Annadanam, the sacred offering of food to those on the spiritual path, has been practiced in India for thousands of years. Sadhguru explains its significance.
Questioner: Namaskaram Sadhguru. What is the significance of annadanam? Why is it glorified in our culture?
Sadhguru: Hunger can be a very debilitating experience. In this life, I am very well-fed. But for a couple of lifetimes, I have known hunger like very few people. Believe me, to be very hungry and maintain your dignity and focus is enormously challenging. This is the sadhana of every sanyasi. Our brahmacharis also do it in a smaller way – every Ekadashi, the eleventh day after the new and full moon, they will not eat but they keep themselves more active than usual so that they get very hungry.
To become very hungry but to remain focused on the purpose of what you are doing and to maintain the dignity of who you are – to be hungry and not angry takes a lot of balance. For most human beings, when they are hungry, it is as good as life slowly slipping away. If we don’t eat at all, we will die. So annadanam is a lifeline.
At an event like Mahashivratri, many people who come to be at the Isha Yoga Center are unable to spend even fifty rupees. But they want to be here. They walk long distances and come because they cannot even pay for the bus. Annadanam will mean a lot for them.
But above all, there is a beauty in offering this. The offering is not about the food. Your physical body is called annamaya kosha or food body because it is made of food. So, when you offer annadanam, you are giving them their body.
Annadanam is a possibility for you to bring a certain level of consciousness and awareness as to your relationship with food. Don’t see it as food, it is life. This is something all of us must understand – every time there is food in front of you, it is not a commodity that you can use and throw. It is life. If you want your life to evolve, you must approach food, water, air and the earth we walk upon as life because these are the ingredients with which you are made. If you approach it as life, they will behave very differently within. If you treat them as a commodity, the market is taking over your system.
Annadanam is a way of building a deep contact with the other human being – by serving by hand with total involvement, love and devotion. You are doing it with great devotion because someone has given you the opportunity to be a giver of life. That is very significant. Someone is placing you above themselves and receiving from you.
Mother to the World
I want you to understand, you may look upon your mother with great love and gratitude, but if she did not serve food to you, would you love her? The most crucial element of motherhood is annadanam. From the milk she fed you to the food she gave you, it is because she always offered you annadanam that you love her.
So, annadanam is an opportunity for you to exercise your privilege of being a mother to the world. You must remember this every day and every moment of your life.
Editor’s Note: To donate or volunteer for the Mahashivratri Maha Annadanam, visit the Mahashivratri site for more information.