Sunday, May 9, 2010

Prayer before meals

Before starting a meal, Hindus offer food to God and thank God for the meal they are about to receive.

Traditional Hindus tell a prayer before food. basically, the prayer means this:

"The food is God. The plates, spoon, etc are God. The eater is God. The fire of hunger is God. The act of eating is God."

It implies that I don't eat for my sake; eating is an activity ordained by Nature. The order of Nature is such that one organism lives at the cost of another. Life to one being is death to another. It is impossible to maintain the life of this body without taking the life of millions of germs, food grains, fruits, leaves, seeds, plants, animals, etc. So the prayer before food implies that life is being offered to life. It is not for mere enjoyment that you eat, but as a necessary action to keep the body alive. This attitude is applicable to almost all actions in life.

We should partake food with a Sathwic mind. Our ancestors recommended the offering of food to God before partaking. Food so partaken becomes "Prasad" (consecrated offering). Prayer cleanses the food of the three impurities; caused by the absence of cleanliness of the vessel, cleanliness of the food stuff, and cleanliness in the process of cooking. It is necessary to get rid of these three impurities to purify the food; for, pure food goes into the making of a pure mind. It is not possible to ensure the purity of the cooking process, since we do not know what thoughts rage in the mind of the man who prepares the food. Similarly, we cannot ensure the cleanliness of the food ingredients as we do not know whether it was acquired in a righteous way by the seller who has sold it to us. Hence, it is essential on our part to offer food to God in the form of prayer, so that these three impurities do not afflict our mind.

Hindus recite the following prayers before meals.

brahmarpanam brahma havir
brahmagnau brahmana hutam
brahmaiva tena gantavyam

BRAHMAN is the oblation; BRAHMAN is the clarified butter etc; constituting the offerings; by BRAHMAN is the oblation poured into the fire of BRAHMAN; BRAHMNA verily shall be reached by him who always sees BRAHMAN in all actions.

Ramanuja's Commentary

Here the word brahmarpanam means the paraphernalia used to offer oblations in yagna or offering of worship to propitiate the Supreme Lord. All the accessories used in yagna are also considered to be Brahman or the spiritual substratum pervading all existence, along with the offerings of ghee and grain seeds, the fire they are offered through as well as the performer of the offering. Lord Krishna is explaining that everything used in yagna can be considered as part of the Brahman. One who realises that the Brahman or the spiritual substratum pervading all existence is actually abiding in all actions reaches the Brahman which is becoming cognisant of the spiritual substratum of reality underlying and pervading all existence. This is the consciousness of the actions from an aspirant for moksa or liberation where the atma or soul is understood to be non-different from the Brahman. Consequently actions performed in this consciousness are all known to be spiritual and thus realised is in itself a means for achieving atma tattva or soul realisation thus precluding any further need to practice jnana yoga or cultivation of Vedic knowledge.

Another interpretation:

The whole creation being the gross projection of Bramham, the Cosmic Consciousness itself; the food too is Bramham, the process of offering it is Bramhan; it is being offered in the fire of Brahman. He who thus sees Brahman is action, reaches Bramham alone.

Bhagavad Gita 15:14

aham vaisvanaro bhutva
praninam deham asritah
pacamy annam catur-vidham


aham--I; vaisvanarah--by My plenary portion as the digesting fire; bhutva--becoming; praninam--of all living entities; deham--body; asritah--situated; prana--outgoing air; apana--down-going air; samayuktah--keep balance; pacami--digest; annam--foodstuff; catuh-vidham--four kinds of.


I am the fire of digestion in every living body, and I am the air of life, outgoing and incoming, by which I digest the four kinds of foodstuff.


This sloka is a sort of acknowledgement and assurance to us from Brahman. "I am Vaishnavara, existing as fire God in the bodies of living beings. Being associated with ingoing (prana) and outgoing (apaana) life breaths, I will digest all the four different types of food (that which we bite and chew; that which we masticate with the tongue; those which we gulp; that which we swallow) and purify them."


According to Ayur-vedic sastra, we understand that there is a fire in the stomach which digests all food sent there. When the fire is not blazing, there is no hunger, and when the fire is in order we become hungry. Sometimes when the fire is not going nicely, treatment is required. In any case, this fire is representative of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Vedic mantras also confirm that the Supreme Lord or Brahman is situated in the form of fire within the stomach and is digesting all kinds of foodstuff. Therefore since He is helping the digestion of all kinds of foodstuff, the living entity is not independent in the eating process. Unless the Supreme Lord helps him in digesting, there is no possibility of eating. He thus produces and digests foodstuff, and, by His grace, we are enjoying life. In the Vedanta-sutra this is also confirmed: sabdadibhyo 'ntah pratisthanac ca. The Lord is situated within sound and within the body, within the air and even within the stomach as the digestive force. There are four kinds of foodstuff, some are swallowed, some are chewed, some are licked up, and some are sucked, and He is the digestive force for all of them.

Another translation and interpretation:

I, the Supreme Spirit, abiding in the body of living beings as the Fire (Vaiswanara) in their stomach I am associated with their Praana and Apaana, digest the four type of foods (solids, fluids, semi-fluid and liquid) which they eat.


Another prayer

Harir Daatha Harir Bhoktha
Harir Annam Prajaapatih
Harir Vipra Shareerastu
Bhoonkte Bhojayathe Harih.

Oh Lord Hari, You are the food, You are the enjoyer of the food, You are the giver of food. Therefore, I offer all that I consume at Thy Lotus Feet.


  1. Thank you very much for educating us. Sai Ram!


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