XVIII. A MONTH WITH
GOKHALE -- II
Whilst living under Gokhlae's roof I was far from
being a stay-at- home.
I had told my Christian friends in South Africa that
in India I would meet the Christian Indians and acquint
myself with their condition. I had heard of Babu
Kalicharan Banerji and held him in high regard. He took a
prominent part in the Congress, and I had none of the
misgivings about him that I had about the average
Christian Indian, who stood aloof from the Congress and
isolated himself from Hindus and Musalmans. I told
Gokhale that I was thinking of meeting him. He said:
'What is good of your seeing him? He is a very good man,
but I am afraid he will not satisfy you. I know him very
well. However, you can certainly meet him if you like?.'
I sought an appointment, which he readly gave me. When
I went, I found that his wife was on her death-bed. His
house was simple. In the Congress I had seen him in a
coat and trusers, but I was glad to find him now wearing
a Bengal #dhoti# and shirt. I liked his simple mode of
dress, though I myself then wore a Parsi coat and
trousers. Without much ado I presented my difficulties to
him. He asked: 'DO you believe in the doctrine of
'I do,' said I.
'Well then, Hinduism offers no absolution therefrom,
Christianity does, and added: The wages of sin is death,
and the Bible says that the only way of deliverance is
surrender unto Jesus.'
I put forward #Bhakti-marga# (the path of devotion) of
the #Bhagavadgita#, but to no avail. I thanked him for
his goodness. He failed to satisfy me, but I benefited by
During these days I walked up and down the streets of
Calcutta. I went to most places on foot. I met Justice
Mitter and Sir Gurdas Banerji, whose help I wanted in my
work in South Africa. And about this time I met Raja Sir
Kalicharan Banerji had spoken to me about the Kali
temple, which I was eager to see, especially as I had
read about it in books. So I went there one day, Justice
Mitter's house was in the same locality, and I therefore
went to the temple on the same day that I visited him. On
the way I saw a stream of sheep going to be sacrificed to
kali. Rows of beggars lined the lane leading to the
temple. There were religious mendicants too, and even in
those days I was sternly opposed to giving alms to sturdy
beggars. A crowd of them pursued me. One of such men was
found seated on a verandah. He stopped me, and accosted
me: 'Whither are you going, my boy?' I replied to him.
He asked my companion and me to sit down, which we
I asked him: 'Do you regard this sacrifice as
'Who would regard killing of animals as religion?'
'Then, why don't you preach against it?'
'That's not my business. Our business is to worship
'But could you not find any other place in which to
'All places are equally good for us. The people are
like a flock of sheep, following where leaders lead them.
It is no business of us #sadhus#.'
We did not prolong the discussion but passed on to the
temple. We were greeted by rivers of blood. I could not
bear to stand there. I was exasperated and restless. i
have never forgotten that sight.
That very evening I had an invitation to dinner at a
party of Bengali friends. There I spoke to a friend about
this cruel form of worship. He said: 'The sheep don't
feel anything. The noise and the drum- beating there
deaden all sensation of pain.'
I could not swallow this. I told him that, if the
sheep had speech, they would tell a different tale. I
felt that the cruel custom ought to be stopped. I thought
of the story of Buddha, but I also saw that the task was
beyond my capacity.
I hold today the opinion as I held then. To my mind
the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a
human being. I should be unwilling to take the life of a
lamb for the sake of the human body. I hold that, the
more helpless a creature, the more entitled it s to
protection by man from the cruelty of man. But he who has
not qualified himself for such service is unable to
afford to it any protection. I must go through more
self-purification and sacrifice. before I can hope to
save these lambs from this unholy sacrifice. Today I
think I must die pining for this self-purifiacation and
sacrifice. It is my constant prayer that there may be
born on earth some great that there may be born on earth
some great spirit, man or woman, fired with divine pity,
who will deliver us from this heinous sin, save the lives
of the innocent creatures, and purify the temple. How is
it that Bengal with all its knowledge, intelligence,
sacrifice, and emotion tolerates this slaughter?