Disillusionment in Vrindaban
"Many are the afflictions of the righteous : but the Lord
delivereth him out of them All."
(Psalm 34 :19)
Prostrating myself at my Guru's feet and saying 'goodbye" to my fellow-members, I started on my journey. It was the 2nd of December 1926, and the weather was bright and pleasant. My grand mother had painted glowing pictures of Vrindaban and I thought of' it as a heavenly place. I was delighted to go there but at the same time I felt sad, because I was going to be deprived of my further knowledge of Christianity. Some of the Math-members had come to the station but nobody thought of bringing any fruit or food for me. We were not supposed to eat much on a trip and I could just as well have gone without any food for those twenty-four hours of my journey. All thought I was very lucky to get an opportunity to go to Vrindaban.
The next day I arrived at the Mathura junction in the afternoon. I kissed the sacred soil and as I was getting up from the ground, a ticket inspector asked me to show~ my ticket. He said that I had no business to travel by that train around Agra and for that I had to pay six rupees extra. Afterwards, I realized that he bad not given me a receipt and had pocketed that money. Now I waited to hire a carriage to go to Vrindaban and the driver demanded five rupees. Those who knew the carriage-rates, would pay eight annas, I thought how could such dishonest dealings take place in such a holy place As I neared Vrindaban, -the pinnacles of many temples began to show up. I folded my hand reverently and said, "0 holy Vrindraban." How my heart did leap with joy! The carriage-driver after seeing my simple faith and sincerity, upon arrival at my destination, reduced the fare by half and said that he could not charge five rupees from a religious man like me. He might have made up this loss by-charging more from some other pilgrim.
I began to feel as if the air of this holy heaven was purifying me. For me everything had a holy aspect. I had been taught that Vrindraban was the counter-part of Vaikunth-the eternal abode of Krishna So I believed that although Krishna was not visible in the body still he was there in spirit. In Vaikunth there is always peace and joy. There was neither birth nor death, neither day no night, neither quarrelling nor enmity, no lawsuits, no thieves, no robbers, no dishonesty no adultery no wickedness. Everybody is serving God. in some way or other. This being true, I thought that the Vrindaban in which I found myself must also be such a place. But alas my disillusionment began on the very first day of my stay there The temple in which I took my abode had been acquired without payment by my Guru from another priest who owned it. This priest was a heavy smoker of ganja (hemp-drug). Once when fully drunk with it the priest became very generous and it occurred to him that he should hand over the whole property and take in its place seventeen rupees a month for the rest of his life. Also, he was to have the privilege of having free meals in the ternple. My Guru instantly got this property transferred to his name with a proper deed and registration at the government registration office Immediately my Guru and his followers took possession of his property. When the priest came to his senses, he began to look around and wondered how the world had changed. People were surprised that he should have given such valuable property for such a pittance. This transaction took place just before I came to Vrindaban.
Here I found enmity instead of friendliness. Naturally the priest was angry- with all the inmates of the Math. They in turn reciprocated with hatred. Each was waiting for a suitable chance to destroy the other without getting found out. The very first night as I came out of my room, I saw a few venomous snakes raising their hoods on each side of an earthen vessel just in front of my door. These snakes had been purposely placed there by someone. There was constant quarrelling and litigation going on between the two parties. Sometimes police help had to be secured.
It was not unusual in Vrindaban for mothers to bring their new babies wrapped in rags and leave them beside a drain or flower-pot just inside the hospital-gate and then hurry away unseen. This shocked me very much. How could such things happen in this sacred place? Such a thing was improbable even in a city like Calcutta which is not known as a sacred place.
