Srila Ramanujacharya was taking bath beside the banks of the holy river of Kaveri. Once he came out, a few pujaris ran to him to offer some Prasadam. Srila Ramanujacharya honoured the Prasadam of the Lord and he washed off his hands in the river. While he did so, the remaining particles of Prasadam that were stuck in his palm and fingers slipped into the water. Few fishes swam around to grab pieces of his remnants. His disciples were closely watching the miracle manifest. The fishes assumed a four-armed form of Lord Narayana and immediately left to the Vaikuntha. All of his disciples immediately took off their clothes to dive into the river thinking it’s the effect of this holy river. But however, Ramanujacharya stopped them and said, “No! It is the effect of Prasadam.” Confused, the disciples enquired, “We too take prasadam every day. We still have two hands. When will we get our four hands and leave this material world? That fish didn’t do any sadhana but left to the spiritual world. This is not fair.”
Then Ramanujacharya replied that the fish had certain advantages over the devotees. And he stated two main reasons for it.
Fish never offends Prasadam. Fish eats whatever is given. It honoured the remnants of the Lord as soon as a few pieces of rice came its way without demanding for variety of courses. Anyone who offends Prasad will not get the result of the Prasad. Shastra has its way of balancing the injunctions. While eating if we think salt is not there, it is a clear indication that we’re not Prasadam conscious but worried about our sense of gratification.
The fish was totally dependent only on Prasadam. So, that total dependence on Prasad made him qualified and eligible to receive Lord Vishnu’s mercy, unlike us who may, if given a chance explore alternatives.
That is the power of Prasadam. If taken with the right consciousness, it can immediately take us back to Godhead.
Thus, Srila Prabhupada gave us 5 important reasons why Prasadam plays a highly crucial role in our lives.
- Prasadam distribution is a fundamental strand of preaching
Preaching means transforming people’s consciousness. Our duty is to help elevate people’s consciousness and not diminish it. In the 17th chapter of Gita, Krishna says that any sacrifice or yagya that doesn’t conclude with distributing Prasadam is considered to be in the mode of ignorance. Lord Kapila explains in the third canto of Srimad Bhagavatam one of the most important principles of deity worship is to offer bhoga to the Lord and distribute it as Prasadam to all the souls. This is a way of recognizing the presence of the Lord as Paramatma or Supersoul within everyone’s heart. The best way to elevate one’s consciousness to the level of perceiving the Lord’s presence in everyone is by distributing Prasadam.
As the Hare Krishna Movement started gaining momentum, Srila Prabhupada began conducting Sunday Love Feast with the elaborate menu. Although many were trying to stick to their diet, several Americans would flock to taste the ambrosial nectar of fried Kachoris specifically made by Srila Prabhupada himself. Because the devotion of Prabhupada infused in it after offering it to Krishna was indeed beyond any celestial delight. Because he couldn’t give direct Gita classes, HH Radhanath Swami used to conduct cooking classes in the universities of America. The special recipe was on how to make puris. He would teach them the process of heating the oil, rolling the flat dough, and right before slipping them into the oil, he would stop them all. “Now. There is a secret chant or mantra we have to utter for this Puri to come out and he would recite the entire Hare Krishna Mahamantra and the students would follow. *wooosh* the puris would bulge and float in the oil light a magic boat. If theirs didn’t turn out properly he’d say they didn’t chant properly. That’s how Prasadam becomes a transformative tool for preaching Krishna Consciousness.
2. Prasadam distribution is our secret weapon
Prasadam is referred to as a secret weapon because nobody can figure out how it affects from inside. Paracetamol cures our fever from inside and we are not conscious of each and every chemical process that happens inside our bodies, yet we know by the end of the day that it had an effect in curing us. Similarly, we may be stuck in a complete material perception of life, restlessly lusting over material sense objects like a fool, but once Prasadam enters our body, gradually we will see that there is a tremendous degeneration of envy, anger, lust from our hearts. Unless we control sex desire, peace cannot be achieved. And peace is all that we’re looking for. Therefore, identifying these diseases may help us seek the right medicine. Prasadam is a combination of diet and medicine. And therefore it is the secret weapon, from inside it creates a transformation, it changes you from within.
3. Prasadam distribution means giving Krishna to others
The third principle Prabhupada explains is that by distributing Prasadam, we get to offer Krishna to others. Krishna says in the Bhagvad Gita
Yeṣāṁ tv anta-gataṁ pāpaṁ
bhajante māṁ dṛḍha-vratāḥ
That anyone who has sinful credits, once purified will take to Krishna Consciousness. So, as devotees, it is our duty and responsibility to create a facility for that purification and create pious credits. When we give Prasadam, and the person honors it, he is actually accumulating spiritual piety. He may not immediately become an active participant of this movement or become a sadhaka in this life, but at some point in time in the future, in some other lifetime, he will become. And we can be instrumental in that divine design by bringing him one step closer to Krishna. Krishna’s mahima or glories cannot be understood by speculation but they can be understood only by purification, by honoring Prasadam. Therefore, Krishna has made the process simple and easy.
4. Prasadam distribution is Grihastha dharma
Srila Prabhupada states that after cooking every day, the grihastha must go out on the streets and call out loudly if anyone is hungry and that Prasadam is available. A real grihastha must be eager to host people and provide them Krishna Prasadam. After feeding the guests, all the domestic animals and insects, etc., must all be fed with prasadam. That was the Vedic system. Understandably, it is difficult in the age of Kali, because if we shout “Anyone hungry?” the whole colony will throng at our doorsteps along with their dabbas, “Yes we are all hungry”. And they will even start timing their daily activities accordingly. This happens only in India.
However, periodical distribution of Prasadam can help grihasthas become instrumental in letting others appreciate Krishna. Because other forms of Sravanam Kirtanam, listening to Krishna Katha and all other such activities hardly see any crowd today. This is the influence of Kali, leaving our minds restless.
Srila Prabhupada’s 5 instructions for Grihastha on how to utilize their earnings:
- Use the money earned to worship Krishna at home.
- Spend money in receiving Vaishnavas to home.
- Use money to distribute Prasadam amongst the mass.
- Money must be spent on distributing Prasadam to other living entities (who may not be in even human form) like cows, and other entities.
- Spend money in providing Prasadam for oneself and one’s own family.
Therefore, the perfection of Grihastha dharma is achieved by staying in a family and utilizing the money fully for Krishna’s pleasure.
5. Prasadam for distribution must be nicely offered
According to the Shastras, there is a proper protocol to be followed in nicely offering the Prasadam to others. First, it is given to the Vaishnavas and Brahmanas, then to the children, elderly, and women. Then later, to the animals. This is because Lord’s remnants must be honoured in a certain way. Of course, when there is an open distribution, it is difficult to take these into consideration. At least, preferences may be announced so the Vaishnavas, elderly, children, and women would get it. The one who serves too much be in a consciousness free from the anxiety that whether he will have anything left to eat. Completely dependent on the Lord’s mercy and selflessly without having a miser’s heart, he must serve whoever requests for Prasadam.
Once, a box of Mahaprasadam was presented for Srila Prabhupada and his servant noticed there were ants inside savouring the sweets. The servant thought Prabhupada might not eat it because of the ants. He was calculating that once Prabhupada rejects it, he could honour the sweets. He approached Srila Prabhupada with the box of burfi and showed him the ants all over the sweets. Prabhupada said, “Ants don’t eat so much, they will eat a little bit, remaining shall be left for me. Leave it like that.” Then, Prabhupada said, “Charity begins at home.” Hence, Prasadam distribution begins by first offering it to Vaishnavas.