"I have noted your questions carefully, and regarding your question about the Prasadam recipes; Krishna is offered foodstuff in goodness. The foodstuffs in the modes of goodness are wheat, rice, pulse (beans, peas), sugar, honey, butter and all milk preparations, vegetables, flowers, fruits, grains. So these foods can be offered in any shape, but prepared in various ways by the intelligence of the devotees. The ingredients are always the same as above, whether you fry them, boil them, bake them, powder them, or whatever way they are combined or cooked, the idea is that they must come from this group of foodstuffs. So you can make your own recipe if you like, so long as the ingredients are within this group. This foods group is stated by Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita, and we follow accordingly. Now the thing is that you must consider by whom you are being taught what is healthy and what is not healthy. What is their authority? Actually, this healthy and non-healthy is a material consideration, and we are simply interested in what Krishna wants, so we offer to Him to eat whatever He wants. And He asks for food preparations from within this group. I hope this will clarify the questions about Prasadam preparations for you to understand.
Regarding your question about Yogananda, you write to say that you 'received the impression from his autobiography that he was a genuine saint who dedicated his life to serving God.' But the thing is that you do not actually know what is a genuine saint, and what can you understand about saintly life from reading his autobiography. I may inform you that just recently I visited his so-called asrama retreat, and it was simply a hodge-podge of all nonsense. There was a Buddha statue, a Christ statue, a Gandhi's memorium labeled as 'World Peace Memorium'—and what world peace he has brought? None. And what does Gandhi have to do with spiritual realization anyway? Gandhi was simply interested to get the Britishers out of India—what has this to do with self-realization, the prime goal of life? And here and there, there were signs of all sorts, like 'Be still and realize I am God'—what is this, by becoming silent and still one becomes God?! The stone is silent for millions of years, does that mean it has become God? This is all conglomeration of nonsense ideas. Practically, this Yogananda has no philosophy or authority, he simply drags in Buddha, Jesus Christ, Gandhi, and whoever else he can think to put, so that whatever you like it is in his shop. He is just a good shop keeper.
Krishna says—Give up all nonsense engagements and come here and surrender unto Me!—that is real philosophy. Krishna says that anyone who is worshiping any demigod, it is all nonsense, and just give it up and come to me. Our philosophy is to worship Radha and Krishna. We don't make any hodge-podge or any compromise. If you like you can accept it, and if you are fortunate you will accept, and be happy, but this hodge-podge nonsense will never help you. Just like we prescribe certain rules and restrictions for our disciples so that they can make real advancement in spiritual life. This Yogananda gives no restrictions or regulative principles to his disciples, and thereby collects all nonsense class of men. But if you put restrictions then not so many men will come, but sincere ones will come, those who are actually sincerely searching after real spiritual life. This Yogananda accepts everything as bona fide, because he simply doesn't know what is bona fide and what is nonsense. So there is no need to waste your time."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, November 13, 1968)
"Regarding your question about items being used in Krishna's service becoming spiritual, you should understand it that anything which will remind one of Krishna is spiritual, and anything which will make one forget Krishna is material. Actually, everything is of spiritual nature because everything is coming from the Ultimate Source, Krishna. But when something is offered to the Lord or when it is used in His service, then it resumes its spiritual quality because it will remind one of Krishna. Therefore, even though such object may not have consciousness, it will act as spiritual. It is just like when an iron rod is put into the fire: the rod has not actually become fire, but it will act in just the same way as fire."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, December 2, 1969)
"You inquire why, if the devotee is struggling very hard to be free of the clutches of Maya, then how can he not be interested in such liberation? That is a contradiction. The devotee is not interested in liberation, but in serving; as such, the devotee is already liberated. So liberation is not very important business—it doesn't matter if he is liberated or nonliberated. The idea is that nobody should serve Krishna with motive, even up to liberation, he should serve for service sake. Liberation from Maya means engaging himself in the service of the Lord. So one should strive to become a servant of the Supreme, and in that position he is automatically liberated and free from the clutches of Maya, so when it is said that one should strive to be free from the clutches of Maya, it is simply another way of saying one should strive to be a servant of the Lord, not that being free from Maya is the goal of striving, but that the serving is the goal of striving. Liberation is the constitutional position of the living entity, and that constitutional position is that the Lord is great and that the living entity is subordinate & servant of the Lord. So one should try to extricate himself from the clutches of Maya in order to regain his healthy, normal condition as the servant of Krishna, not just to get himself liberated. But once in this service, he is liberated already. Try to understand."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, February 27, 1972)
"Regarding your question is it all right to assign the entire sankirtana party for distributing books so that no one will be free for street chanting? Of course we should not understanding the meaning of sankirtana very narrowly, that only chanting and dancing and playing instruments, no, sankirtana means to glorify the Lord in a congregational manner. So if many devotees are going out daily on the streets and public places for distributing our literature, that is also sankirtana, even if there is no one chanting. Hearing and chanting are essential processes for sankirtana. So if someone is hearing us singing on the street, or if he is purchasing one book and if he reads sincerely, these two activities are the same. So if there is any occasion of necessity, if there are not very many men available or if there is prohibition by the municipal authorities, something like that, we may assign everyone for distributing our literatures, there is no loss for that. But it is always better if there are also some devotees chanting loudly on the street. If there is even one man to two men or a small party who are chanting Hare Krishna, that will increase also the book sales. So if there are sufficient men, and if we have got sanction by the authorities, it is always better to have at least a small party chanting along with as many distributers of books as possible."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, January 5, 1973)
"The subject matter you have inquired from me is very grave and cannot be replied haphazardly. It appears you have no deep study in the matter, and if you are serious about it you have to live with us for some time to understand.
As a summary study I may inform you that human life must lead to God realization. Without God realization there is no difference between human life and animal life. All the Vedic literature is aimed at making human life a success by God realization. In this age that God realization is made very easy by chanting the holy names, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has very kindly introduced this method 500 years ago, and it has proved a very potent and active process. God being absolute, His holy names, form, pastimes, etc., are not different from Him. So this requires deep study and understanding, otherwise it is very difficult to understand."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, September 18, 1974)
"Regarding your question as to when the soul leaves the body, it is when the heart stops beating. Even if the brain has stopped functioning, if the heart is beating that means the soul is present."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, January 3, 1977)