“’Who, O mighty-armed one, receives such a welcome guest as Yourself? ‘ Then speedily bringing various kind of sapid rice and arghya, he (Guha) said, ‘O mighty-armed one, has Your journey been a pleasant one? This entire earth is Yours. We are Your servants, You are our master. Do You rule here, accepting the eatables,drinkables, excellent beds for Yourself, and fodder for Your horses.’ When Guha had said this, Raghava answered him, saying, ‘We have been well received by you and are well pleased with you, since coming here on foot you have shown us affection.’ Then pressing Guha hard with His arms, Rama said, ‘O Guha, it is by good luck that I see you whole along with your friends. Is your kingdom in peace both as regards your friends and the forest? Do you know me as assuming an ascetic mode of life in the woods, in which I am to wear kusha and bark, and live upon fruits and roots. So with the single exception of the food for the horses, I require nothing. With these horses being well kept, I shall consider myself as entertained and honored by you.’” (Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 50)
Here is the perfect example of how one can satisfy the wishes of the Supreme Lord under even the most difficult of circumstances. The purpose of human life is to rekindle our forgotten relationship with God, our dearmost friend who is kind enough to warmly welcome us as soon as we come to Him.
Lord Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead according to the Vedas. People have different names for Him, but there is still only one God. He comes to earth from time to time in various forms to deliver the pious and to punish the miscreants. In the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation, the Lord came to earth in a human form as Lord Rama. As one who gives pleasure to others, Rama was kind and compassionate towards everyone even though He belonged to the warrior class, the kshatriyas. He was the rightful heir to the throne of Ayodhya held by His father Dashratha, but as events played out, His coronation would have to wait. As part of a deal made with his youngest wife Kaikeyi, Dashratha ordered Rama to leave the kingdom and spend fourteen years in the forest, disconnected completely from the kingdom. The Lord accepted the order, and His wife Sita Devi and younger brother Lakshmana also accompanied Him, for they refused to live without Him.
In the Vedic tradition, if one vows to live in the forest, there are strict rules that must be adhered to. Lord Rama lived the life of a person in the vanaprastha ashrama, one who is retired from family life and no longer living at home. Because of this vow, Rama, Lakshmana, and Sita travelled through the forest, going from one place to another, not remaining in any area for too long. One of their first stops was at the camp of Guha, the leader of the Nishada tribe. Nishadas were forest dwellers, considered uncivilized and generally viewed as a lower class. Rama however, made no such distinctions when it came to judging others. Guha was a humble devotee who viewed Rama’s visit as the greatest moment in his life. He quickly welcomed the Lord, Sita, and Lakshmana by offering them a nice sitting place, some water, and the most palatable foodstuff he had available to him.
Since Rama was observing the life of a vanaprasthi, He was unable to partake of the food that Guha had offered Him. Rama’s family traced all the way back to Maharaja Ikshvaku, one of the first kings on earth. Thus Rama viewed it as His duty to protect the good name and reputation of the Ikshvakus. Since Dashratha had ordered Him to accept a certain lifestyle, Rama wanted to make sure that the orders weren’t violated. For this reason, He informed Guha that He was unable to eat the food offered to Him. More importantly, however, the Lord made sure to inform Guha that He gladly accepted all that was offered to Him. “You have treated me well Guha. Your service to me is exemplary. Though I am unable to eat what has been offered to Me, I still gladly accept it.”
This is a very key point. The Lord is so kind that He doesn’t look at the quantity or quality of what is offered to Him, but rather the mood in which it is presented. God declares in the Bhagavad-gita that one can offer Him a leaf, a flower, or even some water. If one offers these things with love and devotion, then He accepts them. If one presents these things to the Lord with material desires or ulterior motives such as wanting something in return, then the Lord wants nothing to do with such an offering.
It is very natural for us to want to eat food that satisfies our taste buds. The urges of the tongue and belly are very difficult to control, and eating nice food brings us some temporary happiness. In spiritual life, we don’t necessarily have to give up eating nice food, but instead we just need to change our consciousness as it relates to eating. We can still prepare very savory dishes, but they should be offered to the Lord first. This principle holds true in all aspects of life. If we shift our focus to pleasing the Supreme Lord, we automatically become free of sins.
“The devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins because they eat food which is offered first for sacrifice. Others, who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment, verily eat only sin.” (Bhagavad-gita, 3.13)
One should eat yajna-shishta. Yajna means sacrifice and shishta means remnants. The highest form of sacrifice is that which is done for the satisfaction of Vishnu, or God. Krishna, Vishnu, Narayana and all the other Vishnu-tattva forms of God are all equal in potency for they represent the same original God. In this instance, Guha performed a sacrifice for Lord Rama, thus the offered food became known as prasadam. Rama gladly accepted it, and left the remnants for others to eat. This is the most sanctified of all food since it is completely free of karma. Done for the satisfaction of Vishnu, it inherits all the qualities of the Supreme Lord, with the primary quality being complete purity. Normally when we eat ordinary food prepared by others, we are eating food that bears the qualities of the cook and the cooking area. So if we eat food prepared by devotees, our food becomes infused with love for God. Prasadam is the highest quality food because not only is it prepared by devotees, but it is made solely for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord.
From Guha’s example, we see that one doesn’t have to be a brahmana or other person of a high birth to become a devotee. Love is the most natural sentiment exhibited by all living entities, thus one who shifts his love towards God automatically becomes a bhagavata, which is higher than a brahmana. If we chant the holy names of Lord, think of Him throughout the day, follow the regulative principles, and prepare and eat as much prasadam as possible, we are sure to reap the highest benefits.