“O son of Kunti, all that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.27)
yat karoṣi yad aśnāsi
yaj juhoṣi dadāsi yat
yat tapasyasi kaunteya
tat kuruṣva mad-arpaṇam
Friend1: What’s your policy when eating out at restaurants?
Friend2: My policy? I try to pick a place that doesn’t stink.
Friend1: Sorry, I should have been more clear. What do you do if you don’t like something there, say after you get seated?
Friend2: Like what? The menu?
Friend1: Right. Or if after the food you ordered comes to the table and it doesn’t taste good, do you say something?
Friend2: I see where you are going with this. Did you have an interesting experience recently?
Friend1: I did. I went out to eat with some friends. Granted, the staff at this place was already quite talkative. It wasn’t like my friends instigated anything.
Friend1: When I sat down and looked at the menu, I was ready to walk out of the place.
Friend2: This was your first time going there, I assume.
Friend1: Yes, for everyone in the party. The place opened up just recently. I was not comfortable with the selection on the menu. It was only two pages. Most of these types of places have three or four pages. You’re expecting certain items and they just weren’t there.
Friend2: What kind of restaurant?
Friend2: Alright, so what happened? Did you walk out?
Friend1: No. We stuck with it. We found stuff we could eat. When the food came out, though, the experience got even worse. None of the items were prepared right. Everything tasted weird.
Friend2: Oh, that’s too bad.
Friend1: Now, my friends were ragging on the staff the entire time. The cook even came out at one point. We voiced our complaints about the menu and how nothing was cooked properly.
Friend2: You said something, too?
Friend1: Not me, but the whole party. Anyway, it got me to thinking that a lot of people are afraid to say things like that in a restaurant.
Friend2: Yeah. There’s the fear of retaliation.
Friend1: Exactly. Luckily most of the complaints were voiced after the food arrived. Still, I’m just not good at confronting people that way. Though my friends weren’t really confrontational. They were just teasing the restaurant people like you would your parents if they didn’t make something right.
Friend1: What is the proper course of action here? Should you say something or keep quiet?
Friend2: The right thing to do is avoid going to the restaurant altogether.
Friend2: For starters, you’ll be able to make everything how you like it. The ingredients will be to your liking. Secondly, you’ll be able to offer the food to the Supreme Lord first. In fact, your story illustrates the problem with sense gratification.
Friend1: What is that?
Friend2: You’re never satisfied. There is always something wrong. Even if you’ve had the best food in the world one day, the next day the exact same thing won’t be as palatable. This type of enjoyment is known as kama, or material sense gratification.
Friend1: Doesn’t kama mean “lust”?
Friend2: Yes, it means that too. The human life is for tapasya. That austerity has a purpose; for experiencing bhakti, which is love and devotion. Bhakti isn’t just sitting in a quiet room and chanting the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Bhakti is a way of life. Everything, including eating, should be done as an offering to the Supreme Lord.
Friend1: So the aim should be to satisfy God first. Then everything else will work out.
Friend2: He is the chief among all living beings, and the maintainer of everything that needs to be maintained. Nityo nityanam, chetanash chetananam. Why won’t He maintain His devotees? The food that gets returned after offering is known as prasadam, and it has the best taste and the most potency.
Food not prepared right,
In restaurant ready to fight.
Better if personal initiative to take,
And at home your own food make.
Then to Supreme Lord offering,
Prasadam then to you returning.
Human life for this austerity meant,
So that in bliss of devotion spent.