Author Topic: Incidents Related To Ramana Maharshi In The Ramana Ashramam Kitchen  (Read 1303 times)


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In the early years at Ramanashram the food was quite simple, it was only in later years that there were large numbers of visitors, so it did not take long to cook the meals. In Ramana’s words, “A big vessel used to be put on the fire. Whatever vegetables were received till noon used to be cut and put into it, boiled and sambar made. There was no ladle even to stir and mix them. We used to take a piece of firewood, chisel it and use it for stirring those vegetables in the vessel. That preparation was the only side dish. When we mixed it with rice and ate, it used to be very tasty. The labour also was comparatively less.”

As the Ashram grew and the number of visitors increased, the cooking also became more complicated and time-consuming. Up until the late 1920s Chinnaswami acted as the main cook, with the assistance of Dandapani Swami and others. When he became the Ashram manager, he was replaced in the kitchen by a number of Brahmin widows - Santammal, Lokammal, Subbalakshmi Ammal,Sampurnamma and others. Only members of the Brahmin caste were allowed to do the cooking.

Work with Sri Ramana had both its difficult moments and its pleasant moments. Although he was full of kindness he was also a strict disciplinarian and would not tolerate the slightest negligence.Everything had to be done perfectly and with full awareness. He demanded that his instructions be followed to the letter.

One evening a disciple who was a solicitor, insisted on helping with the work. He was asked to move a vessel containing sambar.As he moved it some drops spilled over the sides. At once Bhagavan said, “You are fit only for arguing before the Court. This work is not for you.”

Kunju Swami narrates, “Sri Bhagavan used to go into the kitchen by 4 a.m. and start cutting vegetables; one or two of us would also join and help. Sometimes the amount of vegetables used to startle us. Bhagavan managed to cut much more and more quickly than the rest of us. At such times we would look up at the clock in our impatience to finish the job and try and have another nap. Bhagavan would sense our impatience and say: ‘Why do you look at the clock?’ We tried to bluff Bhagavan saying: ‘If only we could complete the work before 5, we could meditate for an hour.’ Bhagavan would mildly retort: ‘The allotted work has to be completed in time. Other thoughts are obstacles, not the amount of work. Doing the allotted work in time is itself meditation. Go ahead and do the job with full attention.”

An unwritten rule demanded that the kitchen helpers had to continue working until the last meal had been served and cleared away.Chinnaswami did not allow any of them to stay in the Hall to meditate or to listen to the talks when they were supposed to be working. Sundaram reports, “When we would sneak in and hide ourselves behind people’s backs, Bhagavan would look at us significantly,as if saying, ‘Better go to your work. Don’t ask for trouble.’”

When the cook Subbalakshmi Ammal wanted to meditate more and complained that the kitchen work would take up all of her time, Ramana answered, “If you identify yourself with the body,you are bound to dualities. Work would appear difficult. Even if we free ourselves from work will the mind cease to wander? It does not let us even sleep in peace. It keeps wandering as in dreams.”

For each vegetable Ramana knew a special kind of preparation.Nothing was thrown away. If he cut spinach, he separated the leaves, the stalks and the roots. With the leaves he made the curry,the stalks were bound together, cooked and put into the sambar and the roots were washed carefully, squeezed and their juice put into the rasam. Any orange peel or apple peel was put into the chutney. The leftovers from the previous day were warmed up and served at the following breakfast, along with the iddlies. If there was any soup or vegetables left, they were put into the sambar. This was against the caste rules of the Brahmins, according to which leftovers may not be used the following day. But Ramana insisted that the avoidance of waste was more important than anything else.

Sampurnamma recounted another story along the same lines,“Once a feast was being prepared for his birthday. Devotees sent food in large quantities: some sent rice, some sugar, some fruits.Someone sent a huge load of brinjals and we ate brinjals day after day. The stalks alone made a big heap which was lying in a corner.Bhagavan asked us to cook them as a curry! I was stunned, for even cattle would refuse to eat such useless stalks. Bhagavan insisted that the stalks were edible, and we put them in a pot to boil along with dry peas. After six hours of boiling they were as hard as ever. We were at a loss what to do, yet we did not dare to disturb Bhagavan. But he always knew when he was needed in the kitchen and he would leave the Hall even in the middle of a discussion. A casual visitor would think that his mind was all on cooking. ‘How is the curry getting on?’ he asked. ‘Is it a curry we are cooking? We are boiling steel nails!’ I exclaimed, laughing. He stirred the stalks with the ladle and went away without saying anything.Soon after we found them quite tender. The dish was simply delicious and everybody was asking for a second helping. Bhagavan challenged the diners to guess what vegetable they were eating.Everybody praised the curry and the cook, except Bhagavan. He swallowed the little he was served in one mouth-full like a medicine and refused a second helping. I was very disappointed, for I had taken so much trouble to cook his stalks and he would not even taste them properly.

The next day he was telling somebody, Sampurnamma was distressed that I did not eat her wonderful curry. Can she not see that everyone who eats is myself? And what does it matter who eats the food? It is the cooking that matters, not the cook or the eater. A thing done well, with love and devotion, is its own reward. What happens to it later matters little, for it is out of our hands.

On another occasion he said, “What is taste? It is what our tongue tells us. We think that taste is in the food itself, but it is not so. The food itself is neither tasty nor not tasty; it is the tongue that makes it so. To me no taste is pleasant or unpleasant, it is just as it is.” Although Sri Ramana was an excellent cook, took great care in the preparation of the meals and did not tolerate any carelessness on the part of the cooks, the pleasure of eating seemed to mean nothing to him.

At the end of the 1930s he stopped cooking, as the stream of visitors was growing ever larger and building projects increasingly demanded his attention.
But even so he still remained in constant contact with the kitchen.

Source: Ramana Maharshi: His Life A biography by Gabriele Ebert


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Bhagavan Ramana used to sneak in between to verify the cooking
work.  In those times, He used to give pearls of wisdom to kitchen
assistants.  In fact, many sublime teachings were given to the kitchen
workers during those brief moments. 

Arunachala Siva.