Friday, February 20, 2009

Devotional Service

Hanuman worshipping Sita and Rama Devotional service, or bhakti yoga, is the best method for achieving transcendental realization. In today’s society, the term “yoga” is generally associated with gymnastics poses and various breathing exercises. However, yoga is a term originating from the Vedas and it means to have union with the Supreme, or God. Yoga is meant to be a completely spiritual activity.

There are various types of yoga, such as jnana yoga (meditational/contemplation), karma yoga (fruitive activity), and hatha yoga (body positions/exercises). Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, describes all of them in detail in the Bhagavad-gita. Of all the different types of yoga, bhakti yoga is considered the highest since it involves loving devotion to God. Though devotional service can be classified as a means of self-realization, it is actually the natural disposition of all living entities. We are all part and parcels of God and it is our true nature to love him. Through contact with material nature, we have forgotten this relationship. Bhakti yoga is the way for us to reconnect with Krishna.

Lord Krishna Himself states that no one is dearer to Him than His devotee. His bhaktas, or devotees, have pure love for Him, and the Lord reciprocates. The Lord is generally neutral towards all living entities, but He goes to great lengths to favor and protect his bhaktas. He even states that worshipping His devotee is as good as worshipping Himself.

Devotional service can be a broad term and thus may seem difficult to understand. One may ask “what activity actually constitutes devotional service?” The Vedas give us the answer.  There are nine distinct processes of devotional service:

1. Hearing

2. Chanting

3. Remembering

4. Worshipping

5. Serving the lotus feet of the Lord

6. Offering prayers

7. Carrying out the orders of the Lord

8. Becoming friends with Him

9. Surrendering everything to Him

Engaging in any or all of these processes will make one’s life perfect. For each of these processes, Vedic literature has examples of great souls who achieved perfection by practicing them. Religious life is often viewed as being very strict and austere, and requiring great renunciation. Devotional service is above all religious regulations and austerities. Bhakti means love, and it is the natural inclination of everyone to love someone else. So why not try the yoga of love? These processes aren’t very difficult to perform. They don’t take much time and they don’t require any renunciation. In fact, renunciation from sinful activity automatically comes to those who follow the path of devotional service.

In this age, the two most effective processes of devotional service are hearing and chanting. So please chant the Maha-mantra “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare” and hear about Lord Krishna through his authorized representative, the spiritual master, and you will always be happy.


Krishna’s Mercy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to delivering Krishna prasadam to one and all.

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How to Offer Prasadam

   CIMG0049Devotion is the key ingredient in offering prasadam. There are many methods of self-realization, but Lord Krishna is most pleased by devotional service. We should offer to food to Krishna out of love and affection for Him.

Material nature is divided into three different modes, namely the modes of goodness, passion and ignorance. The Vedas divide food into these categories as well, so when preparing prasadam for Lord Krishna, we only offer foods in the mode of goodness, or satvic foods. These foods are strictly vegetarian, meaning they have no traces of meat, fish or eggs. A few other items such as garlic, onions, and any foods containing stimulants such as caffeine are also prohibited. Lord Krishna is also known as Govinda, meaning one who gives protection and pleasure to cows. Milk products and sweets are some of Krishna’s favorite foods.

When preparing prasadam, we should make sure our cooking area is very clean. Food should be prepared on cookware that is especially reserved for Krishna in a kitchen that is not contaminated by meat, fish, or eggs.  When the food has finished cooking, we should arrange portions on a plate specifically reserved for prasadam. No one else should eat off of this plate. We should think of Lord Krishna as the primary guest in our house, and thus He should be the first one to taste the food. Except for testing to see if the food was prepared properly, we should avoid tasting the food prior to offering it.

Once Krishna’s plate is arranged with food, we take the plate and offer it on an alter or in front of a picture or deity of the Lord and chant the Maha-mantra:

“Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”

For further advanced devotees, there are several other mantras that can be repeated which offer the food to the spiritual master, who in turn offers it to Krishna.

After repeating the mantras, we leave the altar area and let Krishna partake of the food by Himself. After a few minutes, we remove the plate from the altar. Our entire preparation has now become prasadam and it can be eaten and distributed.


Here are pictures of examples of altars:


Krishna’s Mercy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to delivering Krishna prasadam to one and all.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Deity Worship

 CIMG0039 Deity worship is one of the central components of bhakti yoga, or devotional service. A deity is a physical representation of the Supreme Lord in the form of a statue, a figure, or even a picture.

Many people mistaken deity worship to be idol worship and that is not the case. Lord Krishna, God Himself, has authorized the process of worshipping Him in the form of a deity. Many of us hold on to and display pictures and posters of our loved ones or people that we admire. When viewing these pictures, we are immediately reminded of the person or people in them. We are reminded of the circumstances relating to the picture. We remember where we were, what we were doing, what our mindset was at the time, etc.

In a similar fashion, viewing and worshipping the deity of Krishna immediately brings our mind into Krishna consciousness. We see the Lord’s beautiful form and we pay our respects directly to Him. God can take any form He wishes to. Sometimes he incarnates through the body of a fish, a boar, a man, or even simply through the sound vibration of His name, as He does in this age. The deity is another one of the forms He agrees to take for our benefit. When Lord Krishna personally appeared on this earth five thousand years ago, He gave explicit instructions to His dear friend Uddhava just prior to His returning back to the spiritual world. Similar instructions are also found throughout the Vedic texts, and through these instructions, authorized deity worship or archanam, has been followed since time immemorial.

