Sunday Talk at the Radha Gopinath Temple in Chowpatti, Mumbai, India.
On June 16, 2013 I was asked to give the Sunday lecture to the congregation at the famous Radha Gopinatha temple in Mumbai, India. My talk was an introduction to food yoga, a solution to world hunger and a general overview of Food for Life’s work around the world.
Respectfully, I wore the traditional dhoti (wrapped cloth tied and pleated at the front and back), a shirt and shawl to cover my upper body, and the holy tilak markings on my forehead. Tilak is made from the clay of the holy ganges and mixed with water to create a mud that I then create a symbol signifying the footprint of God, Krishna.
My talk was attentively heard by a packed crowd. As many as 500 crammed into the temple on this rainy monsoon Sunday. However, I later found out that on a non-rainy day they can get as many as 1000.
I began my talk discussing the essential philosophy of Food for Life by quoting some important writings of the founder of Food for Life and ISKCON, Srila Prabhupada, who said:
“The Krishna consciousness movement is based on this principle: Chant the Hare Krishna maha mantra at every moment, as much as possible, both inside and outside of the temples, and, as far as possible, distribute prasada. This process can be accelerated with the cooperation of state administrators and those who are producing the country’s wealth. Simply by liberal distribution of prasada and sankirtana, the whole world can become peaceful and prosperous.” (Srimad Bhagavatam, purport: 4.12.10).
I then explained to my audience that this commentary by Srila Prabhupada captures the very essence of his mission, in that it defines in very clear terms exactly what his followers should do; how they should accelerate it and what they can expect once they do it.
It is this very comment that I have meditated on for decades and which has become a source of inspiration for my work with Food for Life Global. In fact, the last part of the commentary became the inspiration for creating Food for Life’s new mission statement once I took over the helm. Our mission is:
The create peace and prosperity in the world, through the liberal distribution of pure plant-based meals prepared with loving intention.
Essentially that comment by Srila Prabhupada is the inside story of Food for Life.
The next statement I quoted from Srila Prabhupada was from a famous story from the tradition, of how a saintly man, Sivananda Sena blessed a street dog. The dog had wandered into a large group of pilgrams walking towards the holy city of Puri. Rather than push the dog away, Sivananda welcomed the animal, and in fact, arranged for a cook to prepare a special meal of plain boiled rice just for the dog. At one point during the long journey, the dog mysteriously disappeared, and Sivananda was in such anxiety that he asked the entire congregation of 200 men and women to look for the dog. The search was unsuccessful however, and eventually the party had to continue on their pilgramage.
By the time the pilgrams reached Puri, however, to their amazement they saw the dog had reached the temple of Jagannath before them. But what really shocked Sivananda and his party was what they saw next. The dog was sitting in the courtyard of the temple and directly receiving remnants of coconut pulp from the hand of the saint Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who was petitioning the dog to chant the holy name of Krishna. To their astonishment the dog was chanting! Immediately, Sivananda Sena prostrated himself before the dog, humbly petitioning the dog for forgiveness for any offenses he may have done. Apparently the dog disappeared the following day, but all the pilgrams understood that the dog had returned to the spiritual world.
Here is a collection of dogs speaking
In his commentary to this story, Srila Prabhupada said:
Everyone should be given a chance to take prasada and thus be induced to chant the holy names of Hare Krishna and also dance in ecstasy. By these three processes, although performed without knowledge or education, even a dog went back to Godhead.” (CC Antya lila 1.32).
The purport to this statement is simple, everyone should get a chance to experience higher energy, pure food, because by doing so, according to the Vedic conclusion, even someone without knowledge or education, like a dog, can be successful in spiritual evolution.
The words of Srila Prabhupada burned in my consciousness for years, as I wondered how would it be possible for the limited number of Food for Life volunteers to reach everyone in the world? But then I realised, if we can just teach the world about the concept of prasadam and spiritual hospitality, then we could very effectively and efficiently achieve this goal. This is akin to the famous maxim: “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”
In this talk, I share this understanding, as well as my personal experience on the front lines of Food for Life’s emergency services, and also touch upon the power of spiritual hospitality to solve world hunger and create unity in the would, and show how Food for Life is doing just that.
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