When food is offered to the Divine or God, it becomes sanctified. In the bhakti tradition, food is offered through devotional mantras that focus our intention. It is understood that God then accepts the offering of food and partakes of it. Because the food came in contact with the divine, it also adopts divine qualities. In this way, matter is transformed into spirit.
When an individual consumes this offered or "karma-free" food, one's mind, senses and consciousness get purified of such tendencies as greed, anger, envy and selfishness. One comes simultaneously closer to the divine. This is known as the yoga of eating.
Advancing spiritually and elevating one's consciousness can often involve rigorous practices. However, it's nice to know that just by engaging in simple and creative endeavors, such as cooking and eating, one can move closer to that ultimate spiritual goal.
Gadadhara Pandit Dasa (also known as Pandit) has been a monk in the bhakti-yoga tradition since September of 1999. After spending six months in different monasteries in India, Pandit moved to a temple/monastery in the East Village of Manhattan, where he currently resides. He currently serves as the first-ever Hindu chaplain of Columbia University and New York University. His activities at Columbia include facilitating weekly vegetarian cooking classes, discussions on the classic Eastern work Bhagavad-Gita, and sessions on the art and practice of mantra meditation. For more from Pandit, check out his Web site at nycpandit.com