It is a living tradition still, in most of the world's religions, to make offerings to one's deity in the form of food. This most probably had its origins in simple harvest sacrifices in gratitude to nature spirits for a good crop. However, it soon reached very sophisticated expression in such rituals as the Christian communion, where bread and wine are transformed into the ultimate offering - the flesh and blood of Christ himself. Man is no longer surrendering just food, but the very body that is constituted from food and the consciousness that it houses.
Tantra has long been renowned for its ceremonial use of food as a practical aid to inducing higher states of consciousness. Most famous, or infamous, is the panchatattva ritual. This sadhana is designed to enable the sadhak to break the bonds of sensuality by controlled indulgence in sensually stimulating food - meat, fish, grain - and alcohol, inducing a state of hypersensitivity to the union with Shakti which enables him to break through the boundaries of his normal consciousness. However, there are other tantric rituals that require the practitioner to prepare special foods, and partake of them as consecrated offerings to the supreme power of the universe, Shakti.
Tantric practices were, and still are, handed down by word of mouth from guru to disciple. Where the shastras have been recorded in written form, the esoteric aspects of the teaching are veiled in an elaborate verbal and symbolic code that is only known to initiates. Thus the more powerful practices are protected from misunderstanding and misuse. Ananda Lahari (Waves of Bliss), by Adiguru Shankaracharya, is such a text. It is often called the sixty - fifth tantra (traditionally the number is sixty-four) because its poetic praises of Shakti and Shiva actually encode a series of practical techniques that constitute particular tantric sadhanas. These practices incorporate the use of mantra, yantra and ritual food offerings; they are highly specific and may be used both for worldly ends and for spiritual attainment. The sloka presented here is just one of many, chosen to give you a brief taste, an intimation of the favour of lesser known tantric rituals.
Param shambhum vande parimilitaparshvam parachita
Niralokealoke nivasati hi bhalokabhavane.
I prostrate to Paramshiva who resides in the ajna chakra, who illumines like hundreds of thousands of suns and moons, and who is embraced by Chitshakti. He who meditates on this form with full and pure devotion will achieve the same state of consciousness where no other light is required, the state which is beyond the realm of sun, moon and fire.
Draw a circle and write the mantra inside it in three lines as follows:
Do 1000 japa every day for forty-five days. Engrave the yantra on a gold plate. Offer honey and urad bread to the Devi.
Do 1000 japa for twenty-five days. Engrave the yantra on a gold plate. Perform the worship in front of a jar filled with water. Offer cooked rice mixed with chillies to the Devi.
The strict performance of either of these ceremonies will bring the sadhak the ability to remove incurable diseases.