My Search of God Begins
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world" (!John 2:15)
Was there nobody to free me from all this mental torture? I had seen pictures of Ram, Krishna, Kali and many other deities, but it didn't occur to me to call on them for help. I had sold many copies of the Geeta but that, too, didn't come to my mind in this time of crisis. I was crying out to SOMEONE whom I had never seen When I called to this UNKNOWN, immediately I felt soothed. I felt I must go somewhere to find HIM. There was only one task before me and that was to find HIM. At four o'clock in the morning while my wife and daughters were still sleeping, I got up and went to my teacher, as he had some idea of what was going on in my mind, he was not at all surprised to see my disheveled state. On entering the room, I pulled down the books of palmistry and astrology and began to kick them viciously. Seeing my actions, he said, "Why are you kicking these valuable books which you liked so much ?" I replied angrily, "In these books I can find the mysteries of the future but theyfail to console me in my distress. These can't give relief from coming events. They point out the disease but give no remedy. You are supposed to know the remedies. Why are you so cruel to me ? Why don't you show me the way out of my misery?”
I will show you the way", He replied, "But you must obey me. Submit to me and you will get rid Of your troubles". I wonder, now that I, a man of business and experience, could so completely yield myself to this man whose life was full of sin, deception and voluptuousness. I had accepted even such a man as my teacher in my search for the Unknown Deliverer. As a drowning man catches at a straw, so I tried to catch hold of him. I was mad for spiritual peace. Many times I had heard expressions like these "Though my Guru goes to the house of a prostitute nevertheless he is my Guru," and, "The water of the Ganges is always holy. It is a sin to try to find any filth in it". So, my teacher gave me information about some Yogic postures and gave me a book called "Maha-NirvanTantra" to learn by heart and sing some Sanskrit verses from it in a peculiar way.
From then I continued the practice of Yoga hour after hour. I gave up all my luxuries, went barefoot, and wore only a loincloth and light shirt. My beard grew long and my finger-nails remained untrimmed. My agent was faithfully bringing me a hundred rupees a month, so I had now no worry about family expenses.
When I went to see my teacher, he was surprised to see my condition. My restlessness over my daughter's coming death had all disappeared. There was a small harmonium in the room and I asked a man who was a good singer to sing one of Ravindranath Tagore's songs. This song about God, touched my heart and stirred my emotions so much that I forgot myself and everything outside. I felt the touch of my Unseen Friend. It seemed as though my Lord was looking at me and that his loving arms were about. me.. I: thought my Friend had found me and that I had found Him.
I was becoming an ascetic right in my own home. I had no interest in anything else. My father came to Calcutta from Dacca and he felt very badly about me. One day as I was coming home from the press I saw my father, and I knew he saw me but neither of us let the other know we had seen and we didn't mention it afterward. After coming to the house he said to my wife, "It must be because I have so often scolded Atul about his luxurious way of living that he has taken this extreme step. I will never rebuke him nor complain about him." My father was worldly-minded, though he would talk about religion in a very pious way. Financially, I was the "main stay" of the family, so it was no wonder that my indifference to worldly things would result in the family breakdown.
This highly regulated life gave me a peculiar satisfaction. I was really becoming a Yogi (ascetic). I began to dispose of everything I had. Without thinking of how much I might be depriving my family, I burned all the important documents, papers and letters. I thought these things might draw me into worldly things and worries if they were around. My neighbors and friends began to think of me as almost a godly person instead of a mad man. Keeping only one dhoti, I cut this into two and used it as a loin cloth. I walked barefooted bareheaded and without umbrella.
Thus becoming a real Yogi, I asked my wife which she would choose-- would she give away everything except the minimum clothes needed to cover oneself and come with me as an ascetic, or, would she go alone to my father's house in Dacca and live a comfortable life ? My choice had been made, now it remained for her to choose. To her I was God and so she was ready immediately to give up everything else. She felt she could not leave me and was ready to bear all the severe austerities. I was happy that she made this choice.
Now we decided to go on a pilgrimage together. My search for God was still incomplete. First we went to puri. As soon as I set foot here, I remembered all the interesting stories which our grandmother had told us. She had described a place here called the "Market of Bliss". Here cooked food, rice, cereals, vegetables and sweets are sold to everybody. Any pilgrim can put his hand into the pot and take a sample of this food from the vessel. She told about the Eternal Banyan tree so famous that a barren woman would come, catch a leaf from this tree in her spreaded sari and eat it and her barrenness would be removed. In this "Market of Bliss", large quantities of food such as rice, pulse, vegetables are cooked inside the temple. First they offer this food to God and then they sell it to pilgrims. They could eat as much as they wanted for two or three annas.
Before the time of Chaitanya, in the sixteenth century, Puri had fallen into a state of decay. Chaitanya was a contemporary of Martin Luther and a great reformer. He broke down all caste-distinctions among his followers, and also had Some Mohammedan disciples. He taught that there was no distinction among the devotees of Krishna. He succeeded in establishing this reform among the devotees of Pun, but he himself never had his food in any other place than the house of a Brahmin. My family and his belonged to the same Brahmin clan.
Every year in the month of July a huge and many-wheeled cart of Jagannath is brought out of the temple in a big procession. I took a place in the procession. As I caught hold of the thick long rope that stretched for over two hundred feet out in front of the cart and pulled it as hard as I could, I considered myself extremely fortunate to be one of those privileged to pull the rope.
