VI. A SACRIFICE TO
As the ideals of sacrifice and simplicity were
becoming more and more realized, consciousness was
becoming more and more quickened in my daily life, the
passion for vegetarianism as a mission went on
increasing. I have known only one way of carrying on
missionary work, #viz#., by personal example and
discussion with searchers for knowledge.
There was in Johannesburg a vegetarian restaurant
conducted by a German who believed in Kuhan's hydropathic
treatment. I visited the restaurant myself and helped it
by taking English friends there. But I saw that it could
not last as it was always in financial difficulties. I
assisted it as much as I thought it deserved, and spent
some money on it, but it had ultimately to be closed
Most theosophists are vegetarians more or less, and an
enterprising lady belonging to that society now came upon
the scene with a vegetarian restaurant on a grand scale.
She was fond of art, extravagant and ignorant of
accounts. Her circle of friends was fairly large. She had
started in a small way, but later decided to extend the
venture by taking large rooms, and asked me for help. I
knew nothing of her finances when she thus approached me,
but I took it that her estimate must be fairly accurate.
And I was in a position to accommodate her. My clients
used to keep large sums as deposits with me. Having
received the consent of one of these clients, I lent
about a thousand pounds from the amount to his credit.
This client was most large-hearted and trusting. He had
originally come to South Africa as an indentured
labourer. He said: 'Give away the money, if you like. I
know nothing in these matters. I only know you.' His name
was Badri. He afterwards took a prominent part in
Satyagraha, and suffered imprisonment as well. So I
advanced the loan assuming that this consent was enough.
In two or three months' time I came to know that the
amount would not be recovered. I could ill afford to
sustain such a loss. There were many other purposes to
which I could have applied this amount. The loan was
never repaid. But how could trusting Badri be allowed to
suffer? He had known me only. I made good the loss.
A client friend to whom I spoke about this transaction
sweetly chid me for my folly.
'Bhai,' - I had fortunately not yet become 'Mahatma',
nor even 'Bapu' (father) friends used to call me by the
loving name of 'Bhai' (brother)- said he, 'this was not
for you to do. We depend upon you in so many things. You
are not going to get back this amount. I know you will
never allow Badri to come to grief, for you will pay him
out of your pocket, but if you go on helping your reform
schemes by operating on your clients' money, the poor
fellows will be ruined, and you will soon become a
beggar. But you are our trustee and must know that, if
you become a beggar, all our public work will come to a
The friend I am thankful to say, is still alive. I
have not yet come across a purer man than he, in South
Africa or anywhere else. I have known him to apologize to
people and to cleanse himself, when, having happened to
suspect them, he had found his suspicion to be unfounded.
I saw that he had rightly warned me. For though I made
good Badri's loss, I should not have been able to meet
any similar loss and should have been driven to incur
debt- a thing I have never done in my life and always
abhorred. I realized that even a man's reforming zeal
ought not to make him exceed his limits. I also saw that
in thus lending trust-money I had disobeyed the cardinal
teaching of the Gita, #viz#, the duty of a man of
equipoise to act without desire for the fruit. The error
became for me a beaconlight of warning.
The sacrifice offered on the altar of vegetarianism
was neither intentional nor expected. It was a virtue of