Surpanaka

One fine morning I got a surprising message to report to the head office of the ashram. Remember that at the time I was a lecturer in the Sathya Sai Institute and, in fact, I was the only Westerner there. Swami also had told me to do study circles for the residents in the ashram and for the staff and students at the University. And then I also gave talks to the Westerners who visited the ashram. So, there were many opportunities to slip up and make a mistake. But in this particular incident even the mistake was missing. I had done nothing.

      Anyway, I went down to the office, it was just before morning darshan, and waited for the manager of the office to arrive. He was coming straight from Swami, since they have breakfast together. He walked up to me and said, "Pack up your things and leave. You have to be out of here by noon!" I said, "Out of here, what do you mean?" He replied "You are being told to go. You've got to go." Now this is after I've been there three years. I asked "What is this all about?" but he replied "I've been instructed not to tell you." So I returned to my flat and said inwardly "Swami, what have I done? I don't understand it. I have to leave and my whole life is here. Where can I go? This is where I am. Where else can I be?"

      At that time I had an extensive library of over 500 books. I began packing and choosing a few favorite books to take with me. I picked up a book of Shankara's poems, opened it and read 'Mother how could you be so cruel to your only son, you're my Mother and how can you not love your son?' Somehow I knew that it was no accident I found this poem.

      Just then a message came to go and see Dr. Gokak, who at that time was the vice-chancellor of the University, and who was also my boss. He told me that Swami was very unhappy with me and I had to leave. I said "What is this all about, Dr. Gokak?" He replied that he had been told not to tell me, but that Swami was unhappy with something that I had said at a public meeting.

      I returned to my flat and continued with my packing when Professor Kasturi called for me. Now Kasturi and I are like father and son. I have spent much time with him. He said "Drucker, you've done it!" I said, "What is it that I am supposed to have done?" He replied "Swami says that you were cracking dirty jokes in your talk to the foreigners." I said, "That's just not possible, Kasturiji, that's totally incorrect." Kasturi said that Swami had received a letter from a German lady who had reported this fact to him. He also said that he (Kasturi) had received a letter from the same German lady asking for an introduction to me, suggesting that somehow I had disappointed her, and she concocted this story, as a way of getting even. Well, I had no idea who this lady was, and certainly didn't have any interaction with her to justify any feelings she might harbor of being jilted. But whether if was true or not, it was out there, and suddenly my whole life was being upended because of it.

      So I went off for my last darshan and as I'm sitting there in darshan Swami comes up to me and says "You are Surpanakha." Now Surpanakha is the name of a demon in the Ramayana. She is the sister of Ravana, the king of the demonic hordes occupying the island of Sri Lanka. Supanaka was ranging through the forests of South India, when she came upon Rama, his consort Sita and Rama's brother Lakshmana. Rama, the crown-prince of a major kingdom had been banished to the forest, and out of the deep love they had for Rama, Sita and Lakshmana joined him there. Surpanaka discovers them, and seeing the great beauty of Rama and Lakshmana, she desires them so much, that in a jealous rage she tries to kill Sita. Lakshmana intervenes and with his sword disfigures her, first cutting off her nose and then her ear. She runs back to her brother Ravana in order to raise an army of demons to avenge herself. Ravana is amazed that she stayed around long enough to have both a nose and an ear cut off, and asks her why she did not run away. She replies that the two princes were so beautiful she couldn't take her eyes off them! So when Swami called me "Surpanakha" and said that he was going to cut off my nose I responded by saying "O, Swami, you are so beautiful. I'll have to stay around until you cut off my ear too!"

      That was the right answer. Swami laughed and told me to take padnamaskar. I touched His feet and that was the end of the incident. It was over and I remained at the ashram. But it was a warning to me that at any moment I could be thrown out, with or without good reason. And as you know, later on it did happen to me. I always recognized that God can take anything away from me. Of course all He will ever take is what is false in order to reveal what is true, but in our delusion we think he is taking from us everything that is valuable. I have heard Swami talk of the three zero's, of reducing a true devotee to nothing, of taking away their possessions, their family ties and their reputation, to prepare them for liberation. Well, this was my first introduction to Swami's dictum, "First I will cradle you and love you like a mother holding her new born child. I will give you love and sweet persuasion. I will give you what you want. But when you're ready to truly want what I have to give you, then I put you on the operating table and cut. It is my love that prompts me to save you."