Chakra Discussions

Wasting Prasadam

by Devaki Nandana Dasa

Posted December 1, 2005

I just wanted to share some ideas on ways we can avoid wasting prasadam. At ones own home it's quite easy. Most of us know how much we and our families eat, and if we have leftovers we can usually put them in the fridge. If there are some leftovers that we don't eat in time and they go bad, they can be fed to animals or even composted. You can buy composters at most big hardware stores. In a composter, you put in the organic material like leaves, food, scraps etc. and it naturally breaks down and then can be used in gardening to grow healthy organic produce. No matter how hard we try, due to the imperfect nature of the material world some waste will be produced, but waste can be used. Vedic culture is perfect at precycling and recycling things and using them.

Srila Prabhupada wanted all the temples to always have enough prasadam on hand for guests. Sometimes many guests come and sometimes few, so in a temple situation it's difficult to avoid wasting prasadam. Especially when guests come and many don't always finish their plates. One devotee told me he used to go early in the morning and put the prasadam leftovers in sea. That is illegal however, and isn't worth risking getting caught over. It would be quite embarrassing and bad publicity for ISKCON if one got caught. Food scraps are very bad for landfills too. If devotees live in the country it can be composted and used for growing things. It makes great fertilizer. Prasadam should never be misused and disrespected, but inevitably it will happen since we live in the material world. We have to be reasonable and practical.

I've seen devotees use leftover prasadam for Food For Life programs, but that may also be illegal and usually the recipients can tell that the food is reheated or isn't fresh. I've seen homeless people what to speak of not homeless people throw away plates of prasadam because it wasn't fresh. Also, according to Ayurveda, rice should't be reheated and anything reheated loses it's digestibility each time it's reheated. Even prasadam. I think it was Raghunatha Dasa Goswami who used to eat the prasadam leftovers that were thrown out for the cows. Even the cows wouldn't eat it, but he would because he was so renounced and was such a great soul. We can't imitate such exalted lila's however. I've seen devotees try to imitate such things and it didn't last long. One devotee I knew who used to eat such scraps left Krishna consciousness and was in a mental hospital for a while. For most of us it's best to follow Ayurveda and responsible practicality.

The cooks should be as careful as possible to prepare only as much as is needed but really being practical unless we have the intelligence of Lord Brahma or Krishna there's no way of knowing down to the grain exactly how much to prepare. I've seen, sometimes for the Sunday feast 200 people come, then next week 100. It's very difficult. One solution is to devise a system for delivering whatever does get wasted to a farm that welcomes such waste. Or deliver to an ISKCON farm nearby. There really shouldn't be such a thing as a landfill or dump. Everything should be reused. Nowadays in Kali Yuga that is a real challenge, since not much of the world is geared toward this goal, but the devotees should be aware of these things. The devotees should be leaders in this field. People notice our actions. Many people that visit ISKCON temples are the types of people that have developed conscience and are the most intelligent, so if they see us wasting and acting like no good materialists they aren't going to stand for it. They aren't stupid. Srila Prabhupada wanted the devotees to be on top of these things. To be conscious of our public image. If we are following Krishna consciousness nicely and people criticize, what can be done, but if we aren't following Krishna Consciousness nicely and people criticize, then we should listen. When it comes to wasting and being environmentally responsible, ISKCON has a long way to go.

The only way I can see these problems solved is if we cooperate with management of our society to implement the solutions. If one would like to see things improved, become proactive and start talking to managers and vaisnavas in a humble but direct way and enlist people who can help. Make a list of volunteers for each phase of the solution and assign goals and tasks for them. Make it happen. Take initiative and see what happens. If we are postive and Krishna consious there are unlimited solutions. If any other devotees have some solutions please write them down and post them on Chakra. Thank you for listening.