By Urmila Devi Dasi - Excerpted from "Back to Godhood" - Jan/Feb, 1998
When our oldest son was less than three, he and I were once in a supermarket when a woman passing out samples handed him a cookie that looked like ones made at our temple. He was several yards away from me, and I was apprehensive he'd automatically put the cookie into his mouth. Instead, he ran over to me and asked, "Prasadam? Prasadam?" I said no, it hadn't been offered to Krishna and couldn't be. He smiled and gave up the idea of eating the cookie.
Training our children to be strict vegetarians can be difficult. Giving them enthusiasm for further restricting themselves to Prasadam, food prepared for and offered to Krishna, can be even more challenging.
Devotees of Krishna strictly avoid meat, fish, and eggs, and though a growing number of food products don't contain any of these, many products have onions or garlic, which devotees also consider unfit to offer the Lord. Devotees try to avoid commercially prepared food altogether. Krishna is hungry for our devotion, not the food we offer Him, so we need to take time to prepare Krishna's meals ourselves, with love for Him.
As our children mature and gradually learn to prepare varieties of full meals on their own, they are equipping themselves for a life of cooking for Krishna. If', on the other hand, they don't learn cooking skills, they may grow up to think that buying foods that nondevotees have prepared is a necessity.
Being away from home or a temple is one of the most difficult times for sticking to a Prasadam diet. We adults may be willing to wait until we get home and cook. But children on an unexpectedly long shopping trip may feel that avoiding all but properly cooked and offered food is impossible. Sometimes we can bring Prasadam with us, but other times we are caught unprepared. At such times, we may be able to buy fruit and make a simple offering. If we absolutely must buy prepared foods, we should strictly avoid grains that nondevotees have cooked. Lord Krishna has told us that such foods make the mind wicked. A devotee must strive to keep the mind pure, so that it will be a suitable place for thoughts about Krishna.
Urmila Devi Dasi and her family run a school for boys and girls in North Carolina. She is the major author and compiler of Vaikuntha Children, a guide to Krishna conscious education for children.