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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Pariveśanādhikāra - adhikāra for serving prasāda

Senior devotees often refuse to serve prasāda as they consider this a menial service. However, it is an honour and privilege meant for the topmost devotees only.

In 1982, when I had lived in Sādhu Bābā’s ashram for just 1-2 days there was a small feast and some devotees from the Prāchin Māyāpur Bazar pushed a spoon into my hand and asked me to serve. They were very saral, simple - they never saw a foreigner before. Bābā was sweet and gentle as always. Though Indian sadhus usually teach sadācāra by yelling and screaming he gently told me – “Advaitadas, why don’t you put the spoon down and sit down to take Prasād?”

There is much evidence in Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s pastimes that only the seniormost devotees served prasāda -

Caitanya Caritāmṛta, Antya 11.84:

svarūpa, jagadānanda, kāśīśvara, śaṅkara; cāri-jana pariveśana kare nirantara

“Svarūpa Dāmodara, Jagadānanda Paṇḍit, Kāśīśvara Paṇḍit, Śaṅkara Pandit – these four devotees always served prasāda.

Śrī Swarūp Dāmodara was probably Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s closest associate and was His secretary as well.

Caitanya Caritāmṛta, Antya 7.68:

svarūpa, jagadānanda, kāśīśvara, śaṅkara; pariveśana kare, āra rāghava, dāmodara

“Svarūpa Dāmodara, Jagadānanda Paṇḍit, Kāśīśvara Paṇḍit, Śaṅkara Pandit, as well as Rāghava Pandit and Dāmodar Pandit served prasāda.”

Caitanya Caritāmṛta, Madhya 12.163-4:

svarūpa-gosāi, jagadānanda, dāmodara; kāśīśvara, gopīnātha, vāṇīnātha, śaṅkara
pariveśana kare tāhāṅ ei sāta-jana; madhye madhye hari-dhvani kare bhakta-gaṇa

“Svarūpa Dāmodara Gosvāmī, Jagadānanda Pandit, Dāmodar Paṇḍita, Kāśīśvara, Gopīnātha, Vāṇīnātha and Śańkara distributed prasāda, and inbetween the devotees chanted the holy names of Hari.”

Śrīman Mahāprabhu Himself served the viraha-feast for Haridās Thākur (Caitanya Caritāmṛta, Madhya 11.199) -

sabāre bosāilā prabhu yogya krama kari'; śrī-haste pariveśana koilo gaurahari

“One after the other, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu made all the devotees sit in their proper places. He then began to distribute prasāda with His own divine hand.” 

Caitanya Caritāmṛta, Madhya 3.67 -

prabhu bole — boso tine koriye bhojana; ācārya kohe — āmi koribo pariveśana

Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu said, "Let Us sit down in these three places, and We shall take prasāda." Advaita Ācārya said, "I will serve prasāda."

Who donates money for the prasāda – it matters
Who cooks the prasāda – it matters big time 
(see the ācāryas’ explanations of the word prayatātmanā in Bhagavad Gītā 9.26).
Who offers the prasāda – it matters
Who serves the prasāda – it matters
Even on what type of fire the food is cooked – it matters.
In what clothes one cooks the food – it matters.
Whether one eats with the fingers or with knife, spoon and fork – it matters.
Whether one sits on the floor to eat or at a table – it matters.

Serving prasāda is not ‘mercy of devotional service bestowed upon the fallen souls’ so that hippies are allowed to serve prasāda on the Sunday Feast. It will be the distribution of these hippies’ manovṛtti (mentality) to all guests instead – sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll is infused in the prasāda. One should not think that ‘prasāda can never be contaminated’- Raghunātha Dāsa Goswāmī invited Śrīman Mahāprabhu with mahāprasāda from Lord Jagannātha, bought with the money from his father, who was called ‘vaiṣṇava prāya’, almost a Vaiṣṇava, by Mahāprabhu, and thus Mahāprabhu proclaimed –

viṣayīra anna khāile molin hoy mana; Molin mana hoilo nahe kṛṣṇera smaraṇa

(Caitanya Caritāmṛta, Antya 6.278)

“When one eats grains from a sensual person, the mind is polluted, and when the mind is polluted one cannot remember Kṛṣṇa.”

And that was only a matter of the money with which the prasāda was purchased, let alone the cooking or the serving!

On the other hand, when Śrīmatī Rādhikā served prasāda to Kṛṣṇa, Raghunātha Dās Goswāmī said ‘rasa sancayaṁ kramāt’ – She infused rasa into the food, prema rasa. (Vilāpa Kusumānjali – 63)

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