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Thread: Difference between Prasādam and Agape or Love Feast

  1. #1

    Difference between Prasādam and Agape or Love Feast

    Namskāra everyone,

    I'm reading the book, "From Krishna Cult to American Church...," by Michael James Gressett. It points out in a footnote on page 111, "It is unknown whether Prabhupada was aware of the meaning of this term for Christians, with its reference to agape in a symbolic meal. Prabhupada’s meals were very substantial, not merely symbolic, and the love was construed as love for Krishna, more than brotherly love—which was, in Prabhupada’s mind, a byproduct of the former."

    My question is, how does this differ between ISKCON and "traditional western multiline sampradāya" temples (the latter meaning where you would find mostly Indian or nonwhites temple goers, like NRIs, in America)?

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    Re: Difference between Prasādam and Agape or Love Feast

    Namaste,

    I can't seem to comprehend the meaning of the text within quotes. Care to explain? In the context of the narrative of the book it must mean something which by itself is quite incomprehensible.

    Pranam.

  3. #3

    Re: Difference between Prasādam and Agape or Love Feast

    Quote Originally Posted by Believer View Post
    Namaste,

    I can't seem to comprehend the meaning of the text within quotes. Care to explain? In the context of the narrative of the book it must mean something which by itself is quite incomprehensible.

    Pranam.
    "From Krishna Cult to American Church..." is titled so because the doctorate candidate (at the time) was making his point that at first, ISKCON had all the attributes of a cult WITHIN the US, because this was the situation of a minority, unknown small group of people (although well-known back in India as a Vaiśnava sampradāya, if you were to backtrack out the changes the founder made for the western market) that was alien to everyone in the larger society it strived to replace. After 40 years, New Raman Reti is an example of Hare Kṛṣṇa beginning to take on attributes of an American church in that it has become the dominant culture (at least significant) in that community, and now, there are multiple generations of Hare Kṛṣṇas (4th generation was born in 2008, I recall) and family traditions centered around it, mind you, from the ISKCON perspective.

    As for the second quoted material, I forgot to include that the term that Prabhupāda may not have been aware of is "Love Feast," which is the term that ISKCON uses for this type of event. Restated, the question is, how does the use of the word/phrase "love feast" and "agape" differ from the Sanātani use of the word Prasādam? My guess is, American ISKCON brought that term into it because the first generation's parents were largely Christians or Jews, among others.

    In case you were referring to this, "traditional western multiline sampradāya" temples means TO ME, temples in America where it is Indian-run (or could be Bengali-run, etc.), most of the temple goers are obviously not white Europeans, Radha-Kṛṣṇa is not the main deity(-pair) in the temple, there is more than one mūrti installment (not just multiples of the same deity, but like one for Gaṇēsha, one for Balaji, one for Śiva, etc.), many times even a Navagraha installment, people are more reserved in how they conduct themselves in public as opposed to the Hare Kṛṣṇas (who can't seem to quite get the Indian mannerisms and clearly show American influence, even among long-term temple presidents). In other words, who runs it, how they are configured in Anglo countries as opposed to Asia, which is different, and how the worshiping mindset parallel those back in Asia. I have to call it SOMETHING, because I realize that the traditional SD world of thought is different from the ISKCON version.

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    Re: Difference between Prasādam and Agape or Love Feast

    Namaste,

    Prasadam or prasad by definition, is the remnants of the food offered to God. A simple or elaborate meal, depending on various factors, is offered to the deities. It sits there in front of the deities and they partake in it. The left overs are taken away after some time and that becomes the prasadam. I am not sure if ISKCON does it, but in most traditions, this prasadam is mixed in with the food prepared for the congregation so that the entire batch becomes sanctified/blessed by the deities. The hippies of the 60's must have taught Praphupad the term Love Feast. It really has no meaning in the temple context. We do have a feast at marriage time or some other secular celebrations, which in Hindi is called priti-bhoj, literally translating to Love (or goodwill) Meal. I had not encountered this term 'Love Feast' at the ISKCON temples, who simply refer to it as the feast. In any event, the remnants of the food sanctified by the deity or such food mixed with a larger portion is called prasad. It could simply be some sweets and/or (cut up) fruit or an elaborate (10-15-20 or more course) meal. I would not call it a Love Feast.

