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HINDU RITUALS AND ROUTINES - WHY DO WE FOLLOW THOSE? contd..5

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  • HINDU RITUALS AND ROUTINES - WHY DO WE FOLLOW THOSE? contd..5

    9. Why do offer food to the Lord before eating it?

    Indians make an offering of food to the Lord and later partake of it as prasaada -
    a holy gift from the Lord. In our daily ritualistic worship (pooja) too we offer naivedyam
    (food) to the Lord.
    The Lord is omnipotent and omniscient. Man is a part, while the Lord is the
    totality. All that we do is by His strength and knowledge alone. Hence what we receive in
    life as a result of our actions is really His alone. We acknowledge this through the act of
    offering food to Him. This is exemplified by the Hindi words "tera tujko arpan" I offer
    what is Yours to You. Thereafter it is akin to His gift to us, graced by His divine touch.
    Knowing this, our entire attitude to food and the act of eating changes. The food
    offered will naturally be pure and the best. We share what we get with others before
    consuming it. We do not demand, complain or criticise the quality of the food we get. We
    eat it with cheerful acceptance (prasaada buddhi).
    Before we partake of our daily meals we first sprinkle water around the plate as
    an act of purification. Five morsels of food are placed on the side of the plate
    acknowledging the debt owed by us to the Divine forces (devta runa) for their benign
    grace and protection, our ancestors (pitru runa) for giving us their lineage and a family
    culture, the sages (rishi runa) as our religion and culture have been "realised", aintained
    and handed down to us by them, our fellow beings (manushya runa) who constitute
    society without the support of which we could not live as we do and other living beings
    (bhuta runa) for serving us selflessly.
    Thereafter the Lord, the life force, who is also within us as the five life-giving
    physiological functions, is offered the food. This is done with the chant

    praanaaya swaahaa,
    apaanaaya swaahaa,
    vyaanaaya swaahaa,
    udaanaaya swaahaa,
    samaanaaya swaahaa,
    brahmane swaahaa
    After offering the food thus, it is eaten as prasaada - blessed food.

    10. Why do we fast?

    Most devout Indians fast regularly or on special occasions like festivals. On such
    days they do not eat at all, eat once or make do with fruits or a special diet of simple
    food.
    Fasting in Sanskrit is called upavaasa. Upa means "near" + vaasa means "to
    stay". Upavaasa therefore means staying near (the Lord), meaning the attainment of close
    mental proximity with the Lord. Then what has upavaasa to do with food?
    A lot of our time and energy is spent in procuring food items, preparing, cooking,
    eating and digesting food. Certain food types make our minds dull and agitated. Hence on
    certain days man decides to save time and conserve his energy by eating either simple,
    light food or totally abstaining from eating so that his mind becomes alert and pure. The
    mind, otherwise pre-occupied by the thought of food, now entertains noble thoughts and
    stays with the Lord. Since it is a self-imposed form of discipline it is usually adhered to
    with joy.
    Also every system needs a break and an overhaul to work at its best. Rest and a
    change of diet during fasting is very good for the digestive system and the entire body
    The more you indulge the senses, the more they make their demands. Fasting
    helps us to cultivate control over our senses, sublimate our desires and guide our minds to
    be poised and at peace.
    Fasting should not make us weak, irritable or create an urge to indulge later. This
    happens when there is no noble goal behind fasting.
    The Bhagavad-Gita urges us to eat appropriately - neither too less nor too much -
    yukta-aahaara and to eat simple, pure and healthy food (a saatvik diet) even when not
    fasting

    contd..6
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