It had been a tough day in the ashram. My best friend had just been beaten to a pulp by the drunken community coordinator for farting during Arti . The house mother ''accidently'' dumped a pan of hot boiling ghee on my arm. One of the brothers was caught masturbating under his sheet. It was more than I cared to experience. Things were grim...I decide to make my break. I waited until everyone was asleep (during ''meditation.'') Creeping silently out the front door, I pulled my red nighty over my polyester suit and escaped into the night.
But where to go? suit and nighty and all... The ashram wasn't in the best location, and I had not gotten familiar with the city. After all, most of my time was spent doing service and my daytime job. I wandered around a bit. Realizing that the neighborhood had gotten worse and worse, I slowed down. People were walking around muttering to themselves. The rated X signs on the marquees kept increasing to XX, than XXX. Finally I turned around and almost collided with a drag queen who had been following me. 'Hey babe looking for a good time?' I ran past her and she called after me 'Well then what the hell are you doing wandering around the Tenderloin in a red nightgown?
Rained slicked the red nighty close to my body. The polyester was a little gamey from the exersion and the drizzle. My pockets were empty except for the three-odd bucks in change I scooped out of the donation box back at the ashram. I spin around, assessing the situation. Lights from the sign in Smitties Bar glistened in my rain speckled glasses. My unexercised mind was churning frantically. A beer! Of course, I could have a beer now!
I opened the door and walked up to the bartender. Funny, his face looked familiar, although I hadn't been in a bar in years. He looked at my wet hair. He looked at the red nighty. ''Just a second, pal' he growled, ''you can't drink in here looking and smelling like that.''
I knew I'd seen his face before, but it was the voice that did it. Smittees Bar... Smith...IT WAS DAVID SMITH!!!! AND HE WASN'T GONNA SERVE ME!!!!
It was then I realized it would be a long ways home
Suddenly I felt the earth shaking. Earthquake! In the Tenderloin, outside Smittiees Bar! And David wouldn't let him back in. The Queen was walking back toward him. As she approached she reached under the nighty. No not there! But she only grabbed his shoulder. 'Wake up! It's bad enough you are sleeping during meditation. But you were snoring. and uh, you look a little excited there brother.'
It was the housemother. A dream all along, the whole thing! And for her to see him in this state. Actually she didn't look angry about it. She had a rather different look in her eyes this night...
Red stiffened when he saw where her gaze was focused. ''I'm in BIG trouble now,'' he thought to himself.
Leaning over and placing her lips to his warm, pink ears, she said in a low, husky voice 'Is that a baragon under your sheet or are you just happy to see me?' Red's face flushed a royal crimson. 'I, uh, it, uh, well I WAS really into the word there for a while, I guess,'' he stammered.
''I know what YOU need.'' she whispered. Taking him by the hand, she pulled him to his feet. Red's knees cracked from the lotus position he had been sitting in for the last 45 minutes. '' Shhh'' she purred, ''you'll wake the other 'meditators.' ''
Silently, she led the astonished Red to the ashram kitchen... Red woke up at 4 AM the next morning. The two empty bowls that had been full of Jamocha Almond Fudge ice cream the night before were still sitting on the counter, dirty. Worse yet, there were smears of Jamocha Almond Fudge - Maharaji's favorite flavor - all over the floor on which he had slept. The housemother had disappeared, but she had apparently made a batch of homemade bread and left it for its first rising while he slept. He wondered tenderly if SHE ever got any sleep. She was probably downstairs washing the ashram brother's dirty socks and underwear right now.
He quickly washed the stained bowls, and wiped up the traces of ice cream on the floor, and hurried upstairs so he could appear to be fast asleep when he was called for early morning Arti. Although he knew he wouldn't be able to sleep now..
The next morning when they were called for Arti, Red saw Barney, one of the nine 'brothers' who he shared the room with, eyeing him curiously. In the confusion while they prepared to sing Arti, Barney whispered to him 'I saw you'. Red was horrified, but played dumb. 'Huh?', he said, trying to feign sleepiness, which wasn't hard.
Barney gave him an evil smile, 'I saw you eating that ice cream last night. Don't you know we're supposed to save that for the initiators? What kind of devotee are you?'
Red didn't say anything, but an adrenalin rush shot through his body. The best defense was a good offense. 'What were YOU doing in the kitchen, anyway?' he asked, 'Don't you know no one's allowed in there without the housemother's permission?' He was wondering what ELSE Barney had seen.
