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According to the Chandogya Upanisad, when there is purity of food, the mind becomes
pure; when the mind becomes pure, it remembers the Lord and by remembrance of the
Lord, liberation is attained:

ahara suddhau sattva suddhih
sattva suddhau dhruva smrtih
smrti lambhe sarva granthinam vipra moksah
(quoted in BG Ch3. V.11 purport)

This verse mentioned "ahara suddhi" or purification of food as a crucial element in
spiritual progress. For this reason also the smrti sastras proclaim that greatest of purifiers
is pure food. The scriptures have therefore carefully delineated proper and improper food
for the person who desires perfection in life.

Foods chosen by quality:

Different foods, due to their composition, affect the body in different ways when they are
eaten by the human being. Foods may create sattvic, rajasic or tamasic influences of the
body and mind. Since the quality of sattika opens the door for spiritual realization,
sattvika foods are recommended for one pursuing spiritual realization.

Forbidden Food:

Since meat, wine, onions and garlic are by their inherent nature in the mods of raja and
tama guna, the Vaisnava is forbidden to eat them, rr even touch them. Other untouchable
itesmare as follows:

milk mixed with salt
milk from animals other than the cow
milk from a cow without calf
milk from a cow during the ten day period after bearing a calf
milk from a cow that has been mated.
milk mixed with buttermilk
milk in a copper vessel
red spinach
kalambi sak
burned rice
white eggplant
coconut water in a bell metal vessel
honey and yoghurt in a copper vessel
ucchista (someses remanants) mixed with ghee
sesame, cornmeal, and yoghurt at night
barley during the day burned preparations
ones own half-eaten fruit or sweets (saved and to be eaten later)

A food product, even though it is in the mode of goodness, may, due to the influence of
time and weather, become stale or rotten. Such food is transformed to the mode of
ignorance and is unhealthy for the body. Thus these transformed foods are also
forbidden for offering to the Lord and for comsumption.

A food product, though in the mode of goodness and yet fresh, may, due to contant with
some impure object, become contaminated. In that state the food cannot be offered or
eaten. For some types of contamination there are remedial measures of purification.
After the food is purified again, it may be offered and eaten. Some types of
contamination have no remedial purification method and must therefore be totally
rejected. For instance, if a dog or rat eats part of a fruit, that is not fit for human

A food product, though classed in the mode of goodness, fresh, and uncomtanimated,
may be of inferior quality, having bad taste, texture or color. The same food product of
superior taste and quality is preferable is possible.

A food product may be in the mode of goodness, may be fresh, uncontaminated and of
superior quality, but if it is prepared by a person who is impure and sinful, that food
should not be taken. Prepared or cooked foods, particularly grains, take on the qualities
of the person who has prepared them. If one eats such foods one will take on those sinful
qualities as well. Thus a
Furthermore, a food product though in the mode of goodness, fresh, uncontaminated, of
superior quality, and prepared by a sinless person, is filled with sin if it is not first offered
to the Lord.

yajna sistasinah santo
mucyante sarva kilbisaih
bhunjate te tv agham papa
ye pacanty atma karanat

The devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins becasue they eat food which
is offered first for sacrifice. Others, who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment,
verily eat only sin.
BG Ch.3, V.13

When suitable foods are offered to the Lord they surpass sattva guna and become
transcendental to material nature. Such food is called prasadam, the mercy of the Lord.
Therefore the Vaisnava takes only those cooked foods which are prepared by another
Vaisnava, who has thorough knowledge of what is acceptable for offering and
consumption and what is not, who is sinless in conduct, and who offers everything to the
Lord before serving it.

The considerations of quality, impurity etc do not apply however to food which has been
offered by bona fide devotees to the Lord without offense (who offer it to the Lord
considering the proper standards mentioned above). That food or bhoga is called
mahaprasadam and is absolute like the Lord:

One should eat the mahaprasada of the Lord immediately upon receiving it, even though
it is dried up, stale or brought from a distant country. One should consider neither time
nor place.
CC Madhya v.2.p.324

In the Brhad Visnu Purana it is stated that one who considers mahaprasada to be equal to
ordinary rice and dahl certainly commits a great offense. Ordinary edibles are touchable
and untouchable, but there are no such dualistic considerations where prasada is
concerned. Prasada is transcendental and there are no transformations or contaminations,
just as there are no contaminations or transformations in the body of Lord Visnu Himself.
CC Madhya V.1, p.293

Source of Food:

The brahmana is forbidden to take food from a sudra, since the sudra by his inherent
character is a person addicted to sinful activity. Since all of a man's sins reside in his
cooked grains, if one eats the grains cooked by a sudra, one must suffer for all his sins.
Thererfore to avoid undue difficulties, this food is avoided.

