Food as prana
DAAJI brings another angle to our relationship with food. It is not only for physical and mental health and well-being; it can also nurture our spiritual growth if we understand the science of vibrational compatibility and resonance.
There is a universal principle that offers us great insight into our relationship with food: Anything coming directly from Nature is pure, because its basis is purity. Over millennia, this principle has led thinkers to have a special regard for the value of food in our lives. And in particular, those who were interested in spiritual evolution developed a deep respect for the role of food. Here are some of the important concepts:
First, there is the matter of hygiene. Food needs to be grown, stored and cooked cleanly in a proper manner. This is common to all cultures and is not only restricted to those people who are interested in spiritual growth. What comes from Nature is pure, but we can contaminate it if we disrupt the purity during the process of growing, picking, storing, processing, cooking and eating.
Second, if the food is also sattvik in nature, and prepared in the remembrance and love of God, its effect on the human system will be surprising. Sattvik food is light, fresh, simple and subtle. It is vegetarian. Meat may be good for physical strength, but it is heavier food, bringing heavier energies to the system. And not all vegetarian food is sattvik either. Choosing a sattvik diet is about the vibration of the food, which also depends on our vibration. The lighter and purer the vibration, the more it will resonate with subtler spiritual states. There is a good analogy in the physical realm: babies are given light food suitable for their developmental stage, and the elderly also eat less and lighter food than young adults. Food needs to match the activities and disposition of a person – it is all a matter of vibrational compatibility, of resonance.
Third, if food is also eaten while a person is in a meditative state, it will cure all kinds of spiritual diseases and remove many things that hinder spiritual progress. Does this mean we pray or say Grace before eating? Not necessarily. Both are fine, and may connect us with the Divine before we start to eat, but it is important to retain an inner meditative connection throughout the meal. It is more effective to feel and experience the divine vibration of the food rather than simply thinking it is there. This makes a world of difference.
Fourth, be happy to eat whatever food we receive in constant awareness of Divinity. In other words, food can be divinized through intention. This is what is really meant by a sattvik approach to eating. Whether we are given pasta or biriyani for dinner, whether we prefer the taste and smell of one or the other, we are no longer concerned about the senses – the taste, the smell, the touch, and the look of the food – because we feel the essence of Divinity in the food we are eating. Eventually we will not even be conscious of doing so, as after some time this approach will become an automatic subconscious attitude. But first we have to consciously train ourselves to become like that.
When our underlying awareness is with Divinity at the time of eating, the effect filters down into the food, so that it enters our body and begins to spread all through our arteries and veins. We are making the best use of Nature’s pure energy from outside, and the atoms of the body are purified as a result. The impulse of our intention combines with the food, promoting physical, mental and spiritual health.
Contrast this with a mealtime that is stressful, for example, when there is an argument at the dinner table. When we are fearful, angry or stressed, the vibrations that are negatively carried in the food also affect our whole system. And when the digested food goes to all the cells, the effect is also negative. If we avoid arguments and tension at mealtimes, waiting for a better moment, it will have a great impact on our overall health.
If food is also eaten while a person is in a meditative state,
it will cure all kinds of spiritual diseases and
remove many things that hinder spiritual progress.
Does this mean we pray or say Grace before eating?
Not necessarily. Both are fine, and
may connect us with the Divine before we start to eat,
but it is important to retain an inner meditative
connection throughout the meal.
Food is our main source of prana or energy, as once the food is broken down through digestion the energy that is released into the system is utilized for the body’s chemical processes. How subtle and pure are the vibrations of the prana that we take into our system when we eat? Do they match the subtle vibrations of the spiritual states we are trying to absorb through meditation?
This leads to another topic. Imagine for a moment the following scene:
There is a beautiful stillness in the atmosphere after a group meditation, as a young bride and groom stand facing each other on their wedding day. It is a joyous occasion where they garland each other with rose garlands, and then gently place spiritually charged rings on each other’s fingers. Then they each receive a small piece of a special sweet to place in each other’s mouth from their spiritual Guide.
This is no ordinary sweet; it has been divinized, so it is fully charged with the subtlest essence. It is known as prasad. Even the minutest amount will bring spiritual well-being and joy to the receiver. The two young people start their married life by offering each other this gift.
Afterwards, they share the prasad with the guests who have come to celebrate with them, and take some home for others who could not make it.
Special days of celebration call for special offerings. We celebrate marriages, births and other milestones by offering heartfelt and joyous prayers, accompanied by the distribution of food and gifts. This tradition exists in all cultures, religions and ethnic groups, as a way of sharing joy, first with the Divine, and then with everyone else.
There are so many examples, such as the sacramental bread of the Eucharist, holy water, sweets, cakes, flower offerings etc. Even customs that are today secular in nature find their roots in earlier sacred offerings. For example, the tradition of lighting candles on a birthday cake is said to have come from the ancient Greeks, who would make round cakes to honor Artemis, the goddess of the moon. The lit candles on the cake represented the glow of the moon, and the smoke from the blown-out candles carried their prayers and wishes to the goddess in the sky.
When offering prasad, attitude matters: not the outer ritual but the inner condition and attitude, and how it is actually done. The best attitude is one of complete love and reverence, with humility and innocence. In this way, there is osmosis between the offering and the one to whom it is offered. That is what gives prasad its joyous quality and reverence: something that is in osmosis with God can then be shared with all.
People often follow a lot of cultural etiquette when distributing prasad, and in today’s world this may appear too ritualistic and anachronistic. But if we explore the science behind the etiquette, we find a purpose that is rooted in precise scientific principles.
In India, prasad is always offered and received with the right hand. When we study the physiology of the human body, we discover that the right side of the body is primarily controlled by the left hemisphere of the brain, and the left side of the body is primarily controlled by the right hemisphere of the brain. Also, our autonomic nervous system is made up of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. When the sympathetic nervous system is stimulated, our body becomes more active and excited, and endorphins and cortisol levels increase. In contrast, when the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, our body relaxes and calms down, reducing our endorphin and cortisol levels.
There is something called Cerebral Hemispheric Laterality1, where each hemisphere of the brain is connected to one of these autonomic nervous systems. When we stimulate the right hemisphere of the brain it invokes the parasympathetic nervous system, and when we stimulate the left hemisphere of the brain it invokes the sympathetic nervous system. So when we use our left hand, it stimulates the right hemisphere of the brain, which is connected to the parasympathetic nervous system, so we feel calmer2.
What happens when we give prasad? Our attitude for the occasion is joyful and we want to remain active and excited, which happens when we give from the right hand, connected to the left side of the brain and the sympathetic nervous system. When we receive prasad, the tradition is also to take it with the right hand, which resonates with the sympathetic response so that we can reciprocate the feeling of joy of the giver.
There is another aspect of scientific and spiritual significance around prasad: only a very small quantity is offered and eaten. This is so that what little is given will remain in the body rather than being excreted, helping to purify the whole system.
If we wish it to be so, everything we eat may become an offering of prasad. This way, the moment of taking food will be one more activity that purifies and ennobles our consciousness.
When offering prasad, attitude matters: not the outer ritual
but the inner condition and attitude, and how it is actually done.
The best attitude is one of complete love and reverence,
with humility and innocence. In this way, there is osmosis
between the offering and the one to whom it is offered.
That is what gives prasad its joyous quality and reverence:
something that is in osmosis with God can then be shared with all.
1 Robin, M., 2002. A Physiological Handbook for Teachers of Yogasana, Fenestra Books, USA
Article adapted from https://www.daaji.org/offering-prasad-an-offering-of-love
Article by KAMLESH PATEL
August 30, 2020
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