Barney turned away shamefaced, 'I was really in my mind last night and I couldn't sleep, so I went down there in search of charanamrit. I know it wasn't right.'
Red sighed. 'Charanamrit! Barney, stealing charanamrit is much worse than ice cream! No matter how good Jamocha Almond Fudge is, it doesn't come straight from the lotus feet!' He was horrified at the thought.
'I guess we both really need to surrender our evil minds to Maharajithis morning', he said to Barney. If I can, Red thought. He still wondered if Barney had seen anything else. He hoped the housemother had made her escape before Barney's ill-fated trip to the kitchen.
Red knew he should go straight down and prostrate himself before Maharaji's empty chair and beg forgiveness for breaking his vow of chastitity. Yet something in him didn't want to...
In an attempt to get away from Barney's prying eyes, Red ran down the stair so he could be one of the first premies in front of the altar to sing Arti. When he entered the room, the housemother was asleep in a deep pranam in her long, high-necked red flannel nightgown, with a pile of clean laundry beside her. She had already made the ghee, fixed the Arti candle, and put fresh flowers on the altar. He looked at her tenderly for a moment, and then remembered the words of Sri Ramakrishna about women and gold. They both tempt a man away from god-realization. He didn't want to be tempted - he wanted to be a true devotee. And what did Maharaji say about human relationships - they could never ever measure up to Maharaji's love. He looked at the huge picture of Maharaji behind the empty chair and sighed. Maharaji seemed to be sneering at him. He immediately dropped in a deep pranam and begged Maharaji's forgiveness for his transgressions of the previous night. Soon the community coordinator came downstairs and woke up the housemother so she could fix breakfast while everyone was meditating. The CC pranamed beside Red, and Red felt ashamed. He couldn't stop thinking about the night before, even though he knew he was really in his mind. The CC even gave him the Arti candle to hold, but he couldn't concentrate on the verses even though he knew them by heart. 'This can't be happening to me', he thought, 'I've been able to suppress my feelings for women for five years. Now I might end up as a householder! I'd be scorned by all the ashram premies, and I know Maharaji would never feel the same way about me again.'
He looked at Maharaji's picture, but did not get the usual feeling of bliss - he knew that Maharaji knew he had sinned against him, and sinned badly. 'What can I do to make up for this, oh Lord?', he thought, 'If you sent this woman just to tempt me, then I have failed you.' He resolved to spend the entire meditation period in prostration before the altar without falling asleep, to wear ALL his Maharaji buttons to work that day, to give satsang to all his co-workers, no matter how they scorned him, and to avoid the kitchen at all costs. Anything to get his mind off of that woman...
Lena was making scrambled tofu and toast for breakfast. She kept tripping over her long red nightgown as she tried to move around the kitchen. 'I have got to get dressed', she thought, 'The CC is going to get on my case for being immodest'. If only she hadn't fallen asleep in front of the altar. If only she had gotten more than two hours of sleep each night for the last month or so. If only Ricardo hadn't asked her sweetly if they could have homemade bread every day. If only the brothers would learn to put their dirty clothes in the laundry basket. If only someone else could come into the kitchen and help her...
She looked at the picture of Mata Ji, oh no, it was Durga Ji now, for inspiration. She was sure that Durga Ji would never feel this way. 'I wish I could be like her', Lena thought, 'But she does have a husband and servants...oh god I shouldn't think that. I am really in my mind.' She knew in her heart that Mata Ji, oh, she meant Durga Ji, would never complain like this, no matter what.
Oh and if only she hadn't asked Red to come into the kitchen last night. She hadn't got any sleep at all except for those few minutes before the altar. And she had given in to her worldly desires too - she had a lot to atone for. If only she could get a few hours more sleep, then she'd be ready to prostrate herself before Maharaji's picture and beg forgiveness. But after meditation, there was breakfast, and then fixing lunches, and then the whole house to clean, then dinner, then evening satsang, and then fixing the Arti candle again, and trying to stay awake during meditation. Then more laundry, and making bread, and trying to get a few hours sleep. 'I am really in my mind' she thought again, 'I am serving the Lord's children, and I shouldn't need any sleep at all.'
And, oh Maharaji, how could she have asked Red if he wanted some ice cream last night. And then she hugged him, too... She started to blush and feel ashamed, then felt hot and cold all over, then she saw what she thought was Divine Light, which quickly turned dark. Then Lena passed out in the middle of the kitchen floor, leaving the scrambled tofu to burn.