One of my favorite sevas to do at Radha Madhav Dham is working in the ashram kitchen. Preparing meals for the Sunday community lunch prasad, or just a regular weekday meal, are important sevas that anyone can do. Even if you don’t like cooking but you still want to help out, there are plenty of tasks that go alongside the prep. Stocking the pantries and refrigerators, washing the large pots, serving food at meal times, helping keep the kitchen floors and counters clean–it takes a village to cook for a village, and a temple community is no different.
The best part about cooking at the temple, though, is the fact that what you make is offered to Radha Rani. She gets the best rotis from the griddle, the sweetest part of the yogurt, the most succulent vegetables from the subzis. The thought that you are chopping, boiling, stirring or frying, all for Her, in Her name, serving Her devotees, pervades your mind and your actions. Your cuts become neater. Your pooris form more perfect circles. It takes a few hours for the meal to cook, and the whole time, you’re thinking, “It has to be perfect, it has to be ready, it has to be the best for my Radha Rani,” but you aren’t panicking, you aren’t scared of the clock. You are immersed in Her roopdhyan, and all of this seva is turning into sadhna. It is a form of hyper awareness in seva, an acknowledgment and excitement for service.
Even if your previous kitchen seva experience has been limited to washing dishes or taking out the trash, I strongly encourage you to try cooking in Radha Madhav Dham’s kitchen one of these days. The learning curve isn’t high either. It doesn’t take much to peel a potato, set up a food processor, or stir a pot of rice. With a little practice, you’ll find yourself becoming more accomplished as a cook, more acclimated towards Indian food, and of course, more devotional.
As you know, all the sevas that need doing around the temple are important. Clearing brush from the grounds, straightening up the prayer hall after satsang, volunteering for festivals (like Diwali)–there is always more to do, always something you can be doing to help. But, it’s not daunting–it’s inspirational! It doesn’t matter if you come to the ashram morning or night, there are always seva opportunities. You can find ways to help on your time, to make the physical part of devotion a part of your daily life. The ashram life is one of service, cooking or no.
And, if you cannot come for the physical seva but really wish to help, you can choose to make a monetary contribution too. Our many charitable activities are supported through generous donations received from individuals like you.
To return to the idea of cooking with devotion, I’ll leave you with a simple recipe for Rotis.
1 tablespoon of ghee (love, sweetness)
1 cup of flour (service, hard work)
½ cup of water (humility, knowledge–start with 1/4 cup, add more as needed)
To Knead Dough:
Put flour in a bowl. Add water slowly and begin kneading the dough. Keep adding water slowly as needed. If the dough gets sticky, use ghee on your fingers to knead like a pro. Knead your dough thoroughly, and give it some time to rest.
To Roll Out Rotis:
Sprinkle a little dry flour on your work area first. Now make small balls of kneaded dough and begin rolling out small circles (or hearts or peacock feathers). Place on a hot griddle, cook evenly on both sides. Serve with a little more ghee on top and a smile on your face.