Why Do We Offer Food to the Lord before Eating It?September 19, 2022
Offering food to God is a common Hindu practice. The food offered to God is later eaten as Prasad or a gift from God. Hindus also offer food to God during Poojas or ritualistic worship. For a devout Hindu, offering food to gods is a rite of purification as well as redemption. For, the act purifies the food and frees the one who offers it from sin.
Some may see it as just a ritual, while others may see it as superstition. But in reality, it is an act performed to free us from the sin of selfishness. The Bhagavadgita (3.13) says, “The pious who eat what is left of a sacrifice get freedom from all sins, but those evil (persons) verily eat sin, who cook food for themselves.” It also says (17.13) that if food is not distributed during a sacrifice, it (the sacrifice) becomes tamasic in nature. This is the justification for Hindus offering food to God. Many people do this without knowing why because others do it or it is a family tradition. But one must make the offering sincerely, or it has no meaning.
The best way is to do it silently, with gratitude and reverence. The food that we eat ultimately goes to the gods who dwell within our body. They share it as per their contribution to the body’s well-being of the body and their importance in its preservation.
The human body is similar to a small universe. One can call it the Mount Meru of the microcosm, and 7 concentric circles of oceanic consciousness surround it. The gods dwell in it just as they dwell in the macrocosm. They are your organs, breaths, and tattvas. They have their respective duties to maintain the Dharma of the body, which is serving the Self that dwells within it as its devotee. This Dharma serves you; also, all the gods who live within you also serve you.
Why Should We Offer Food to God?
It is done to express gratitude and repay the debt that we owe to the gods. Thus, the karma that arises from it and the negative energies that are in the food are neutralized. The Bhagavadgita has said that people who eat food without offering it to God eat sin. When one eats food without offering it to others, it is selfish action, which invites bad karma. So, always offer food to others.
Food is energy (Shakti). It helps form your physical body. So, it is also called the food body (Annamaya kosa). The food that we eat has many energies. Some are good, and some are harmful. Some foods increase Tamas, some boost Rajas, and some reinforce the demonic qualities in the body. This can cause delusion and egoism. The people who cook the food and the attitude with which they cook it are also important as these can influence the people who consume it positively or negatively.
Such impurities cannot be removed from the food using normal measures. However, when we offer it to the Lord, we can neutralize the impurities and make the food pure and sacred. It becomes sacrificial food. This is why Hinduism encourages this practice.
Another reason is to express gratitude. The gods serve us and help maintain our bodily functions. They also play a key role in food production and preserving order and the regularity of the world.
The gods enable our survival on earth. Indra brings lightning, Maruts and Rudras churn the clouds, and Varuna causes rain which nourishes the earth. The water is carried by the river goddesses to the fields, and Pushan gives us a good harvest, vegetables, fruit, and also provides verdant pastures for cattle to graze. The sun and the moon create the seasons. The gods also help prevent storms and floods, pestilences, natural calamities, etc.
As per the Vedas, the gods are active in all the upper worlds. They are present in the mid-region or antariksha and enable souls to transmigrate to the ancestral world and remain there. They also help the liberated souls on Devayana or the path of gods to the immortal world (Parandhama). They help the Trimurtis (Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva) to maintain Dharma, enforce karma, punish evil people, and safeguard the world from malefic influences.
A Sacred Obligation
God is also the source of our actions. We must carry out his duties on earth and offer the results to him without staking any claim to ownership or doership. Thus, human beings cannot claim to be the owners of the food they produce. It is a gift from the gods, and it is produced by collective effort. Therefore, it is our obligation to share it with others.
The Upanishads claim that the entire world is the food of God. Everything can be an offering for God. According to the Bhagavadgita, every action, perception, and enjoyment should be offered to God as a sacrifice if one wants to obtain freedom from the impurities of karma and rebirth and attain Moksha or liberation.
The Bhagavadgita says, “”From food beings come into existence; from rains is created food; from sacrifice arise rains; and sacrifice has obligatory work as its origin.” In this manner, that which is produced by sacrifice is returned to the source of sacrifice through sacrifice.