Towards the end of my second year in England I came
across two Theosophists, brothers, and both unmarried.
They talked to me about the Gita. They were
reading Sir Edwin Arnold's translation The Song
Celestial and they invited me to read the original
with them. I felt ashamed, as I had read the divine poem
neither in Samskrit nor in Gujarati. I was constrained to
tell them that I had not read the Gita, but that
I would gladly read it with them, and that though my
knowledge of Samskrit was meagre, still I hoped to be
able to understand the original to the meaning. I began
reading the Gita with them. The verses in the
second chapter If one Ponders on objects of the sense,
there springs Attraction; from attraction grows desire,
Desire flames to fierce passion, passion breeds
Recklessness; then the memory all betrayed Lets noble
purpose go, and saps the mind, Till purpose, mind, and
man are all undone. made a deep impression on my mind,
and they still ring in my ears. The book struck me as one
of priceless worth. The impression has ever since been
growing on me with the result that I regard it today as
the book par excellence for the knowledge of
Truth. It has afforded me invaluable help in my moments
of gloom. I have read almost all the English translations
of it, and I regard Sir Edwin Arnold's as the best. He
has been faithful to the text, and yet it does not read
like a translation. Though I read the Gita with
these friends, I cannot pretend to have studied it then.
It was only after some years that it became a book of
The brothers also recommended The Light of Asia
by Sir Edwin Arnold, whom I knew till then as the author
only of The Song Celestial, and I read it with
even greater interest than I did the Bhagavadgita.
Once I had begun it I could not leave off. They also took
me on one occasion to the Blavatsky Lodge and introduced
me to Madame Blavatsky and Mrs. Besant. The latter had
just then joined the Theosophical Society, and I was
following with great interest the controversy about her
conversion. The friends advised me to join the Society,
but I politely declined saying, 'With my meagre knowledge
of my own religion I do not want to belong to any
religious body.' I recall having read, at the brothers'
instance, Madame Blavatsky's Key to Theosophy.
This book stimulated in me the desire to read books on
Hinduism, and disabused me of the notion fostered by the
missionaries that Hinduism was rife with superstition.
About the same time I met a good Christian from
Manchester in a vegetarian boarding house. He talked to
me about Christianity. I narrated to him my Rajkot
recollections. He was pained to hear them. He said, 'I am
a vegetarian. I do not drink. Many Christians are meat-
eaters and drink, no doubt; but neither meat-eating not
drinking is enjoined by scripture. Do please read the
Bible.' I accepted his advice, and he got me a copy. I
have a faint recollection that he himself used to sell
copies of the Bible, and I purchased from him an edition
containing maps, concordance, and other aids. I began
reading it, but I could not possibly read through the Old
Testament. I read the book of Genesis, and the chapters
that followed invariably sent me to sleep. But just for
the sake of being able to say that I had read it, I
plodded through the other books with much difficulty and
without the least interest or understanding. I disliked
reading the book of Numbers.
But the New Testament produced a different impression,
especially the Sermon on the Mount which went straight to
my heart. I compared it with the Gita. The
verses, 'But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil: but
whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to
him the other also. And if any man take away thy coat let
him have thy cloke too,' delighted me beyond measure and
put me in mind of Shamal Bhatt's 'For a bowl of water,
give a goodly meal' etc. My young mind tried to unify the
teaching of the Gita, The Light of Asia and the
Sermon on the Mount. That renunciation was the highest
form of religion appealed to me greatly.
This reading whetted my appetite for studying the
lives of other religious teachers. A friend recommended
Carlyle's Heroes and Hero- Worship. I read the
chapter on the Hero as a prophet and learnt of the
Prophet's greatness and bravery and austere living.
Beyond this acquaintance with religion I could not go
at the moment, as reading for the examination left me
scarcely any time for outside subjects. But I took mental
note of the fact that I should read more religious books
and acquaint myself with all the principal religions.
And how could I help knowing something of atheism too?
Every Indian knew Bradlaugh's name and his so-called
atheism. I read some book about it, the name of which I
forget. It had no effect on me, for I had already crossed
the Sahara of atheism. Mrs. Besant who was then very much
in the limelight, had turned to theism from atheism. I
had read her book How I became a Theosophist.
It was about this time that Bradlaugh died. He was
buried in the Working Cemetery. I attended the funeral,
as I believe every Indian residing in London did. A few
clergymen also were present to do him the last honours.
On our way back from the funeral we had to wait at the
station for our train. A champion atheist from the crowd
heckled one of these clergymen. 'Well sir, you believe in
the existence of God?'
'I do,' said the good man in a low tone.
'You also agree that the circumference of the Earth is
28,000 miles, don't you?' said the atheist with a smile
of self-assurance. 'Indeed.' 'Pray tell me then the size
of your God and where he may be?'
'Well, if we but knew, He resides in the hearts of us
'Now, now, don't take me to be a child,' said the
champion with a triumphant look at us.
The clergyman assumed a humble silence. This talk
still further increased my prejudice against atheism.