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Radha of the Gorgeous (and Organic) “Radha’s Kitchen”

Interviewed by Susan Lutz,
ATH Co-Editor of Organic Living

Editor’s Note from Susan Lutz: A community bonding in the path of spirituality and the work of transformation and feeding it’s soul with enlightment would be missing a step if it fed it’s body with conventional food. Sat Yoga in Costa Rica is a wisdom and retreat center that offers a chance to open up the possibilities of one’s own journey. Organic, delicious, and gorgeous food sets the table at the Institute and Radha heads the kitchen along with a tantalizing selection of cooking classes so the wisdom can truly be taken home.

Susan Lutz: An organic lifestyle is a big undertaking, not only does it include food, which we’ll talk about about later, but you are a teacher at the Sat Yoga Institute. What is this teaching about?

Radha: The Institute is a school of human transformation. Shunyamurti, the director and founder of Sat Yoga, began a practice of what he called Transformational Healing several decades ago. It is the union of meditation with a theoretical understanding of the human ego structure and its dynamics and a process of inner work, including self-inquiry, dreamwork, energy transmission, and classical yogic practices to attain purification of the soul. The Sat Yoga Approach enables people to accelerate their spiritual development and center their awareness in Sat, the Ground of our Being. That way, we can easily attain inner silence, serenity, empowerment, illumination, and bliss.

We offer post-graduate level training to those who feel called to become catalysts for the healing and transformation of others. This field Shunyamurti has named Atmanology, after the Atman that is the individualized manifestation of Brahman, the Absolute, as it is known in Indian philosophy.

Besides being a school, Sat Yoga is a community of like-minded souls. And we are growing into a sangha, a deeply committed family of yogis, who are participating in the great work of transforming human consciousness. Our next step is the creation of a rural ashram, or spiritual residential retreat center, which is now underway.

Susan: Cooking organically seems to be an important part of the process. Why?

Radha: As spiritual warriors, we “battle” on many fronts. The ancient yogis, the first scientists of consciousness, discovered we each have seven bodies, not just one. We must purify each body in order to enable the flow of the divine energies to move through us. It is this flow of divine power that produces peace and stability in our life.

The first body we must purify is what is called the food body, or the anna-maya-kosha. Anna means food in Sanskrit. This refers to our physical organism. Every organism is subjected today to an onslaught of contamination from many sources‹including air pollution; electromagnetic fields; negative human energies; and of course, the use of genetically modified plants, pesticides, and hormones in our food sources.

Usually one will start to care more deeply about the purity of one’s food intake when one begins to purify the mental body, the manomayakosha, which is the Sanskrit name for our third body. Mano comes from manas, which means mind. A purified mind will support a healthy flow of the bio-electromagnetic energies, the prana, through our second body, the pranamayakosha. The pranic body is the link between the mind and the organism. Mental blockages will create pranic blockages. This is how psychosomatic illnesses get established. When all three of the lower bodies are cleansed of impurities, the energy flows from the higher three bodies, which are the wisdom body, the light body, and the transmigratory body, the subtle energies that connect one lifetime to the next. The seventh body is the universe as a whole, which is the body of the God-Self.

The act of eating and cooking organic vegetarian food is also in vibrational solidarity with the act of producing food in sustainable ways that reflect a deep respect for the Earth. We must all come to the recognition that the value of food and everything else on this planet is that it is a sacred reflection of the beauty of the Supreme Being. To eat processed food, canned food, food made from genetically modified seeds, or food that comes off the capitalist mono-crop assembly line, means eating very negative energy forms, including taking in the selfish motives behind the production of such unnatural kinds of nutrition.

Because we love life, and our sacred Mother Earth, and God, the Source of our Being, we want to support these values with sattvic (pure) food intake. Organic food, grown with love, is sacred food.

One of our most important projects now is growing our own organic food on our ashram land. We are creating a spiritual community and retreat center in the mountains of southern Costa Rica to put our principles into even deeper practice.

Susan: On the journey to a more whole life, organic food and cooking always seems to go hand-in-hand with the process. What would happen, in your opinion, if that was missing?

