The Hare Krsna movement truly is a kitchen religion. At least for me the kitchen is a place where I can practically meditate and analyze our teachings, observe, and experience various steps in God realization.
Today I tried to philosophically see the steps towards self realization while cooking rice. Imagine if you may… .
Step one: gather materials in their raw state; pot, water, rice and perhaps more elaborate ingredients for elaborate rice. For now we’ll cook simple rice. The rice represents a person in the beginning stage of self realization; the pot represents the asram for developing self awareness; water represents the teachings, and of course we can’t forget the kitchen( place, temple for example),and last, the cooking spoon, representing situations that will adjust us along the way to self realization.
We are still missing one important thing- heat. Without heat we will have no cooked rice! Adding heat is the most necessary process for rice to come out cooked. Similarly, tapasya or austerity is absolutely necessary for deep spiritual cultivation. In fact, at the very beginning of creation, as Brahma sat in contemplation of the uncertain situation in which he found himself, the very first advice given to him came through a whisper-” ta pa” ( add some heat to it).
And having listened and allow that association to resonate within himself, he became aware of an ocean of truth and thereafter started to create the world we see today.
—– back to the kitchen—–
Starting the fire, adding enough water and stirring can be compared to beginning the Bhakti yoga process. In due course, as the water boils and the rice absorbs the water, the heat is lowered and the rice is allowed to simmer and fully cook.
In the beginning of spiritual life austerity is that voluntary acceptance of some inconvenience to experience something deep (heat added so that the water penetrates the rice). In due course the spiritual practitioner has to lower the heat and seriously digest what he/ she has practiced over the years. The heat is still present, but now in a non abrasive mood. One is not being stirred by the spoon of obstacles and other interactions, for the time has come to just stay on course until pure Bhakti develops- let it cook.
Otherwise, if the heat stays up and too much water keeps being added, you’ll end up with a mush; or too much heat with no water will burn the rice. Rupa Goswami calls this mistake niyama agraha, following rules too much without knowing why, or following just for the sake of following.
The simmering stage can be compared to the platform where one is rightly situated, no more agitation from the mind and senses, and one is well on the path of real loving service to Krsna.
Krsna, in the ninth chapter, second verse of Bhagavad Gita, calls this pratyaksa, or direct experience of the self through realization.
Spiritual life can be experienced directly when applied properly and under expert guidance. No food in any kitchen can be well prepared without a good cook; someone who is observing, adjusting, instructing, caring, etc.
Now having been cooked by the expert cook, the guru, the student can now be offered to Krsna for his pleasure.
That’s all for now, more from the kitchen as Red Ashram develops.