    As an aside, I detest the term cult used by Westerners for smaller groups of people with a non-mainstream affiliation. Cult is a closed, secretive group; ISKCON was born in a NY park where Praphupad would sit and chant the mahamantra with his kartals; long before it gained traction and collected some funds to arrange to have the chanting/puja conducted indoors. How can a group which conducts its services in a public park and is open to everyone passing by including stray dogs be called a cult, is beyond me. But if you write a doctorate thesis in America and call ISKCON or any other Hindu sampradaye a cult, no one will blink as the academicians are equally blind and more than happy to assign the categorization of cult to everything non-Xitian.

    Pranam.

    PS, Since food offered to deities will always be fresh and wholesome, the congregation is also guaranteed prasad which is fresh, wholesome and prepared according to the strict code of the sampradaye.

  5. Re: Difference between Prasādam and Agape or Love Feast

    I am the author of "From Krishna Cult to American Church: The Dialectical Quest for Spiritual Dwelling in the Modern Krishna Movement in the West." In concept and generally in practice, there is no difference between the offering of bhoga (food, incense, flowers, etc.) to Krishna, which then becomes prasada (the merciful remnants of a Deity) and is distributed to the public for their purification, in ISKCON and other sorts of Hindu temples in the West. ISKCON makes a bigger deal out of this with their elaborate feasts on a fairly regular basis--Sundays and many Vaishnava holidays. But some Hindu temples in India or in the West might also put on a big feast of prasada. It is the same principle and the same experience. If there is a difference it might be that ISKCON uses this as a way to proselytize. ISKCON is, by the way, a modern, organized part of the Hindu traditions, even if some ISKCON people deny it. They don't like the term for a variety of reasons, but when all is said and done it is only the term they do not accept. They are the most Hindu of all the Hindu groups in the West that bothers to attract Westerners, and besides, Hindus from India have taken over the organization to a large extent. Please feel free to read my dissertation online, without paying.

    http://etd.fcla.edu/UF/UFE0024749/gressett_m.pdf

  6. Re: Difference between Prasādam and Agape or Love Feast

    I agree that Prabhupada used the term "Love Feast" out of convenience, just as he used "God", "religion", etc., terms not found in Sanskrit literature.

    ISKCON's world of thought may indeed be different from A traditional SD world of thought, but there is no THE traditional SD world of thought, as Hindus disagree with each other all the time. Right?

  7. Re: Difference between Prasādam and Agape or Love Feast

    In my dissertation, I do not use the term cult in a pejorative manner. I can understand why you would reject the term if we are going by the non-scholarly definition, which is stupid. For what is a religious cult in the non-scholarly sense, except for a religion that the speaker does not like? Well, someone could say that a religious cult is a religious group that does bad things. So then what is the difference between a cult and a church, which has also done many bad things?

    What I am trying to get people to see is that the non-scholarly use of cult is meaningless for anything deeper than expressing the preferences of the speaker. It does not describe anything objectively. For that we need to look at some standard social-science terms for religion:

    A church represents the establishment. It has power and prestige.
    A sect breaks away from a church or a cult, usually on the issue of reform.
    A cult lacks power and prestige, and has values and ideas in tension with the establishment.

    All religions begin as cults, because there is always something that already exists and does not appreciate the competition.

    A cult is not necessarily a closed, secretive group; it depends on the type of cult. There are many kinds, and academics try to classify them in such a way that understanding is achieved.

    Only fanatic Christian academics are happy to assign the categorization of [the pejorative] cult to everything non-Christian. And no one in academia takes such people seriously. You are quite mistaken. I wrote my dissertation in part to correct misunderstanding about cults. Did you know that until the turn of the 20th century, the term cult neither denoted nor connoted anything pejorative? Then the Christians appropriated the term. Others, without reflecting, use the term, perpetuating the Christian agenda unwittingly!

    I have actually done in my dissertation THE OPPOSITE of what I am being accused of. Please read it and then comment. Thank you.

  8. #8

    Re: Difference between Prasādam and Agape or Love Feast

    Namaskāra Michael!

    What a surprise to hear from the author of a works! Thank you! I finished reading your paper last week. You gave me a deeper understanding in certain aspects of ISKCON. By gist of the feel so far, I approach SD from my own perspective, which parallels SD from India in many ways, rather than the ISKCON path. I was at an ISKCON in Dallas for nearly two months while I worked temporarily to the south, and then came down further south this month and started attending an Indian/Asian run temple, which is more what I look for.

