The Master's foodMany years ago there lived a spiritual Master who had several hundred disciples. Some disciples had been with him for quite a few years, but because his mission was still very young, most of the disciples had come to him more recently. The Master's disciples were very devoted to him and tried to please him in every way.
It was the practice at this Master's ashram for each disciple to have an opportunity to cook the evening meal. And so it happened that a competitive spirit began to develop in the serving of the meal each night. Each disciple would try to serve a meal more delicious than the previous one. It was the habit of the Master to join his disciples after the evening meal; he would sometimes take a seat and eat his meal among them. It seemed an excellent opportunity for disciples to gain his favour by trying to please him with a most delicious meal.
Kaugal, who had been with the Master for some time, worked especially hard one evening to prepare the Master's choicest foods. He spent many hours preparing the various dishes and secretly prayed that this evening his Master would choose to come early. But when the Master arrived, he looked around and, after a few moments, turned and left the hall. The tray that Kaugal had prepared for his Master sat untouched, and Kaugal felt very hurt. He even felt a little anger somewhere deep inside him.
About a week later, when all the disciples were gathered at their Master's feet, one of the closest disciples asked why he hadn't eaten with them for the past few nights. The disciple who had been so disappointed a few days earlier listened very intently as the Master began to answer the question.
"How many times I don't eat the food you people prepare for the evening meal! You are my children, true. It is one thing to be identified with your consciousness, with your lives, but at the same time, if a child brings me something unclean, at that time my love for purity will not permit me to eat it. My love for the disciple will not decrease, but at the same time, purity is also a child of mine. Because of my love for purity, I will not be able to eat."
One of the young disciples who loved food and always ate everything said, "But Master, didn't you eat everything when you were a child?"
The Master replied, "When I lived at my Master's ashram, I had to eat what was offered. I used to eat, and then I would suffer for hours. But here in my own ashram, just because I have become a Guru, I can say I won't eat certain food. When I first came to have my own ashram, how I suffered from my disciples' cooking! Even now, on some occasions I suffer."
The same young man asked, "Is the reason you suffer because some people aren't clean and neat when they cook?"
The Master gave a little smile and said, "True, some people are not at all clean and tidy when they cook. At home, my mother and sister won't even go into the kitchen without taking a proper shower. Then right after they have prepared the meal, they will take another shower. But here we aren't careful enough about cleanliness while cooking."
One of the woman disciples, very neat in appearance, spoke, "But Master, are there really that many disciples living among us who are so careless about cleanliness and outer purity?"
The Master shook his head and said, "God alone knows how much I have suffered from my disciples. How many times I have requested them to take showers. I threaten them, I bark at them, but the next week, these same brilliant soldiers fail to take a shower even before meditation, not to speak of before they cook for us."
"Master," said an older man, well-known for his exotic food, "some of us are clean and tidy, yet you still don't eat our food. Why is this?"
The Master replied, "Even if someone is clean and tidy, his consciousness may be very low, and his vibrations enter into the food. Every thought, as well as the wrong forces that enter into the disciple, enter the food. I see this immediately, so I don't eat."
"But Master," said a disciple, "you said you still suffer sometimes. Why do you eat that food, then?"
"Sometimes just to please a disciple I eat his food, and then I suffer. And even if the inner consciousness of the food is good, sometimes I still suffer when I eat it, because I will gain five pounds and then suffer for the next two weeks trying to lose weight. But if I don't eat his food, the disciple will be sad, depressed. He will say, 'Oh, the Master does not care for me!' So I eat the food to please the disciple."
Another disciple quietly asked, "Master, what do you do for food when you travel?"
"If and when I must stop at a restaurant while travelling, I either put my fingers here on my forehead, or I put a great concentrative force on my system. Also, I know that whoever is cooking is not cooking for me as if I were a guest of honour."
"Master, because we cook for you as if you were a guest of honour, does it make any difference when you go to eat the food?" asked a woman sitting in the front row.
"Here at my ashram," said the Master, "there is tremendous inner competitive spirit. Everyone wants to surpass all the previous cooks. Everyone wants more appreciation and admiration than others got from the disciples and from me. When you are cooking, you often think of the disciples who are creating problems for you. All your frustration, anger, jealousy and accusations come forward and enter into the food. Although the cook in the restaurant may have his own personal problems, he is not bringing them consciously to the fore. I am not involved in his life, so he is not killing me inwardly as he is cooking for me."
"Since our accusations and frustrations are not directed at you, Master, how is it that we are killing you inwardly?" enquired one of the disciples.
"For everything I am the culprit," said the Master. "You blame me for all your problems; your central thought is always on me. The thought will come to you that I smiled at somebody else yesterday with such a beautiful smile, whereas I didn't even look at you. You will think that so-and-so received so much affection from me, or that I spent more time talking to someone else than I did to you. You think of these kinds of incidents while you are cooking. Your mind wants to give you this kind of inner experience, and then all your aspiration drops."
