Prasadam as Meditation
BY: SUN STAFF
Aug 26, USA (SUN) As reported last week, during of our travels around the Canada yatra we had the pleasure to attend a workshop facilitated by Yamuna devi at the Saranagati Balarama festival. The session was focused on prasadam as meditation, and was attended by about 20 devotees who were most interested to hear Yamuna's realizations on the subject.
The workshop focused on three primary areas of prasadam bhakti: cleanliness, consciousness, and quality. Lilamrta devi began reading passages from the famous letter Srila Prabhupada wrote to Aniruddha dasa on the subject, while Yamuna told many stories of the experiences she had while learning to cook for the Deities and the Spiritual Master.
Beginning with her second day on the scene, Yamuna cooked for Srila Prabhupada through September of 1976, with periodic breaks while she attended to temple affairs at various locations, most notably Vrindavan. In 1968, she penned the very first Krsna cookbook, which was 150 pages in length and written in calligraphy.
Of the many stories Yamuna shared that day, several were particularly interesting to Jahnava, who attended the workshop. One story described Yamuna's efforts to light a small, 2-burner gas stove that she typically cooked on. That day, there was only a book of damp matches to use, and she struck several unsuccessfully in an attempt to get the stove going. Just then Srila Prabhupada walked by, looked at the little pile of matches, shook his head back and forth and chastised her for being "so wasteful". Yamuna explained that the matches were damp, and what could she do? Srila Prabhupada deftly picked up the matchbook, struck a match, and lit it. Done. There were similar stories to illustrate the great emphasis Srila Prabhupada placed on eliminating wastage of precious foodstuffs that should be considered Lord Krsna's own.
Other stories related the many ways in which Srila Prabhupada responded to Yamuna's cooking by assessing the quality of devotion he judged to have gone into a dish or process, rather than the seeming technical skill that had been used in preparing it. Yamuna told us several wonderful chapatti stories, in which her great attempts to produce technically correct chapattis were rejected by Srila Prabhupada, who had others come to cook a fresh batch. By appearance, these other chapattis seemed less perfect, but Srila Prabhupada clearly accepted them as more first-class. Yamuna shared with us the challenges of receiving such direct and pointed instruction from Srila Prabhupada on matter of her personal service.
We also learned that Srila Prabhupada preferred to have his chapattis cooked by a method in which a bucket is covered over with clay, and the chapattis are cooked on top of a fire made of cow dung and neem wood.
Another story described how Srila Prabhupada ordered lunch one day, admonishing that no more than one hour should be taken to make the lunch. Apparently numerous preparations had been requested, and the one-hour deadline seemed a bit daunting. Srila Prabhupada then announced, "I can make a feast for 30 men in one hour!", at which he rolled his eyes dramatically to illustrate the point. This brought us to the subject of Srila Prabhupada's 3-tiered cooker, which has been under Yamuna's care for a number of years. She kindly passed the cooker around for all to hold and inspect, and this was a great thrill for everyone in the room.
On the subject of cleanliness, Yamuna related Srila Prabhupada's requirements for pot cleaning, and how the black soot and cooking dirt was always to be cleaned completely off the bottom before a pot could be considered clean. Srila Prabhupada's favorite cleaning tool for this purpose was a coconut husk used with Vrindavan sand and water from the Yamuna River.
In another delightful story, she described a woman devotee who was brought to cook for Srila Prabhupada at a time when Yamuna couldn't be there because she was trying to help get the Vrindavan temple opened. Srila Prabhupada repeatedly kept asking her to come back and cook for him, but she was trying hard to meet his instructions at Vrindavan, which continually delayed her. Yamuna finally arrived at the location where Srila Prabhupada was staying. There, she find the other woman with Prabhupada's cooker in her hands, the cooker filthy and covered in black soot. The woman was about the set the cooker down on top of Srila Prabhupada's clean saffron bolster, and amongst his clothing. Doing so would have likely ruined the clean items, but Srila Prabhupada did not stop or chastise the woman. Yamuna intervened, taking the cooker from her before damage was done. Srila Prabhupada then asked that Yamuna cook for him immediately - which meant that she got the service of properly cleaning the cooker!
From this pastime, Yamuna concluded that Srila Prabhupada had not chastised the woman because she wasn't ready for that level of instruction. This story was one of several illustrating the concept that our prasadam meditations should also focus on the multi-layered way in which Srila Prabhupada taught Krsna Consciousness through the medium of prasadam.