For a few years, from 1971 to 1974, I had the blessing to serve as Yogiji’s personal cook at Guru Ram Das Ashram in Los Angeles. This is a short story of an encounter with him one morning while preparing his breakfast.
Reaching blindly into the lower right drawer of the refrigerator, my hand seeks a few oranges to make Yogiji’s morning juice. One of my fingers easily presses into an unexpected fuzzy, soft spot. “O God, Ewwwww!” Pulling the drawer all the way out, I see the culprit: a Valencia orange with a moldy patch. I pluck it from the others to quickly discard it.
Yogiji happens to be passing through the kitchen and notes both my grimace and the orange soon to meet its fate in the garbage bin. He says, “There is nothing wrong with this orange. Give me a knife.” I quickly locate a sharp paring knife and hand it to Yogiji. Holding the orange in his left hand, as though it were something precious, he deftly trims away the bad spot. I marvel at his precision and grace in accomplishing what to many would be a mindless task. Even so, I wonder why he is making all this effort to save a moldy orange, when we have so many good ones in the fridge.
Within a few moments he completes his surgery on the lucky fruit and states with satisfaction, “It is perfect!” He continues to peel the remaining orange, breaks it into wedges, and serves each of us a piece (a few of his staff members have gathered in the kitchen to see what he is up to), popping the last into his own mouth. “Greeaat!” says the Yogi, and we agree. The orange, that I had been so quick to judge as rotten, had a special sweetness and destiny, recognized only by the master.