A Hindu Primer
Shukavak N. Dasa
Copyright © 2007 Sanskrit Religions Institute
All rights reserved.
Divine Blessings: Prasada
An offering of Bhoja
is a general understanding that the food offered to a Deity
during puja or archana is called prasada. This is incorrect. Prasada is
what comes back to the worshipper after offering something to the
Deity. In fact, prasada is
not necessarily food at all. The word prasada means "mercy" or "blessings." The
counterpart of prasada is
and again most people commonly misunderstand this word thinking that
bhoga is food. In fact, the word bhoga means enjoyment, and so
anything enjoyable is a bhoga. In the Kama Shastra, Hindu books
on sensual enjoyment, love and sex are called bhoga, enjoyment.
In ordinary language, food is called bhoga because it is enjoyable!
During puja the
devotee offers bhoga, enjoyable things, to the Deity and receives prasada,
mercy, back. Bhoga, therefore, is anything pleasing including, fresh
fruits and flowers, fragrant incense, lamps of ghee and camphor, beautiful
cloth, devotional prayers and tasty food, and the prasada is
what is returned back to the devotee as mercy or blessings. The scent
of the offered incense or flowers is a prasada.
The light of the lamps that is "touched" by
the hands and then "bathed" over
the eyes and head is a prasada.
The sound of the devotional prayers are a prasada and,
of course, the offered food coming back is a prasada.
Indeed, the whole point of a puja, archana, yajna or havan is the
creation of prasada,
blessings to the devotees. Puja,
therefore, is an exchange of love between the devotee and the Deity.
The devotee offers various bhogas to the Deity, which, in effect,
convey the love of the devotee to the Deity, and the Deity reciprocates
by sending His or Her love back to the devotee in the form of blessings, prasada.