The Great Cauliflower Robbery

Swami Sri Yukteswar

Today, March 9, 2011, marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the mahasamadhi of Swami Sri Yukteswar, the beloved guru of Paramahansa Yogananda. Mahasamadhi is the act of consciously and intentionally leaving one’s body at the time of death. One of my favorite Swami Sri Yukteswar stories from Yogananda’s spiritual classic, Autobiography of a Yogi, is excerpted below. It illustrates beautifully that even God-illumined saints enjoy a good practical joke now and then!



THE CAULIFLOWER ROBBERY

“Master, a gift for you! These six huge cauliflowers were planted with my hands; I have watched over their growth with the tender care of a mother nursing her child.” I presented the basket of vegetables with a ceremonial flourish.

“Thank you!” Sri Yukteswar’s smile was warm with appreciation. “Please keep them in your room; I shall need them tomorrow for a special dinner.”

I had just arrived in Puri to spend my college summer vacation with my guru at his seaside hermitage. Built by Master and his disciples, the cheerful little two-storied retreat fronts on the Bay of Bengal.

I awoke early the following morning, refreshed by the salty sea breezes and the charm of my surroundings. Sri Yukteswar’s melodious voice was calling; I took a look at my cherished cauliflowers and stowed them neatly under my bed.

“Come, let us go to the beach.” Master led the way; several young disciples and myself followed in a scattered group. Our guru surveyed us in mild criticism.

“When our Western brothers walk, they usually take pride in unison. Now, please march in two rows; keep rhythmic step with one another.” Sri Yukteswar watched as we obeyed; he began to sing: “Boys go to and fro, in a pretty little row.” I could not but admire the ease with which Master was able to match the brisk pace of his young students.

“Halt!” My guru’s eyes sought mine. “Did you remember to lock the back door of the hermitage?”

“I think so, sir.”

Sri Yukteswar was silent for a few minutes, a half-suppressed smile on his lips. “No, you forgot,” he said finally. “Divine contemplation must not be made an excuse for material carelessness. You have neglected your duty in safeguarding the ashram; you must be punished.”

I thought he was obscurely joking when he added: “Your six cauliflowers will soon be only five.”

We turned around at Master’s orders and marched back until we were close to the hermitage.

“Rest awhile. Mukunda, look across the compound on our left; observe the road beyond. A certain man will arrive there presently; he will be the means of your chastisement.”

Swami Sri Yukteswar and Paramahansa Yogananda in India in 1935

I concealed my vexation at these incomprehensible remarks. A peasant soon appeared on the road; he was dancing grotesquely and flinging his arms about with meaningless gestures. Almost paralyzed with curiosity, I glued my eyes on the hilarious spectacle. As the man reached a point in the road where he would vanish from our view, Sri Yukteswar said, “Now, he will return.”

The peasant at once changed his direction and made for the rear of the ashram. Crossing a sandy tract, he entered the building by the back door. I had left it unlocked, even as my guru had said. The man emerged shortly, holding one of my prized cauliflowers. He now strode along respectably, invested with the dignity of possession.

The unfolding farce, in which my role appeared to be that of bewildered victim, was not so disconcerting that I failed in indignant pursuit. I was halfway to the road when Master recalled me. He was shaking from head to foot with laughter.

“That poor crazy man has been longing for a cauliflower,” he explained between outbursts of mirth. “I thought it would be a good idea if he got one of yours, so ill-guarded!”

I dashed to my room, where I found that the thief, evidently one with a vegetable fixation, had left untouched my gold rings, watch, and money, all lying openly on the blanket. He had crawled instead under the bed where, completely hidden from casual sight, one of my cauliflowers had aroused his singlehearted desire.

I asked Sri Yukteswar that evening to explain the incident which had, I thought, a few baffling features.

My guru shook his head slowly. “You will understand it someday. Science will soon discover a few of these hidden laws.”

When the wonders of radio burst some years later on an astounded world, I remembered Master’s prediction. Age-old concepts of time and space were annihilated; no peasant’s home so narrow that London or Calcutta could not enter! The dullest intelligence enlarged before indisputable proof of one aspect of man’s omnipresence.

The “plot” of the cauliflower comedy can be best understood by a radio analogy. Sri Yukteswar was a perfect human radio. Thoughts are no more than very gentle vibrations moving in the ether. Just as a sensitized radio picks up a desired musical number out of thousands of other programs from every direction, so my guru had been able to catch the thought of the half-witted man who hankered for a cauliflower, out of the countless thoughts of broadcasting human wills in the world. {FN15-2} By his powerful will, Master was also a human broadcasting station, and had successfully directed the peasant to reverse his steps and go to a certain room for a single cauliflower.



PARAMAHANSA YOGANANDA AND SWAMI SRI YUKTESWAR






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