Eucharist and prasad
I was over at my cousin Pratik Trivedi’s house this weekend, and he was joking about how it was ‘peanut butter jelly time.’ Of course in this age of Myspace and crappy hip hop on pop radio, I have no idea what these kids are laughing about nowadays. But luckily, Pratik keeps me in the loop. So even though I’m proly like a year late, I can still be cool for a few minutes. Here’s what he was talking about, an 8-bit dancing banana with maracas. And apparently it was spoofed on Family Guy. Marketing genius.
This weekend my girlfriend surprised me and came into town for my birthday. CRAZY! We hung out with some friends the day before my birthday, went out to dinner with my family on my birthday, and just hung out. We went to the temple by my parents house together, and sunday morning went to the mass at the catholic church down the street from my house. It’s a beautiful church, and was a nice, pretty, summer morning. The priest spoke about the eucharist, defined by wikipedia as:
“the rite that Christians perform in fulfillment of Jesus’ instruction, recorded in the New Testament, to do in memory of him what he did at his Last Supper. Jesus gave his disciples bread, saying ‘This is my body,’ and wine, saying ‘This is my blood.’ Christians generally recognize a special presence of Christ in this rite, though they differ about exactly how, where, and when Christ is present. The word ‘Eucharist’ is also applied to the bread and wine consecrated in the course of the rite.”
He talked about how the bread and wine Catholics drink at the end of mass doesn’t merely represent Jesus Christ, but is Jesus Christ. And by taking his sacrament, baptised Christians are accepting the blessings of their union with Jesus Christ. In everything he talked about, I saw some similarities between eucharist and Hindu prasad. Before I went ahead and assumed they were the same thing, I did a little research. There’s a paper (that I can no longer find a link to) criticizing churches for allowing non-baptised christians to take eucharist, explicitly describing how it’s not the same as prasad:
“The ruling metaphor of holy communion has always been that of the last supper of the Lord with His chosen disciples, His intimate students… the eucharistic elements have never been understood to be analogous to hindu prasad of tibetan buddhist tsog, which is ritually sanctified food to be eaten by all preset as a blessing, nor is communion like the antidoron (blessed bread) given to all after communion in orthodox christian communities.”
There are two main differences between eucharistic food and prasad that I can gather here—what the food represents and who it is meant for, which leads to further differences in who we are in relation to God. Prasad is food that has been blessed by God, we eat it in thanks, and take God’s blessings. Eucharistic food represents Jesus Christ himself. The more complicated difference lies in who the food is meant for. Hinduism believes that all living creatures, be they good or evil, man or animal, are all children of God. Our atma (soul) is a small part of God him/herself, and no matter what actions we take in this life, we can always look to him/her for guidance and support. Because of this, yes, prasad is meant for all who’s present, be they hindu, muslim, sikh, jewish, catholic, atheist, or what have you. If they wish to take prasad with an understanding of what it is and what it represents, they may do so. But the ‘understanding of what it is and what it represents’ is not formal, because the nature of hinduism doesn’t have all-encompassing overall procedures indoctrinating it’s followers into different level of intimacy with God. We do have rites that represent intimate interactions with God, but it’s not as much saying ‘after you do this, you’re down,’ nothing as formal as the catholic church. Eucharistic food, since it’s meant to be the body and blood of Jesus Christ, is meant only for those who have a more formal understanding of what it represents through being confirmed. Unless you’re a confirmed catholic, you’re not supposed to take the eucharist. This is because only those that have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ are allowed to take it, which implies that by nature, we’re not all automatically closely connected to God. It’s more something that nurtured within us through learning and teachings.
It’s interesting to respectfully learn difference between mine and other people’s belief systems. Not to say one is better than the other, cause in the end however we choose to connect with the divine to be better people is good. No one way is better than another. But interesting nonetheless.