The Rich Vegetarian

An Examined Life

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Tag: devotion (page 1 of 2)

A Ripe Love

It was a love like none other I had ever experienced.

It began with stories of love itself, longing embedded within. Longing for a sense of purpose, a deeper meaning to life, direction. Stories of intense sorrow and pain, alleviated by a look, a touch, a word. Stories of miracles, large and small, inexplicable phenomena, familiar figures, comforting and loving. Stories of death averted, life transformed, birth and rebirth.

I longed for a story myself. I thought that if I wanted it bad enough, it would happen to me.

Did it? Perhaps it did.

Finally the day came, and I had the opportunity for a meeting. It left me miserable. All those beautiful stories dissolved into nothingness. There was no chemistry, no meeting of eyes, no significant glances or words.

Wasn’t I worthy enough? Why others, why not me?

I languished in self-inflicted misery a short while, then resolved I’d do better. I’d prove my mettle. I wouldn’t give up. I’d stick to my promise. I’d prove my love, devotion and sincerity.

I wish I could tell you that it worked. It really didn’t. I tried, then tried again. Finally I mustered up the courage to ask a question, hoping for a life-transforming answer, the word of God, just for me. Sure enough, the answer came but I was unimpressed. It did nothing for me! Was this a joke? Were all the stories mere fabrication? Was I missing something? Was I a fool?

Give me full marks for persistence because I did persist. I stuck along, confident that things would change. I would be deemed worthy to join the ranks of those who got special time. I would be soon sharing my own stories of miracles and supernatural phenomena.

And thus the saga continued. On and on, year after year.

I dropped my hankerings eventually. It was too darned exhausting. My fevered cravings morphed into a resigned acceptance. I started to experience a sweet kind of love, a puppy-like devotion and adoration. Somehow it seemed enough because my life actually felt sweeter, more melodious. There was a sense of dynamism, purpose and meaning. I was going somewhere, maybe not where I’d imagined. But somewhere… No, I wasn’t among the elite few who exchanged knowing glances and shared secret stories. But I was there, trudging along amid the masses, occasionally feeling both lost and found.

Then one day, it all began to change. The flavor of my love changed. It felt like it’d matured, gained in ripeness and understanding. Looks didn’t matter any more, neither did glances or words. Distance ceased to make a difference. Physical presence felt unimportant.

What was happening to me? Had I gotten completely lost? Where had I landed up? Why was I alone? Where were the elite, special ones?

I wondered long and hard. About what I’d lost, what I’d given up, if I had gained anything in the process.

The Sun needs no illumination. It is self-illumined. Perhaps I had become the Sun? Or a sun?

For years, I had watched from a distance, learning and growing. Over time, my inner wanderings finally led me to an orbit of my own, far away from the teeming masses, large and small planets, shining stars and dust. Finally I was on my own, lit from within, growing in light, brilliance and confidence.

Perhaps he would be proud of me today.

(Thank you, Gurudev, for setting this heart ablaze.)

Food, Spirituality and More

(Read Chef Daniel Peach’s adventures here – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.)

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.

Meher Baba

Meher Baba

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.

Meher Baba

Meher Baba

“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…

In the Presence of Quiet

Flowers

Flowers

Many many years ago, when G and I were bright little girls – smart and talkative and intelligent and spunky – we visited a friend’s home. This lady was my mother’s friend and colleague. Their family was hosting a wise man from South India who was a devotee of Hanuman. Now my mother’s friend’s mother-in-law was a devotee herself and that’s probably why they were hosting this gentleman.

Long story short, we got there and sure enough, there was a throng of people who’d come to meet this person. We were too young to be introduced, so we entertained ourselves with whispers and remarks and little games. Out of the blue, some highly enthusiastic person (maybe it was my Mom?) asks us to sing a song for everyone. Huh! Just as we had made ourselves invisible in a little corner at the back of the room… Darn. I protested that we didn’t know any songs for Hanuman but no one paid any heed. “Oh, just sing any song,” they said.

So we made our way to the beautifully decorated altar with the magnificent picture of the mighty Hanuman surrounded by elaborate platters with fruits and flowers and snacks, lit lamps, burning incense… and a bearded man, eyes closed, emanating waves of silence.

G and I had a hurried consultation and we finally picked a song that we were both comfortable singing together. The song was Maamava Sadaa Janani in raag Kaanada. I felt silly singing a song in praise of Mother Divine in front of a Hanuman devotee and assembly. Well, let’s just get this over with.

We began singing and I had the strangest sensation of feeling terribly overwhelmed. Maybe it was the fervor in the song, the weight of all the people milling around in the room and their expectations, the nervous tension of performing? I don’t know. Or maybe it was the tangible feeling of being in the presence of something larger and benevolent and beautiful and kind. I just about managed to complete singing the song – fighting a choked throat all through. It was probably the first time I had experienced such depth of feeling and I was clueless where it originated from.

Must be almost 20 years since that day…. But I remember it so clearly.