Radha: Cooking is at the heart of human life. Heart, as we know, is the root word in hearth, and the hearth for thousands of years was the center of culture, it was the core of love around which society was built. At such a heart wasb the Woman, who cooked food for the extended family that offered them physical and spiritual sustenance. Around this heart(h), society prospered, nourished by the selfless giving of Woman in a high spiritual state, who was surrendered to her role as bearer of love. Men’s role traditionally was to protect and defend this hearth, to honor it and to create a social structure around it, to formulate law to protect love, and in this way in the ancient world man and woman were united in the singular task of raising the consciousness of every generation to the highest levels. Love and law sprung out of the most basic of acts, eating food, and was ultimately a symbol of eating God, becoming God through the sacred ritual of eating Her and becoming one with Her.

Nowadays, society no longer operates on a traditional paradigm, and men’s and women’s roles are no longer delineated in any clear fashion. Anyone can cook now, and sustain the fire at the center of life’s activities, provided they have purified their ego of its narcissism and greed, and they can offer food as pure gift. This is what holds a spiritual community together.

Susan: Your dishes are beyond gorgeous, and the taste! I have sampled the dishes and admit to a bit of cooking “jealousy” as to how it comes together. What can we do at home to become more organic and whole in our life?

Radha: There is a difficult problem in modern life we are so stressed, we have so much on our minds, that we are no longer able to think clearly or deeply; we do not like thinking things out. We do not have the time or the energy. I hear this a lot, and in my cooking classes, the first thing I tell people is, you have to think about the food you are going to cook. You have to have a plan. Everything in this world comes out of Mind, the Mind of the Creator, and our own minds are made in the same divine image, and so mindfulness and mental preparation must precede our culinary creations.

When you make effort in the direction of purification, and in this case the purification of what is put into your body, you feel immediate effects. There is an ecstatic feeling even in just buying vegetables, or making a salad. (Another complaint I hear a lot is, “I just don’t have time to cut vegetables.”) The act of mindful choice is a powerful part of cooking, and one should choose each vegetable, fruit, and other food item that goes into your kitchen with utter devotion. I sometimes kiss the vegetables I buy! I see them as sentient beings and I thank them for their existence,and for sacrificing their existence for my own and that of my community.

Sacrificing a bit of one’s busy schedule to think about the food you put into your body, which is the core activity in ancient cultures (besides meditation and worship) is the first level of teaching on wholeness. How can you rush and fret and put junk into your organism and not feel in conflict with yourself afterward?

My main recommendation is to make your kitchen a temple. Enjoy buying your food as a sacred act of worship. Sit and think about what you will cook for the week.

On the weekend, cook a few special things that will help meals come together in a gorgeous way during the week–some homemade sundried tomatoes, lemon confit, an olive tapenade, a great round of bread. This may require overcoming some resistance to being in the kitchen, as women have been taught that we should be “liberated” from the kitchen. But if you make cooking your art, or one of your arts, you will find yourself flourishing in the act of cooking, and you will be amazed at the beauty of color and taste that emerges when you focus your mind deeply on your meals as a sacred artistic creation that sustains the life of your family and other loved ones.

Susan: Why does every ashram need a vegetarian kitchen and why, as you stated, should every kitchen be an “ashram, a place of serenity, joy, and gratitude, and sharing?”

Radha: Yogis are committed to the principle of ahimsa, or non-violence. It is the most basic of vows taken by serious disciples of the yogic path. It is most important that we cook in a state of serenity, gratitude, and love, simply because our mental and emotional vibrations enter the food we are cooking. Good vibrations are healing. Bad vibrations, negative thoughts and feelings, will hurt those for whom we are preparing the meal. You should never cook in a state of anger, or frustration, or worry. Yogis meditate before entering the kitchen and while cooking. If negative emotions or thoughts arise, we should leave the kitchen, take a breather, and return to a state of serenity and joy, and only then continue.

Serenity, joy, gratitude and sharing are core values of a healthy human life. The kitchen is the first place they are fostered. You are what you eat–and most of us eat too much aggression in the day, from angry restaurant cooks, to our own thoughts while we chew. All aspects of life must be aligned with our highest values, the kitchen as well. This is why an ashram is so important, it is one of the few places of refuge where we can create such an environment–every space,internal and external, is infused with divine energy emanating from our spiritual values, which in turn derive from our realization of oneness with God. Human transformation won’t occurif we do not take the quest for God-realization seriously. So living in aspiritual community is a great help. But no matter where we live, we must constantly remind ourselves of the great task at hand–to transform ourselves into avatars, manifestations of the Supreme Consciousness.