One day as I was bathing in the sea, a huge wave washed my sacred thread away. When I discovered that the precious thing was gone, I said, "Never mind. A thing which has been like a wall of' partition among men has now gone. I am now a part of the great human family without any distinction whatever. I felt that the gates of heaven, (the place was called 'swarg dwar') with no caste or religious distinction, were being opened to me.
We lived just near the sea from where I could see funeral pyres with flames mounting up. The
wailing of the wives for their husbands, the tears and wailing of mothers over their departed loved ones, brought before me the transitory nature of life. A body though anointed with scent, oil and sweet-smelling perfumes produced such a stench. Every day I would see these funeral pyres, so I lost the fear of death. I came to know that death WAS unavoidable. One has to face it some day. When I was in Calcutta, only the thought of it made me tremble, but now I feared it no more.
Three months passed. My daughter did not die. My mind was in a high degree of uncertainty. I lost faith in palmistry and astrology. My confidence in the wisdom of my Guru was gone. Now my mind was free to think about God only, Who, out of kindness and pity for me, bad changed the fate of my daughter. Now I had to find out whether he really cared for me an& whether my name was in the memory book. I had many friends and relatives in Puri, so I always got what I needed. In order to test whether or not God takes car& of me, I decided to leave Puri, and go to Waltair which is farther south and near Vishakhapatam. There are no Bengalis there and no relatives of mine. After paying our . railway4are, I had only a few rupees in my pocket. My language was not understood in Waltair, and no body knew me. If 1 should starve and die, no body would cremate my body. Thus I thought that this would be about the most suitable place to test God to find out whether He really cared for His devotee.
I rented a house; and I had little means; within a few days our money was all gone. One day there was no food in the house and no money. We had all been to the sea for a swim, and as we were corning home, one of my daughters said, "Father, we are hungry. Have you no food for us?" I answered, "Sarayu, we have nothing w eat and there is no money to buy food. I have asked God to take care of us, so let us go home and see what He has done for us." She said, "Father, does God really take care of us? How does He know when we need something? Is He here in Waltair too? We are Bengalis and far different from these people. Is our God the same as their God? How did He come here? Does He understand the language of these people too? Then he must be a very great God". I was surprised at her intelligent questions. I said to her, "If there be a God at all, He must be the God of all persons, and must be an Almighty and All-knowing God. He must be knowing all languages"
To our great surprise, when we reached home we found the postman waiting with a telegraphic money order. It was for rupees seventeen and annas twelve. This had followed me from Calcutta and Pun and was sent by a Bengali Rajah. This was in payment for a package of books I had sent him before burning all my business-records. Many people still owed me but I had no record of it. Our joy knew no bounds at the receipt of this money. We praised God and thanked him heartily. That was the first definite experience of God's care,
After some days again we were faced with hunger and had nothing in the house. That morning when I came to the beach, I saw a sickly man sitting with his head between his knees. He was waiting for the wave to come and sprinkle him with sea- water, and supposed he was safe. I was swimming and enjoying myself at a distance when suddenly a big wave came and knocked this man into the sea with great force. Seeing what had happened, I hastened to his rescue. I caught him by the hand and soon brought him safely on land. With tears in his eyes, he fell at my feet crying in gratitude, "Who are you? You have saved me from death. No one would have known what had happened to me had you not come to my rescue. You have saved my life". When I answered him in Bengali, he was very much surprised. He could not believe that a man having a long beard and long hair, and also with a sturdy body, could be a Bengali. I said to him, "I am an ordinary man. I have done nothing unusual for you. It was God who sent me here to save you. We both must praise God. How could two Bengalis meet at such a place and such a time. God must have had something to do with it. I didn't expect to meet a single Bengali here in Waltair. Now I was sure that God knows us all and takes care of us. Let us now bow down at his feet and worship Him."
There on the sandy beach we fell prostrate and began to praise God with all our hearts. We had no flowers, and no food or fruits to offer. We expressed our thanks in simple Bengali. After this he took me to his house and called his wife, son, daughters, brother, sister and servant. Then he told them what had happened on the beach. All bowed down to me and touched my feet with reverence. I became their Guru. Then the man, whose name was Rajendra, said to me, "Guruji, from now on we shall take care of your family. We will feel it a great honour and privilege. Please accept our offer. God has given me great wealth; I have a very flourishing business of silk in Calcutta." At home my wife and daughters were waiting for me wondering why I had not returned. After waiting a long time, they locked the house and started toward the sea in search of me. My wife could hardly believe her eyes when she saw me coming, followed by a whole train of folks carrying all sorts of good things. She couldn't understand whether it was a dream or real. My face showed my joyous conviction of the existence of God. The instant I saw her I shouted, "There is… there is a God who takes care of us? Just look at the gifts carried by these people.” We all happily reached home and then when all were seated, I told them my experience how I had doubted God, how I was determined to test His existence and how I was convinced about it now. By this simple testimony everyone was converted to my belief that God really exists and cares for his children.
Rajendra had T.B. No treatment in Calcutta did him any good; so he had come to Waltair hoping that this sea-air would probably help him. His condition had grown worse day by day and so there was a shadow of gloom over the whole family. However, from that day a great change began to take place in him. He began to hope for a cure and for a long life. After some time he felt so much better that he decided to go back to Calcutta. So he returned with his family. No treatment was undertaken. The reader may imagine how he got well. As I am writing this account, he is still living and conducting his business in Calcutta. He insisted that we all go back to Calcutta with him. He rented a beautiful house near the Ganges in a suburb of Calcutta. Our house was just opposite the famous Ramakrishna Mission. We began our life free from all worries in this peaceful place.