There is bliss in service. That bliss is demonstrated by those in the devotional realm of bhakti. One person, whom I snuck up on, who characterizes this joyful practice, was a person in the kitchen of our ashram. Uttamananda is a kind soul — and a kind soul is usually a happy one — and in the early hour of 6 a.m. he was immersed in pot washing. That’s how I was able to get in from behind him. The pot sinks are against the wall, so anyone who has that designated role of pot washing has a wall in front of him. In front of that wall is a stack of pots, bowls and an assortment of cooking utensils. That stack diminishes in size as you tackle the darlings.
For the one who faces that stack of bliss (if you have the right attitude), as you embark on the task it becomes an act of exhilaration. It is like looking at a gorgeous mountain, snow-capped and all. For mountain climbers it becomes an act of ecstasy, a rush, even just thinking about ascending it. For the kitchen optimist it becomes an anticipation of releasing karma, and getting clean. As you scour away at the foodstuff stuck to the base and walls of a pot, both inside and outside, you can really feel good. The heart can savor in the cleanliness of it all. Such a feeling is genuine and real.
When our guru’s guru welcomed new recruits to the ashram, for training in monkhood, he would direct them to the kitchen and more particularly to the pots. It was the best service for a novice.
As I approached Uttamananda from behind I caught him in a blissful mood. He was busy working away at a large Chinese wok. I asked him if he was wok-ing. He liked that.