Animals are also sacred beings. There is no need, biologically speaking, for us to eat them. We were designed as plant eaters, and we recognize the animals of this planet as friends, not food. The non-violence vow extends to the non-killing of animals. Nowadays, the treatment of animals in factory farms is so horrifying and tortuous, and their bodies are poisoned throughout their short lives for human consumption, that we would also be poisoning our own bodies by eating them. For these reasons, yogis are naturally vegetarian, when possible.

Susan: Your name is so interesting. Can you explain it’s meaning?

Radha: Radha is the consort of Krishna, who is an incarnation of God in Vedic mythology. They are the equivalents of Mary Magdalene and Jesus in gnostic Christianity.

Symbolically, Radha represents total spiritual devotion to God, and it is through her that others reach Krishna, meaning it is through one’s spiritual devotion that one reaches God and transmits the radiance of the Divine Presence to others.

Radha is also considered the embodiment of maha bhava, the ultimate stage of divine love. Radha is the symbolic fountainhead of all other forms of the goddess archetype. She is the power of love. This is the greatest of all powers. The refinement of spiritual consciousness through the practice of yoga moves one increasingly toward the Source of divine love. One gradually loses interest in anything other than the blissful energy of pure love. Radha is considered the symbol of the one who is fully immersed in this ecstatic love, and who bestows this ecstasy, of which she is the epitome and pinnacle. Without her grace,it is said, one cannot achieve the spiritual perfection of the supreme love.

Susan: What brought you to Costa Rica and to Sat Yoga?

Radha: Shunyamurti had a vision that it was time to find a peaceful corner in the world that would survive the future upheavals we are now facing with climate change, global social upheavals, and the general apocalyptic nature of the times. He was drawn to the extraordinary biodiversity in Costa Rica, the principled rejection of a military establishment, and the gathering of creative spiritual individuals from around the world, that is making of Costa Rica a powerful center of cultural renaissance. We came here together in 2002. Sat Yoga was born out of Shunyamurti’s vision as to how the planet is entering a vortex that will open up unlimited potential for human transformation, and he developed an approach to Self-realization based on an integration of classical and contemporary wisdom traditions. Our community is growing beautifully, attracting extraordinary beings who are on the path to attaining true liberation in life.

What is most wonderful is that we are touching so many people from so many walks of life, and we are meeting and becoming friends with so many wonderful Costa Rican people and so many who come here from around the world, some specifically to attend our retreats. Life is very full and rich. And our school offers a full schedule of amazing events, including film nights and physical yoga classes, singing classes, creative writing, pranic healing circles, book groups, permaculture study and practice, and a variety of courses on topics ranging from psychoanalysis to quantum physics, from child raising to approaching death, from cosmology and the nature of time to the secrets of prehistory, from the significance of synchronicity to the enigma of ufos and extraterrestrials, from out-of-body experiences and paranormal phenomena to the history of art and of course, our cooking classes.

Susan: For all those with the “busy” life we’ve woven into our society today, how can we incorporate your teachings into the day to day activities of breakfast, school lunches, and dinner?

Radha: We always begin the day with meditation–this will prepare you not only so that you can remain calm throughout a hectic day, but will help give you the clarity to know exactly what you are going to cook for each meal. This peace of mind arising from meditation generates creative ideas, and when the vision is clear, the accurate action follows. Nothing is difficult if you know what you want to do– you simply do it. I find this all the time. I have time for silent meditation and then a time when I allow thoughts to arise‹and usually they are food thoughts! Then, when I know what I am goingto cook, and how I am going to do it, I get excited about it. Then the heart energy, love for life, and innate happiness flows through me. Each meal becomes a thrill of joy, and I can’t wait to make the next one.

I start with basics. What do I want to have ready for breakfasts this week, if I am not eating fruit? One week it is brown basmati rice that sings to my heart–I make a huge batch. Then I think of one or two other things that are my heart’s desire at the moment, and those become the treats or highlights of what will be cooked and offered.

Once you are living in a transformational context, every moment is a remembrance of who you truly are and why you are doing things, so that the joy in knowing you want tomatoes for lunch, for example, is the same joy as not being in inner conflict with yourself or with life.

