People of all ancient cultures have the concept of ‘food as a worship offering’. It is one of the commonest expressions of ‘sacredness’ in India. It is known by different names in different parts of the country. It comes under the category of punya-arjana, ‘earning good karma’. In a country like Thailand where thousands of monks may be fed, the English translation for this category of acts is ‘merit-making’. Not merry-making but ‘merit-making’.

Our friends and members outside India (or outside the ancient culture areas of Asia, Africa) need the explanation below.

The Sikhs, for example, have a 24-hour ‘langar’ in their gurudwaras (the Sikh temple, literally ‘Guru’s Gate’) where anyone may come and eat. In the World Parliament of Religions that I attended in Barcelona in 2006, the Sikhs had established a ‘langar’ in a large seaside space where thousands of Parliament participants ate three times a day. Recently when Heathrow airport in London was snowed under and thousands were stranded, the Sikhs established a ‘langar’ to distribute food and drink to the passengers.

At all sacred, festive and sorrowful occasions, people are fed in a worship context and form.

It has to be borne in mind that this is not a ‘social’ celebration, but a worship offering to God whose “temple you are”. It is done with that sense. For the purpose of bhandara, that worship attitude, mood and mien is maintained. The yajamana (one offering the worship) chooses to serve the food to the entire line of ‘human deities sitting in a line’ with the help of others. If s/he cannot be present, those who serve do so on his/her behalf.

Many Ashrams in Rishikesh and Haridwar depend entirely on the concept of daily bhandara offerings by the devotee members.

A bhandara offering is made, just a few examples here:

• To commemorate the dear departed ones

• To celebrate a wedding or a birthday

• To celebrate one’s initiation anniversary

• To complete 40-or-such days of silence

• On guru-purnima or any other sacred day

• At the end of, or even every day throughout, a purashcharana by fire offerings

• And so on.

We are now encouraging all our members and friends to offer a bhandara to the Ashram on their birthdays or initiation anniversaries.

In the western countries (and some modernized levels of Indian society nowadays) a person celebrating a birthday receives gifts; in India s/he gives gifts. The kings and other well-to-do people would often do tulaa-daana (literally ‘scales donation’). One gets oneself weighed on the scales, oneself sitting on one pan of the scale, and the other pan filled with grains, coins, silver, gold or even gems – whichever of these one can afford. These, equal to one’s weight, are distributed to the poor, needy or the sacred personages.

The average cost of one meal served at the Ashram comes up to approximately four – five thousand rupees [at this time]. That is for nearly one hundred people in heavy season of the Ashram, fifty people in light seasons – averaged out.

If you wish to earn the punya (good karma) of offering one whole day’s meals, the cost will be, say, 11000 rupees [at this time].

I look forward to many friends of our Ashram earning this punya, this good karma.

One may do a sankalpa (sacred resolve) to commit oneself to making such offering every year for the next five, ten, fifteen or twenty years.

For more information, please use this link: http://ahymsin.org/main/ahymsin-office.html