Monday Morning Greetings 2018 #4 – Logos, Logic, and Prasādam

January 22nd, 2018

Have you ever gone on a “word journey”? I made the term up, but I really think it is an apropos name for my engagement with the word “logos”. That journey began when I heard it used in a particular context in a lecture and was inspired to begin a search for the root of its meaning. I then began a correspondence about the term with a friend who is a professor of Philosophy. I thought a lot about it since and feel that I gained some very important and practical insights from that journey that I would like to share.
 
Here is the basic notion of logos, as my friend presented it in our conversation:
 
“Originally, ‘logos’ meant something like rationale, reasoning, or account. So if you gave a speech or made a case for something that would be your logos. The pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus adapted it to be the term for a divine world order, the ordering of the world around a rational principle. So, if you were in touch with the fundamental logos, then you could see the world in harmony. If not, it would seem confused and disjointed. Christian authors adapted this idea to say that the logos is God’s divine will that orders the world. And when they say, “Jesus is the WORD,” “WORD” translates “logos” from Greek.”
 
Now let me summarize what I learned from this journey about the meaning of logos.
 

  1. The universe is rationally ordered according to God’s plan.
  2. When you act according to His plan there is harmony.
  3. When you act against this order there is chaos and suffering.
  4. God’s rational plan for the universal order is expressed in words. Such knowledge is called Veda or based on śāstra (scripture.)
  5. Therefore the most important service in society is to create order by the clear conceptualization and expression of knowledge that creates peace and harmony.

 
Based on these principles I also came up with what I think is a reasonable definition of logos that I need to share before explaining my insights: the divine rational order of the world and the knowledge or words that express that. Now I will share the practical insights I gained from this study.
 
Every year I host a retreat in Puri, which is where I am writing this article now. I take pains to organize every detail of the retreat because I have the strong conviction that there is a way or “order” to do things and when executed properly there is harmony and ultimately happiness. While overseeing the retreat in this way I realized how connected this type of effort is to the concept of logos that I was meditating on. The activity of the retreat that best struck me as a way to highlight this correlation was the serving of prasādam. In that regard, I have made an outline below showing that correlation:
 
Prasādam Serving and Logos at the Puri Yātrā
 

  1. The universe is rationally ordered according to God’s plan.

 
There is a right way to serve prasādam that I learned by living in India for over forty years. I believe even practical details like this are ultimately embedded in logos or the divine rational order of the universe.
 

  1. When you act according to His plan there is harmony.

 
The prasādam was served properly and people thus enjoyed the prasādam without anxiety in addition to feeling served or loved in the process.
 

  1. When you act against this order there is chaos and world suffering.

 
Fortunately, that didn’t happen, but just one person who serves improperly would have impeded the quick and gracious flow of serving and caused anxiety.
 

  1. God’s rational plan for the universal order is expressed in words. Such knowledge is called Veda or based on śāstra (scripture).

 
There is a proper way to serve prasādam that is carried down in word or oral tradition in India that I learned from observing the beauty and efficiency of the process by living there for over forty years.
 

  1. Therefore the most important service in society is to create order by the clear conceptualization and expression of knowledge that creates peace and harmony.

 
Before we began I personally instructed the servers on the proper method to serve prasādam. I then carefully supervised the serving to make sure they understood how to do it properly. Notice that we have used language and verbal directions inspired and directed by divine order to create harmony and peace.
 
Below are just a few of the main principles I emphasized.
 

  1. The cook will instruct people how much to serve of each item and in what order.
  2. The servers will carefully and quickly place the modest amount directed by the cook on people’s plates in a pleasant mood of service and move on to the next person.
  3. Ideally the servers should move in a way so they can serve quickly. Best therefore if they can remain bent at the waist so they can proceed without having to bend again and again slowing and impeding the serve out. At all costs they should not put the bucket down to engage with any person disrupting the flow of service.
  4. If people sitting are not conversant in the culture of prasādam serving and demand huge helpings when we first go around, politely tell them that seconds will come, or if they insist just give them a little more and move on.
  5. Remember that the joy of prasādam is not just the sensual experience but also the exchange of love that people feel when being served nicely, which means efficiently and graciously.

 
The result of following guidelines in serving prasādam is that it is served quickly, graciously, without waste and peacefully. Doing it with these principles in mind not only pleases the devotees but also invokes Krishna’s grace on the assembly. Of course this is just one example, but the principle remains in all activities – that if things are done properly reflecting an order that is imbedded within the universe by God there will be harmony.
 
Conclusion: By tapping into the proper ordering of things, and by properly instructing those who are willing to learn about the proper ordering of things, we can be centered on the Lord’s will in any activity and create harmony and joy for our self and others.
 
 

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