I have still to relate some of my failings during this
meat-eating period and also previous to it, which date
from before my marriage or soon after.
A relative and I became fond of smoking. Not that we
saw any good in smoking, or were enamoured of the smell
of a cigarette. We simply imagined a sort of pleasure in
emitting clouds of smoke from our mouths. My uncle had
the habit, and when we saw him smoking, we thought we
should copy his example. But we had no money. So we began
pilfering stumps of cigarettes thrown away by my uncle.
The stumps, however, were not always available, and
could not emit much smoke either. So we began to steal
coppers from the servant's pocket money in order to
purchase Indian cigarettes. But the question was where to
keep them. We could not of course smoke in the presence
of elders. We managed somehow for a few weeks on these
stolen coppers. In the meantime we heard that the stalks
of a certain plant were porous and could be smoked like
cigarettes. We got them and began this kind of smoking.
But we were far from being satisfied with such things
as these. Our want of independence began to smart, It was
unbearable that we should be unable to do anything
without the elders' permission. At last, in sheer
disgust, we decided to commit suicide!
But how were we to do it? From where were we to get
the poison? We heard that Dhatura seeds were an
effective poison. Off we went to the jungle in search of
these seeds, and got them. Evening was thought to be the
auspicious hour. We went to Kedarji Mandir, put
ghee in the temple-lamp, had the Darshan and
then looked for a lonely corner. But our courage failed
us. Supposing we were not instantly killed? And what was
the good of killing ourselves? Why not rather put up with
the lack of independence? But we swallowed two or three
seeds nevertheless. We dared not take more. Both of us
fought shy of death, and decided to go to Ramji Mandir
to compose ourselves, and to dismiss the thought of
I realized that it was not as easy to commit suicide
as to contemplate it. And since then, whenever I have
heard of someone threatening to commit suicide, it has
had little or on effect on me.
The thought of suicide ultimately resulted in both of
us bidding good- bye to the habit of smoking stumps of
cigarettes and of stealing the servant's coppers for the
purpose of smoking.
Ever since I have been grown up, I have never desired
to smoke and have always regarded the habit of smoking as
barbarous, dirty and harmful. I have never understood why
there is such a rage for smoking throughout the world. I
cannot bear to travel in a compartment full of people
smoking. I become choked.
But much more serious than this theft was the one I
was guilty of a little later. I pilfered the coppers when
I was twelve or thirteen, possibly less. The other theft
was committed when I was fifteen. In this case I stole a
bit of gold out of my meat-eating brother's armlet. This
brother had run into a debt of about twenty-five rupees.
He had on his arm an armlet of solid gold. It was not
difficult to clip a bit out of it.
Well, it was done, and the debt cleared. But this
became more than I could bear. I resolved never to steal
again. I also made up my mind to confess it to my father.
But I did not dare to speak. Not that I was afraid of my
father beating me. No I do not recall his ever having
beaten any of us. I was afraid of the pain that I should
cause him. But I felt that the risk should be taken; that
there could not be a cleaning without a clean confession.
I decided at last to write out the confession, to
submit it to my father, and ask his forgiveness. I wrote
it on a slip of paper and handed it to him myself. In
this note not only did I confess my guilt, but I asked
adequate punishment for it, and closed with a request to
him not to punish himself for my offence. I also pledged
myself never to steal in future.
I was trembling as I handed the confession to my
father. He was then suffering from a fistula and was
confined to bed. His bed was a plain wooden plank. I
handed him the note and sat opposite the plank.
He read it through, and pearl-drops trickled down his
cheeks, wetting the paper. For a moment he closed his
eyes in thought and then tore up the note. He had sat up
to read it. He again lay down. I also cried. I could see
my father's agony. If I were a painter I could draw a
picture of the whole scene today. It is still so vivid in
Those pearl-drops of love cleansed my heart, and
washed my sin away. Only he who has experienced such love
can know what it is. As the hymn says: 'Only he Who is
smitten with the arrows of love. Knows its power.'
This was, for me, an object-lesson in Ahimsa.
Then I could read in it nothing more than a father's
love, but today I know that it was pure Ahimsa.
When such Ahimsa becomes all-embracing it
transforms everything it touches. There is no limit to
This sort of sublime forgiveness was not natural to my
father. I had thought that he would be angry, say hard
things, and strike his forehead. But he was so
wonderfully peaceful, and I believe this was due to my
clean confession. A clean confession, combined with a
promise never to commit the sin again, when offered
before one who has the right to receive it, is the purest
type of repentance. I know that my confession made my
father feel absolutely safe about me, and increased his
affection for me beyond measure.