The Sanskrit word Prasad means a blessing, or gift that has been divinely invested. It is usually an edible sweet or fruit that is offered at all Hindu spiritual gatherings to represent the pure and divine state of the holy person or place, which has the potential to bless our life and fulfill our wishes. Indeed, anything that an enlightened master touches becomes Prasad, as the object is believed to be infused with divine vibrations.
My friend Liz, who sadly passed away a few years ago, told me a story about a very challenging Prasad she received from a spiritual master, Amma. Liz moved to Amma’s ashram in India with her five year old daughter to deepen her spiritual practice. She adjusted to ashram life very quickly but a couple of things stood in the way of her spiritual progress – a little boy and fear of germs.
In the ashram there was a very naughty boy who bullied all the other children. Living in the abode of the hugging saint, Liz felt horribly guilty that she detested this little boy and really did not want him to play with her daughter. One evening at the ashram, as Liz was standing in line waiting for Amma to leave after the evening program, the little boy was standing in front of her sucking on a lollipop. Liz remembered looking at him and feeling a strong aversion. Just then Amma walked by her and stopped right in front of her and the boy. The little boy reached up and gave Amma the lollipop he had been sucking on, which Amma graciously accepted. Amma, then looked Liz deeply in the eyes and gave the lollipop to her with a grave face. Liz was horrified; she could not understand why Amma would do such a thing. However, she could not just discard the lollipop because anything given to you by a saint is technically Prasad. Over the next few days through contemplation and meditation, she came to understand that Amma was trying to help her let go of her vasanas (strong innate likes and dislikes of the mind that are reflected in the horoscope as your karma), but still she simply could not get herself to eat the lollipop. For weeks she agonized over the lollipop and finally one day she flushed it down the toilet.
I was with Liz in her last days, as she was transitioning from this life to another and she was going in and out of consciousness. At one point, she awoke and smiled – she said that she had just seen a vision in which the little boy from the ashram was handing her a lollipop, which she had graciously accepted and consumed.
For any person, substance or object to have a holy or unholy effect depends ultimately on our mental state and attitude towards it. As the new age teacher, Byron Katie says, “ultimately, it is our mind that makes things real in this world, as the whole world is projected back to us on the screen of our own perception”. That is why control over the mind and controlling our vasanas is the goal of Yoga and all spiritual practices.
In the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavat Gita, Krishna says to Arjuna, “Yoga is knowing Me (God) as your own Divine Self and breaking through the belief that you are this body”. He is teaching that the needs and limits of the body and the vasanas of the mind have to be transcended to be able to wake up to our divine self.
When the planets are rightly aligned and the soul is ready to move beyond this mind/body complex, our lives one day may also be challenged by the divine with a very different kind of Prasad.
May we all see divine blessings in whatever type of Prasad we are being offered.