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Srivaishnava aahaara niyamam
srimathE ramanuajaya nama:
srimad varavaramunayE nama:
sri vaanaachala mahaamunayE nama:
Another conversation - another realisation.
Recently during one of the purappaadu's of Sri AlagiyaSinga Emperumaan (brahmotsavam in thiruvallikeni), one swamy offered adiyen some Thirupathi laddu. While adiyen politely refused to accept it - some swamys questioned adiyen why not accept it? adiyen said "well, its thirupathi laddu that is made in factory and not prasaadham". A debate started - finally one swamy came by and said that it is acceptable inside the temple. adiyen insisted "if it is offered to emperumaan it is prasaadam otherwise it is only bhOgam". It kind of stopped at that stage since the purappaadu started moving. But it gives adiyen an opportunity to remind myself the concept of Prasaadham vs bhOgam and what can be consumed by us and share it with others as well.
Let us start understanding bhOgam and prasaadham. bhOgam is the term generally used for any food items (cooked/uncooked) that can be eaten readily. prasaadham is what is submitted to emperumaan and is accepted by him (emperumaan eats thru his eyes or really purifies the food by giving his kadaaksham - mercy from his eyes).
The person who is really entitled to accept bhOgam is emperumaan only (since he is the owner of all movable and immovable objects). Once he accepts the bhOgam it becomes prasaadham. As srivaishnavas who understand this concept we should simply not accept bhOgam (that which is not owned by us) - but we should only accept prasaadham (that which is specifically allocated for us by emperumaan). There are many places in our sastras (vedas/ithihaasa puraanaas, arulicheyal and vyaakyaanams) this is explained in a crystal clear manner.
* In Bhagavad Gita 3.13, Kannan emperumaan says "if you consume food that is cooked for self pleasure (instead of an offering to me) - you are simply eating handful of sins".
* In Sri Ramayana, IlayaperumaL (Lakshmanan) says "what is offered directly to me bypassing PerumaaL (Raman) is like offering dog licked food to me" - this incident occurs when Thaaraa offers food stuffs to him to pacify his anger when he comes shouting at sugreevan for not keeping up his promise to help perumaaL.
* Emperumaanaar when travelling to Thirunaraayanapuram did not consume any food throughout the journey until he met srivaishnavas who gave proper prasaadham.
* Koorathazhwaan's wife aandaal refuses to accept food from a srivaishnava saying that she does not know the nishtai of that srivaishnava (whether he is sittuated in bhagavad nishtai or bhaagavatha nishtai or just name sake nishtai) during return to srirangam after a long journey.
* When some one submitted vegetables/grains at his mutt - Maamunigal asked his disciples to return them since they did not come from srivaishnava farmers.
* Vedhaantha desikan wrote aahaara niyamam which identifies the foods that can be offered to emperumaan and consumed by srivaishnavas. It is a reasonable starting point to understand the basic principles.
sastras straight away reject 3 types of foods:
* vilaich chOru - prepared food that is purchased for a price (hotels/restaurants, etc)
* maNach chOru - prepared food that is offered during weddings, etc - there is no guarantee that the food will be prepared by srivaishnavas and offered to emperuamaan before being served.
* piNach chOru - prepared food that is offered as part of death cermonies/shraardha ceremonies - we are only allowed to partake food stuffs of our own pithrus and acharyas - that too prepared by srivaishnavas and offered to emperumaan first.
sastras identify 3 types of defects in food stuffs - these food stuffs are not to be consumed by srivaishnavas.
* jaathi dhushtam - food that are defective by birth - onion, garlic, raddish, some food stuffs that grow under ground (potatoes, carrots) - these foods are identified as non-saatvic. Also, foreign vegetables (tomatoes, coffee beans, cocoa beans, etc) for which there is no clear indication of whether they are sattvic or not are to be rejected.
* aashraya dhushtam - food that are touched by avaishnavas.
* nimiththa dhushtam - food that has gone stale, food which were touched by lizards, cockroaches, food that came in contact with hair, nail, etc.
Lastly, the question will arise - is all prasaadham consumable by srivaishnavaas? The answer is "NO". Based on ones own varna and aashrama and situation, even prasaadham cannot be consumed at certain times.
* Unless we specifically know that it is prepared by srivaishnavas (ones who have had panchasamskaaram under proper aacharyaa), even prasaadham cannot be consumed by srivaishnavas. Anyone can offer anything to emperumaan (like Gantaakarnan who killed a rishi and offered to krishnan - which krishnan happily accepted) - but for srivaishnavas prasaadham must have been prepared by srivaishnavas and served by srivaishnavas.
* brahmachaaris/sannyaasis cannot consume beetle nuts.
* During ekaadasis and other fasting times (like full day fast during srijayanthi, until evening fast for narasimha chaturdasi, etc), we cannot consume any grains or beans.
* During shraardham days, the kartha (doer) can consume full meals only once in the afternoon for the whole day.
* If some one from a particular varna (say kshatriya) offers particular bhOgam to emperumaan which is fit for him, a braahmaNa cannot consume that if it is unfit to be consumed by him.
* "snaathvaa bhunjitha" - "Eat only after taking bath" is a rule - not an option. In current times, most of us drink coffee, tea, boost, etc (which are anyway prohibited) and some people eat food (tiffins, breakfast, etc) as well - without bathing - absolutely not acceptable.
So, just because it is prasaadham it does not mean that it can be consumed by everyone all the time.
sastras say from clean food habits we develop satthva guNam. Even materialists nowadays say "We are what we eat".
So, let us try to give some thoughts about the food we consume - who prepared it, who touched it, etc. Ultimately, if we fully depend on emperumaan for aathma rakshaNam and emperumaan's prasaadham for dhEha rakshaNam - no doubt we will lead a healthy life which will help us serve divyadEsa emperuamaans and srivaishnavaas effectively and happily. After all, emperumaan has given us this body to serve him and he has given simple steps to protect the body - if we follow those simple steps we will see the benefits.
Definitely, we will run into so many questions like "will you not consume food at my place any more just because I have a Ganesh photo hanging in my wall?", "for your age, you are talking too much - I know sastras more than you", "may be you should just stay at your home and not come out at all", "we know what kind of achaaram you follow - you think your achaaram is better than ours?", etc. But we just have to try to explain the intention and if it does not work - we have two ears - listen via one and ship it out via the other. By following the proper food habits we will satisfy our main bandhu - sriman narayanan.