For the fifth installment of our ‘Word of the Month’ series – वाग्वेद (vāgveda), we feature the word प्रसाद prasāda – The Divine Blessing. When one is poised or seated within oneself (the inner chamber or सदन sadana) then one is able to establish a connection with the God. When this relation is established the God responds. This response of the God is प्रसाद prasāda.
Usually by the word प्रसाद prasāda we mean the food which is shared by the devotees after it has been offered to the God. The other meanings of this word are: clearness, brightness, pellucidness, purity, calmness, tranquility, absence of excitement, serenity of disposition, graciousness, kindness etc. The word प्रसाद prasāda is derived from the root सद् sad with the prefix प्र pra. The root सद् sad originally means to sit down, besiege, lie in wait for, to sink down etc. The word सदन sadana, the verbal noun of the root सद् sad, therefore, means a house in which one sits or dwells. The word प्रासाद prāsāda means sitting forward, sitting on a seat in a conspicuous place, a lofty seat or platform for spectators, terrace, the top-story of a lofty building, a lofty palatial mansion, palace, temple.
The original meaning of the root सद् sad is to sink down. One may sink down into distress and dejection or one may sink down into the most sublime state in meditation. Both meaning are possible. Therefore, the verbal form सीदति sīdati means to collapse, faint, as we find in the Gita where Arjuna says सीदन्ति मम गात्राणि sīdanti mama gātrāni my limbs are collapsing. The same verbal form प्रसीदति prasīdati with the prefix (प्र pra) means to become satisfied, pleased or glad, be gracious or kind, to render calm, soothe, appease, propitiate, grow clear and bright, become placid or tranquil. Though it is the prefix प्र pra that brings this transformation, yet the original meaning of the root सद् sad, to sink or settle down or to sit is not disregarded. It is when one settles down and is seated within then only he can have the clarity in the vision, is capable of getting the favor of the divine. It is when one is poised or seated within oneself (the inner chamber or सदन sadana) then one is able to establish a connection with the God. When this relation is established the God responds. This response of the God is प्रसाद prasāda. So we have words like गुरुप्रसाद guruprasāda, favour of the Guru, देवप्रसाद devaprasāda, God’s grace; the word मनःप्रसाद manaḥprasāda means the serenity or peace of the mind. The word प्रसादन prasādana means calming, soothing, cheering; in its feminine form (प्रसादना prasādanā) it means adoration or worship to God.
Another important word derived from the root प्र सद् pra sad is प्रसन्न prasanna which conveys the sense of cheerfulness, clear purity and gladness; so the one who is प्रसन्न prasanna, is bright, pure, distinct, perspicuous, placid, tranquil, gracious, propitiating and pleasing. According to Sri Aurobindo, cheerfulness or प्रसन्नता prasannatā is one of the forces of the vital nervous system or प्राणशक्ति prāṇaśakti.
“The perfect state of Prana consists in a sense of fullness of vital force (pūrṇatā), of general clearness and cheerfulness (prasannatā), of equality in all experiences, shocks and contacts (samatā), and in the capacity to take all enjoyment of the world without desire but also without exhaustion and satiety. This is Bhoga Samarthyam (भोग समर्थ्यम् bhoga samarthyam).”
-Sri Aurobindo (Record of Yoga, pp1470-71)