One day I went to the market place to purchase some vegetables. I asked and paid for two pounds of potatoes. Thinking I had received less, I weighed them myself and found he had given me nearly 1/4 pound less. I lost my temper and smashed his scales to pieces. I had this experience about a dozen times and even today it is going on. After knowing my temper, nobody in that market tried to deceive me again. The milkmen who claimed to be kinsmen of Krishna, brought milk with half water and that too dirty water. While going by the neighbouring fields, I saw hundreds of cows grazing in the cornfields. Inquiring why, I was told that the owner was away and since the cow was a sacred animal must be fed at any cost. They said Krishna had done this way, so why shouldn't they ?
One morning I saw a boy carrying a mouse trap containing several mice. I said to him, "Are you going to sell them to the Municipal office?" He answered, "No, we are people of Vrindaban. We don't kill animals, no matter how harmful or dangerous they may be. If we give them 10 the Municipal Qffice they will destroy them. I am taking them to the sweepers' habitation and will let them loose there." I asked, "Will the mice be harmless there?" He answered in a somewhat guilty voice, "No, they will do the same harm, but we don't care about that. We have saved ourselves from Himsa."
My dream of Vrindaban came to a rude end. I cried in despair, "If this was Vrindaban, what must hell be like? I came to Vrindaban to be saved and have the crowning experience of my life. If this was the sacred place to which my Guru had sent me to save me from the awful fate of becoming a Christian, then where could I flee to escape?
Two years ago when I had decided to leave all this and go home, my Guru had persuaded me to continue.
Again only a few days ago when my Guru knew that I was interested in the Christian religion he hastily transferred me to this place in order to save me from St. Francis. Did he purposely send me to this filthy place or did he not know Vrindaban so well himself ?
I became desperate and filled with despair-. Neither could I sleep nor eat. I was utterly restless.
I did not know what to do and where to go. Not expecting - to stay long in Vrindaban I had not brought any box of books. I had nothing to console me. I wrote about all these things to my Guru and also about my reactions. He immediately replied, "Your way to look at these things is wrong; Keep your spiritual eyes open. The holy Vrindaban is still there, but simply you have not seen it. The Ganges is holy but unholy men see only filth in it. Accept the holiness of the Ganges and she will purify you. Likewise open your spiritual eyes and you will enter into the dallyings of Krishna." But this reply was quite hollow to me.
I had been in Vrindaban for a week when one day, two men came to our Math. One, being a Hindustani Pandit, had come to teach Hindi to some of our men. It seemed that the other man was a Bengali. As the Pandit taught the others, this man and I talked on the veranda outside. From our conversation, I presumed that this man was a Chakraverti from the district of Dacca in East Bengal and from a very respectable Brahmin family. But he was a Christian. He was the younger brother of the husband of the famous lady called, “Ma Ananadamayi" who has disciples all over India. Nothing could shock me more. Was it right that a Bengali Christian should defile Vrindaban? No, He must be brought to Hinduism. Suppressing my sorrow and anger, I talked with him as a friend. I told him about my wish to see his house and to know him better. I had the conviction that I would find western dress, shoes, neckties, cigars and cigarettes, wine-bottles, bones of beef and many such things. When I asked him why he was wearing Bengali dress although he was a Christian, lie said that he had no other to wear.
I did not believe him. I asked him about his food, smoking wine etc. I thought he was bluffing. Short time ago I was condemning Vrindaban, but now all the pride of my own religion overwhelmed me. Vrindaban might be worse than hell and Hinduism might have failed to give me the desired perfection, yet when the question of religion came, I at once was ready to defend Hinduism and praise it.
