Why should one offer food to God?
The most common answer for this that
Bhagavad aradhana is a thanks-giving act.
We are here by His grace.
So we must thank Him for what we are and for what He has given us.
Though this reasoning looks plausible, it however gives rise to a notion
that the relationship between god and the one who offers aradhana
is something like a business!
This is suggestive of a kind of give and take relationship
between God and us.
He gave us something – so we must pay him back,
Is it so business-like?
Searching for more acceptable answers,
we will be surprised to know that offer of food was done by God himself (to Himself)
This is described in chapter 335 of Shanthi parva, Moksha dharma, of Mahabharatha.
It is described in this chapter that
the sage Narada saw God in the beginning of creation
doing penance and aradhana.
It was witnessed in the Kritha yuga of the first manvanthra,
the Swayambhu manvanthra.
It was then Sriman Narayana became His own sons,
as sons of Dharma,
as the 4 moorthys
These 4 moorthys began doing tapas and were doing deva karma,
pithru karma etc as per sastras.
Sage Narada was surprised to see this and asked,
what was it that He Himself had to worship.
The God as Nara- Narayana gives his explanation saying
that since He is the In-dweller He must be worshiped.
The God as a born-entity also worships this In-dweller.
He is doing this to set an example to man to follow suit.
The inference is that aradhana is done to Him who is the In-dweller of all.
In the course of this worship, we offer him food, because
He as our In-dweller is actually the one who eats.
This notion that He as the In-dweller of all chethanas and achethanas
is actually the one who eats or accepts the offering,
is found in Bhgavad Gita too.
To know how He eats as the In-dweller,
here is an incident from Mahabharatha.
In Vana prava from verses 25 to 44 in chapter 263,
we find the actual occurrence of this happening
(when he as In-dweller eats, the person in whom He is, also feels satisfied of eating)
This is about sage Dhurvasa along with thousands of disciples
reaching the Pandavas in the exile and asking them to feed his entourage.
Draupadi was aghast, for, the Akshay paathra had been emptied for the day
ad it would no more produce food for the day.
The only ‘upaaya’ she knew was to pray to
But he too started demanding her to give him food,
without giving an ear to what Draupadi was telling about her predicament.
He got Draupadi bring the Akshay paatra to him
and found a small piece of spinach in it.
He ate it up gleefully saying,
“Bhagavan as In-dweller of all worlds, accepts the yajnas.
Let Him be satisfied with this piece of spinach” (263 -25)
He was satisfied.
So were the sage and his disciples satisfied of their hunger.
Bhagavan as the In-dweller was satisfied with the food.
So they too were satisfied.
They left the venue without eating anything.
This is one example to show that the In-dweller accepts what ever we offer as food
And when He is satisfied with the food,
people also get satisfied.
It is for this reason, food is offered at regular times to god
in temples and at home.
Offer of food to Him is like offer of food to countless people.
He knows who should be satisfied by the food He eats.
That is the secret He only knows.
On our part we have to offer Him food.
How does He eat food as In-dweller?
This is the next question that arises in our mind.
Since He is the In-dweller in everyone,
He must be eating for everyone of us.
Yes, it happens in everybody’s case.
Bhagavan is living as an In-dweller in everyone.
The food we eat is actually not actually eaten by us.
It is eaten by Him – He as Vaisvanara!
Bhagavan says that He is the digestive agni, the Vaisvanara in all beings.
It is this Vaisvanara which eats the food we take.
"This fire within man and
by which food is digested - that is vaisvanara." says
Brihadharanyaka Upanishad - 5.9.1
To understand this in an easy way,
one can compare the created world with our body.
There is a saying in Tamil
“ aNdatthil iruppadhu, piNdatthilum irukkiradhu”.
It implies that our body is a miniature model of the entire creation.
What ever exists in the cosmos, also exists in our body.
In whatever way the cosmos is behaving,
so also the way our body is behaving.
We will see the application of this with reference to food.
At cosmic level, there are 12 ati-devathas.
Our body has 12 cranial nerves emerging from the brain,
the ‘Brahman’ of our body.
All of them end with the heart
with the exception of one that stretches till stomach.
This is comparable to the Lord
as Vaisvanara, the digestive agni in which He is present (BG).
Further down the ati-devathas are divided in to many
deities with specific functions allotted to them.
So too are the cranial nerves.
The way how each system of the body has to function
is recorded in the brain.
But the brain is not directly handling all the functions.
That is, each system has been programmed in accordance
with the image contained in brain and
each system has its own sub-systems and works as a small kingdom.
