Whilst living under Gokhlae's roof I was far from being a stay-at-home.
I had told my Christian friends in South Africa that in India I
would meet the Christian Indians and acquaint myself with their
condition. I had heard of Babu Kalicharan Banerji and held him in
high regard. He took a prominent part in the Congress, and I had
none of the misgivings about him that I had about the average
Christian Indian, who stood aloof from the Congress and isolated
himself from Hindus and Musalmans. I told Gokhale that I was
thinking of meeting him. He said: 'What is good of your seeing him?
He is a very good man, but I am afraid he will not satisfy you. I
know him very well. However, you can certainly meet him if you
I sought an appointment, which he readily gave me. When I
went, I found that his wife was on her death-bed. His house was
simple. In the Congress I had seen him in a coat and trousers, but I
was glad to find him now wearing a Bengal dhoti and shirt. I liked
his simple mode of dress, though I myself then wore a Parsi coat and
trousers. Without much ado I presented my difficulties to him. He
asked: 'Do you believe in the doctrine of original sin?'
'I do,' said I.
'Well then, Hinduism offers no absolution therefrom, Christianity
does;' and added: 'The wages of sin is death, and the Bible says that
the only way of deliverance is surrender unto Jesus.'
I put forward Bhakti-marga (the path of devotion) of the Bhagavad
Gita, but to no avail. I thanked him for his goodness. He
failed to satisfy me, but I benefited by the interview.
During these days I walked up and down the streets of Calcutta. I
went to most places on foot. I met Justice Mitter and Sir Gurdas
Banerji, whose help I wanted in my work in South Africa. And about
this time I met Raja Sir Pyarimohan Mukarji.
Kalicharan Banerji had spoken to me about the Kali temple, which I
was eager to see, especially as I had read about it in books. So I
went there one day. Justice Mitter's house was in the same locality,
and I therefore went to the temple on the same day that I visited
him. On the way I saw a stream of sheep going to be sacrificed to
Kali. Rows of beggars lined the lane leading to the temple. There
were religious mendicants too, and even in those days I was sternly
opposed to giving alms to sturdy beggars. A crowd of them pursued
me. One of such men was found seated on a verandah. He stopped me,
and accosted me: 'Whither are you going, my boy?' I replied to him.`
He asked my companion and me to sit down, which we did.
I asked him: 'Do you regard this sacrifice as religion?'
'Who would regard killing of animals as religion?'
'Then, why don't you preach against it?'
'That's not my business. Our business is to worship God.'
'But could you not find any other place in which to worship God?'
'All places are equally good for us. The people are like a flock of
sheep, following where leaders lead them. It is no business of us sadhus.'
We did not prolong the discussion but passed on to the temple. We
were greeted by rivers of blood. I could not bear to stand there. I
was exasperated and restless. I have never forgotten that sight.
That very evening I had an invitation to dinner at a party of
Bengali friends. There I spoke to a friend about this cruel form of
worship. He said: 'The sheep don't feel anything. The noise and the
drum-beating there deaden all sensation of pain.'
I could not swallow this. I told him that, if the sheep had speech,
they would tell a different tale. I felt that the cruel custom ought
to be stopped. I thought of the story of Buddha, but I also saw that
the task was beyond my capacity.
I hold today the same opinion as I held
then. To my mind the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of
a human being. I should be unwilling to take the life of a lamb for
the sake of the human body. I hold that, the more helpless a
creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the
cruelty of man. But he who has not qualified himself for such
service is unable to afford to it any protection. I must go through
more self-purification and sacrifice, before I can hope to save
these lambs from this unholy sacrifice. It is my constant prayer
that there may be born on earth some great spirit, man or woman,
fired with divine pity, who will deliver us from this heinous sin,
save the lives of the innocent creatures, and purify the temple. How is it that Bengal
with all its knowledge, intelligence, sacrifice, and emotion
tolerates this slaughter?