covering is the Annamaya Kosha or the food-sheath. Based on the food sheath all the other sheaths are affected. A person who consumes a particular type of food develops a particular type of consciousness. The food that is prepared by non-devotees is considered to be poison by anyone who follows the path of Bhakti. Such food corrupts the consciousness of an aspirant in every possible way. One has to avoid the contamination of one’s consciousness by avoidance of such food and also one cannot offer such food to the deities.  A person who intends to perform Bhakti has to partake food that is offered to the deities of Sri Sri Radha and Krishna. Such food after having been partaken by the deities is said to be purely transcendental. Food that is transcendental is typically known as “Prasadam”. A person who makes it a point to honour prasadam by partaking it gets filled with divine consciousness. However we have to take into consideration what food can be served to the Lord. It is not that we prepare food based on the demands of our hungry senses and offer such food to the Lord. We can offer only food that is considered appropriate for the Lord’s partaking according to the norms delineated in Vedic scriptures. Food that is pungent which may contain onion and garlic cannot be offered to the Lord. More over food that belong to the modes of passion and ignorance like extremely spicy food as well as food that contain animal fat or that which is non-vegetarian cannot be offered to the Lord. Food that is in the mode of goodness, that which is not very spicy and that which have got ingredients that nourish the senses can be offered to the Lord. Intoxicants cannot be offered to the Lord.

When suitable food is offered to the Lord, one has to ensure that tulasi or basil leaves have to be included in each of the preparation before offering. When thus food is offered to the Lord, the Lord happily partakes the food and makes it prasadam. The Lord uses His eyes to partake the food and then refills the plate with transcendental prasadam. When a person consumes such prasadam for a prolonged period, easily takes up to devotional service and attains transcendental qualities simply by partaking food remnants of the Lord. Hence honouring prasadam is the most important aspect of Vaishnavic philosophy.

There may be yet many challenges in the life of a devotee or a Bhakta. It is possible that the devotee may be put under circumstances where transcendental prasadam is not available. Here it becomes obligatory on the part of the devotee to be established in “Nishtha” or steadfastness in observing the rules of Vaishnavism. One needs to ensure that one makes it a point to consume food that is allowed with regards to Vaishnava etiquette. When one displays such “Nishtha” or steadfastness with regard to one’s execution of Bhakti, such devotees are amply blessed by Sri Bhagawan.

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