Kali In the kitchen

13 August 2001, Amritapuri

There was an eager crowd waiting for Mother after bhajans; that’s when She feeds and plays with Ram. But Ram was not to be seen. When Mother came, instead of walking to Her room, She took a left turn and strode into the big, new “industrial” kitchen.

It was time for one of Amma’s famous inspections.

First Mother examined big buckets of peeled vegetables, and was quick to point out that much more than the skin had been peeled off. She said that this was such a waste.

Next came the rice-serving vessels. Mother ran Her hand along the inside of an emptied pot, collecting grains of rice that had stuck there. “Don’t wash a vessel after you empty it,” She said. “Wash your hand! Then scrape the inside of the pot with your hand, collecting all the grains of rice. Only then should you wash the pot.” Showing the rice She had collected from this one container, Mother pointed out that from ten or twelve serving vessels, we could collect enough rice to feed one person. That may not seem like much, but when you are cooking for thousands of people every day, the vessels and their otherwise wasted grains of rice mount up.

Amma then picked up a huge ladle, and pretended to beat the brahmachari in charge of serving the rice. Everyone laughed except one visitor who had never seen Amma disciplining the brahmacharis before. He looked a bit taken aback to see the Mother of Compassion in this role! Smiling apologetically at his consternation, Mother reassured him, “I’m sorry, but I can’t help it when I see so many poor and hungry people. How can we preach when we waste?”

Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, who travelled to Chicago as a spokeswoman for the Sanatana Dharma at the Parliament of World Religions in 1993, and who flew to New York to address the Millennium World Peace Summit of World Religious Leaders at the United Nations in 2000, stood in Her ashram’s kitchen in 2001 to impress upon the ashramites the necessity of being attentive to even the humblest of tasks. “Shraddha* in all that we do; that is what is needed,” Amma urged.

Everyday, Amma meets, listens to, holds and comforts people who suffer. Standing there in the kitchen, She shared this insight: there are people without jobs and money. They borrow money to come to the ashram from their homes in far away places like Tanur or Talassery. With so little money, they will eat only once in their two days here. They’ll have no proper place to stay and will just lie in a corner somewhere to sleep. This they will endure, just to have Amma’s darshan for two days.

However, it is not uncommon to see Amma instruct a brahmachari/brahmacharini during darshan to ensure that a devotee gets enough food and proper accommodation.

“Don’t think that Amma is a miser,” She explained. “It’s just that Amma has seen enough poverty. So She feels bad seeing so much food wasted here. Our lives are for the world. We should be of some use to the world.”

If Mother’s lessons about shraddha and not wasting food are taken to heart, then from the estimated hundred and fifteen rice-serving vessels filled every day, at least 10 more people can be served food.

Imagine you were hungry, and one of those ten, you’ll understand why Amma, even when disciplining the brahmacharis in the kitchen, is still the Mother of Compassion.

* Shraddha has many meanings; here it refers to carefulness, concentrated effort, intentional action.