Prasadam: Spiritual Food

Mukunda: At lunch today we spoke a little about prasadam, vegetarian foods that have been spiritualized by being offered to Krishna in the temple. A lot of people have come to Krishna consciousness through prasadam, especially through our Sunday Feast of Krishna at all of our temples around the world. I mean, this process is the only kind of yoga that you can actually practice by eating.

George: Well, we should try to see God in everything, so it helps so much having the food to taste. Let's face it, if God is in everything, why shouldn't you taste Him when you eat? I think that prasadam is a very important thing. Krishna is God, so He's absolute: His name, His form, prasadam, it's all Him. They say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, so if you can get to a man's spirit soul by eating, and it works, why not do it? There's nothing better than having been chanting and dancing, or just sitting and talking philosophy, and then suddenly the devotees bring out the prasadam. It's a blessing from Krishna, and it's spiritually important. The idea is that prasadam is the sacrament the Christians talk about, only instead of being just a wafer, it's a whole feast, really, and the taste is so nice-it's out of this world. And prasadam's a good little hook in this age of commercialism. When people want something extra, or they need to have something special, prasadam will hook them in there. It's undoubtedly done a great deal toward getting a lot more people involved in spiritual life. It breaks down preju dices, too. Because they think, "Oh, well, yes, I wouldn't mind a drink of whatever or a bite of that." Then they ask, "What's this?" and "Oh, well, it's prasadam." And they get to learn another aspect of Krishna consciousness. Then they say, "It actually tastes quite nice. Have you got another plateful?" I've seen that happen with lots of people, especially older people I've seen at your temples. Maybe they were a little prejudiced, but the next thing you know, they're in love with prasadam, and eventually they walk out of the temple thinking, "They're not so bad after all."

Mukunda: The Vedic literatures reveal that prasadam conveys spiritual realization, just as chanting does, but in a less obvious or conspicuous way. You make spiritual advancement just by eating it.

George: I'd say from my experience that it definitely works. I've always enjoyed prasadam much more when I've been at the temple, or when I've actually been sitting with Prabhupada, than when somebody's brought it to me. Sometimes you can sit there with prasadam and find that three or four hours have gone by and you didn't even know it. Prasadam really helped me a lot, because you start to realize "Now I'm tasting Krishna." You're conscious suddenly of another aspect of God, understanding that He's this little samosa.* It's all just a matter of tuning into the spiritual, and prasadam's a very real part of it all.

Mukunda: You know, a lot of rock groups like Grateful Dead and Police get prasadam backstage before their concerts. They love it. It's a long-standing tradition with us. I remember one time sending prasadam to one of the Beatles' recording sessions. And your sister was telling me today that while you were doing the Bangladesh concert, Syamasundara used to bring you all prasadam at the rehearsals.

George: Yes, he's even got a credit on the album sleeve.

Mukunda: What are your favorite kinds of prasadam, George?

George: I really like those deep-fried cauliflower things-pakoras?*

Mukunda: Yes.

George: And one thing I always liked was rasamalai [a milk sweet]. And there's a lot of good drinks as well, fruit juices and lassi, the yogurt drinks mixed with fruit, and sometimes with rose water.

Mukunda: Do you remember the time we called the press in London for a big feast when we were promoting "The Hare Krishna Mantra" record? They were pretty surprised, for no one really knew us then for our food. Now, pretty much when people think about us, they still think, "They're the ones chanting and dancing in the streets," but they're connecting us more and more now with prasadam-"They're the ones with those free vegetarian dinners."

George: The press were probably thinking, "Oh, we've got to go and do this now." And then suddenly they find that they're all sitting around and eating a much better Indian take-away than they would ever have at any one of the local spots. They were pretty impressed.

Mukunda: We've served about 150 million plates of prasadam so far at the free feasts around the world, what to speak of our restaurants.

George: You ought to have it up outside on billboards like those hamburger places do. You know, like "150 million served." I think it's great. It's a pity you don't have restaurants or temples on all the main streets of every little town and village like those hamburger and fried chicken places. You should put them out of business.

Mukunda: You've been to our London restaurant, Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise?

George: Lots of times. It's good to have these and other restaurants around, where plainclothes devotees serve the food. People slowly realize, "This is one of the best places I've been," and they keep coming back. Then maybe they pick up a little bit of the literature or a pamphlet there and say, "Oh, hey, that was run by the Hare Krishnas." I think there's a lot of value also to that kind of more subtle approach. Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise has proper foods, good, balanced stuff, and it's fresh. Even more important, it's made with an attitude of devotion, which means a lot. When you know someone has begrudgingly cooked something, it doesn't taste as nice as when someone has done it to try and please God, to offer it to Him first. Just that in itself makes all the food taste so much nicer.

Mukunda: Paul and Linda McCartney have prasadam frequently from Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise. Not long ago, Paul met a devotee near his London studio and wrote a song about it. In an interview with James Johnson in a London paper, he said, "One song, 'One of These Days' is about when I met someone on the way to the studio who was a Hare Krishna and we got talking about life-styles and so forth. I'm not a Hare Krishna myself, but I'm very sympathetic."

You've been a vegetarian for years, George. Have you had any difficulties maintaining it?

George: No. Actually, I wised up and made sure I had dal bean soup or something every day. Actually, lentils are one of the cheapest things, but they give you A-l protein. People are simply screwing up when they go out and buy beef steak, which is killing them with cancer and heart troubles. The stuff costs a fortune too. You could feed a thousand people with lentil soup for the cost of half a dozen filets. Does that make sense?

Mukunda: One of the things that really has a profound effect on people when they visit the temples or read our books is the paintings and sculptures done by our devotee artists of scenes from Krishna's pastimes when He appeared on earth five thousand years ago. Prabhupada once said that these paintings were "windows to the spiritual world," and he organized an art academy, training his disciples in the techniques for creating transcendental art. Now, tens of thousands of people have these paintings hanging in their homes, either the originals, lithographs, canvas prints, or posters. You've been to our multimedia Bhagavad-gita museum in Los Angeles. What kind of an effect did it have on you?

George: I thought it was great-better than Disneyland, really. I mean, it's as valuable as that or the Smithsonian Institute in Washington. The sculpted dioramas look great, and the music is nice. It gives people a real feel for what the kingdom of God must be like, and much more basic than that, it shows in a way that's easy for even a child to understand exactly how the body is different from the soul, and how the soul's the important thing. I always have pictures around like the one of Krishna on the chariot that I put in the Material World album, and I have the sculpted Siva fountainBhagavad-gita museum, George asked if the artists and sculptors who had produced the museum could sculpt a life-sized fountain of Lord Siva, one of the principal Hindu demigods and a great devotee of Lord Krishna. Lord Siva, in a meditative pose, complete with a stream of water spouting from his head, now resides in the gardens of George's estate, heralded as among the most beautiful in all of England. the devotees made for me in my garden. Pictures are helpful when I'm chanting. You know that painting in the Bhagavad-gita of the Supersoul in the heart of the dog, the cow, the elephant, the poor man, and the priest? That's very good to help you realize that Krishna is dwelling in the hearts of everybody. It doesn't matter what kind of body you've got, the Lord's there with you. We're all the same really.