“Krishna Consciousness is so nice that if one takes part in it in either ways, like hearing, chanting, remembering, worshiping, praying, or even simply by eating prasadam, the transcendental effect will be visible... If you continue like this I am sure you will make rapid progress in Krishna-consciousness.” - Letter to: Lynn, Calcutta, 23 November, 1967
Prasadam - sanctified vegetarian food - plays a vital role in everything Krishna devotees do. From doing outreach activities on the streets, to a huge festival in the temple, to a personal function, prasadam has to be there, otherwise the activity is considered incomplete. It is their sustenance – materially and spiritually. It carries the nutrients the body needs, as well as the mercy and purity that the soul needs.
Jayapataka Swami recalls that one time, after a big feast in Mayapur, Srila Prabhupada retired to his room and not long after that heard some dogs barking. He went to the balcony and saw the big pile of leaf plates with leftover prasadam, and there were children fighting off the dogs with sticks to get the leftover prasadam from the dirt pile. Srila Prabhupada literally began to cry. Jayapataka Swami remembers Srila Prabhupada saying,
“How hungry they must be! They are picking the prasadam from the pile – they must be so hungry! We must arrange for their prasadam! If you want to make this a mandir, a house of Krishna, then you must see that within a 10 mile radius, no one goes hungry. That will be your success. Krishna is everyone’s father. How can the son go hungry in the presence of the father? Immediately arrange to distribute prasadam.”
To this day, the ISKCON Mayapur Food for Life strives and, by the mercy of Srila Prabhupada, succeeds in fulfilling this instruction. Over the last eight years, the ISKCON Mayapur Food for Life program, under the Sri Mayapur Food Relief Trust, has distributed over 3,925,700 plates of prasadam. By the end of this year, the number of plates will have reached four million.
The Mayapur Food for Life program’s main prasadam distribution programs are, namely:
Gauranga Prasadam: This is primarily for the visiting pilgrims who attend mangala arati, and stay in the temple to chant one round of japa. They are all given a set of chanting beads and are taught how to chant. Once they have successfully completed one round, they are encouraged to take some of Srila Prabhupada’s books home, and are then given a free coupon for prasadam at the Bhaktivedanta Annadan Complex. This program distributes at least three hundred free meals per day.
Pilgrims Prasadam: Everyday near the ISKCON Govinda’s restaurant, there is a Brahma Jignasa class, which is a Question and Answer session that teaches the basics of Krishna-consciousness. They conclude the classes with one round of japa and a bowl of fresh, hot, and delicious kitchari. This kitchari distribution starts around 11am and finishes around 5pm, serving about eight hundred bowls of kitchari per day.
Dhamvasi Prasadam: This program serves the devotees living in and around Sri Mayapur Dham. This project was initially started by Srila Prabhupada himself and has continued until this day. This program distributes around seven hundred full meals two times per week, which adds up to about 36,400 plates per year.
Nagara Sankirtan Prasadam Distribution: With the support of the Sri Mayapur Food Relief Trust, the famous Nagara Sankirtan party travels to the surrounding villages two times a week by boat and distributes the holy names of the Lord and prasadam. On average, they distribute three hundred to four hundred full meals of prasadam.
Once during an evening darshan in Mayapur, on February 15, 1977, Srila Prabhupada said:
“Make arrangement for prasadam distribution, any center. For that, we have to work hard, we have to collect, we have to beg, borrow, steal—everything. Prasadam distribution. And kirtan…They must hear kirtan…that must be done.”
Endeavoring to fulfill the teachings and instructions of Srila Prabhupada, the ISKCON Mayapur Food For Life not only provides free prasadam, but also assists in emergency flood relief, medical aid, educational help, providing clothes and purified drinking water, as well as teaching and encouraging environmental awareness to the local villagers and farmers. This project is recognized and supported by the Government of India.
The Sri Mayapur Food for Life project also distributes over 112,000 plates of additional meals throughout the year during every major festival, such as Gaura Purnima, Sri Krishna Janmastami, Srila Prabhupada’s Vyasa Puja, Shantipur festival, and many more. In these ways and others, the Sri Mayapur Food for Life project endeavours to fulfill Srila Prabhupada’s instruction that no one should go hungry within a ten mile radius of the Sri Mayapur Chandrodaya Mandir.
[ food-distribution ] [ food-for-life ] [ mayapur ]
“So by distributing food, the spiritual food, simply by eating, he will be in Krishna consciousness, even if he does not do anything. But actually, we are inviting persons to come, sit down, chant with us Hare Krishna mantra and take prasadam and go home. That's all. This is our program.” - Lecture at Christian Monastery, April 6, 1972, Melbourne