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STUDENTS' PROJECTS > THE STORY OF MY LIFE > PART II : IN ENGLAND AS STUDENT > Acquaintances with Religions
 

14. Acquaintances with Religions

Towards the end of my second year in England I came across two Theosophists, brothers, and both unmarried. They talked to me about the Gita. They were reading Sir Edwin Arnold’s translation – The Song Celestial and they invited me to read the original with them. I felt ashamed, as I had read the divine poem neither in Sanskrit nor in Gujarati. I had to tell them that I had not read the Gita, but that I would gladly read it with them, and that though my knowledge of Sanskrit was meagre, still I hoped to be able to understand the original to the extent of telling where the translation failed to bring out the meaning. I began reading the Gita with them. The verses in the second chapter

If one, Ponders on subjects of the sense, there springs
Attraction; from attraction grows desire,
Desire flames to fierce passion, passion breeds
Recklessness; then the memory – all betrayed–
Lets noble purpose go, and saps the mind,
Till purpose, mind, and man are all undone.

       made a deep impression on my mind, and they still ring in my ears. The book struck me as one of priceless worth. The impression has ever since been growing on me with the result that I regard it today as the best book for the knowledge of Truth. It has afforded me invaluable help in my moments of gloom.

The brothers also recommended The Light of Asia1 by Sir Advin Arnold, whom I knew till then as the author only of The Song Celestial, and I read it with even greater interest than I did the Bhagavadgita. Once I had begun it I could not leave off. I recall having read, at the brothers' instance, Madame Blavatsky's Key to Theosophy.

This book stimulated in me the desire to read books on Hinduism, and made me give up the idea taught by missionaries that Hinduism was full of superstition.

About the same time I met a good Christian from Manchester in a vegetarian boarding house. He talked to me about Christianity. I narrated to him my Rajkot recollections.

He was pained to hear them. He said, “I am a vegetarian.

I do not drink. Many Christians are meat-eaters and drink, no doubt; but neither meat-eating nor drinking is enjoined by Scripture. Do please read The Bible.”2 I accepted
his advice, and he got me a copy. I began reading it, but I could not possibly read through the Old Testament.

But the New Testament produced a different impression, especially the Sermon on the Mount3 which went straight to my heart. I compared it with the Gita. The verses, “But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man take away thy coat let him have thy cloak too.” delighted me beyond measure and put me in mind of Shamal Bhatt’s “For a bowl of water, give a goodly meal” etc. My young mind tried to unify the teaching of the Gita, the Light of Asia and the Sermon on the Mount. That renunciation was the highest form of religion appealed to me greatly.

Beyond this acquaintance with religion I could not go at the moment, as reading for the examination left me scarcely any time for outside subjects. But I thought that I should read more religious books and acquaint myself with all the principal religions.


1. Given in the form of a poem the message of Lord Buddha. – Ed.
2. The Scripture of the Christians. It is in two parts – firstly, the Old Testament, containing several books relating to the period prior to Jesus Christ and secondly, the New Testament, containing books after the time of Jesus Christ. The first four books of the New Testament are called the Gospels and contain the story and teachings of Jesus. –Ed.
3. Jesus’s teachings delivered on a mountain side. See Matthew, Chapters V to VII. – Ed.