Exceptions are made however. One can take food from sudra after giving suitable
payment. After paying one can take rice cooked in sugar and milk, items cooked in ghee
or oil (not boiled items); cow milk, sweet cakes and oil cakes. One can take honey,
water, fruits, and roots from a sudra if they are offered without ones asking. One can
accept food from a sudra who works someone elses land and takes half the crop. One
may take food from a sudra if one is well acquainted with the his family and habits. One
can also accept food from a sudra who tends cows or is the family barber.

The word "sudra" must refer to a person of sudra quality, rather than of sudra anscestory,
for one must always take food grains cooked by a Vaisnava , who offers the grains to the
Lord, regardless of his caste. The Skanda Purana says that there are four pure things:
ekadasi vrata, the heart of a devotee, Ganga water, and the grains cooked by Vaisnava.

As you will pay for the dinner, for the foods, you can offer them to Krsna within your
mind, then eat them as Krsna prasadam. Any foods stuff when it is paid for it becomes
purified...The source of receipt of the things may be not very good, but if one pays for it,
it becomes purified. So vegetable diet, when it is paid for, you can offer it in your mind
to Krsna and take it. Meat is not considered an eatable...It is not to be done ordinarily--w
We should prepare our own foodstuff and offer-- as much as possible of course.
letter from Srila Prabhupada
Brahmananda, Oct. 6, 1968


Cooking should be understood to be a devotional activity, for the product must be offered
to the Supreme Lord with devotion. The rules which apply to deity worship, cleanliness
and devotion, also apply to cooking.


Ones body should be clean. One who cooks must have performed his morning nitya
kriyas of sauca, brushing teeth, bathing, dressing properly and applying tilaka. The hands
should be always clean, never touching impure objects or the holes of the body.

Utensils and ingredients must be clean. Just artilces for deity worship must be cleaned
before performing deity worship, before cooking one must be sure that his utensils and
kitcehn are pure. One must know what is considered pure and impure, and how
contamination spreads. One must also know how to rectify impurity if that is possible ie
the proper method of purifying different articles. The ingredients are for offering to the
Lord, and therefore one should not enjoy them first, by smelling or tasting or looking
upon with lust. As well non devotees or those not familiar with the rules of cleanliness
and worship, should not be allowed to cook, nor should any animals be allowed entrance
in the kitchen. Nor can the unoffered preparations and ingredients be mixed with,
touched to or placed in proximity to items already offered.

The place should be clean. The kitchen should be thoroughly washed before starting and
garbage should not be allowed to accumulate in the kitchen. Shoes should not be worn
into the kitchen.

The mind should be purified by strict sadhana and constant chanting of the Holy Name.
While engaged in cooking one should not discuss mundane matters, but as in deity
worship maintain silence on these matters. Instead one should meditate on pleasing the
Supreme Lord by ones activity, and constantly chant the Holy Name.

As far as possible non-initiated devotees may not enter the kitchen or deity area. They
can help from outside.
letter from Srila Prabhupada
April 4, 1971
Unless one is initiated he cannot cook. One must be regular disciple then he can do deity
worship. There is no question of the outsiders cooking in the New Delhi temple.
letter from Srila Prabhupada
Gopal Krsna das, July 11, 1976

In the kitchen you should always se that nothing is wasted.
letter from Srila Prabhupada
Upendra das, Nov.10, 1975

Food which has been offered should never be put back into the refrigerator or kitchen.
Refrigerator should always be very clean and pure. If there is any food extra, that should
be kept separately, not within the kitchen. No one should wear shoes within the kitchen.
Smelling and tasting of foods being prepared for the Lord should never be done. Talking
within the kitchen should be only what is necessary for preparing the prasadam or about
the Lord. Dirty dishes should not be brought back into the kitchen. Hands should always
be washed when preparing prasadam. Nothing should be eaten before offering to the
letter from Srila Prabhupada
June 6, 1968, Montreal

BHOJANA (taking meals):


One should take his meals in a clean state, with peaceful mind.
One may wear prasada garlands of the Lord and sandalwood paste.
The grhastha may wear rings on his fingers.
One should wear two pices of cloth.
Ones cloth should not be damp.
One should not have ones head covered.
One should not be wearing shoes.
Sikha should be tied.
Five parts of the body should be damp (washed with water): two hands, two feet, and
the mouth.