"Even if our food tastes delicious to others, you cannot eat it?" asked the same disciple.
"Even if the food is most delicious, if your consciousness has dropped, then for me the food is inedible. Everybody will appreciate your food, but it will not be the same for me. With some disciples, the moment they bring the food to me, I lose all hunger. Sometimes when cooking they are in a good consciousness, but at the dining hall many wrong forces enter into them, and again I can't eat their food. I have suffered so much from the disciples' food."
One of the Master's close disciples gave a sigh and said, "Master, will we always have to worry about wrong vibrations in the food we serve you?"
The Master answered, "The person who has cooked may be very bad, but if your own love and devotion-power fights against the wrong forces and the impurity in the food while you are serving it to me, the wrong forces can be nullified. This is the victory of your love and devotion. In the case of one great Master, his dearest disciple used to taste the Master's food before he would give it to him. He would take a bite out of a piece of fruit to make sure it was all right before giving it to his Master. In this case, it was an act of extreme devotion. But most people do not have that kind of devotion. While cooking, they put their fingers into the food so they can taste it, but this is not an act of devotion. Not only do they do that, but they even taste their food with the same spoon time after time without washing the spoon even once. This is really unthinkable carelessness and disrespect. Devotion is necessary. All love, all devotion, should be in the food that is prepared."
Now was Kaugal's chance to ask a question. "But Master, cooking the evening meal takes so many hours. How can we maintain such a high consciousness for the entire time?"
The Master answered, "Why don't you sing the songs that you have learned here at the ashram? If you sing soulfully, how can wrong forces enter into you? In this way, you can concentrate on keeping your consciousness very high and one-pointed. Of course, you have to sing with conscious devotion. If you sing mechanically while still cherishing wrong forces, it will be useless. In some ashrams they chant the Gita for hours and hours, or they repeat some spiritual mantras to gain realisation. They are able to raise their consciousness and sustain that height for hours. Other seekers do it, and you can also do the same."
One of the youngest disciples leaned forward from the corner and said, "But Master, my mother is unaspiring and I eat her food all the time without it bothering me!"
The Master gave a broad smile and said, "If you have a blood relationship with someone who cooks, if the person is a member of your family such as your mother or sister, and if you have a close connection of consciousness with that person, you will not be affected. Even if your mother or sister did not take a shower and observe strict rules of cleanliness, because of your closest connection with their lives, you will not be affected. Your consciousness is not affected because your consciousness is inseparable with your mother's or your sister's. But if the same things are done by somebody else with whom you do not have a close connection, or who is not a blood relative, then you will be affected."
Again Kaugal asked, "Since no blood relative cooks here, are disciples also affected by the food they eat at the ashram?"
"I think that my consciousness is a little higher, at least one centimetre higher than my disciples' consciousness. I can perceive all these forces, but the disciples will not be affected in any way. If the disciple were very, very high, and if the one who had cooked the food had a very low consciousness, then the first disciple would be affected by the food. But, there is not such a yawning gulf between the levels of consciousness of different disciples. It is not that someone is on the top of the Himalayas and someone else is at the bottom of the ocean. But it may happen that during a meditation someone has raised his consciousness very high, unusually high. Then, if he has to eat this food, he may be affected. Usually, though, it does not happen like that at our meditations."
One of the newer disciples asked, "What about those who simply don't cook well?"
"If the disciple is a bad cook, that is a different problem. One thing is consciousness; another thing is the actual preparation of the food. Being a good cook or a bad cook has nothing to do with a person's consciousness. If he uses too much chilli powder and you eat it, your stomach and mouth will burn and you will suffer on the physical plane. But this does not mean that his consciousness was not good while he was cooking. It is a different matter altogether."
Again, the new disciple wanted to know, "Does each ingredient have its own consciousness?"
"Each spice has its own consciousness, but only the individual can decide what he should eat. I can probably eat more spicy food. Good or bad, I can eat it because that is what I am used to. But I will never tell you to eat chilli because it will purify your consciousness. No, it will only burn your tongue. I will never say eat honey or eat garlic. It is up to you to decide what you should eat. Each individual is the best judge of what food will be good for him. Each food or spice has its own qualities, but we cannot make a comparison between two spices or two kinds of things and say which is better for everyone.
"Here in our spiritual family we have a disciple — I won't say whether it is a he or she. Let us say soul, since the soul is neither masculine or feminine. That particular soul has cooked many times, but the Supreme in me has never, never allowed me to eat food prepared by that soul. Outwardly you will not know who the person is. I smile at that person, talk to that person. The soul may be excellent in many things; the soul may have many talents. It may be clean and tidy and the food may taste simply excellent. But because of the consciousness, I am not allowed to eat food prepared by this particular soul. My consciousness simply does not respond to the consciousness of that disciple. It is all a matter of consciousness. Consciousness is the most important factor in the preparation of food for a spiritual Master."
September 17 ,1974