Confessions of a Prasadam Addict

(the first in a series of six continuing articles (Sections) by Taru as taken from the Brijabasi Spirit from the 1970s)

Section. 1 Prasadam is All-Attractive

Someday the masses of people are going to find out about prasadam. It’s inevitable.

Prasadam is all-attractive, who could resist it? No matter who you are there’s some variety of prasadam which has the potency to captivate you, absorb you, make you forget about everything else that you hold dear. For no one can taste prasadam only once. After the first experience one is in­variably forced to try it again and again until final­ly he gives up eating everything else. It is said that, in the intensified euphoria of total prasadam ad­diction, one forgets the miseries of birth and death and actually transcends all attachments to the modern so-called real world.

There have been many cases throughout history of everyday, “real” people who somehow or other became involved in taking prasadam and sub-sequently lost all standing in society. For instance, two brothers, Dabhir Khas and Sakara Mallik, were high-posted government ministers in Bengal five hundred years ago. After they slaried taking prasadam, they stopped eating ordinary foods and soon quit their jobs. In the final stages of their ad­diction to what the users call The Mercy of the Lord, they gave away all their money and traveled to Vrndavana, the mecca of ail hard core prasadam takers. There, they were frequently seen running around like madmen in loinclolhes, shouting over and over the names of Radha and Krsna, Who supposedly appear before those who have no other desire except to serve Them and taste Their prasadam.

What’s the Use?

What is the use in trying to maintain an objective view point? I must admit frankly to the readers of this journal that 1 myself have been taking prasadam for over six years. During this whole time, I have not eaten anything cooked by my mother, I haven’t been to a restaurant, nor have I sampled even one of the hundreds of varieties of food products which you have seen on television. Neither have I been able to maintain my position in the normal world. Soon after I began honoring prasadam I left home and ran away with a band of prasadam takers to a remote mountainous region where we could carry on our activities freely, without fear of detection.

It all started in 1972, the first time I visited a Hare Krsna temple. I rather enjoyed talking to all the nice young people there and even attended the night service called aratrika. Immediately after­wards, my head still spinning from the aroma of the incense, my ears still echoing the clashing sound of the hand cymbals, my mind still vibrating the intriguing Hare Krsna mantra over and over again, I was offered some of it. “Here,” they said, “take some prasadam”.

Immediately, I understood what was going on. I’d been around enough to know that a bunch of kids sitting on the floor, grinning from ear to ear, and passing something around in a circle to each other meant no good. Still, I’d never seen anything quite like this prasadam. Each devotee had a square of brown, waxed paper in front of him with two blobs on it. One was bright orange, the other mostly brown with specks of bright color, oozing a yellow liquid. Everyone was eating it up with their fingers. Only the bizarre appearance of this scene prevented me from immediately diving in. “Ah, no thanks…”, I murmured, taxing my imagination to come up with an excuse they could relate to. “Uh, I’m fasting!”

“That’s alright, this is special food. It won’t break your fast”. I could see words were useless, they were all in some other world. Nervously, I beat a hasty retreat. “Really, it’s too late. I gotta go.” As 1 slipped away one of them called out, “Just come back tomorrow and DON’T FAST.” As 1 left the door, somebody told me to be sure to come to mangala aratrika the next morning.

“When’s that?”, I asked, more interested in get­ting out the door than in hearing the reply. “Four-thirty A.M.” Whew, I just couldn’t believe these things they kept coming up with!

“Yeah, sure. If I happen to be up then I’ll come on by.”

A shouted Hare Krsna faded away behind me as I hurried down the street to my house. Mom and Dad were still up watching Dean Marlin and al­though they asked where I’d been, they hardly heard the reply. I shot into the kitchen and fixed myself a couple of cheese sandwiches and then went to bed.

Four A.M. Omen

That night I dreamt that I was in a temple, surrounded by hundreds of Hare Krsnas. Startled, I woke up and looked at the clock. Il was four a.m. “Wow, this is an omen for sure.” (l had great faith in such “signs” at the time.) I ran down to the temple in time to make the aratika.

Right after the ceremony, somebody gave me some beads and told me I was supposed to chant 16 rounds of Hare Krsna on them every day and that it would take about two hours. I went along with it although it took me most of the day because I could only do one or two rounds at a time. Anyway, there was some more singing and danc­ing and a far-out lecture about the universe com­ing out of somebody’s navel in the form of a lotus flower with a big four-headed guy on top. I was loving it.

Finally, breakfast time arrived. By now I was ready for anything. Actually, I’d been smelling it cooking and the wonderful aroma was driving me crazy.

Everybody said a strange prayer over the food. “This material body is a lump of ignorance. The senses are a network of paths leading to death”. It was pretty morbid but it didn’t deter my appetite. I dove right into the mass of golden-brown whatever it was and became instantly amazed. First I felt it, being as you had to eat with your fingers. It was soft and aerial like foam rubber, ex­cept that it was a little slippery due to the presence of the yellow liquid I had observed the night before. (Later I found this substance was ghee, or clarified butter.) It was also nice and warm.

