Bhaktivedanta Manor, like all Hare Krishna centres, does not offer its guests ordinary feasts. Bhaktivedanta Manor offers its guests transcendentally extraordinary feasts – feasts of Krishna’s mercy.
The Sanskrit word for mercy is ‘prasada,’ and Srila Prabhupada’s Hare Krishna movement is internationally famous for a certain aspect of prasada: delectable and variegated vegetarian food that’s been offered to Krishna with love and devotion. Krishna’s devotees know that His prasada – His mercy – is essential for spiritual progress. “If one is serious about going back home, back to Godhead, he must consider the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead the summum bonum and chief aim of life.” (SB 5.5.15)
Krishna’s mercy comes in many forms, and it’s our great fortunate that His mercy in the form of Sri Krishna prasada is readily available though the astonishingly simple act of offering and eating it (or, as we say, honoring it – for once it’s been accepted by Krishna we understand that it’s non-different from Krishna Himself). Feasts of Krishna prasada are integral to Srila Prabhupada’s Hare Krishna culture, as well they should be, for Srila Prabhupada is a follower of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who said of prasada: “it is to be understood that the spiritual nectar of Krishna’s lips has touched these ordinary ingredients and transferred to them all their spiritual qualities. A fragrance and taste that are uncommon and greatly enchanting and that make one forget all other experiences are attributes of Krishna’s lips.” (Cc Antya 16.112 – 113)
As recounted by His biographer, after Sri Caitanya said this the many devotees with Him loudly chanted the holy name of Hari and tasted the prasada they’d been given. As they tasted it, their minds became mad in the ecstasy of love. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu kept telling the prasada distributors, “Give the devotees more! Give them more!” and gradually all of the devotees became filled up to their necks with Krishna prasada.
In the early days of the Hare Krishna movement, money was scarce and as a result the new, young devotees often ate austerely all week. On Sundays, however, in every Hare Krishna temple all energy and resources were devoted to making lavish prasada feasts for the public, which the devotees relished too. Those feasts were reminiscent of the feast Krishna told the residents of Vrindavan to make for Govardhana puja: “Prepare rice, dāl, then halavā, pakorā, purī and all kinds of milk preparations, such as sweet rice, rabrī, sweetballs, sandeśa, rasagullā and laḍḍu.” (Krishna Book, chapter 24) The devotees didn’t make all these dishes every week, but over time they’d make them all, plus chutneys, kachoris, fries, brahman spaghetti, bharats, every kind of vegetable dish imaginable, fruit drinks and smoothies, cakes, malpouras and many other exotic dishes. Often it was the Sunday feasts that kept the fledging devotees going from one week to the next.
In one of his Bhagavad-gita purports, Srila Prabhupada explains the importance of Sri Krishna prasada: “The devotees of the Lord, who are in Krishna consciousness, offer food to Krishna and then eat – a process which nourishes the body spiritually. By such action not only are past sinful reactions in the body vanquished, but the body becomes immunized to all contamination of material nature. When there is an epidemic disease, an antiseptic vaccine protects a person from the attack of such an epidemic. Similarly, food offered to Lord Vishnu [Krishna] and then taken by us makes us sufficiently resistant to material affection, and one who is accustomed to this practice is called a devotee of the Lord. Therefore, a person in Krishna consciousness, who eats only food offered to Krishna, can counteract all reactions of past material infections, which are impediments to the progress of self-realization… The material world is full of contaminations, and one who is immunized by accepting prasādam of the Lord (food offered to Viṣṇu) is saved from the attack.” (Gita 3.14)
Krishna’s devotees know that their spiritual progress is determined by His mercy and He is prepared to bestow His mercy on them. Whatever may be happening externally, Krishna’s devotees are filled with appreciation for His kindness and their hearts are tender with affection for Him. Their knowledge and appreciation of Krishna, as well as their affection for Him, are evidence of His mercy on them. He bestows that variegated, dynamic mercy in a myriad of ways, and of all of them especially prominent is His sublime prasada. Please come to Bhaktivedanta Manor and taste some delightfully variegated prasada dishes.
Prasada is an integral part of our very means of conquest over the material energy for Sri Krishna prasada brings us closer to Krishna. What a blessing! And what more could we want?
Written by Visakha Dasi