We are always talking about prasad, but do we understand what prasad is? Prasad is very pure and spiritual. It has very divine energy even when you just say the word “prasad”. When you give something to someone and say, “It's prasad - please, take”; and when you just pronounce the word “prasad”, that energy goes into what you are giving.
You can give clothing or a shawl as prasad; anything that we are giving with good thoughts is prasad. When you use word “prasad” for something, it becomes holy. When a holy saint touches something and gives it to you, it is prasad.
Prasad need not be kilos of something, it may be only a quarter of a grain of corn or rice. It is not the quantity, it is the quality.
When we receive the prasad and we eat it immediately, it goes to our brain. What does that mean? Sattvic energy, positive and spiritual thoughts, come to our brain.
For students, it is very important to take prasad when they are leaving from home. Before you go to school, college or university, you should go to the altar, where there's prasad, and take maybe only almond or two, or just a little sweet, anything. If you do this, you will be successful.
Fruit is also prashad. Kheer (sweet rice pudding) has great, great meanings as a prasad. Rice is one of the oldest grains; it is white and it almost never gets rotten. The king of food is rice. And then milk. Milk is purity; milk is the mother. From whom your drink milk – from goat, cow, buffalo, camel – she is your mother. Don’t kill your mother. Don’t eat your mother. All those symbols are in kheer.
So prasad is a blessing, and a blessing is prasad.
You should cook your food as prasad. Don’t eat whilst cooking and then put the spoon that was in your mouth back into the pot. No, no, no! Many people stir the food and then they taste the food with the same spoon, again put the spoon back in the pot and continue stirring. God will not accept this food as prasad. You should have such knowledge about cooking that you don’t need to taste it because you cook perfectly. But still, if you cannot cook like this, then, what to do? You take a little bit with the spoon, from the spoon put it on your palm, and then you can taste it and wash your hands afterwards. You tell God, “Excuse me, but I want to know if there is too much or too little salt. Then you are cooking prasad.
And when you cook in your kitchen, it’s best that you sing some mantras, good songs, good music, have good thoughts, and always feel that what you are cooking is prasad for all.
Every religion, every tradition, has different mantras, but all say some mantra or prayer before eating. We have the mantra: Annapurne Sadhapurne…
Anna is food, grains, seeds – because the seed is life. Annapurna is the Divine Mother. God Shiva usually never goes begging for food, but in front of Annapurna, Shiva also asks for bhiksha (alms). When you have the blessing of the Divine Mother then you have everything.
Prasad has great meanings. Prasad is divine, so one should give prasad to others and give it into the right palm. We should know the tradition. When we are sitting and receiving prasad, everyone should wait. And afterwards, once everyone has received, we say, “Hari Om”, and then eat the prasad. If it is liquid prasad like kheer, you can eat and then go and wash your hands and your mouth.
When you eat prasad, it will give you better memory and you will not have any fear. You can go anywhere after taking prasad, no one can do anything bad to you because within you is that divine energy, divine God, Gurudev, or whatever you call it. If you forget it, just say on your way, “I am sorry, I was in a hurry, Mahaprabhuji please bless me with the prasad.” That’s enough. You ask and the blessing already comes. Blessing is prasad.
You know that in Hindu spirituality we put a tilak on the forehead. This is called kismet, your destiny, your luck, your karma. When we make and give tilak, what does it mean? We are getting a blessing, good luck. It’s opening our ‘third eye’.
Tilak means three: past, present, and future; and the three lokas (worlds). If you don’t have anything, you can make tilak paste on your palm (mixing color with some water). Then apply the tilak with the ring finger. The ring finger has that good luck, the ‘rights’, to touch your destiny on the forehead. So apply a tilak only with the ring finger touching your forehead, and after you can use your thumb and stretch it up, towards the hairline. Doing in that way, this is good luck, big luck. When you marry you get the tilak; also when the king is crowned, then it is called Raj Tilak.
When you get the blessing of someone putting a hand on your head it is very good fortune – your mother, your father, your older brother, your older sister, your neighbors… They all have the rights to give you such a blessing. And when will someone give you a blessing? When you bow down. When you say, “Pranam” (salutations), then they will tell you, “Bless you.”
When a child goes off to school, the mother will bless the child and say, “My child, take care. Cross the road carefully. Go to school, don’t go anywhere else and come home; come back happy and healthy.” Father will also. And if the father or mother is not there, your neighbors will take care of you. Every older person has the right to give you a blessing. And this blessing will function because it is not just their hand, but it is the power of the blessings.
You also get blessings in the church, “in the name of God.” And what do you see when you come to church? Generally, at the door of the church there is a stone bowl, a holy water font. And you take this water and put it as a tilak. From where does this come? Christianity is only some two thousand years old, that’s all. But all this comes from ancient times. Agarbati (incense), puja (ceremonies), deepak (oil lamps)…