Some years back, a group of us were traveling from New Delhi to Calcutta by train. It was an ordinary coach compartment. There were about three dadas and four didis. We were sitting face to face on long benches. Some other passengers were also traveling in the same compartment. When the train stopped at Allahabad, one of the didis alighted from the train to get some drinking water. She returned with the water, and some ice-cream, which she bought from a vendor at the station. It was a rare treat for us. We gobbled the ice-cream with obvious relish. While eating it, I casually commented, "This is very delicious ice cream!" Hearing this, didi again got off the train and bought another ice-cream, just for me.
We reached Calcutta as scheduled. After two days we went for a reporting session before Baba. Baba was not at all satisfied with our output and was very annoyed with us. He turned to the General Secretary and ordered, "GS, punish this stupid fellow. Then, let him understand what the taste of ice-cream really is!"
I was punished accordingly. However, I could not understand why Baba was angry with me, or why He mentioned ice-cream. After the reporting session, I was feeling a little sad. Baba must have noticed it. Looking at me, He explained sweetly the reason for my punishment. He said that ice-cream is not tamasik food. Sannyasins can certainly have ice-cream. However, it is inappropriate for sannyasins to eat ice-cream in public. This is because ice-cream is considered a luxury in a poor country like India, as it is quite costly. He explained that the public was always watching us and observing us because of our orange dress. They carefully observe all our movements, our behavior and our nature. As ice-cream is not an essential food for survival, the public would surely feel that it is an unnecessary luxury for monks and nuns to be having.
His explanation was as clear as glass. I immediately realized the mistake I had made. I understood that sannyasins must be very careful as to how they conduct themselves in public; that our behaviour, knowingly or unknowingly, should not be the cause of doubt in the minds of other people. I realized that He was actually protecting us by correcting even small, unintentional mistakes. There is no place on the earth where one can avoid His penetrating, omniscient gaze; not even in the train! He is indeed "Samaj Guru", as He wants us to lead others by example.