One of the ways we have made life simpler in Sat Yoga is we usually don’t eat dinner. This is very common among yogis–to have two meals a day. At most, one eats soups for dinner. Children can come to love this too–a bowl of creamy soup with bread, cheese, fruits,and nuts. And we begin the day with fruit. So the only real meal one is cooking is lunch, and you can put your heart and soul into it, without the drudgery of thinking, “Oh, I have to make two more meals as well.” If you live in northern countries, dinner can still be the main meal, although it is better to eat heavy at midday when digestion is the strongest. These themes of fruit for first meal, vegetarian spread at lunch, and soup for dinner, have made life very easy!

Susan: Along with the mechanics of putting together a more organic table and palate, how do we inject the consciousness of love into cooking and preparing food?

Radha: This question has a simple answer and a more involved one. On one level, I have mentioned already the importance of taking time to think about your meals, planning them and giving them adequate preparation time. This translates into putting care into them, as one does with anything or anyone one loves. If you care about the food you put in your body, you will take the time to devote your mental energy to it. On another level, since we all possess an unconscious mind that will occasionally try to interfere with our vibrational equanimity, the sure-fire way of cooking in a state of love is to truly live in a spiritual context and be involved in an ongoing process of inner transformation! People come to my cooking classes thinking we will move slowly and cook in silence, and they are often the opposite, reflecting more the extreme busy-ness of a real kitchen! The preparatory work in developing a calm and loving mind is the key to operating in busy kitchen life. Then, whenever you enter the kitchen, you can go into “the zone,” the zen, of cooking effortlessly.

Susan: What do you see happening next in the development of Sat Yoga and the teachings you offer?

Radha: Our next phase is already beginning to flower in the establishment of our ashram, the spiritual retreat center and eco-village we are creating in the mountains above Perez Zeledon. This will be the next chapter of our unfolding vision–to create a transformational community based on compassion, commitment to a beautiful and simple yogic lifestyle, deep understanding of the laws of psycho-spiritual development and the eternal quest we all have in our hearts for the attainment of liberation, grace, and fulfillment.

Our community will offer a variety of lifestyles, from tent camps for volunteers to deluxe retreat cabins, from a family-centered eco-village ambience to the more ascetic life for those who feel called to live in true monastic or eremitic conditions. But for all, we offer the chance to live an authentic life dedicated to Self-understanding, freedom from the chains of the ego mind, with plenty of time for meditation, gardening, planting trees, walking in Nature, bathing in the river, gazing at the waterfalls, engaging in deep spiritual conversations, and participating in a vibrant culture of all the arts and artisan workshops that are possible. In such a life, where there is time for both leisure and self-discipline, spontaneity and sublimation, from this balance, the middle way, will come the flowering of the soul. In all our activities, in which we express our exultation in living fully human life–growing food, making music, sharing spiritual wisdom, raising children, reading great books, eating food grown and cooked with love, building many of our own homes, implements of work, and objects of beauty‹we find the fullness of pure existence in ever-present silent gratitude for all that is.

We hope our ashram will be a model community and part of the growing network of spiritual communities springing up in Costa Rica and around the world. We hope to be able to offer refuge and refreshment to souls thirsting for a more meaningful life. We will invite people to come for retreats, and to join us permanently, if they feel called to do so. People can come for a weekend break from the whirlwind of urban life. Those who are sick can come for physical and spiritual healing, we will offer fasting retreats, pranic healing retreats, and offer other modalities of healing as well. Those who need to talk to someone with wisdom who can help them gain clarity will find help here. Some will simply want to bathe in an atmosphere of divine love.

Shunyamurti is continuing to write books and to teach and offer personal guidance. The further development of Sat Yoga will be disseminated through their publication, and through our website, as his writings and talks are wonderful sources of wisdom for all who are seeking a true path to God. I will continue to study the higher knowledge, and have begun to offer individual transformational sessions as well, under Shunyamurti’s supervision. It is very moving, challenging, and transforming to do such work. But I will also continue to develop my art of cooking, and to offer culinary retreats at the ashram for those seeking a spiritual approach to cooking.

One Comment

  1. Purusha
    Posted 18 Jun ’11 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful article! I appreciated your ability to integrate your spiritual practice, values, and knowledge into the day-to-day practice of cooking and living.

    Namaste

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