On arrival in Poona, we found ourselves, after the performance of the shradha ceremonies, discussing the future of the Society, and the question as to whether I should join it or not. This question of membership proved a very delicate matter for me to handle. Whilst Gokhale was there I did not have to seek admission as a member. I had simply to obey his wish, a position I loved to be in. Launching on the stormy sea of Indian public life, I was in need of a sure pilot. I had one in Gokhale and had felt secure in his keeping. Now that he was gone, I was thrown on my own resources, and I felt that it was my duty to seek admission. That, I thought, would please Gokhale's spirit. So, without hesitation and with firmness, I began the wooing.
Most of the members of the Society were in Poona at this juncture. I
set about pleading with them and tried to dispel their fears about
me. But I saw that they were divided. One section favoured my
admission, the other was strongly against it. I knew that neither
yielded to the other in its affection for me, but possibly their
loyalty to the Society was greater, at any rate not less than their
love for me. All our discussions were therefore free from
bitterness, and strictly confined to matters of principle. The
section that was opposed to me held that they and I were as the
poles asunder in various vital matters, and they felt my membership
was likely to imperil the very objects for which the Society was
founded. This naturally was more than they could bear.
We dispersed after prolonged discussions, the final decision being
postponed to a later date.
I was considerably agitated as I returned home. Was it right for me
to be admitted by a majority vote? Would it be consonant with my
loyalty to Gokhale? I saw clearly that, when there was such a sharp
division amongst the members of the Society over admitting me, by
far the best course for me was to withdraw my application for
admission and save those opposed to me from a delicate situation.
Therein I thought lay my loyalty to the Society and Gokhale. The
decision came to me in a flash, and immediately I wrote to Mr.
Shastri asking him not to have the adjourned meeting at all. Those
who had opposed my application fully appreciated the decision. It
saved them from an awkward position and bound us in closer bonds of
friendship. The withdrawal of my application made me truly a member
of the Society.
Experience now tells me that it was well that I did not formally
become a member, and that the opposition of those who had been
against me was justified. Experience has shown too that our views on
matters of principle were widely divergent. But the recognition of
the differences has meant no estrangement or bitterness between us.
We have remained as brothers, and the Society's Poona home has
It is true that I did not officially become a member of the Society,
but I have ever been a member in spirit. Spiritual relationship is
far more precious than physical. Physical relationship divorced from spiritual
is body without soul.