“Halt!” My (Paramhansa Yogananda) 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.”
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.”