Importance of Prasad in Hinduism
Prasad and Charanamrit
By Swami Shivananda
Divine Life Society, Rishikesh
The word ‘prasad’ means that which gives peace. During any form of worship, ritual or ceremony, Hindus offer some items of food to the Lord. Puja is done with Bael leaves, flowers, Tulasi (Basil plant), Vibhuti and these are given as Prasada from the Lord.
Prasada is that which gives peace. Prasada is the sacred food offering of the Lord. During Kirtans (Singing hymns), worship, Puja, Havan and Arati, the devotee offers sweet rice, fruits, jaggery, milk, coconut, plantain and such other articles to the Lord, according to his ability. After offering them to the Lord, they are shared between the members of the house or the Bhaktas (devotees) in a temple.
Water, flowers, rice, etc., are offered to the Lord in worship. This denotes that the Lord is pleased with even the smallest offering. What is wanted is the heart of the devotee. The Lord says in the Gita :
“Patram Pushpam Phalam Toyam Yo Me Bhaktya Prayacchati;
Tadaham Bhaktyupahritamasanami Prayatatmanah” – Whoever offers a leaf, a flower, a fruit or even water with devotion, that I accept, offered as it is with a loving heart”.
It is not necessary that one should offer gold, silver and costly dress to the Lord. The devotee offers these according to his ability and position in life, thereby denoting that the whole wealth of the world belongs to the Lord. A rich man offers costly things to the Lord. He feeds the poor and serves the sick, seeing the Lord in his fellow-beings.
The mental Bhava (attitude) of the devotee offering Bhog to the Lord has very great effect. If an ardent devotee of the Lord offers anything to the Lord, that Prasada, if taken, would bring very great change even in the minds of atheists. The Grace of the Lord descends through Prasada. Go through the life of Narada. You will realise the greatness of the sacred leavings of the Lord as well as those of advanced Sadhakas and saints.
Namadeva offered rice etc., to Panduranga Vitthala and He ate the food and shared it with Namadeva as well. If the food is offered with an yearning heart, sometimes, the Lord takes that food assuming a physical form. In other cases, the Lord enjoys the subtle essence of the food offered, and the food remains as it is in the shape of Prasada. While feeding Mahatmas and the poor people, that which is left behind is taken as Prasada. When a sacrifice is performed, the participants share the Prasada which bestows the blessings of the gods. When Dasaratha performed Putrakameshti (a sacrifice performed wishing for a son), he got a vessel full of sweetened rice that he gave to his queens, by taking which they became pregnant.
A special form of prasad is the Charanamrit, which is the water or milk used to wash the feet of the idol, or of a holy saint. The Charanamrit has tremendous powers. It can change the outlook of a devotee entirely. It has the power to cure diseases. There are cases where it brought back life to the dead. Charanamrit is a tonic or medicine for misery, pain and anxiety. Intense faith is the all-important necessity for taking it. Without faith it brings very little benefit. The benefits of Prasada and Charanamrita are beyond description. They have the power to change entirely the outlook of a man’s life. There have been ever so many instances in the past in this holy land of ours (India) which bears witness to the potency and efficacy of Prasada. Prasada destroys all pains and sins. It is an antidote for misery, pain and anxiety. Faith is the important factor in testing the accuracy of this statement. For faithless persons, it brings very little effect.
Those who are brought up in modern education and culture have forgotten all about the glory of Prasada. Many Western educated persons do not attach any importance to Prasada when they get it from Mahatmas. This is a serious mistake. Prasada is a great purifier. As they are brought up in the Western style of living, they have imbibed the spirit of Westerners and forgotten the spirit of true children of Indian Rishis of yore. Live for a week in Vrindavana or Ayodhya or Varanasi or Pandharpur. You will realise the glory and the miraculous effects of Prasada. Many incurable diseases are cured. Many sincere aspirants get wonderful spiritual experiences from mere Prasada alone. Prasada is a panacea. Prasada is a spiritual elixir. Prasada is the Grace of the Lord. Prasada is a cure-all and an ideal pick-me-up. Prasada is an embodiment of Sakti. Prasada is Divinity in manifestation. Prasada energises, vivifies, invigorates and infuses devotion. It should be taken with great faith.
The prasad of the Lord is very sacred and purifying. If it is taken with faith and devotion, it brings miraculous results to the devotee.
The Lord enjoys the subtle essence of the food offered. The food is then eaten as prasad by the devotees.
While feeding Mahatmas, Sannyasins and the poor, that which is left over is also taken as prasad, because in feeding them, we feel that we are feeding God Himself.
When a ceremony is performed all the devotees should share the prasad and thus receive the blessings of the Deities. Prasad is extremely sacred. There is no restriction of any kind in taking prasad. Time, place or condition does not affect one. Prasad is all purifying.. Prasada is the most sacred object for a devotee. One should consider himself lucky to take the Prasada, and there is no restriction of any kind in taking Prasada. Prasada is all purifying.