“Prasad is usually an edible gift
used in Hindu worship
and presented to a deity.
The deity blesses the gift and
then shares it with those making the offering.”
“Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said,
‘Take and eat; this is my body.’
Then he took a cup [of wine], gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying
‘Drink from it, … for this is my blood.’
--Matthew 26:27-28 (Revised NAB)
I find it quite fascinating that the Hindu Religion, which uses the ancient Vedic Tradition’s understanding of reality, and the Catholic and Orthodox Christian religions have a similar ritual belief and practice when talking about divine food.
In the Vedic Tradition, the swami or holy person, offers rice pudding or sweet cake to Brahman, the Creator, and shares it with his followers in a ritual called “Prasad,” which means “gift of God.” In that celebration of life, which is the celebration of the divine qualities of life, sometimes even considered to be the Divine Essence or God Itself, people gather together in fellowship and eat of the food that the “Master” has himself prepared or has had someone else prepare. The preparation process and the ritual activity is an intentional act of blessing from the hands of the maker of the food. The sharing of this rice pudding or sweet rice cakes is meant to infuse the participants with the loving energy of the God, an actual gift of God’s Self to the believers.
This practice is very similar to the Christian celebration of “Holy Communion,” which happens within the celebration called “Eucharist.” In the Catholic and Orthodox and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, this holy communion is actually the “Body and Blood” (the flesh and blood) of Jesus Christ, the son of God, the second person of the Blessed Trinity—God himself. In those Christian traditions, the bread and wine are not symbols, but are actually “The Real Presence” of Jesus Christ, the “Real Presence” of God.
It is important to remember that both Christianity and Yoga are spiritual traditions and believe that the true reality of life is spirit, not physical and not mental. Yoga believes that we are Spiritual beings with a body and a mind and Christianity believes that we are souls/spirits that never die, but go someplace else after physical death—either heaven, hell or Catholic purgatory.
If the yoga tradition’s understanding of reality is that all life is the essence of The Divine, then “Prasad” is actually the food of the Life Force that, because of the ritual offering, permeates the sweet rice cake or pudding. The swami prayers and intention change the cake and pudding into the actual food of God, God’s Life Energy.
Similar changes happen in the Christian worship ritual, especially in the Catholic and Orthodox rituals called “Mass.” The priest/celebrant prays and intentionally says that this bread and wine are the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, who is believed to be God. Both presiders at these celebrations are reaching deep into their traditions and performing very similar actions. The only difference, according to the Christian Traditions is that Christians believe that Jesus Christ/God performed this act and then passed the power and the authority to call the Divine Reality of God to the altar, to the food items of bread and wine, onto his apostles, his disciples.
Interestingly, that is what the student/disciple of the Vedic master believes. His master, that Vedic swami, after much training and growth in spiritual matters, has been given the power to call down the Life Force of the Divine and direct it into the rice pudding/cake. The Vedic master, however, is not considered God.
I always find it fascinating how often religious/spiritual traditions have very similar practices. Maybe the similarity is due to the reality that “God is One,” and maybe the differences are due to the reality that each of these practices, though similar, come from different histories and cultures.
I pray to that Divinity within all of us!