So it is all about the relationship. So what we are trying to do in bhakti yoga is develop that devotional attitude toward our relationship with God. And we have to eat to live, so our eating can be a very big part of the development of the relationship.
So that is why instead of sitting down, “Nice dinner. Thank you, God”, and then eating… there is a prayer we used to say, I cannot remember what it is… Anyway, it does not matter, it is like, “Thank you, God, for the food. Now let’s eat”. But there is another way: you make a nice offering for the pleasure of God.
But remember He only accepts vegetarian food. He will not accept meat, He will not accept fish, He will not accept eggs. If you try to develop a favorable relationship with a person, you do not do things that you know they do not like.
A young guy is trying to make a favorable impression on a young girl. So he asks, “Oh, let’s go out to eat”. She agrees, “Yes, Ok, fine”. And then he says, “What kind of food do you like?” you know. He personally likes pizza. But she says, “Oh, I like Chinese food”. And he goes, “Oh, I do, too. That is my favourite really! Let’s go to the Chinese restaurant”. Really, he does not like Chinese food. But she does. So he wants to make that impression, he wants to do what is pleasing to her.
It is that kind of an idea, very practical stuff. Relationships are part of our lives, we cannot avoid them. So relationships with God are part of our life, we cannot avoid them, too. And the problem is: we have been avoiding it for lifetimes. So we come to bhakti yoga, and we learn how to re-cultivate that relationship in the most favorable way.
So, again, we take our vegetarian food stuffs, remember, vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, seeds, dairy products, and we make a nice offering.
It can be very simple, it does not have to be elaborate. You can make a nice offering with one apple. It is not the elaborate food, it is the attitude.
So you take that apple if that is all you have. You try to make it nice so you wash it. No water around, then you polish it on your shirt, on your pants, do something, you kind of make it a little nice. And then you offer it, “God, please, accept this apple”. You see, you are thinking of Him first.
And God says in the Bhagavad-gita, “Offer me with love and devotion a leaf, fruit, flower or water”. You say, “Well, I do not have any love for God. I mean, I do not even know who He is, what He is”.
Well, in this process of bhakti yoga we learn about God, many, many things, including what He looks like, where He lives, what His activities are, what His pastimes are, who He associates with – many things, lots and lots of information. You see, that is the beauty of the Vedas, they give us this detailed information.
But with as much love and devotion as you have. The great devotee of God has pure love, so he can offer with pure love. And here we are, we have a little or no love, but we have the desire, “Please, God, accept this”. Very simple and very humble. And this is what He accepts, this is what He sees, this is what He appreciates.
So we can go from very simple to very elaborate. Many people here in Russia, I am sure some of you, have dachas where you grow food. So you put your labor into growing that food, then you harvest that food. It is perfect, it is filled with your labor, your effort, this is your fruit of the activity. Then you take that and you, again, make it nice, make a plate of the vegetables that you have grown: your potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes, whatever. Usually in summer there are some flowers around, pick up a flower, put it on the plate, make it more attractive. And then you can offer, “Please, accept this”.
We like to offer our food with our mantras that we learn; say, like we do GAURANGA mantra. You can offer the food with GAURANGA or HARIBOL NITAI-GAUR, or GOPALA GOVINDA RAMA MODANA-MOHANA, these mantras we have been using. You can say, “Please, accept this”, and then, “Gauranga, Haribol Nitai-Gaur” And that is a completely different scenario. Now, He accepts this.