One should eat in a place which is clean and spacious.
one should not eat in a vehicle.
One should sit on an asana, but the asana should not be broken.
One should sit with legs crossed, not spread out.
One should not receive foods directly in the hands and place it in the mouth, nor place
food directly on the floor, but should take his meal from a plate.
One should not eat off a broken plate.
One Should not keep the plate on the lap.


One should sit facing east, or north, according to the Visnu Purana. By eating facing east,
ones duration of life increases; by eating while facing south one gains fame; by eating
facing west one gains wealth; and by facing north all of ones desires are fulfilled (Kurma
Or one may face in the direction of the sun.
One should not face northeast, northwest, southeast or southwest.


One should not eat at the sandhyas: sunrise, noon and sunset.
One should not et until food form the previous meal has digested.
One should not eat before having performed sandhya vandana (chanting gayatri at the
sadnhya) or daily morning puja.
One should not eat for four praharas before an eclipse of the sun or three praharas before
an eclipse of the moon.

Sitting Arrangement;

Those of similar rank should sit in the same row.
According to the rules, the moment one person ina row finishes n- his meal and rises to
go, the meal has ended, and the rest of the people in the row are forbidden to continue
eating. All of the remaining food is considered ucchista (leftovers) and untouchable.
Therefore, out of respect, all persons in the row should wait for the senior ranking person
in the row to finish before rising to go. When the senior person rises, then all others in
the same row should also rise and leave. the senior person may sit separately, so that he is
not affected by anyone else rising and leaving.


Mahaprasad is nondifferent from Krsna. Therefore instead of eating mahaprasada one
should honor it. It is said here, karila vandana he offered prayers. When taking
mahaprasada one should not consider the food ordinary preparations. One should
consider mahaprasad a favor of Krsna.
CC Antya v.4. p.10

Before beginning the meal, one should glance over the prasadam and pay ones respects
to it remembering that it is he mercy of the Lord.
One should always seek the permission of the Lord to act or eat or speak and by the
blessing of the lord everything done by devotee is beyond the principle of the four
defects typical of the conditioned soul.

One should recite;

sarira avidya jal jodendriya tahe kal
jihve phele visaya sagare

tar madhya jihva ati lobha maya sudurmati
take jete kathina samsare

krsna boro doya moya koribare jihva jaya
sva prasadanna dilo bhai

sei annamrta pao radha krsna guna gao
prema dako sri caitanya nitai

One may also recite jayadhvani prayers.

According to Hari Bhakti Vilasa one should chant the gayatri mantra , then chant ones
mula mantra seven times over the prasadam.

Prana Ahutis:

According to the Vedic tradition, there is a prescribed way to begin the meal, which is
taught to all twice born persons when they accept the sacred thread in the upanayanam
ceremony. At that time the brahmacari vows to chant the gayatri mantra at the sandhyas
daily for the rest of his life and offer his food to the pranas or life airs before beginning
his meal. this system is still followed by brahmanas in many parts of India. The
procedure is given in the practical manual.

Rules for Eating:

People seated should not touch each other while eating.
One should eat in silence, not discussing material affairs.
One should usel the five fingers of the right hand only to touch and place food in the
one should not make noises while eating or drinking foods or liquids.
One should tear large items with the fingers of the right hand and then place the small
pieces in the mouth. One should not tear a large item by taking it in the mouth and
tearing it with the teeth.
After finishing the meal, one should take the plate (if disposable) in the right hand and
discard it.

Rules for Drinking water:
One should avoid drinking water out of ones hands.
One should not sip water directly from a water source.

If one has a clean right hand (before a meal) the right hand should be used to hold the
cup. One should pour the water into the mouth so that the cup does not touch the lips.

