This article discusses not only yoga as meditation, but also eating as a form of meditation and God-realization.
Authentic Yoga is also sometimes known as the Prapatti Marga, or the path of complete self-surrender to the grace of God. One of the unique features of this form of authentic Yoga spirituality is the concept of Prasada-Meditation. The Sanskrit word "prasada" is literally translated as "mercy," or "grace." Specifically, prasada refers to the divine grace of God. Everything we do, are and think should be done in a consciousness of dedication to the Absolute, with love and devotion (bhakti). Such a state of active devotional meditation will ensure that we make continued progress on the spiritual path and in our own individual Yoga practice.
For the Yogi (practitioner of Yoga), this meditative practice of devotional surrender is all encompassing, and is extended even to the preparing and eating of food. With Prasada-Meditation, we make the preparing of food, the offering of food to God with devotion, and the eating of the food offered, into a powerful devotional meditation. If, as a meditative discipline, we can offer our food to God with devotion before eating it, not only are we not implicated in the karma involved in acquiring the food, but we can actually make spiritual progress by eating the offered food. Our devotion, and God’s grace, subtly transforms the food offered from material nutrition to spiritual
Before we can offer any food to God, however, we must first follow some important guidelines while preparing the food. First, God only accepts purely vegetarian offerings - offerings that are acquired without pain and suffering on the part of any creature. So, we have to strictly avoid cooking any meat (including chicken; a bird is not a vegetable!), fish and eggs. Second, we can’t offer any onions, garlic or mushrooms. This may seem like an odd proscription; but the Vedic scriptures, as well as the ancient natural medicinal system of Ayurveda, explain that these foods excite the more passionate elements of the human psycho-physical constitution. Third (and this can sometimes be tough), we must not taste the food before it is offered to God. The preparing of prasada is done as an active devotional meditation. So the goal is to prepare delicious foods, not with our own satisfaction in mind, but thinking only of the satisfaction of God. Therefore, He should be the first to "taste" the fruits of our labors.
Keeping this meditative goal in mind, it is important to have an atmosphere in our kitchen that is conducive to creating a meditative and devotional state. We should be in a calm, peaceful and contemplative frame of mind while preparing food for God, thinking to ourselves as we prepare the food that we are acting for God's satisfaction, and not just our own.
Finally, as in any spiritual endeavor, it is important to maintain a high standard of cleanliness while preparing, cooking, and offering the food. The kitchen, utensils and foods used should be clean. We ourselves also should be clean and bathed before beginning Prasada-Meditation, or any other meditation for that matter.
If we can follow all of the above guidelines and, most importantly, maintain a meditative consciousness of love and devotion for God as we are performing these activities, then God will gladly accept our offering.
There's more, but I'll let you read the website. I am very interested in Indian culture and Hindu beliefs, but I understand that not everyone shares this interest. I am also keenly aware of the fact that what I believe is only slightly similar to actual Hindu beliefs, outside of the gods and goddesses. I'm okay with that, and I believe the gods aren't upset with me either, as I am still honoring them, albeit in my own way.
Now, I am all for preparing food in a spiritual, meditative manner, and I am certainly all for offering some of this food to the gods and goddesses who provided it in the first place. For me, however, the similarities pretty much end there.
I am not a vegetarian. I did actively try vegetarianism once, but it did not work for me. It doesn't work for everyone, and that's okay, it really is. Just as we all have our own individual spiritual paths that are right for us and us alone, so do we have our own dietary needs and guidelines. There is no religion that's better than the rest, and there's no diet that's morally superior. Some people may have you believe that their vegetarian or vegan diet is spiritually or morally superior to yours, but I don't really think that truly enlightened people have to run around telling people just how enlightened they are... There you have my two cents on the matter. I can make it a nickel if you want, just ask.
One diet might be healthier, certainly, but a person isn't automatically more enlightened because s/he would rather eat a bland, jiggling block of tofu instead of a bloody slab of grilled cow flesh. (I made both dishes sound so tasty, didn't I? Something to offend everyone!)
Now, back to the food preparation. When offering food to a deity such as Lord Krishna, it is important that the food be all vegetarian and free of garlic, onions, and mushrooms. Instead, cooks prepare food using asafoetida/hing. The reason devotees to Lord Krishna do not use these foods is because they fall under rajasic (passion) and tamasic (ignorance) categories in Ayurveda. Sattvic (goodness) is the other category.
Now, I love garlic. Love it. And onions. Mushrooms are also one of my favorite foods (as you can plainly see from the blog posts about them). Does that mean I cannot make and offer food to one of the Hindu deities I honor? Does it mean I have to run out and buy something that contains the words "ass" and "fetid" (okay, not exactly)? Absolutely not. There are plenty of dishes that can be offered. Here is a recipe for a dish that makes a suitable offering.
Large bunch fresh coriander
3 T ghee (clarified butter)
3 cups peeled potato, cubed
1 t Salt
1/2 t red chili powder
1/2 t Turmeric
1 t ground fresh green chilies
1 t grated fresh root ginger
Wash and finely chop or blend the coriander leaves in a food processor. In a little ghee fry the potatoes, salt, red chili powder and turmeric. Cook on lowest heat setting for 5 minutes, or until potatoes are par-cooked. Add the coriander and fresh chilies and mix once. Simmer on low heat for 10 minutes or until potatoes are fully cooked. Stir from time to time to prevent mixture from sticking to the bottom. If the potatoes are cooked but liquid remains, cook uncovered until it evaporates. In a small frying pan add the ghee and grated ginger and cook on low heat for 1 minute or until brown. Pour on top of the vegetables and, without mixing, offer.