Why do we offer food to the Lord before eating it?


In western tradition food is partaken after a thanksgiving prayer – grace. Indians make an offering of it to the Lord and later partake of it as prasada  – a holy gift from the Lord. In temples and in many homes, the cooked food is first offered to the Lord each day. The offered food is mixed with the rest of the food and then served as prasada. In our daily ritualistic worship (puja) too we offer naivedyam (food) to the Lord. Why do we offer food to the Lord?

The Lord is omnipotent and omniscient. All that we do is by His strength and knowledge alone. Being the totality, all that we receive in life as a result of our actions is really His alone. We acknowledge this through the act of offering food to Him. This is exemplified by the famous aarti words in Hindi tera tujko arpan – ‘I offer what is Yours to You’. Thereafter what is received is His gift to us (prasada), graced by His divine touch.

Knowing this, our entire attitude to food and the act of eating changes. The food offered is pure and the best and shared with others, before consuming. We do not demand, complain or criticize the quality of the food we get. We do not waste or reject it. We eat it with a cheerful acceptance (prasada buddhi). When we become established in this attitude, we are then able to cheerfully accept all we get in life as His prasada.

Before we partake of our daily meals we first sprinkle water around the plate as an act of purification. Five morsels of food are placed on the side of the plate acknowledging the debt owed by us to: a) Divine forces (देवता ऋण, devta runa) for their benign grace and protection. b) Our ancestors (पितृ ऋण, pitru runa) for giving us their lineage and a family culture. c) The Sages (ऋषि ऋण, rishi runa) as our religion and culture have been “realized”, maintained and handed down to us by them. d) Our fellow beings (मनुष्य ऋण manushya runa) who constitute the society, without the support of which we could not live as we do. e) Other living beings (भूत ऋण bhuta runa) for serving us selflessly.

Thereafter the Lord, the life force, who is also within us as the five life-giving physiological functions, is offered the food. This is done with the chant

ॐ प्राणाय स्वाहा, ॐ अपानाय स्वाहा, ॐ व्यानाय स्वाहा, ॐ उदानाय स्वाहा, ॐ समानाय स्वाहा, ॐ ब्रह्मणे स्वाहा  !

Om Praanaaya Swaahaa, Om Apaanaaya Swaahaa, Om Udaanaaya Swaaha, Om Samaanaaya Swaaha, Om Brahmmane Swaaha!

[referring to the five physiological functions -respiratory (praanna), excretory (apaanaa), circulatory (vyaanaa) digestive (samaana), and reversal (udaanaa) systems]. After offering the food thus, it is eaten as prasaad – blessed food.

To remember this concept, many chant following verses of

ब्रह्मार्पणं ब्रह्म हविः ब्रह्माग्नौ ब्रह्मणा हुतम्।
ब्रह्मैव तेन गन्तव्यं ब्रह्मकर्मसमाधिना॥ (4.24)

brahmārpaṇaṁ brahma haviḥ brahmāgnau brahmaṇā hutam !
brahmaiva tena gantavyaṁ brahmakarmasamādhinā!! (4.24)

अहं वैश्वानरो भूत्वा प्राणिनां देहमाश्रितः।
प्राणापानसमायुक्तः पचाम्यन्नं चतुर्विधम्।।15.14।।

ahaḿ vaiśvānaro bhūtvā, prāṇināḿ deham āśritaḥ
prāṇāpāna-samāyuktaḥ, pacāmy annaḿ catur-vidham (15.14)

Brahman is the oblation; the clarified butter; the fire; the oblation… Brahman (the Supreme) shall be reached by him, who sees the Supreme in all actions. Residing in all living, beings as the digestive fire, I digest the four types of food eaten by them (as an offering to Me).

Swami Vimalananda, Radhika Krishnakumar, Chinmaya Mission

Excerpts from Why Do We?







Why do we light a lamp?


In almost every Indian home a lamp is lit daily before the altar of the Lord. In some houses it is lit at dawn, in some, twice a day – at dawn and dusk – and in a few it is maintained continuously. All auspicious functions and moments like daily worship, rituals and festivals and even many social occasions like inaugurations commence with the lighting of the lamp, which is often maintained right through the occasion.

Light symbolizes knowledge, and darkness ignorance. The lord is the ‘Knowledge Principle’ (chaitanya) who is the source, the enlivener and the illuminator of all knowledge. Hence light is worshipped as the Lord Himself.

Knowledge removes ignorance just as light removes darkness. Also knowledge is a lasting inner wealth by which all outer achievement can be accomplished. Hence we light the lamp to bow down to knowledge as the greatest of all forms of wealth. Knowledge backs all our actions whether good or had. We therefore keep a lamp lit during all auspicious occasions as a witness to our thoughts and actions.

Why not light a bulb or tube light? That too would remove darkness. But the traditional oil lamp has a further spiritual significance The oil or” ghee in the lamp symbolizes our vaasanas or negative tendencies and the wick, the ego When lit by spiritual knowledge; the Vaasanas get slowly exhausted and the ego too finally perishes The flame of a lamp always burns upwards. Similarly, we Should acquire such knowledge as to take us towards higher ideals.

A single lamp can light hundreds more just as a man of knowledge can give it to many more. The brilliance of the light does not diminish despite its repeated use to light many more lamps. So too knowledge does not lessen when shared with or imparted to others, On the contrary it increases in clarity and conviction on giving. It benefits both the receiver and the given

Light is self-shining. The Knowledge Principle (Madam) is self-evident and illumines all without aid.

Whilst lighting the lamp we pray:

दीपज्योतिः परब्रह्म दीपज्योतिर्जनार्दनः ।
दीपो हरतु मे पापं दीपज्योतिर्नमोऽस्तुते ॥

I prostrate to the dawn dusk lamp, whose light is the Knowledge principle (the Supreme Lord), which removes the darkness of 1gnorance and. by which all can be achieved in life.

Which else shall beautify a home but the flame of a lovely lamp?
Whlch else shall adorn the mind but the light of wisdom deep?

Swani Chinmayananda

Swami Vimalananda Radhika Krishnakumar, Chinmaya Mission

Excerpts frpm In Indian Culture Why Do We?