Prasadam or Food? The Debate is On...
BY: BASU GHOSH DAS
Oct 23, 2011 JUHU, BOMBAY, INDIA (SUN) In response to the Dandavats article, "Open letter to Bhakti Vikas Swami" by Priyavrata das.
Camp: Sri Sri Radha Rasabihari Mandir, Juhu, Bombay
Srila Prabhupada established the system that only brahmanas - brahmin initiated devotees - could worship and COOK for the Deities. We all know this. Prasadam is the remnants of foodstuffs offered to the Deities.
You might know the story of Vadaraja, a Madhva sannyasi, who came to the famous "annakshetra" - the famous "food distribution center" at Dharmasthala, some 40 kilometres from Udupi, some 500 years ago, around the same time as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Read about it here.
The story goes that Vadiraja was invited for "bhiksha" - "bhojan" - by the Jain "Dharmadhikaari" of Dharmasthala. He refused to eat unless the food was offered to a "Vedic Deity". The Dharmadhikaari agreed to install any Vedic Deity as per the instructions of the Sannyasi (Vaadiraajaa). Vaadiraajaa instructed his disciples to go out of the then tiny village and find a Vedic Deity and he would install it and they would offer foodstuffs to the Deity. They found a Deity of Lord Shiva, now famous as "Manjunath", and "the rest is history". [Vadiraja installed the Deity of Manjunath, and
after the offering was made there, he ate at the home of the Dharmadhikari of Dharmasthala].
The mid-day meals in question here are NOT cooked by brahmanas and offered to "Vedic Deities". Hence, how can it be prasad?
Another evidence is the "prasad" that was brought to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu by the Buddhists. It was contaminated. As per the story in CC Madhya 9.53. So, you may claim that anything cooked by anyone is "prasad", but this is neither the Vedic/Vaishnava tradition, nor what Prabhupada taught during his lifetime.
Therefore I say you are under a misconception - with all due respect – and that borders on "sahajiyaism".
You wrote: phalena parichiyate. How many children who take the mid-day meals are becoming Krishna bhaktas? Personally, I haven't seen such a "mass movement" towards bhakti from those children that would be expected by those who praise the mid-day meals program.
Therefore the IRGB had approved the program, provided it was "accompanied by
kirtan and lectures". [Note: in practice, this usually does NOT happen.]
On the ISKCON Food Relief Foundation website we find a statement of objectives:
A Strategic program to address two of the most pressing problems of India: Hunger & Education. The Government of India has made education for children in the age group of 6 to 14 years compulsory, but poverty prevents the underprivileged from getting full value of their educational
Hunger obstructs education as children are forced to leave schools and take up menial jobs. Lack of education curtails opportunities for development and leads to the vicious cycle of poverty and hunger. Education empowers a child to explore his potentials and earn a decent living and live a respectable life in our society.
ISKCON FOOD RELIEF FOUNDATION, has resolved to liberate the underprivileged from this vicious cycle by feeding the poor with sanctified and nutritious food.
Sounds 100% social welfare oriented without Krishna bhakti and Vedic/Vaishnava culture. Sad state of affairs. Again, this is "just my humble opinion", what I understand from Srila Prabhupada's condemnation of social welfare work, and as above, trying to pass off unofferable foodstuffs as "prasadam".
Hope this meets you well.
Basu Ghosh das