Venkappanna, Master Chef

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In Gurudev Siddha Peeth in the late 1980s, I had the great fortune of offering seva in the kitchen where Venkappanna was chef. It was so sweet to roll out chapatis with a few Indian women and a couple of children there. Venkappanna would come in and watch us with immeasurable sweetness.
 
Each evening, Venkappanna took the leftover chapatis to the calves in the cow barn. One day, a favorite wish of mine came true when I was invited to help feed the cows. I'll never forget the tender experience of feeding the Ashram's young cows, thanks to Venkappanna's permission.
 
A sense of quiet joy, sweet blessings, astute intelligence, and perhaps a touch of mischievousness emanated from him and one couldn't help but feel the heart touched by his presence. His great love for the Guru shone in his face and all of his being.
 

California, United States

In early 1993 Venkappanna visited the Siddha Yoga Meditation Center in Brisbane. A group of us went with him for a picnic in a park on the outskirts of the city. One remarkable thing about that picnic was the number of birds that came and perched on the limbs of the many gum trees in our area of the park. Every branch had a half dozen or more birds of different species just sitting adjacent to each other in stillness and quietness. I have never seen anything like it before or since.
 

Melbourne, Australia

I did not meet Venkappanna ji, but his face shines with so much love and tenderness that my eyes are moist with gratitude—as though I am meeting him now. I find myself thanking him for teaching me by example how to serve with great love, steadfastness, easefulness, and humility.
 

Versoix, Switzerland

Gurumayi once sent Venkappanna to San Diego to share his great knowledge and love of cooking. The first teaching Venkappanna gave us was one he’d learned from Baba: God is in food. When you offer food to others, you are offering God.
 
That deeply resonated with me. I recalled my earliest relationship with preparing food when I was five: standing next to my grandmother at her wood-burning stove, watching her prepare fried potatoes, listening to her explain each step, and then following her example. I still recall the joy I felt in preparing those fried potatoes for my family to share. Somehow I understood this was an offering.
 
Venkappanna first did puja to the fire, explaining the dharma of this puja. Then, after telling us, say, how Baba loved a certain sweet, he’d teach us to cook kheer. I still have and use the recipes Venkappanna gave us that day.
 
I hold that experience of Venkappanna inside. It is my guide to the dharma of preparing and offering food.
 

California, United States

I had the good fortune of spending time with Venkappanna in the kitchen, of helping him cook as he offered seva to the Guru. One highlight for me was visiting the Siddha Yoga Ashram in Oakland, where he gave a cooking class and showed us how to prepare six of Baba's favorite dishes. The combination of the delicious food, the lovely aromas, and the divine shakti of the Ashram is a heavenly memory that I will never forget.
 
Most of all, I remember Venkappanna as a great servant of the Guru. It was so clear to me that he loved offering seva. 
 

California, United States

In 1990 I had the great good fortune of offering seva with Venkappa in the Gurudev Siddha Peeth kitchen. At that time the Ashram was crowded with thousands of people, and full of activity everywhere. But in the kitchen, because of Venkappa's presence, the atmosphere was very sweet and serene.
 
He was there every day, cooking for everybody as if he were preparing his breakfast at home, undisturbed and completely centered. I never saw him agitated or angry; he was always in a great mood, full of love and sweetness. I really enjoyed his presence and energy.
 
One day he called me to the back of the kitchen. He handed me a plate, whispering, "Gurumayi's prasad—take it." I gladly accepted and relished the gift, experiencing a great rush of shakti through my whole being.
 
When my visit came to an end, I went to him to say goodbye. He didn’t say anything. He just looked at me, smiled, and kissed my hands. I feel very fortunate to have met such a great being.
 

Valencia, France