“Just see how all Your playmates of Your own age have been cleansed and decorated with beautiful ornaments by their mothers. You should come here, and after You have taken Your bath, eaten Your lunch and been decorated with ornaments, You may play with Your friends again.” (Mother Yashoda speaking to Lord Krishna, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.11.19)
Question: “Why is it necessary to offer something to God? If He is the Supreme Lord, doesn’t it mean that He has everything? What could He possibly need from me? I’m the one who is suffering. I’m the one who is constantly in trouble. Worry never leaves me. He should be helping me out instead.”
One would be surprised to learn that the bhakti-yoga philosophy says that a single offering made to the Almighty in the proper mood yields the best results one could ask for. This is meant to be taken literally. One offering; that’s it. Not many in succession, though that is surely not prohibited. As you would help a stranger on the street who is down on their luck, as you would feed your own children – if you make just one offering to God in this attitude, you will reap benefits like you’ve never seen before.
Of course the first question is why. Why does this work? Why should I offer something to God? The answer is found in the act of raising the question itself. The attitude of the living entity is to ask for things. Seeing that a person has everything and is all-powerful, the less powerful seeks some help. Yet what is the attitude behind that request? If I ask the Supreme Lord for help in financial matters, what will be the result if I get what I want?
I will forget Him. This is the fact. I know this based on how I’ve forgotten all that so many have done for me previously. The tablet computer I use every day came to me as a gift from someone. Yet I don’t remember that on a daily basis. My closet is full of clothes that others gave to me on special occasions. I don’t remember who gave me what. Where is the gratefulness, then? Where is the gratitude?
Requesting from God in this manner is a kind of exploitation. It is like seeing the door to a bank vault open and going in and taking some money. The money belongs to someone else. They earned it. I’m taking it for my own pleasure and not even giving thanks in return. And so this entire creation is the property of God. This means that He is the richest person, which is one of the six opulences that go into the definition of Bhagavan, which is one name for Him in the Vedic tradition.
Now if you make one genuine offering to the Lord, it means that your attitude is a little different. It means that you seek His welfare, not your own. That is the definition to love, at least as we know it. A single offering means that you know that there is a higher power who is all-merciful. It means that you’ve sacrificed a moment of your time to spend with God. It means that for a brief period you’ve escaped your pit of selfishness, where you only think of yourself. Even when you’re working to help others, the motivation is personal; you want to feel better about yourself.
God indeed doesn’t need anything from anyone. We have already established that He is the wealthiest person. He is also the strongest, the wisest, the most beautiful, the most famous and the most renounced. As He is the wisest, there is nothing that we can teach Him. He is more beautiful than anyone we can imagine; hence His name of Krishna. He is so strong that He doesn’t need anyone to support Him. He is so famous that everyone in the world knows about Him in some way. And despite having rightful claim to everything, He can live without anything. This includes our offerings to Him.
If you know all of this and still make the offering with love, you win in life. This is because you get the association of God in the proper mood. And that association stays forever, beyond this lifetime. Even if you slip back into the mode of selfishness, that one gesture is never forgotten. You’ll get the benefit again at some later time. For this reason on special occasions like Janmashtami, the appearance day anniversary for Shri Krishna, so many devotees line up to pour liquids on top of the deity form of God as part of the bathing ceremony known as the abhisheka. So many line up to only briefly pull a swing which holds the darling Krishna on it. So many remember the way mother Yashoda feeds Krishna, thinking of His welfare day and night.
For a brief moment there is escape from the miserable world that is full of fear. With birth there must be death, and so each person has to fear the inevitable end to their life. Krishna is timeless. He is deathless. Devotion to Him, bhakti-yoga, is the same way. This is very difficult to understand when one is covered by illusion, and so with the single offering made with love there is hope that the illusion won’t last much longer. There is the potential for escaping darkness and finding the light. There is the chance that a desire will emerge to make many more offerings. Even if they are not in front of a deity form or attending a formal ritual, that person can still sacrifice their time and energy by chanting the holy names with full faith and attention: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Possessor of all, better if from Him taking,
Why then insist an offering making?
What exploitation to you to give?
No happiness found in that way to live.
Just make a true offering one,
And see how forever His favor is won.
In bhakti with love again and again showing,
True happiness when His kind nature knowing.