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Why do disciples observing Vyasa-puja for a living spiritual master offer a feast to his picture?

The spiritual master is the disciple's link to Krishna and their guide in spiritual life. On Vyasa-puja - the spiritual master's appearance day, or "birthday" as we call it in the West - the physical body of the spiritual master can only be in one place, yet the disciples may be in many places. In order to create an intimacy with the spiritual master and keep them foremost in the mind of the disciple during the celebration, a picture is used.

Generally, the offering of food is offered to both Srila Prabhupada and the spiritual master, and then that offering is distributed...or it is assumed that whatever is offered to the spiritual master, he will offer to Srila Prabhupada and the remnants of that offering are accepted as prasadam ("mercy of God" – spiritualized food) and honored by the devotees.

Srila Prabhupada told us, as early as 1968, that when we wanted to evoke his presence we should put his picture on the vyasasana (sitting place) and chant to it. Since he was always chanting, we would then be "packed up tight together" through our mutual chanting. So, having the guru's picture present enhances the sense of connection and intimacy with the guru.

Hope this is helpful.
Your servant,
Laxmimoni dasi