Heaven in a Bowl

Stirring a pot of chili, Prabu Vasan learns an unexpected lesson in what it means to feed the soul.

Prabu Vasan

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A spiritual seeker, so the story goes, wanted to know about heaven and hell. An angel offered the answers. First, the seeker was shown a room full of people gathered around a pot of food. They held spoons with handles so long that none of them could raise the food to their mouths. They were starving, and suffering terribly. This was hell. Then, another scene: same room, same people, same food. Same spoons. But here, the people fed each other. This was heaven. Bonnie Myotai Sensei, of the Fire Lotus Temple in New York City, was inspired by this story to commission a series of “Chili Sundays.” Once every month, cooks from the sangha showed off their chili-making skills, and the rest enjoyed the results after service. And in the process—just like in heaven—they fed each other. Here, one cook looks back:

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