Q. Can you talk a little about your spiritual journey, and how, if at all, food features in your story?
A. I think my entire life has been a spiritual journey, you know? All my lifetimes… When I was little, I prayed a lot and asked God to show me that He existed. I went to church, and while I liked Christ’s teachings I did not identify with the dogma. My first introduction to meditation was from Paramhansa Yogananda’s book ‘Autobiography of a Yogi.’ I learned meditation from that lineage (Kriya Yoga) and began practicing everyday for several years. I became very interested in Advaita and the Yoga Vasistha. At that time I had a good friend living in Waynesville, NC. His next door neighbor was a follower of Meher Baba. She told us about Baba and we perused some books about Baba and his life.
Two years later I was in Asheville going to my interview for my job at Chai Pani (which, remember, was the FIRST post on Craigslist) and the first person I met at Chai Pani was Meherwan, the owner. He told me his name is Meherwan Irani and I said to him, “There’s a saint in India who has the same name as you!” (Baba’s birth name is Merwan Irani). Meherwan says, “Yeah, I know… He is my great uncle.” I then met Meherwan’s mom, Amrit, who taught us how to cook before the restaurant opened. Amrit spent a lot of time with Meher Baba, and in the early Chai Pani days I would sit down with her during breaks and make her tell me stories about Meher Baba. Whenever I go to India I visit Meher Baba’s tomb-shrine and Amrit lives just a walking distance away from there.
Anyhow long story short I am a devotee of Meher Baba. Life brought me to Chai Pani, which brought me to India, which brought me to Meher Baba. Before that I felt like I was trying to figure out which train to get on; which path to follow. Meher Baba, to me, is the end of that search. Meher Baba’s book ‘God Speaks’ is a spiritual masterpiece and after I read that I knew beyond any doubt that Meher Baba is who He says He is.
“Inscribe these words in your heart; nothing is Real but God, nothing matters but love for God.” — Meher Baba
I feel like food features in my spiritual journey insofar as cooking is my dharma. It feels like my duty and I try to do it in the spirit of serving others and making others happy.
I wish I could say more about my spiritual journey but I don’t feel like I can put it into words. I just love Baba aur main usko Bhagwan samajhta hun (I regard him as God). He stole my heart. I was His long before and will be His forever.
I think the essence of most religions is the same and the one who loves God realizes God.
“God is Love. And Love must love. And to love there must be a Beloved. But since God is Existence infinite and eternal there is no one for Him to love but Himself. And in order to love Himself He must imagine himself as the Beloved whom He as the Lover imagines He loves.
Beloved and Lover implies separation. And separation creates longing; and longing causes search. And the wider and the more intense the search the greater the separation and the more terrible the longing.
When longing is most intense separation is complete, and the purpose of separation, which was that Love might experience itself as Lover and Beloved, is fulfilled; and union follows. And when union is attained, the lover knows that he himself was all along the Beloved whom he loved and desired union with; and that all the impossible situations that he overcame were obstacles which he himself had placed in the path to himself.
To attain union is so impossibly difficult because it is impossible to become what you already are! Union is nothing other than knowledge of oneself as the Only One.” — Meher Baba
Q. What are Chef Daniel Peach’s future plans?
A. I can’t say I think about or try and plan the future too much as generally life has its own plan, you know? 🙂 I have no intention of owning my own restaurant. I enjoy my career as a chef and am not interested in having to deal with managing money and all of the logistics that owning a restaurant entails. Plus Chai Pani is my family and I will be with them until the very end. I see myself continuing to visit India every year and to continue learning and improving my craft. I hope that God empowers me with more and more ways to serve and love others and that I have the ability to do so until a very old age.
Thank you, Daniel, for sharing your life and stories with us…