Monday Morning Greetings 2017 #11 – Can We Offer Krishna Pizza?

March 13th, 2017

While staying at the house of a friend in Princeton, a noted scholar in Indology, I saw lying on a side table in his library an English translation of an unpublished Hindi manuscript of questions to arguably the most learned scholar in Vṛndāvana. [1] I immediately picked it up and began to turn the pages curious to see what he had to say. The questions, it seemed, mostly from western devotees, were thoughtful and the answers were quite penetrating, covering a variety of subjects from basic social concerns to rāgānugā-bhakti. I not only appreciated the depth of scholarship, but I liked the general tone, especially that the teachings seemed to mirror the same emphasis on the foundations of Kṛṣṇa consciousness that Śrīla Prabhupāda espoused. I read at a good pace and with rapt interest the answer to one question after another appreciating the maturity of the conversation until one question made me suddenly pause. Its inclusion just seemed so out of place at the feet of such a traditional, learned and 90 year-old Vaiṣṇava scholar.
Can we offer pizza to Kṛṣṇa?
There was also something I didn’t like about the question. I couldn’t help but wonder if this out of place inquiry was just a set-up to get this simple bābā to criticize the more non-traditional ISKCON – pizza, pasta, and all. I waited in anticipation and turned the page for an answer.
Whatever you like most you can offer to Kṛṣṇa with the most devotion.
I loved the answer. First I appreciated how a true scholar never serves the interest of any particular ideology, left or right, for he speaks only on the basis of śāstra, not through one’s conditioned ideological intuition. His answer here seemed quite “liberal” while most of his other answers on other subjects were quite “conservative”. True scholars are objective and independent of any particular persuasion besides the text and its realized application. It reminded me of Śrīla Prabhupāda, who similarly was unpredictable from the perspective of political affiliation, neither controlled by political correctness nor by fundamentalism.
Mostly I appreciated the answer because it so succinctly expressed the essence of bhakti. Kṛṣṇa is pleased not just by things that are offered to Him but also by the expression of devotion that they embody. Of course, there are certain parameters of what can be offered, but within those broad parameters the ingredient that pleases Kṛṣṇa is the devotion in which things are offered.
I reflected how true the bābā’s answer was. Devotion means to offer the best. As people have different tastes, the things that they can offer Kṛṣṇa with the most love vary according to what a person thinks is best. It’s just common sense.
I reflected on times when I have visited the homes of families of different ethnicities. I remember being invited for lunch in Māyāpur by a family from Italy. To maintain his household the father of the family was importing pasta from Italy. I remember the abject enthusiasm in which he showed me the many varieties of pasta, from fusilli to ziti, carefully explaining with unbounded enthusiasm the difference between each one. And what a meal they served and how welcomed and loved I felt! Do you think the “pasta king” [2] could have served samosas with the same devotion, or for that matter do you think a South Indian could offer pasta with the same love as a masāla dosa?
Kṛṣṇa, like anyone for that matter, enjoys the fine tastes, fragrances, sounds, visuals, and textures offered to Him, but only as the vehicle by which love is expressed to Him. So naturally our own tastes, what best expresses our love, is a factor in how much Kṛṣṇa enjoys something.
This principle is the essence of bhakti, even in nāma-kīrtan, for what Kṛṣṇa hears is not just our sweet voice and perfect rhythms, but our soul – the heart or intensity in which we sing kīrtan or chant japa with devotion. Of course, out of love we should try to make the most sonorous melody and enchanting rhythm, but bhāva, love for God, is the main impetus for Kṛṣṇa to be pleased, not just our musical talent.
This principle is also why Śrī Rādhā has the most wonderful qualities. As she has the greatest love for Kṛṣṇa, her mahābhāva (intense love) is manifested in svarūpiṇī (the most pleasing and beautiful embodiment of that love). In other words, in having the most love she also has the greatest capacity to express that love in the form of the superlative nature of her being – from her unbounded compassion to her incomparable beauty and abilities.
Can we offer pizza to Kṛṣṇa? I think the baba’s answer was perfect:
Whatever you like most you can offer to Kṛṣṇa with the most devotion.
Final Meditation: think of what you can offer Kṛṣṇa with most devotion and how much you appreciate that very same thing.

The manuscript was from the late Śrī Haridās Śāstrī Mahārāja. He had translated and published over eighty books from Sanskrit into Hindi and Bengali, many with original commentary. He held nine graduate degrees and three postgraduate degrees in the six systems of Hindu philosophy.
[2] I remember that this is what people affectionately called him.

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