With the welcoming of the new 2016 the world is facing many challenges – the global warming, the growing social and economic disparity, terrorism, the war in Syria, the shocking number of displaced people around the world. The list goes on and on with the issues that the society has difficulties to solve. As Krishna’s devotees, we know that the ultimate peace formula is spreading the Sankirtana Movement, the collective chanting of the Holly Names of the Lord. By chanting Lord Krishna’s names we have direct access to His transcendental abode. This helps us to elevate our consciousness and restore our relationship with God. The Sankirtana Movement has other aspects as well such as distributing Srila Prabhupada’s books and distributing Prasadam (vegetarian food offered to Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, with love and devotion).
We met Parasuram das, a legendary devotee from London, who has been distributing Prasadam to university students and homeless people for decades. His project Food For All distributes 1000 meals free of charge every day. Building up trust, friendships, community and a legacy, his service is priceless to the people of London and beyond. Here is what he shared with us about himself and his admirable work.
I went to India, travelled on Padi-Yatra, walked around the country, [then] came back to the West where we’ve done the same – walked from Belfast to Moscow. Since then we started the Prasad Distribution project. Now we are up to 1000 meals a day/6 days a week and we plan to start distributing 5000 meals a day. We were in France just recently [working on] a project [which] is all about food waste from supermarkets. All these places that throw away so much food. So we are taking the food diverting it from the landfills and reusing it back into the community in the form of the Prasad. That’s the project we are kind of working on now – Prasad distribution.
When did you start Food For All?
In late 80s I was in the Soho Street Temple (ISKCON- London Radha-Krishna Temple). The restaurant [used to] close at 8 pm. So we collected all the food, mixed it all together – the rice, the sabji, the dal, the pakoras, the salad, the salad dressing and it actually came up so tasty. We took that to feed the homeless people. But then in 1990 we started cooking from the Manor (Bhaktivedanta Manor). Since then we found out that we were able to source more food and started cooking also for the students – the university students. The concept is that we want to get people to become vegetarian, take an interest in spiritual life and show them something alternative to mundane materialism where everything has a price. Our food we distribute free of charge.
What was your first inspiration to start the project?
We tried to figure out how to introduce Krishna Consciousness to general public because most of [the people] were not interested, externally interested. [They are] busy, making money, live their own lives in whatever material way they think is good. The first step, I think people need, is special mercy and that mercy [is] becoming in the form of Prasad. People seem to understand the books (Srila Prabhupada’s books and all other devotional literature) after they’ve taken some Prasad. So we feed everybody with what we call Pro-Manse Feast – just kitri or we do sabji and rice. Then people [can] come to a higher taste and leave the lower taste behind. With this we are hopefully able to inspire people to pick up a Bhagavad-Gita and give it a read. That’s the essence of what we are doing.
Is there any particular lesson that you have learned for all this time?
Probably no. (laughing) Well, one interesting lesson is that you never become poor by giving away things. Every day we give away 1000 meals and people donate the food again. So everything goes on and on. The food comes in, food goes out; comes in, goes out. It’s kind of a magical thing how we are able to produce the meals, [which are] a very good quality meals.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve had when doing your service?
There is not real challenge. You just got to do it. It’s like… you just make up your mind: “That’s what we should do.” Prabhupad wanted Prasad, books and the Holly Name so we attempt to do that. The only challenge is whether you are going to do it or not. (laughing) It’s not so difficult.
What is your future vision for Food For All?
What I’d love to see is UCL (University College London) where there is 20 000 students and all those students eating Prasadam. And all of the sudden inside the whole metropolis of London, which is based on economic development, exploitation of poor people or anybody, and right in the centre there is a place where food is distributed free of charge… with love. I believe that if 5000 people take Prasadam every day, we will make huge impact on London.
Any future collaborations?
We work closely with a group Global Feedback. The events are all over Europe [and are] called Feeding the 5000. We collect food normally on the landfills. We get a whole big team chopping it and then we cook it up and distribute it free to the public. We work quite a bit on these kind of projects.
Have you worked with any celebrities?
Oh, yes. In order to deliver these meals, most of the help is coming from the rock stars. Whether it’s the Libertines, Dorothy, Madness, Killing Joke. There is a whole group of musicians, different artists. Actually at the moment we have Paul McCartney’s secretary [who] came out, so hopefully Paul will come out very soon and Russel Brand has been out a few times. If [the artists] get to help us, the project can fly.
Your message to our readers…
I think the whole world can change. A lot of the problems from life come from the killing of animals. The Western culture is quite of an exploitative culture. Animals are exploited, people are exploited and it’s all based on money. If there was a culture where that wasn’t the predominant thing then the culture [would be of] people sharing. If we produce delicious Prasadam then people will give up the idea that [some dead animal] is much tastier. Bhagavad-Gita says that [even if] the embodied soul may be restricted from sense enjoyment, the taste for sense objects [will] remain. But it ceases in such engagements by experiencing a higher taste, which will fix the consciousness. So the whole thing is getting the higher taste. We believe we can give the higher taste in the form of Prasad and that will make a huge difference. We just want to feed the world.