THE PROCEDURE FOR PURIFYING THE FOOD
When one prepares vegetarian food, as a matter of gratitude, it should be offered to God with the chanting of prayers and Mantras. Everything that exists is a creation of God, and whatever He has sanctioned for human beings should be accepted only after being offered to Him. ^This makes it free from Karmic consequences. The followers of such principles are called “devotees.” As Lord Krsna says in the Gita:
yajna-sistasinah santo mucyante sarva-kilvisaih
bhunjante te tv agham papa ye pacanty atma-karnat
(The Song of God, 3.13)
“The devotees are freed from all types of sin because they eat food first offered in sacrifice. Others, who prepare food for themselves, are eating grievous sins.”
The Supreme Lord, who is addressed as Krsna in the ancient Vedic scriptures of India, has the capacity and the power to protect us from all Karmic reactions, provided we follow His system of sanctification. He is the Lord of all creation and He knows how we can become sanctified from sins. If we surrender to His rules, then the anxiety of suffering is removed at once. But if we remain ignorant and do not follow His rules of sanctification, then we are implicating ourselves with grave sin. As one of the ancient Vedic literatures of India, the Mantrarnava states:
megham annam vindate apracetah satyam
vravimi badhet sa tasya na aryamanam pusyati
no sakhayam kevalagho bhavati kevaladi
“O fools! I tell you in truth that nothing is yours, because the grains are produced by the mercy of the Lord through the rainfall, and you are committing sin by avoiding your prescribed duty. If you do not offer your food in sacrifice to the Lord nor share with your friends by eating alone, you are called a thief.”
Therefore, all vegetarian foods should be offered to the Lord with Mantras (respectful silent hymns) that are taught by a qualified Spiritual Master. Mantradhinam ca daivatam, such Mantras invite God to come to purify the offered food so that the sinful residues are removed from it.
The Vedas say that the main purpose of human life is to revive our lost relationship with God. That is why every religion known to man has at least a process of thanking God for supplying their daily needs. The human form of life gives one a chance to return home to the kingdom of God by adopting His recommended procedures of purification. Therefore, everyone must engage in their prescribed duty of pleasing God by engaging in His devotional service. If one executes devotional service to the Supreme Lord, he or she becomes intimately united with the Lord and thus becomes very happy. The Lord also says in the Gita “Only by devotional service can one understand Me as I am in truth, the Supreme Lord. Thereafter knowing Me in truth, he enters into My Supreme Kingdom.” Such is the result of following the devotional path of God through a qualified Spiritual Master; then entrance into the kingdom of God is guaranteed.
This raises a question: how can we love someone we have not seen? Fortunately, the Vedic literatures describe the unique features of the Supreme Lord in great detail so we can serve him without any reservation. The Vedic concept of God is not vague, as some may speculate; it is very specific and de¬tailed. In the ancient scriptures of India, the features of the Lord have been described endlessly and that is why His name is Krsna, “The all attractive Lord.” When we understand the personal identity of God then it becomes very easy for us to meditate and offer Him our food. He, as the Supreme Person, returns His devotee’s love, even though the offering is made here on earth and He is far away in His Kingdom. Although He is in the spiritual world, He is all pervading too: Sarvatah pani padam tat, His hands and legs are so long that He reach everywhere. Therefore, He accepts what we offer Him with love and makes it pure and free from all Karmic consequences.
THE POTENCY OF SANCTIFIED FOOD
God, Krsna, is unlimited and has unlimited transcen¬dental powers. He can, by transcendental powers, convert matter into spirit. If He could not do so, then He would not be the omnipotent Lord He, and no one else, has such powers. Just as an iron rod, placed in a fire for a long time, acts as fire, food offered with proper Mantras becomes fully spiritualized and is able to purify the sins of the eater. Such sanctified food is addressed as “Prasadam” (prah-shaH-dahm) in the Sanskrit language meaning “The liberating mercy of the Lord.” Consuming such sanctified vegetarian food is the ultimate perfection of the vegetarian diet: by eating such floods, one becomes purified of all sins, removing all the troubles of life. The consumption of such pure food removes the influence of evil spirits, psychological troubles and health problems, and makes one pure and nearer to God. The Vedas say that the ultimate purpose of human life is to reawaken our lost relationship with the Lord, and eating Prasadam is very helpful in achieving this goal. Although He is God and He can eat anything from His creation, He says in the Gita, “If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water—I accept it.” He never says offer Me meat or wine; therefore, it must be understood that He does not want such impure things.
