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11 February, 2012

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

In Indian Culture
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 prasaada 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 prasaada. In our daily ritualistic worship (pooja) too we offer naivedyam (food) to the Lord. Why do we do so ?

• Why do we offer neivedya (food)?

       The Lord is omnipotent and omniscient. Man is a part, while the Lord is the totality. All that we do is by His strength and knowledge alone. Hence what 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 Hindi words tera tujko arpan from the arati "Jai Jagadisha Hare”I offer what is Yours to you. Thereafter, it is akin to his gift to us, graced by His divine touch.

       Knowing this, our entire attitude to food and the act of eating changes. The food offered will naturally be pure and the best. We share what we get with others before consuming it. 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 cheerful acceptance (prasaada buddhi). When we become established in this attitude, it goes beyond the purview of food and pervades our entire. Lives. We are then able to cheerfully accept all we get in life as His prasaada.

       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 buy us to the
- divine forces (devta runa) for their benign grace and protection;

- our ancestors (pitru runa) for giving us their lineage and a family culture;

- the sages (rishi runa) as our religion and culture have been “realized”, maintained and handed down to us by them;

- our fellow beings (manushya runa) who constitute society without the support of which we could not live as we do and

- other living beings (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 – praanaaya swaahaa, apaanaaya swaahaa, vyaanaaya swaahaa, udaanaaya swaahaa, samaanaaya swahaa, brahmane swaahaa (referring to the five physiological functions

respiratory (praana) system,
- excretory (apaana) system, 
- circulatory (vyaana) system, 
- digestive (samaana) system and
- reversal (udaana) system.

After offering the food thus, it is eaten as prasaada - blessed food.

       To remember this concept, many chant the following verses of the Bhagavat Geeta (in sanskrit).

Brahmaarpanam Brahmahavihi
       Brahmaagnau Brahmanaahutam

      Brahmakarma samaadhina

 -- Brahman is the oblation; the clarified butter; the oblation; the fire…… Brahman ( the Supreme) shall be reached by him who sees the Supreme in all actions


Aham vaishvaanarobbhutva
       praaninam debamaaashritaha
     papchaamyannam chaturvidham

“Residing in all living beings as the digestive fire, I digest the four types of food eaten by them (as an offering to Me)”.

Source: Excerpts from the Book on In Indian Culture... Why do we... by Swamini Vimalananda & Radhika Krishnakumar.

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