Nagpur: The Hindu scripture Srimadbhawadgeeta says, “om brahmarpanam brahma havir-brahmagnou brahmnahutam; brahmaiva tengantavyam brahmakarmasamadhinah”–(Chapter 4:24) with its central idea that “Food is brahma or God. Human soul is brahma, dwelling in the body (temple of God or brahma) and for its nourishment Food (brahma) is offered to brahma (soul in the body).
” It implies that Food maintains or nourishes body, for body is annamaya kosha, food-based cell, and so Food should be looked upon with reverence as ‘Gift of God’, just like fresh air and water, and it should not be wasted at all. This is what the Vedic culture of India teaches. Food is the cycle of life of all species, for whosoever has body needs food for its survival. As a plant dies without water so does body without food in its natural course of existence.
In addition to Vedic culture, the food is looked upon in other cultures of the world, be it Zoroastrian (Parsee culture), Islamic or Christian, Japanese or Chinese and so on. In Vedic culture, food is offered to ‘agni’ (fire), one of the deities, as an oblation, so is in Zoroastrian culture, for they worship fire (Ahur Mazda or Sun), and in their Parsee temples the fire is always kept burning like ‘agnihotra’ practice in Vedic culture. The Hindus, the Parsees, the Muslims, the Christians or Buddhists do offer prayers to God before consuming food, for they believe that food is a precious gift of God for mankind.
There are several examples of Hindus offering food to Agni (fire) or God to propitiate the supernatural power. In addition to Annam (food) the ‘havishya’ (in the form of scented wood like sandal, seed and cereals like barley, jau, gur, sugar, ghee, coconut, dry fruits, etc, are dear to minor gods like Indra, Agni, Vayu, Earth, Ether (sky), Surya, all ethereal bodies, and even major gods like Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh and all forms of goddesses, all of whom are fond of ‘havans (oblation).’ Food offering and its worship is widely known and practised in Hindu or Vedic culture, so there is no need to discuss about it here at length. We can examine it among other cultures, as follows:
Food in Islamic culture
Food in Islamic culture is revered as a precious gift of God, be it a vegetarian or non-vegetarian. The Qur’an and Sunnah recommend food rich in nutrients. (You people: eat of what is on earth, lawful and wholesome) (Al-Baqarah 2:168).The Qur’an also says what means: [So eat of (meats), on which Allah’s name hath been pronounced if ye have faith in his signs] (Al-An`am 6:118). (The game of the sea and its food are permitted to you] (Al-Ma’idah 5:99). (Pure milk, easy and agreeable to swallow for those who drink] (An-Nahl 16:66).
Further, (He it is who produceth gardens with trellises and without, and dates, and tilth with produce of all kinds and olives and pomegranates, similar and different, eat of their fruit in season] (An-Nahl 16:141). There are well disciplined Muslims who wash their plate of food and drink the water containing food particles, just to honour the gift of God.
Food in Christianity
Whenever Christians take their food, they offer prayers to God Almighty and thank His son Jesus Christ for the food served to them. They too are against its wastage. To quote from Bible: The Jews asked Jesus what sign he could perform so that they might believe in him.
As a challenge, they noted that “our ancestors ate manna in the desert.” Could Jesus top that? He told them the real bread from heaven comes from the Father. “Give us this bread always,” they said. Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” At this point the Jews understood him to be speaking metaphorically. What they thought was all food was as holy as Jesus’ body was.
Food in Taoism
The concept of God in Chinese culture is not like other cultures, such as Indian, Islamic or Christian. Chinese worship certain spirits and ghosts, but they too are offered food items.
Food in Buddhist Customs
Even Buddhists offer food to their deities, whom they call “Hungry Ghosts.” To quote from Buddhist Method, “You should go to a Buddhist Temple and join the Monks to recite several Buddhist Mantras, such as “Ullambana Sutra” Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva Pūrvapraṇidhāna Sūtra perform the “Food Offering To Hungry Ghosts Ceremony” , which includes the chanting of “Gate of Sweet Nectar Dharani” and “Transform Food Dharani”) and also “Fan Yan Kou”, etc. If these mantras aren’t chanted, food that touches the mouths of Hungry Ghosts will burn into ashes.
Food in Japanese
Offerings of rice, sake and other foods are given at the shrine to appease and please these kitsune messengers, who are then expected to plead with Inari on the worshipper’s behalf. Inari-zushi, a Japanese sushi roll of packaged fried tofu, is another popular offering. Fried tofu is believed to be a favorite food of Japanese foxes, and an Inari-zushi roll has pointed corners that resemble fox ears, thus reinforcing it.
Food in Social platform
Offering of food at social platform is significant human attitude. Besides it being offered to God as thanks-giving or propitiating, it is also offered to human beings to quench their hunger. The offering may take a form of giving away or distribution of food on certain occasions to the masses, either render service or help.
Food is such an important thing for survival of mankind as well as all other species that its shortage always causes serious concern to one and all.
It is only the spiritual body or cosmic body that can survive without food, but biological or physical body needs food to survive. In society, particularly human society, people are fond of eating varieties of food off and on. Food is prepared and served at home and outside in hotels, restaurants, functions, public gatherings and various food-counters. It needs special attention that food must not be wasted, though the food, wasted in hostels, parties, prisons and other places where it is cooked in bulk quantity, is carried away for animals like pigs and other types of animals.
But, food must not be wasted, for wastage of food spiritually and morally as well as socially bad. It should not be forgotten that in the country like India, despite multifarious developments there are many in footpaths and jhuggi-jhopadis who cannot get two-time meals, for various reasons, pauper or pecuniary condition being one of them.
Thus, do not waste food; for food is worth worshiping object, a precious gift of God to all species on this earth, but humans in particular.
… I P SINGH