    By the way, have you taken a look at the membership of the GBC? The majority of them are white with European ancestry. You said, "They are the most Hindu of all the Hindu groups in the West that bothers to attract Westerners, and besides, Hindus from India have taken over the organization to a large extent." I'll give you that in the first half of the sentence, since usually, no single temple tries to reach out to people in the same manner that a Christian might, but they have taken over ISKCON?? Where do you see that? At the GBC level? At the Temple president level? The temple in Dallas definitely does not have a Hindu feel to it, as those born in Asia make up less than 15% of that temple.

    By the way, I would like to see someone do a book about the GBC takeover of ISKCON subsequent to "Monkey on a Stick."

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    Re: Difference between Prasādam and Agape or Love Feast

    Greetings,

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Gressett View Post
    ISKCON is, by the way, a modern, organized part of the Hindu traditions, even if some ISKCON people deny it.
    ......and besides, Hindus from India have taken over the organization to a large extent.
    Once I asked an ISKCON devotee to name one bible based religion to have successfully contested as not being Xitian and there was no response; yet a religion based on the BG, the most revered Hindu book shies away from being called Hindu.

    Regarding Hindus having taken over ISKCON; I disagree. Every temple that I have visited in North America is headed by an American President appointed by the ISKCON powers to be. Indians have adopted their temples as their own, but have not taken them over.

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Gressett View Post
    ISKCON's world of thought may indeed be different from A traditional SD world of thought, but there is no THE traditional SD world of thought, as Hindus disagree with each other all the time. Right?
    Right!

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Gressett View Post
    A cult lacks power and prestige, and has values and ideas in tension with the establishment.

    Did you know that until the turn of the 20th century, the term cult neither denoted nor connoted anything pejorative?
    ISKCON's values and ideas are not in conflict with the establishment and it does not lack power and prestige. The Indian Govt. owned Postal Dept. honored Prabhupad's contribution to the Hindu cause by releasing a stamp with his picture on it. Like other sects/sampradayes/traditions, it has its own unique set of do's and don't's under the general umbrella of SD. So, it is not a cult per you definition above.

    May I remind you that till about 15-20 year back, the term gay meant happy? So, we have to take the meaning of words/terms in their present context. If I say the word cult in a room full of people at a religious convention, I bet everyone's ears will turn towards me to hear what religion I am calling a cult. In toady's vernacular, it is an unflattering word. But, please feel free to use it if you must.

    In India, temples give visitors only simple prasaad, and it is the same here too. But a weekend visit to the temple becomes something of a social outing/cultural connection/offering respects to the deities and many people travel long distances to get there. So, it has become something of a custom in majority of the temples to provide a basic or elaborate meal. It helps to attract more people too. So, ISKCON does not have a monopoly on this tradition of after-service-meal in North America.

    I am sure that you have done thorough research on the topic of your choice and don't mean to belittle any aspect of SD, but then there are sensitivities to contend with. And the use of words such as 'gay' and 'cult' fall into that category.

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Gressett View Post
    I have actually done in my dissertation THE OPPOSITE of what I am being accused of. Please read it and then comment. Thank you.
    I apologize if some of my words are too harsh and make my comments sound like an 'accusation'. Appreciate your intention to be positive on the topic.

    Pranam.
    Last edited by Believer; 14 June 2015 at 06:49 PM.

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    Re: Difference between Prasādam and Agape or Love Feast

    Vannakkam Michael: Welcome to this forum. My experiences are limited, to put it mildly, but I do get the general sense that ISKCON temples vary somewhat these days, although it may just be one anomaly ... here. I'd have to go visit several to draw a fair conclusion.

    I'm with Believer on the term 'cult'. Academics will understand, but ordinary Rajiv certainly doesn't. It's not the only term that gets us confused by the way it's morphed over time.

    As you likely know, several groups avoid the term 'Hindu' like the plague, despite having drawn deeply from Hinduism.

    DeafAncient, was your question answered satisfactorily?

    Aum Namasivaya
    Last edited by Eastern Mind; 17 June 2015 at 07:45 PM.

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