“The Lord says, patram pushpam phalam: He is ready to accept from the devotee any kind of offering, never mind what. Even a leaf, a flower, a bit of fruit, or a little water, which are all available in every part of the world, can be offered by any person, regardless of social position, and will be accepted if offered with love.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 9.2 Purport)
“A friend’s wedding is coming up. It’s tough to figure out what to do as far as a gift goes. Cash doesn’t seem right to me. There’s no thought in that. You’re showing up to a party that someone else invited you to, and then you give them money? That’s like paying to get in. It’s not really a festive occasion then. There’s something expected. Anyway, to not give a gift is bad, so I will have to give something. I see that they are registered at an online retail outlet. This is perfect, I think. I’ll buy something that they’ve listed on there. This way they’ll get something they want, I won’t have to carry it with me to the wedding, and everyone will be happy.”
“I’m going to a friend’s house tonight for dinner. I should pick up something along the way. It’s considered rude to show up empty-handed. I will stop at the doughnut place first. I’ll get a dozen or so doughnuts, of assorted flavors. This will be perfect, since we are being served dinner. This will take care of the dessert portion, and I’ll be able to get some enjoyment from the gift too.”
“It’s my wife’s birthday today. I will buy her flowers. I can’t go wrong with that. I’m not so used to purchasing flowers, but I see there is a section at the local supermarket. I’ll walk over there and see what they can do for me. They seem to have a good selection. The flowers look fresh as well. Getting a dozen or so will help me to meet my obligation to my wife.”
In studying the science of bhakti-yoga, we learn that offering something as simple as a leaf, a flower, or water will bring tremendous benefits. The mood of the offering is what counts, as the beneficiary already has everything. Though it may seem silly to go to the store to pick up a flower to be offered on an altar, we already do similar things quite frequently. From the above mentioned hypothetical situations, objects created by others routinely serve as gifts, with others thinking nothing of it.
What would they think?
Well, when purchasing a gift online for a wedding, it’s not like the gift-giver has created the gift. They didn’t even have to take much effort. They simply looked at a site, picked what appeared to be interesting, and then made the purchase. Someone else did the majority of the work. The company manufactured the product. The other company sold it, and one of their distributors handled the packaging and shipping. Someone else, namely the people getting married, even picked out the item. Despite so much influence removed from the part of the gift-giver, the gift is appreciated all the same.
Flowers are created through nature’s arrangement. The seed cannot be created by any human being. You must find those flowers in nature. There is effort in planting the seed and then waiting for the flowers to bloom, but again the effort is only fruitful when other aspects of nature cooperate. Only when the soil is fertile, the weather just right, and there is ample water available can there be flowers to be used as a gift later on.
The doughnuts in this instance are created by someone else. They are not baked for the specific benefit of the person hosting the dinner. They are made with profit in mind. That is the point to the shop. It is in business to stay in business. To stay in business requires profit, which in this case comes from the sale of doughnuts. The gift-giver has done nothing but exchanged some time in work for a finished product. The exchanged item is then given as a viable gift.
The gifts are accepted by the recipients because of the thought put in. In the same way, the offering to God is accepted wholeheartedly when the intentions are right. The Supreme Lord has everything, so what does He need from anyone? The flower is generated by Him. Water comes from Him as well. Thus in the offering process the worshiper essentially takes something that God already created and then presents it as a gift. It’s like someone going into your room, taking your favorite shirt, wrapping it up in a package, and then presenting it to you on your birthday. This would seem silly, but the same practice with God is so much appreciated.
From such offerings made on a regular basis, the consciousness of the worshiper changes. No longer do they think that they are the sole proprietors of the land on the earth. No longer do they seek only to satisfy their own sense demands, which can never be fully met. Instead, they think only of how to continue in service, and since it is to God, the all-attractive Lord, they remain blissful in the process.
These objects come from nature, and their proper use is in devotional service, or bhakti-yoga. The water has no other purpose except to be used in increasing the devotional consciousness of every individual. Water used for forgetting God thus does not have the same potency. In that use it cannot change consciousness for the better. On the flip side, if placed in a tiny vessel and presented before a picture representation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the water becomes the purest beverage. Its taste is instantly charged with the potency of the all-powerful.
Even if there is no water around to offer, one is not shut out from the offering process. Through chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” one can offer sound. Just like the offered water and flowers, this sound directed at God in a mood of love has tremendous potency, so much so that it changes consciousness quickly and permanently, leading to the best condition.
Tonight to friend’s house to go,
That I must bring something I know.
Some doughnuts from shop I will take,
Gift appreciated though I did not bake.
Take gifts of nature in the same way,
Offer to God, with love and devotion pray.
No water, then no problem still,
With sounds of holy names air to fill.