God is a vegetarian, and wants all of us to be vegetarians, too. He further says, “Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer in sacrifice, as well as whatever charity you give and whatever austerities you perform, should be done as an offering unto Me.” And He further says, “By doing so, you will be freed from all the reactions of good and bad deeds, and by this Yoga of renunciation, with your consciousness fixed on Me, you will be liberated and will come to Me.”
There is a saying, “You are what you eat”; therefore, Prasadam, as it is the remnants of the Supreme Lord, will surely bring one to the platform of lasting happiness in life. Being children of God, it is our duty to follow what He says.
KEEPING PURITY WHILE PREPARING THE FOOD
While preparing food, cleanliness in the kitchen is very important, because nothing impure can be offered to the Lord. While purchasing ingredients, one should be very selective. As we have discussed previously, there are three types of foods that are described by Lord Krwa in the five thousand year old Bhagavad Gita: foods in goodness, foods in passion and foods in ignorance. Therefore, selections should strictly consist of vege¬tables, fruits, grains, beans, sugar and dairy products that, if prepared in proper combination, will put the food in the category of goodness. The right spices and other natural in¬gredients that are necessary to prepare proper foods are usually available in Indian grocery stores. Onions, garlic, mushrooms, turnips and beet-roots should not be mixed in the food because, if these are used, the food will result in the category of passion. These vegetables bring sadness, frustration and wrath to the consumer. Asafetida is the replacement for impure spices and vegetables such as onions and garlic.
As we said previously, everything must be offered to the Lord. It is best if one does this under the guidance of a bonafide Guru, Spiritual Master. But if such a master is not available, one must do the best one can.
Always wash your hands before preparing the food, and never taste the food until it is prepared and offered to the Lord. While cooking the food, meditate that you are cooking for Lord Krsna. After cooking the food, place it on metal plates and bowls and offer them with Mantras or prayers. Mantras should be learnt from a bonafide Guru. If the Mantras are not known, then simply place the plate before the picture of Krsna and say, “O Lord Krsna, please accept this food and forgive me for my mistakes.” And then chant HARE KRSNA HARE KRSNA KRSNA KRSNA HARE HARE // HARE RAMA HARE RAMA RAMA RAMA HARE HARE, three times with folded hands and closed eyes. This etiquette is simply to show your devotion and gratitude to the Lord. Eventually you may plan to learn the exact procedure of offering food from the ancient scriptures by contacting our centers listed in this book. God is complete in Himself and self-satisfied; He does not need anything from anyone. He only wants to see how much we love Him. Therefore, the Vedic scriptures state that He only wants our love and devotion, and this procedure of offering food is one of the main ways to show Him our gratitude and love.
According to the subtle law of Karma, food cooked by an unbeliever carries his sins to the consciousness of the eater, which lowers the eater’s consciousness. Therefore, one should try to avoid food cooked by an unbeliever. Just as a painter expresses his state of mind when painting on the canvas, food cooked by an ignorant person will surely bring the cook’s state of mind to anyone who eats the food. Therefore, it is advised to learn to cook for oneself or to eat foods that are cooked by a spiritually elevated person.
KARMIC CONSEQUENCES OF EATING VEGETABLES
In the Bhagavad Gita the Lord told Arjuna that the soul has neither birth nor death, and when the body is destroyed, the soul remains untouched. If this is the case, then why should killing a plant or an animal, if a real death is not involved, be considered violence? In response to this, the Vedic evidence states, karmana daiva netrana, the Supreme Destiny decides the duration of life for a soul in a particular body, and that soul experiences his past Karma in that body. Until that soul completes its duration of stay in that body, and is promoted to another body, he should not be disturbed. If there is any impediment to this rule of completing his term in his present body, it is regarded as violence. Therefore, one should not prematurely take away anybody’s life for one’s personal gratification because it disturbs the rightful duration of that creature’s existence. Removing one’s rightful living privilege in a body implicates one in Karmic reaction.
Even though, in comparison to animal slaughter, vegetarians are not always involved in much killing, they too, kill living things. However, accepting roots, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains involves less Karmic consequence, because plants have a less developed nervous system than animals. Vegetarians are still liable for punishment, even though there is a lot of difference between digging up a potato and killing a cow. Still, one must also suffer the Karmic-consequences for killing plants. Therefore, vegetarians also need to purify their food by offering it to the Lord, so all the Karma from the food is removed and it becomes purified. When purified food is eaten, it cleanses the consciousness and increases duration of life, health and vigor; thus, one becomes Healthy, Happy and Wise.