Lord Krishna’s deities can be worshipped in various methods depending on the advancement of the devotee. The most sophisticated form of deity worship occurs in temples. Lord Krishna is treated as the chief resident of the temple and so His deity is cared for day and night. Deities are provided beds to sleep in, awoken in the morning, dressed very elaborately, given baths (abhishek)CIMG0027 , offered flowers and foodstuff throughout the day, etc. Krishna doesn’t require any of these things, but He allows us to serve Him in order that we may purify ourselves and advance spiritually.

Devotional service is not meant exclusively for residents of temples. Any devotee can have a deity in their home and take care of it by setting up a home altar.CIMG0038 In the simplest method, just regularly offering prayers to the deity and keeping the altar clean is good enough. A special benefit of having a deity at home is the opportunity to offer food directly to the Lord and distribute the remnants as prasadam (please see “How to Offer Food”).

Lord Krishna is kind enough to give us the opportunity to always remember Him through His deity incarnation. Why not take advantage of this opportunity by worshipping Him? Home is where the heart is. Make Krishna the center of your home and your heart will be forever pure.


Krishna’s Mercy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to delivering Krishna prasadam to one and all.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Depend on Krishna

Ram Darbar President Obama recently held a town hall meeting to discuss the details of the new economic stimulus plan intended to jumpstart the economy. The meeting itself was very interesting from the standpoint of observing the questions that were asked of the president. Most notably, three questions from three different Obama supporters stood out.

The first supporter told the president that she was in need of a new kitchen and car, and that the government had been slow in meeting her requests. In tears, she begged the president to help expedite the matter. Another supporter had recently lost his job and asked Obama why unemployment insurance doesn’t pay out at the same rate as his previous job’s salary. A third supporter explained that he had been working at McDonalds for the past four and half years and couldn’t find another job. He wanted to know what Obama was going to do to help him find a higher paying job. Obama Town Hall Meeting

Now all these people seemed sincere and Obama was very kind in his responses to them. However, these questions reveal a deeper problem in society. Too many have become dependent on government for their happiness. For the government to provide the needs of one citizen, it invariably must take from another citizen. According to Vedic philosophy, one should be satisfied with one’s allotted possessions and should not covet the property of others. Also, one is taught to live a simple life and to be as self-sufficient as possible, so that one can spend the remainder of his or her time lovingly serving God.

For proper government, the Vedas tell us that a king should indeed treat his citizens as his dependents and is responsible for their happiness. However, during the Vedic times, kings were very pious and strictly adhering to the council of their royal priests, or brahmanas. The king’s main duty was to make sure that their citizens would reach the ultimate spiritual goal of life and break out of the cycle of birth and death.

Contrast that with today’s style of democratic government, and you will see that today’s leaders aren’t versed in any type of spiritual understanding, nor do they look for advice from brahamanas. Though many are well intentioned, most politicians are living on the material platform of life, with the belief that sense gratification is the highest achievement. As a result, they pursue policies designed to increase sense gratification for their citizens. Their constituents are also interested in sense gratification, and thus become dependent on the government to supply their necessities, or what they view as necessities.

By observing nature, we can understand that God alone supplies us with what we need. The birds, bees, fish, and all other animals have no problem finding food or shelter. They don’t look to any politician to supply their needs, for God automatically takes care of that. Knowing this, we should look to God for our happiness. If we surrender to Him, He won’t necessarily give us what we want, but He’ll give us what need, namely devotion to Him.

During Lord Rama’s time on earth, he was once visited by his devotee, Narada Muni. In a previous incident, Narada had asked for something from the Lord and the Lord did not grant his wish. Narada was very angry about it at the time, and he later asked Lord Rama about that. Lord Rama explained to Him that “For my devotees, I give them what is right for them and not necessarily what they ask of Me.”

So in these hard times, we need only look to Lord Krishna to help us. Remembering Him at all times will provide us more peace and prosperity than any politician ever could.


Krishna’s Mercy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to delivering Krishna prasadam to one and all.

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Monday, February 16, 2009


 new-1Prasadam is food that has first been offered to God. Meaning “the Lord’s mercy”, prasadam is prepared specifically for God and offered to His deity, and is thus considered sacred.

The tongue is very difficult to satisfy since it is always craving different kinds of foods. Due to this desire, we end up eating things that we shouldn’t. In acquiring such food, we go to great lengths such as killing innocent animals. We become bound up in the material world through our eating and thus have to suffer the results through the laws of karma.

Prasadam is considered “karma-free” food since it is sanctified by God. Prasadam is prepared and offered to satisfy God and not to satisfy our senses. We purify ourselves by remembering that God supplies us everything and that we should aim to please Him instead of ourselves. In preparing and eating prasadam, we thank God for everything He has done for us and we pray that we will always remember Him.

In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna:

“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it.”

When we prepare and offer food specifically for God, He eats the food but through His mercy he leaves the remnants for us.

IMG_0078Due to its auspicious nature, prasadam should be distributed to as many people as possible. This sanctified food ignites a spiritual spark in the soul which will eventually reawakens one’s dormant love for God. Vedic literature references many historical incidents where people have had the good fortune of partaking of prasadam, sometimes even by accident, and have had their lives made perfect as a result. It is believed that anyone who regularly partakes of it, will at the very least return as a human being in their next life.


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