Monday Morning Greetings 2018 #51 – The Supreme Personality of Rice

December 17th, 2018

If you look at my astrological chart, you will see that my Venus is debilitated. I joke sometimes that even if you buy me a new set of silk clothes, as soon as I put them on I will walk out the door and somehow my pocket will get caught in the doorknob and my fine clothes will be torn. I don’t know much about astrology, but I know that, among other things, Venus rules very fine things. It’s just not my karma to procure, possess, or be surrounded by fine things. I surmise that’s a good thing in general for a sannyāsi, for if one overly makes demands on the environment for fine things it would be difficult for one to remain an honest renunciate. Now on to the “Supreme Personality of Rice”.


Narma Sakhi from Iran invited me to lunch and the rice preparation was so fine it was almost like I had never had rice before. The imported Iranian rice itself was so fragrant that just keeping it in the room, even before cooking it, seemed almost like lighting incense. It was perfectly cooked and mixed with finely sliced almonds and pistachios, raisin sized pieces of fried paneer, and bright saffron. It was all of the finest quality ingredients and the taste was simultaneously incredibly rich and subtle with flavors. What to speak of the walnut/pomegranate sauce served on top! It was so ambrosial that after the meal I joked that I just had the supreme personality of rice.[1]



I am by no means a connoisseur of food, but boy was that rice good! And how much I enjoyed not just the taste, but also the aesthetic of it. It was so fine and perfect in every way, from the texture and color to the fragrance and taste. So here is the question: Is it good or bad to like fine things? Or perhaps a better question would be what is the role of fine things in society? First, we need a definition of culture to give us a foundation to understand the proper role of fine things in life. Here’s one that I particularly like:


Culture is the deliberate organization of society for the purpose of creating impressions in the consciousness to help one learn, communicate, and relate better.[2]


The key point here in the definition to help us understand fine things is the aspect of helping one relate better. Fine things are an essential part of exchanging love or relating better with others because love means offering the best to one’s beloved. A proper culture therefore evolves fine music, art, and so on, as well as fine cuisine in order to, among other reasons, enhance the expression of affection for others, including one’s devotion to God.


Another aspect of the necessity of fine things is the effect fine things can have on elevating the consciousness to transcendence. Things like art, music, or even great natural beauty elevate the consciousness by impassioning one with an undeniable feeling of meaning and truth in life, whether one believes in God or is secular. Leonard Bernstein, the great American conductor and composer, expressed this concept beautifully in relation to hearing properly composed music, but it can be applied to all finely created things:


Beethoven turned out pieces of breath-taking rightness. There is something that checks throughout, that follows its own law consistently: something we can trust, that will never let us down.


Also, in relation to music, in The Republic Plato discusses how good music puts order in a child’s soul by training the child to have proper emotions even before he or she can intellectually understand them. He thus speaks of quality music as educating “through habits, by imparting by the melody a certain harmony of spirit that is not science, and by rhythm, measure and grace” and affirms its instrumental educational role “because more than anything else rhythm and harmony find their way into the inmost soul and take strongest hold upon it.”


Śrīla Prabhupāda makes the same point not just about music, but the effect of fine things in general in his commentary on verse 1.11.12 in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam where the beauty of Krishna’s city of Dvārakā is described. There he comments how “beautiful gardens, parks and reservoirs of water with ducks and swans playing in the midst of lotus flowers […] are essential for developing the finer tissues of the human body.” In contrast he described how congested, run down industrial cities “deteriorate the finer sentiments of the human being and society to form a dungeon of demons.”


Of note here is that the fine things of culture are never just limited to those of economic status. It was the duty of the government to provide an environment of fine architecture and nature, and the duty of those with money to especially construct beautiful temples and churches to soothe and elevate the consciousness of all the citizens, regardless of caste or creed. Of course, deep poverty can ruin all good qualities, and the government needs to assure a minimum sense of decency. If people have even a simple standard of living, they can keep their immediate environment and behavior fine and clean in order to deepen their spirituality, from how they keep their home to the music they listen to and so on.


Back to our original question: Should one in spiritual life dedicated to simple living surround oneself with fine things? Like all enjoyment in life, the value of fine things, as described above, is determined by how it is used. In other words, fine things, like most things in life, when applied appropriately and according to one’s nature and ashram, can help purify the consciousness. But when they are used ostentatiously or indulgently they can degrade it.


It should be noted that one in bhakti-yoga who has a propensity for fine things and has the means to procure them can become absorbed in deity worship where, according to one’s means, one can procure the best for Krishna. And by offering them to Krishna we can see, smell, and taste the finest things, not in the consciousness of selfish enjoyment, but in devotion. One can also exchange lovely gifts and finely cooked prasādam with the devotees to enhance the culture of loving exchanges so necessary in opening the heart for bhakti.


Certainly, as a renunciate I should cultivate detachment to anything not directly used in Krishna’s service, and not seek fine tastes and food, but boy was the supreme personality of rice good!



[1] Morassa Pulao (Nuts Rice)

Serves 6


  • Rice, 6 cups
  • Oil, 8 tablespoons
  • Water, 10 cups
  • Salt, 6 teaspoons
  • Powdered saffron, 1 tablespoon
  • Curd cheese (paneer), chopped into 1 cm cubes, 2 cups
  • Chopped pistachios, 1 cup
  • Chopped almonds, 1 cup
  • Barberries (washed and drained), 1 cup
  • Cooking raisins (washed and drained), 1 cup



  1. Wash and drain the rice.
  2. Heat 4 tablespoons. of oil over medium heat in a large pan and fry the rice for two minutes. Then add the water and salt and bring to a boil. Place the lid on the pan and simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes.
  3. Add a little hot water to the powdered saffron in a small bowl
  4. Heat the rest of the oil in a pan and slightly fry the curd cheese. Fry the chopped pistachios and almonds together with the barberries and raisins for 5 minutes and add the saffron to the mix. Mix all the ingredients with the rice and let it cook for further 10 minutes.


[2] I remember reading this definition of culture, but offhand don’t remember where it came from.


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