But when it comes to giving the final out put,
the message must come from the cranial nerve sub-system
that has pervaded the entire body
and it carries the message of giving the output
from the brain through the cranial nerves from which they spring.
To give an example,
even though the urinary system is self-contained and
works as an independent system,
when it comes to expelling the urine,
the message must come from the
brain through the cranial nerve coming down from the brain.
The output of every system thus,
has to have a stamp of approval from the brain.
This happens in the cosmological order of Gods.
The exception is the Vaisvanara.
Vaisvanara is described as Agni in Rigveda.
The agni accepts all the offerings.
The Vaisvanara also accepts all offerings.
This Vaisvanara is akin to the cranial nerve that extends till stomach.
This Vaisvanara is the agni that digests the food we take.
This Vaisvanara is the In-dweller Himself who eats whatever we eat.
Even the food we eat is a kind of aradhana to our body.
The body is called as ‘shareeram’ which means
that 3 agnis (gyanagni, darshanagni and Hoshatgni)
abide in this (Garbhopanishad - verse 6)
A continuous yajna is happening in our body by these agnis.
The foremost one is the act of digestion
done by the Agni called Vaisvanara.
Vaisvanara has been identified as god, the In-dweller by scriptures.
The inference is that He eats what we eat!
This happens in our body every time we eat.
When we offer food to Him
who is in the form of idol or a picture
or as formless, He eats it.
Physically we see the quantity offered not taken up.
But food contains 3 elements, bhoo, bhuvah and suvah levels
Already discussed in my blog as
physical, vital and mental nourishment.
The physical quantity may not be directly taken.
But what is offered by mind and by thought
is taken by Him mentally.
No give – and- take policy in Bhagavad Aradhana.
In my understanding, Bhagavad Aradhana is of a different kind and level.
It is not about a give and take policy,
that we give Him for we take from Him.
If we look at scriptures, or more precisely, the Gita,
the give and take policy for the balance of created universe
in the name of yajna holds good only for this - the created universe.
Recalling Bhagavan's words -
give and take policy is in place from Brahma deva onwards with yajna
only in the created Universe.
This is for self sustenance of creation,
one round of which must last 100 Brahma years
or one Para which runs into trillions of years, say, roughly
4,32,00,00,000 x 2 x 365x 100 years.
This is done for mutual sustenance,
for, if we don’t give for what we take from the devas,
the devas can not give us back.
They will stand depleted.
But on what basis can we theorize that Brahman or Bhagavan
also needs to be brought into this Give and take equilibrium?
By giving us this Universe and this body,
He has not reduced in his size.
By taking up something from us, say by aaradhana,
He wont be growing in size.
By giving whatever or taking whatever from here,
from there or from anywhere,
HE as Bhagavan has nothing to lose,
nothing to gain,
nothing to get fulfilled,
nothing to get satisfied.
Remember the PurNAm verse from the upanishads.
It is in Him we are, it is by Him we work, it is through Him
we see and learn and it is in Him we go back.
His is about the Brahma yajna
which He says in verse 3-15 (BG).
But this Brahma yajna is about the
created universe which must be seen as Brahman Himself.
This is what is being propitiated in Brahma yajna,
the foremost of all the 5 yajnas.
The Lord needs nothing to be fulfilled.
He is enjoyer of everything
and is Eternal Bliss.
If one offers Him something thinking that he is paying back,
it is like a wife sharing the bed with her husband
as a payment for the comforts he has provided her.
If we think that we do the aaradhana,
with a prayer that He will fulfil our wishes,
- it is like the son asking the father to give him a promissory note
that he will definitely transfer his property to him (the son) !!
So it is not for paying Him back for whatever He has given,
nor even for doing us some favour in return for our aaradhana.
If one thinks so, God will certainly not be pleased.
Can we feel pleased, if our son or daughter says that
he or she bought us a gift,
because we fed them well or
because we are going to do them some help?
Wont we feel beaten then?
Wont we feel bad?
Wont we feel let down?
Wont we think that our children have not understood us?
As a mother I have felt so.
Until recently my son used to be telling
that he likes me because I cook for him,
because I help him in studies.
I used to tease him, then engage a cook,
you don’t need a mother.
Engage a teacher, you don’t need me.
But nowadays when he says that loves me
because I am his amma,
I can’t say anything.
He loves me because I am his mother –
just as how I love him because he is my son.
I am too happy to hear him say like that.
I am just excited, elated..