When I tasted it, I went wild. It was super rich, yet seemed to be as light as jello. I could have eaten a ton of it but I only got one serving. There-was some fruit on the side but I wasn’t so inter­ested in that. I asked what they called the brown stuff and found out it was halavah, although it took a few more times before I could remember the word.

After breakfast they asked me if I’d like to help do some work. I agreed and they immediately stuck me in the basement with this skinny kid with glasses. Somehow or another, they had busted up a few yards of concrete. They must have torn out a few walls or something. We were filling up five-gallon buckets with chunks of cement and hauling it upstairs and outside. I kind of had the idea that helping out meant to give someone a hand for a couple of minutes. After an hour, I was expecting to be thanked and let go. Then I was expecting the skinny guy to get tired. But he just kept telling me more stories and kept right on working. He didn’t stop all morning!

Finally, it was time for lunch. I had contracted an amazing appetite by that time and ate what seemed to be an immeasurable quantity of a lus­cious vegetable preparation which was cooked in, you guessed it, ghee. Then there was the same orange stuff I had seen the night before which turned out to be carrot halavah.

I couldn’t see any similarity between that and the halavah we had at breakfast, but that didn’t stop me from eating about two pounds of it.


So there I was, trapped in I he house of the prasadam eaters. They made me work a lot. But if I had some question, they would explain the answer in some very interesting way. They were real friendly, it’s just that they had this thing for working all day long, or “doing service,” as they called it.

Still, I kept coming back, day after day. Practi­cally speaking, I just went home at night to go to sleep. After about a week, it seemed obvious to me that it would be a lot easier to just sleep in the temple and forget about walking back and forth to my house.

Now the biggest omen of them all, the one which really foretold the future of my involvement with these Hare Krsna folks, was the fact that the day I moved into the temple was Sunday, which is when they hold their weekly love feasts. I didn’t really know anything about these feasts, which is a little unusual because most people go to the temple for the first time on account of them. Of course, all week long people had been telling me, “This ain’t nothing, wait until Sunday”, but 1 was too over­whelmed by the present to even dream of the fu­ture.

When I walked into the feast, I finally realized that I had made it into the other world. There was this big table that you walked around, just filling

Your plate up with whatever you wanted. There were about fifteen different courses, none of them familiar. There was sweet rice, pure white and cold with little lumps in it, like half-frozen ice cream. There was a whole plastic barrel full of some round spongy balls floating in a golden juice that resembled thin honey.

There were other round sweet balls piled up on trays and little breaded vegetable preparations, jubilant looking salad, round slices of bread coated and shining with ghee, various types of pastries and gigantic potato chips that were al­most a foot in diameter!

All of these had wonderful exotic names, just like all the devotees, which I couldn’t catch on to no matter how many times they repeated them. Burfi, sangosa, puri, gulabjamm, chutney, mal-pura, pakora, lugdu as well as rose water and simply wonderfuls. I was in ecstasy just looking at all the new, strange shapes and smelling the in­credible aromas.

But when I sat down and began to eat, it was a whole other story. I had never before been so ex­cited, actually thrilled, simply by eating some­thing. Every preparation was better than anything I had ever tasted in my life. I had been absorbed in the breakfast and lunch program all week long, but now I realized why everyone had kept telling me about the Sunday feast. I quickly finished off my entire heaping plate and went back for seconds. Then thirds, fourths. I stopped counting after a while. I just couldn’t get tired of anything. I ale at least four times more than the biggest meal I had ever had. I couldn’t understand what had come over me. Factually, I had never seen anyone eat as much as I did af that feast.

An experience like that is not soon to be forgot­ten. Starting on Tuesday, I began to count the number of days until the next feast. Actually, most of my time was now spent thinking about prasadam. Oh, there were plenty of classes and discussions. I liked chanting Hare Krsna and the philosophy perfectly answered all I he questions I had ever had. Anything I wanted to know about, there was always a devotee who could tell me. So I wasn’t worried about anything.

But as far as looking forward to something was concerned, my whole life been me centered around prasadam. It was, however, a couple of weeks before I noticed there was something dif­ferent about me. Everyone else would be finished taking prasadam and I’d still be right in the mid­dle of it. I began to feel a little self-conscious, especially as people kept coming back and asking if I wanted anything else.

Eating my way back to Godhead

Once, a smiling devotee put his arm around my ‘shoulder and made some crack about “eating my way back to Godhead.” But no one was angry at me. Actually, they seemed lo like the fact that I was eating so much. Out of embarrassment alone, I tried to control myself, but It was impos­sible. There was never any limit to the prasadam, either. So I’d just go on and on at every meal, eating until I was one hundred percent stuffed full of prasadam.

