When we respond to Krishna’s request to offer what we have to Him, we won’t be disappointed.
By Brajanatha Dasa
Even though everything belongs to Krishna, He kindly accepts our loving offerings to Him.

Lord Krishna tells Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gita (9.26), “If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit or water, I will accept it.” If there is no love and devotion behind the offering, the magnitude of the offering is not important to Him. The Lord says bhaktya in the second line of the verse and bhakty-upahritam in the third line, emphasizing that He will accept whatever is offered to Him with bhakti (devotion).

Do those who make offerings with love and devotion receive a reciprocal response from Krishna? The Lord is universally reciprocal: He allows everyone to love Him, and everyone will benefit from His love. If one avoids Him, He reciprocates by staying out of one’s life and allowing one to be governed by the impartial law of karma. When one tries to connect with Him through devotion, He reciprocates by giving His mercy according to the degree of one’s love and devotion.

Devotion attracts Krishna and directly connects one with Him. When one experiences His magnificent reciprocation, one feels inspired to offer Him all the love of one’s heart.

When one offers service to Krishna, one simultaneously becomes enriched because everyone is part of Krishna. Prahlada Maharaja explains this principle in the Bhagavatam: When one decorates one’s face, the reflection in the mirror is also decorated. Similarly, when one offers something to the Lord with love and devotion, one simultaneously becomes enriched by the Lord’s mercy. We need to discover the principle that “I am an eternal lover of the Lord, and by offering service to the Lord with love and devotion I become blissful because I am part of Him.”

Out of His causeless mercy Krishna accepts even the smallest token of our offering if it is offered with love and devotion. When Krishna asks us to make such an offering, He is inviting us to reawaken our eternal, blissful relationship with Him. The key ingredient in the offering process is love and devotion. The following are examples of Krishna responding to those who offered Him a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or water with love and devotion.

Patram: Leaf

Krishna in His incarnation as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu responded with special mercy toward surrendered souls. The cowherd boy known as Kusumasava in Krishna’s lila (pastimes) later became Kholavecha Sridhara during Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s lila at Nabadwip. Kholavecha Sridhara was a very simple devotee who offered with love and devotion to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu all four items mentioned in Gita 9.26. Only through love and devotion in offering to the Lord does a devotee become eternally connected with Him.

Lord Chaitanya would eat His lunch only on banana-leaf plates that Kholavecha Sridhara had provided. Because of Sridhara’s devotion, everything the Lord ate from these leaf plates tasted like nectar.

When Chaitanya Mahaprabhu offered Sridhara liberation from birth and death, Sridhara replied, “Let that brahmana (Sri Chaitanya) who forcibly took away my banana leaves be my Lord birth after birth. Let me always engage in the service of the lotus feet of that brahmana who constantly quarreled with me.” (Chaitanya-bhagavata, Madhya-khanda 9.224–225)

 

Pushpam: Flower

Lord Krishna in His Vishnu form performed an interesting lila with Gajendra, an elephant. Gajendra was sporting with his family in a beautiful celestial lake filled with lotus flowers. As he was at the peak of enjoying, suddenly a crocodile caught his leg in its powerful jaws, and a great battle took place. Neither Gajendra’s strength nor his family members could save him. When he was on the verge of death, he remembered the Lord and, with his trunk, plucked a lotus flower (pushpam) and raised it up toward the sky with tears of love and affection. He offered it to the Lord while reciting a beautiful prayer of surrender. Through that flower Gajendra was not praying to the Lord to save him from pain or death; rather he was offering the Lord his heart and his life. “Do anything you want with me; I am yours.” And because of that one gesture of Gajendra’s offering one little flower with love and devotion, the Supreme Lord descended from the spiritual world, rescued Gajendra from the crocodile, and sent Gajendra to Vaikuntha, the spiritual world.

Phalam: Fruit

Lord Krishna performed a glorious lila with a fruit seller. In that pastime, Lord Krishna, as a toddler, went out of His house with a few grains to barter with a fruit vendor. The fruit vendor felt love for the Lord as she admired His enchanting and effulgent face. She piled His arms full of fruits (phalam), and in exchange the Lord gave her a few grains, which filled her basket with valuable jewels. This pastime confirms that when something is offered to Krishna with love and devotion, Krishna will reciprocate many millions of times over, both materially and spiritually.

Toyam: Water

One day while King Satyavrata was performing austerities and offering the Lord palmfuls of toyam (water) on the bank of the River Kritamala, the Lord appeared in his palms as Matsya-avatara, the fish incarnation. He later protected the king, along with rishis, herbs, seeds, and other living entities. The Lord taught Vedic knowledge to King Satyavrata and the rishis. King Satyavrata took his next birth as Vaivasvata Manu, who is mentioned in Bhagavad-gita (4.1) as having received the science of the Gita from the sun-god.