During a meal the right hand touches the mouth. Therefore at that time one should take
the cup in the left hand and pour water into the mouth without touching the lips.
If the cup cannot pour properly, then one should use the right hand and drink using the

While drinking water during a meal, no water should fall upon the food, otherwise the
food becomes ucchista (leftovers).

The water cup should be kept to the right hand side of ones plate, otherwise ones food
and water both becomes impure.

Amount of Food:

One should not overeat, because that is the cause of sikcness, and decrease in lifespan. It
stops ones spiritual advancement, generates sin, and becomes the subject of criticism for
all people.

In Kali yuga the duration of life is shortened not so much because of insufficient
food but because of irregular habits. By keeping regular habits and eating simple
food, any man can maintain his health. Overeating, oversense gratifiction,
overdependence on another's mercy, and artificial standards of living sap the very
vitality of human energy. Therefore the duration of life is shortened.

Sometimes it is found that an initiated person, in the name of prasada, eats very luxurious
foodstuffs. Due to his past sinful life he becomes attracted by cupid and eats food
voraciously. It is clearly visible that when a neophyte in Krsna consciousness eats too
much he falls down.

One should fill half the stomach with food one quarter with water and one quarter
with air.
Order of Foods:

Hari Bhkati Vilasa mentions that one should start by eating a little sweet food, then take
salty and sour items, and then pungent adn bitter items. Liquid foods should be taken at
the beginning and end of the meal and solid foods should be takne in the middle. This
system is still followed in South India.
In Bengal the custom is to take bitter foods first and end with sweet. Different styles of
cooking require that the foods be eaten in different order.

Serving the Meal:

The grhastha should serve in the following order:

Guests, especially spiritually qualified persons such as sannyasis, should be treated as
like the Lord himself, and should be offered the finest food first.
One should then feed married daughters, pregnant women, elders, children and sick
One should also feed tied up cows and horses before taking ones meal.
The householder and his wife should eat last.

An initiated Vaisnava should serve and initiated Vaisnava. The server should pure in
mind, body, habits and dress, who can perform his duties quickly, quietly, and efficiently.
Loud noises and talking should be avoided.

Neither the server nor the serving utensils should ever touch the plates or hands of the
people who are eating, for this will contaminate the server and the serving utensil. If this
happens, the server should wash his hands and the utensil before serving further. The
prasadam should be dropped on the plate in a free area (not on the salt etc.)

Except for sweets or water, or dry items, spoons should be used to serve food.
The server should us only his right hand to offer prasadam.
The serving vessels should not touch the feet.
The server should not touch anything impure (his mouth, feet, hair, lower body) nor
should he yawn, sneeze or spit.

Servings may be small, and when the guest finishes an item, the server should be alert to
offer more of it. The server should br generous in giving the guest as much of an item as
the guest desires. The guest should never be left with an empty plate except at the end of
the meal.
The server or host may describe the wonderful qualities of an item as he offers it, to
encourage the guest to eatmore.
All persons in a group should be offered the same items.

The food should be hot if possible.

By eating one become contaminated. Before performing any activity one must purify
After rising from ones meal, one should wash ones hands without delay.
One should then wash mouth at least three times.

After the meal:

One should not take rest imemdiately after a meal.
One should not perform strenuous labour directly after a meal.
One should maintain a tranquil mind, as during the meal, by remembering the Lord,
chanting his name and discussing the Lord's pastimes with ones aassociates.

Digestion Mantras:

One should rub the belly and chant the following verses, remembering the Supreme Lord
who digests ones food so that the body becomes nourished and so that one can perform
devotional service.

agastir agnir vadavanalas ca
bhuktam mayannam jarayan tv asesam
sukha ca me tat parinama sambhavam
yac chantvarogam mama castu dehe

visnuh samastendriya deha dehi
pradhana bhuto bhagavan yathaikhah
satyena tenannam asesam etad
arogya dam me parinamam etu

May Agasti the fire of digestion and the digestive salts digest the food I have eaten.
May digestion, happiness and healthy body be mine.

Since Visnu presides over all the senses, the body and the soul, may he assist me so
that my food will digest and so that I will remain without any sickness.

Regarding Leftovers (uncontaminated):

Regarding prasadam, leftovers should always be taken if they have not spoiled or if they
have not been touched by diseased persons. We should never waste Krsna prasadam.
Best thing is to cook only what is required and then give each person only what he
wants. In this way nothing is wasted and everyone is satisfied.