Part of the trouble was that if just felt so good to be full of prasadam. It wasn’t at all like eating an eight-cut pizza all by yourself and then wishing you hadn’t for the next three days. Prasadam made me feel happy, enthusiastic, even sometimes intoxi­cated. There was nothing better than chanting Hare Krsna when you were full of prasadam. There was always a big kirtan after Sunday feast. Everybody would be stuffed up to his neck, but still we’d sing and dance like crazy jumping up as high as we could over and over until your legs gave out. I had never been that high before.

Besides that, I was told that prasadam was spiritual food. Just by eating it, you become purified and make spiritual advancement. You see, prasadam is cooked in a special way, just for the satisfaction of Krsna. The devotee cooks never taste or even smell anything while it’s being cooked. They’re very strict about that. They simply try to meditate on Krsna the whole time.

For them, cooking is an intense spiritual ex­perience. They take the finished prasadam and arrange it nicely on a big tray made out of gold or marble. Then the tray is placed on the altar before the Deity of Krsna and the priest recites some prayers. Then Krsna eats it. Really.

It sounded a little incredible but then the devotees just said, “Why not?” “Why not?” That’s far out. I couldn’t think of any reason why not. God can do anything. He can let you contact Him directly simply by chanting His name. He can in­carnate in the Deity. So if His devotee cooks something nice for Him, why wouldn’t He eat it? I was convinced.

Then what could compare to prasadam? It was prayer, meditation, purification and enlightenment. It was a celebration, communication, indoctrina­tion and intoxicating. It was everything I had ever wanted. I couldn’t believe how wonderful prasadam was from every angle of vision. Simply to taste it, simply to prepare it, simply to see it, think about or talk about it. Any way one en­counters prasadam, he immediately becomes joy­ful.

Awe-struck, speechless

So where was the possibility of eating less? Although I was now consuming more prasadam than any other three devotees in the temple, I kept increasing. I remember when my brother came to visit one Sunday. He became awe-struck, literal­ly speechless. After about my third huge plate, as I was getting up to get some more, he just blurted out, “What are you doing?” I couldn’t explain it.

And in the middle of all these unbelievable wonderful events, I found the most amazing per­son I had ever come in contact with. Kirtanananda Maharaja was giving a lecture at a nearby college and we drove out to catch it. When we walked in, Maharaja was already speaking, ex­plaining that having a body was something like watching a movie. You see a snow storm on the screen and you imagine that you’re cold, but ac­tually it’s all unreal. When you become self real­ized, you’ll be able to see what’s happening to the body but it won’t be able to disturb you.

It was really heavy because I could sense that he was on that platform already. I thought that here’s someone that nobody could put into anxiety. When he chanted Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare, I was swept away. It was the most beautiful sound that I had ever heard. It seemed like I was hearing the mantra for the first time.

After the lecture, there was a fantastic kirtan, be­cause we were in a little auditorium and the acous­tics made it sound really wonderful. Then, of course, we had brought a feast. As I started diving into my prasadam, I kept watching Maharaja. They gave him a tiny little plate, about the size of a saucer, and he didn’t even finish it. This was truly greatness. I couldn’t understand how anyone who was a devotee could eat so little of this miraculous food. He had to be on some higher platform that I couldn’t even conceive of.

I got to hear Maharaja give a couple more clas­ses. And I found out a little more about him from the other devotees. I heard that lie lived in New Vrindaban and I was thrilled to think that there was someplace you could go and hear him speak every day. I talked to the boy he was traveling with. I begged my temple president to let me go with Maharaja. Finally, Maharaja stepped in and said, “Why not let him try it out for a couple of-weeks?”

I shivered with excitement. There we were in the same car, the incarnation of austerity and the most prasadam crazed new devotee that anyone had ever met. They had packed a little halavah in a container for us to take on the trip. Maharaja ate about two spoonfuls and the driver had maybe three or four. They offered me some and, figuring they weren’t done yet, I just took a little.

No. That’s enough.

After some time, they asked me if I wanted more. I took another hit. More? Well, I could have easily done in the whole hunk but I felt too embarrassed. “No, that’s enough.” I couldn’t believe I was saying it! Maybe it was the power of Maharaja’s presence, maybe it was the fear that if he found out about me, he wouldn’t let me come. Anyway, I just sat there in the back seat, looking at and smelling the unfinished halavah all the rest of the way, hankering like anything. Everybody has to perform some austerity to get to Vrindaban.

Actually, I was in for a whole new realm of experiences and surprises. A number of people were pretty surprised with me, too. But we’ve taken up enough of your time already. We’ll have to elaborate on all this at a later date.

Hare Krsna.

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

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Thank you so much for publshing these. I remember reading these in the paper version of Brajabasi Spirit back around 1976. In 2002, I visited NV and searched through the Brisabasi Spirits in the temple library. Couldn’t find any with the Prasadam Addict articles. They are very humour, well-written and I believe they will be very important to demonstrate the value of prasadam distribution… and eating it.

Before reading only I will say thanks to pr ji for sharing his wonderful adventurous moments KC related to all attractive form of Krishna. I heard your many pastimes of stealing prasadam and having such an attraction. Your pastimes are very humorous and charming. I also seek your blessing to get some attraction towards krishna.