“Prasad” means “gracious gift”. Prasad is holy food or any gift that has been offered first in worship to the Lord, in the form of a deity, a saintly person, or Guru, before being distributed.
For Vaishanvas, Prasad is of great importance. Whenever we perform prayers, we offer food to the Lord. This food is transformed – sanctified – into Prasad. Prasad contains a blessing which helps you become purified and achieve the pure love of God. It can elevate you. Prasad is filled with the Grace of the Lord. In fact, just by eating Prasad, those that have great devotion to the Lord will be saved and will dwell with Him. This is the power of Prasad.
The famous bhajan – Sabse Oonchi Prem Sagai – speaks about the love relationship between the devotee and the Lord: the lover and the beloved. Without the lover, the beloved doesn’t exist and vice versa. The bhajan describes the importance of devotion when offering Prasad. The lyrics, translated, of the first two verses are as follows:
“Lord Krishna renounced the delicacies that Duryodhana offered, and ate vegetables at Vidura’s house. (see picture above of Vidura’s wife feeding Lord Krishna!) As Lord Rāma, He ate fruits which were already filled with love from Sabari.”
The bhajan comes from the story of Shabari in the Rāmāyana. Sharbari was an old lady, and a devotee of Rāma. Rāma was constantly present in her thoughts, and her deepest desire was to meet him in person.
One day, she heard that Rāma was going to pass through the village where she lived. She was so excited at this, that she couldn’t eat, drink or sleep. She was finally going to meet her beloved Rāma. But she was very poor, and, thinking that she must have something to offer him, she started looking around to see what she could find. Her eyes fell on the ripe berries on a tree before her, and she ran to pick the fruit. But, concerned they might be sour or rotten, she began to bite into and taste each berry. She discarded the ones not fit to be offered and kept those that were sweet.
Then Rāma arrived. She offered him the half-bitten berries. Rāma, seeing Shabari’s total absorption in her devotion to him, started eating the berries. He savored them, one by one, with great relish. Laxmana, Rāma’s brother, was shocked. He was outraged both by Shabari’s effrontery and by Rāma who was enjoying the fruits with such relish! At this, Rāma explained to Laxmana the ‘bhāva’, the intention, behind Shabari’s action and Laxmana understood. The nature of the devotion which pervaded Shabari’s state of being was such that she no longer saw herself and Rāma as separate. That love, that relationship, is also present in the Prasad.
Significance of Prasad
The Lord loves Prasad very much. As much as He loves us, He loves also to give us something which he has tasted, so that we can also have that taste. The Bhagavatam explains what the Lord loves to eat, but above all He loves what comes from your heart. Out of all that you offer, what you offer from your heart is what he will take, and in return he will bless this and make it into Prasad. And the fullness of his grace can be in the tiniest piece of Prasad. That is why it is very important not to drop it or if you do, to pick it up – and not to step on it, as this is an offence and an offence towards Prasad is not pardoned.
When one works on oneself and becomes calm, whatever one does, it is all Prasad, all a prayer, and it constantly brings one to higher and higher states of consciousness.
Celebrate Kartik Night with us in Southall, London
When: Saturday 27 October from 5pm to 12pm (doors open at 4pm)
Where: SSPC Southall, Drill Hall, Featherstone Road, Southall, UB2 5AQ
Visit Shree Peetha Nilaya
So you love the picture at the top and wonder where it is from? This is one of over 100 glorious murals that were painted by Bhakti Marga Artists at the Bhutabhrteshwarnath Mandir, which is based at Bhakti Marga International’s headquarters – the Shree Peetha Nilaya Ashram near Frankfurt, Germany.
If you are interested in going there in person and wish to travel with others from the UK, then let us know here and we’ll get back to you.