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
liked the smell of a cigarette. We simply imagined a
sort of pleasure in sending out clouds of smoke from our
mouths. My uncle had the habit, and we should copy his
example. But we had no money. So we began stealing
stumps of cigarettes thrown away by my uncle.
The stumps, however, were
not always available, and could not give out much smoke
either. So we began to steal coppers from the servantís
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
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 be painful. It was unbearable that
we should be unable to do anything without the eldersí
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 at once 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 did not like to die, and decided
to go to Ramji Mandir to calm ourselves, and to dismiss
the thought of suicide.
I realized that it was not
easy to commit suicide.
The thought of suicide
ultimately resulted in both of us bidding goodbye to the
habit of smoking and of stealing the servantís coppers
for the purpose.
Ever since I have 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
desire for smoking throughout the world. I cannot bear
to travel in a compartment full of people smoking. I
But much more serious than
this theft was the one I was guilty of a little later. I
stole 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 brotherís 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
cleansing 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 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
tears 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 fatherís agony. If I were a
painter I could draw a picture of the whole scene today.
It is still so vivid in my mind.
Those tears of love
cleansed my heart, and washed my sin away. Only he who
has experienced such love can know what it is.
This sort of 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 greatly his affection for me.