I can visualise how Bhagavan would have been just 'pleased',
if someone worships Him because he just loves Him for His sake,
and not for any thing else,
not for any benefit,
not for any kind of repayment.
This is what He precisely says in verse 9-26 BG. "priyathaathmana:"
With love, with devotion, with preethi,
if you give me a leaf, a fruit, a flower or just water, I will happily accept it.
If one gives in such mentality, He will go wherever they are,
as he went to eat the small piece of spinach from
Draupadi's Akshya paathram,
walked to Vidura's house to eat his simple amudu,
walked to pamba to eat the fruit offered by Sabhari
and demaded 'aval' from his friend KushEla (Sudhama)
The one condition that God has placed.
Bhagavan himself has said under what circumstances,
He eats the food given by us.
After meeting Dhuryodhana to ask for truce with Pandavas at the end of their exile,
It was then Dhuryodhana invited Him to have feast in his palace.
firstly, when someone offers with prema, preeethi or love,
food is accepted whatever be its nature,
and secondly, when one is in extreme hunger,
he will accept whatever is offered –
not caring about the intention of the one who offers.
Since He (the Lord) was not hungry or in dire need of food,
He was not taking food from Duryodhana
and since Duryodhana was not offering food with prema,
again there was no need for Him to accept the food
offered by Him.
So saying He left for Vidura's house and
took what was offered by Vidura with all devotion.
This must be remembered by us at all times.
We do daily aaradhana to Him, because we love Him.
In verse 18-65 – BG, He makes a promise – a prathigja
that whomever worships Him and offers Him with “love”,
He will love them in turn
and take them with Him.
It is to win His love we have to offer food to Him with love.
We offer worship at temples, because we love Him.
It is appropriate to do archanas only in God’s name,
even when such archana is done on birthdays of some family member.
We offer some vasthram or jewels to Him at temples,
because that is the way of showing our love to Him.
We talk about Him, because we love Him.
(Think about the young mothers.
They always talk something of their child only.
Such kind of obsession must be there.
Only then as the Lord says, such a person
will be awake even when the whole world is sleeping.
Such a person is one loved by Him.)
We arrange for 'thaligai' (food) in temples. because we love Him.
The kitchen in many of our families is called as "thiru-maa-p-padi"
not samayal kattu (kitchen)
Thiru-p-padi maattru (in Tamil) is the place
where the food items to be cooked for God, are stored.
In Tamil, the word padi means food
(we say 'avan padi aLAppavan' - giver of food).
So our kitchen is Thiru-maa-p-padi,
the place where food is cooked for Him.
It is not for us. It is for Him.
There is no thought of even food for our sake.
It is not that we offer food before we take food.
It is that He is offered food out of preethi
and we take the remaining of that food.
It is like how a mother always thinks of her child,
sees to it that the child is fed well and taken care well all the time.
The only intention behind all that is 'love' for the child.
This is from one point of view.
Let me tell from another point of view.
Imagine that we are under a king.
The king is the padi- aLappavan,
gives us the salary with which we run our family.
The king happens to come to our place.
We just rush in and bring whatever we have,
from the kitchen and offer him.
Is it because, the king is hungry - in need of food?
Is it because we want to pay back the king
for the favours he has done to us?
If so, can we really pay back for all that we have
received from him?
If we say so, can’t we imagine what the king's reaction would be .
He would laugh at us.
Same thing with our Bahgavan.
He will laugh at out madamai (foolishness),
if we think that we are paying Him back by our aaradhana.
He will not relish the idea,
if we think that we do it for some future benefits.
He wants pure love, pure devotion and pure trust.
If aaradhana is done in this mindset,
He will definitely come in some form and take it.
He is waiting for such an aaradhana, such a devotee..
And another thing.
This aaradhana must be continuous - happening all the time.
This is what he expects from us when he further said in that chapter
that whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer,
whatever you give away, whatever austerity you practice,
do that as an offering to Me (Him).
The Final one He is asking in this series, is
‘phala-tyagam’ (renunciation of results too)
If we do that also, He will pervade us – like Energy entering our body.
A male body or female body is of no difference to Him.
It is you, the Jiva who left Him eons ago for the world of samsara,
whom He is still following and trying to take back to Him-
He wants you (me, us), not your offerings.
But by taking these offerings,
He hopes to bring out a mind-change in us someday
so that, we will learn to offer sarva dharmaan at His feet,
for His consumption.
The first step to this is the daily aaradhana – the offer of food to Him.
The Peace Chant