Toyam generally means water. However, Srila Prabhupada said that it can also mean other liquids, such as milk. In that connection he related the lila of Krishna with Putana, the evil witch who approached the Lord to breastfeed Him. The Lord accepted her as His mother, sucked the milk from her breast, and elevated her to the destination befitting His mother.

Putana didn’t approach the Lord with love and devotion to breastfeed Him. But when Putana saw the Lord, He as the Supersoul residing in her heart gave her the intelligence to realize that the child she would breastfeed was none other than the Supreme Personality of the Godhead. In that consciousness, Putana took Krishna onto her lap to poison Him. The Lord accepted her as His mother, but while sucking milk He closed His eyes because it was necessary to kill her, despite her offering milk. In exchange for her offering of milk, she attained a position like His mother’s.

If Putana could attain such an exalted position in spiritual life by neglectfully, enviously offering milk to Krishna, what is to be said of mother Yashoda, the other gopis, and the cows, all of whom served Krishna with great affection and love, offering everything for His satisfaction?

Many chapters in the Tenth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam – especially those describing Krishna’s childhood pastimes such as Govardhana Puja and His meeting the wives of the ritualistic brahmanas – offer vivid descriptions of milk and milk products being prepared by devotees and offered to the Lord.

When Krishna Accepted an Unoffered Offering

Sudama was a classmate of Krishna’s who later in life was very poor. At the request of his wife, He once visited Krishna in His opulent city of Dwarka. He had nothing to give Krishna but simple chipped rice, which he hesitated to offer. But Krishna seized the rice and ate a morsel of it even though Sudama had not offered it to Him, and He rewarded Sudama with celestial riches even though he hadn’t asked anything from Krishna. This is an example of sakhya-rasa, the ecstatic exchange between Krishna and His devotee in the mood of fraternity. All pure devotees long to serve Krishna, and Krishna longs for the love of His devotees.

When Krishna Provided the Offering

While the Pandavas were in exile to fulfill the condition of the deceptive dice game they lost, the sun-god gave Yudhishthira Maharaja an akshaya-patra, an inexhaustible divine pot that could supply any amount of food if Draupadi herself had not eaten.

Knowing the uniqueness of the divine bowl, Duryodhana, who never spared any chance to embarrass the Pandavas, asked Sage Durvasa to visit the Pandavas with his thousands of disciples after Draupadi had finished her meal. The Pandavas would thus be unable to provide food to Durvasa Muni and his entourage. This would infuriate Durvasa Muni, who is known widely for his short temper and curses.

In this pastime, to pacify Durvasa Muni (satisfy his and his disciples’ appetites), Krishna ate a small amount of vegetable remaining in Draupadi’s divine pot, so the Muni and his followers became fully satisfied and did not cause any trouble to the Pandavas. There was nothing in the divine pot for Draupadi to offer to the Lord, but Krishna found some morsel of vegetable (manifested by Him) sticking to the pot and accepted it because He was satisfied with Draupadi’s devotional service, and the problem was solved by Krishna’s being satisfied.

Hungry for His Devotees’ Love

By all these pastimes, the Lord intended to demonstrate and impart to the world that it is not the magnitude of the offerings that matters, but the love and devotion with which one makes them. Krishna just wants love and devotion. In Bhagavad-gita (9.26) Krishna emphasizes the love and devotion of the devotee, and that is what He sees when one offers Him something. The Lord is atmarama (self-satisfied), but He is hungry for the love and devotion of His devotees. By His own will He loves their loving exchanges.

The above pastimes illustrate Krishna’s acceptance of devotees’ sincere offerings without regard for their social status. In Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.27.16–18) Krishna tells Uddhava, “One should worship Me in My deity forms by offering the most excellent paraphernalia” but “even very opulent presentations do not satisfy Me if they are offered by nondevotees” – meaning without love.

To be accepted by Krishna, our offerings need to be made with love. We must keep Him in the center of our life (Gita 9.26), or at least within the circle of our life (Gita 9.27), and strive to make Him happy in every aspect of our life. When one offers one’s heart and soul to Krishna, one’s life is made perfect by His mercy.

Brajanatha Dasa, PhD, and his wife, Suvarna Radha Devi Dasi, PhD, both disciples of His Holiness Radhanath Swami, live in Longmont, Colorado, with their two daughters. They are active in book distribution and in serving Sri Sri Radha-Govinda at ISKCON Denver.