I have described in the last chapter how Kasturbai's illness was instrumental in bringing about some changes in my diet. At a later stage more changes were introduced for the sake of supporting brahmacharya.
The first of these was the giving up of milk. It was from
Raychandbhai that I first learnt that milk stimulated animal
passion. Books on vegetarianism strengthened the idea, but so long
as I had not taken the brahmacharya vow I could not make up my mind to forego milk. I had long realized
that milk was not necessary for supporting the body, but it was not
easy to give it up. While the necessity for avoiding milk in the
interests of self-restraint was growing upon me, I happened to come
across some literature from Calcutta, describing the tortures to
which cows and buffaloes were subjected by their keepers. This had a
wonderful effect on me. I discussed it with Mr. Kallenbach.
Though I have introduced Mr. Kallenbach to the readers of the
history of Satyagraha in South Africa, and referred to him in a
previous chapter, I think it necessary to say something more about
him here. We met quite by accident. He was a friend of Mr. Khan's,
and as the latter had discovered deep down in him a vein of
other-worldliness he introduced him to me.
When I came to know him I
was startled at his love of luxury and extravagance. But at our very
first meeting, he asked searching questions concerning matters of
religion. We incidentally talked of Gautama Buddha's renunciation.
Our acquaintance soon ripened into very close friendship, so much so
that we thought alike, and he was convinced that he must carry out
in his life the changes I was making in mine.
At that time he was single, and was expending Rs. 1,200 monthly on
himself, over and above house rent. Now he reduced himself to such
simplicity that his expenses came to Rs. 120 per month. After the
breaking up of my household and my first release from jail, we began
to live together. It was a fairly hard life that we led.
It was during this time that we had the discussion about milk. Mr.
Kallenbach said, 'We constantly talk about the harmful effects of
milk. Why then do not we give it up? It is certainly not necessary.'
I was agreeably surprised at the suggestion, which I warmly
welcomed, and both of us pledged ourselves to abjure milk there and
then. This was at Tolstoy Farm in the year 1912.
But this denial was not enough to satisfy me. Soon after this I
decided to live on a pure fruit diet, and that too composed of the
cheapest fruit possible. Our ambition was to live the life of the
The fruit diet turned out to be very convenient also. Cooking was
practically done away with. Raw groundnuts, bananas, dates, lemons,
and olive oil composed our usual diet.
I must here utter a warning for the aspirants of brahmacharya.
Though I have made out an intimate connection between diet and brahmacharya,
it is certain that mind is the principal thing. A mind consciously
unclean cannot be cleansed by fasting. Modifications in diet have no
effect on it. The concupiscence of the mind cannot be rooted out
except by intense self-examination, surrender to God and, lastly,
grace. But there is an intimate connection between the mind and the
body, and carnal mind always lusts for delicacies and luxuries. To
obviate this tendency dietetic restrictions and fasting would appear
to be necessary. The carnal mind, instead of controlling the senses,
becomes their slave, and therefore the body always needs clean
non-stimulating foods and periodical fasting.
Those who make light of dietetic restrictions and fasting are as
much in error as those who stake their all on them. My experience
teaches me that, for those whose minds are working towards
self-restraint, dietetic restriction and fasting are very helpful.
In fact without their help concupiscence cannot be completely rooted
out the mind.