I had thought that Christianity, being a foreign religion, might be suitable for non-Indians but it would certainly not suit Indians. To me, Christianity meant Western dress, eating beef, dancing with women, eating with spoons and forks, marrying an English wife, freedom to go anywhere and to eat anything. I had seen among so called Christians the worst drunkards. The hugging of men and women in Western dancing was beyond my comprehension. I put this Chakraverti in this kind of setting; he had given up my ancient Hindu religion and had embraced Christianity. My blood began to boil. I do not know how I managed to talk to him with a smile on my face. I accepted his invitation to go to his house. He didn't suspect my evil intention. We started to his house and I expected to find a decorated drawing-room, a hat stand a place for walking sticks, and a wife dressed in western dress. I would not have been surprised to find hones of beef, empty wine-bottles and cigars scattered on the ground. But on the contrary, he had no furniture except a low writing-desk and a simple carpet on the floor. When his wife passed the door, I saw that she was dressed in a simple Indian fashion. While doing her work she was humming a Christian song in Hindi, the meaning of which was, "There is sunshine in my soul today.! I sat on the other side of the desk on which was the Bible. Although I was- pleased to see his simplicity in living, the thought of a Brahmin accepting Christianity made me extremely unhappy. I began to try to convince him that Hinduism was superior to Christianity. I began to contradict him on subjects like God, religious practices, scriptures, cleanliness, the after-life and soon I asked him questions mosty about killing and eating beef. Since be was preacher I thought him to be a very learned man and began to speak in Sanskrit and English. Soon I discovered that he did not follow me. Then I began to talk in Bengali. Whenever I asked him question, he never answered it himself but gave references from the Bible and I always got answers, some of which were quite convincing. When leaving the temple I had said to myself that I would not eat or drink until I had won this Chakraverti back to Hinduism, but evening came and still he was not reconverted! Hunger and thirst assailed me. Feeling defeated within but with a smiling face I thanked him for his time, promising to call again the next morning. I went back with a copy of the Bible.
That night after my meal I began to look in the Bible for some verses to contradict my friend but God's plan was different. 1 found in those verses revelations of new truths and I liked them so much that I began to read them out to the inmates of the Math. Some of them wrote them in their note-books. Most of the night was spent thus and I had a conviction that I was going to lose in this battle. Next morning fully determined to bring him back to Hinduism, I went out. He would not argue but simply let me find the references. I wanted to find some verses from the Bible that would support my present practices and way of life. I had been following the Vaishnava laws about food, worship, dress, ceremonial cleanliness, purificatory rites, feasts, special days etc. My every day life was controlled by my scriptures. I thought the Bible would also have such regulation, as to how to put on a necktie, what kind of a collar one should wear, the cut of his coat and pants, how to cook beef, how much and how to drink liquors, and how to smoke cigars. When I asked him about these, he told me to read the first five books of the Bible. I was delighted to find these sections of law and order of daily life. I thought I had a good chance to attack him and show how inadequate and harmful these laws were. I was sure that he would at once give up the Bible and become a Hindu. I went home, taking with me the Bible to study the part with which I was going to find fault. I was so convinced that Chakraverti would soon become a Hindu that I had already made arrangements to perform his Shuddhi (ceremony of reconverting to Hinduism). Had it happened as I had planned I would have been the king of Vrindaban.
When I went back to him in the evening, he said to me, "Friend, these regulations are for the Jews, not for the Christians. These are included in the Bible, not for the guidance of the Christians, but to show how Jesus Christ came to fulfill these laws. The observance of these laws would not make a saint of any man nor keep him from sin. The work of merit can never claim anything from God nor is God pleased with offerings and rituals. Child-like faith in Jesus Christ as God and Savior, and sincerely accepting Him as Lord of your life, is all that is required to save a man from sin. We Christians are not bound by a set of regulations as to our dress, food, manner of living etc. Jesus Christ has the power to save all persons who come to Him for salvation from sin. Salvation, like love, is a gift of God."
I was very confused, and could not understand what my friend was explaining to me. My Hindu ideas about sin, love, salvation, merit, goodness and perfection were very different. I thought it utterly impossible that God would ever do for a man what the pastor had just told me But we continued to talk about sin, love, salvation, incarnation, rebirth and after-life. When I could not follow him I felt intellectually defeated. The Bible was his great stronghold. Therefore I gave up the idea of reconverting him to Hinduism and determined that I should disprove the Bible first. I wanted to make a thorough study of the Bible and then write books and tracts owing how shallow it was.
As I was making a very critical study of the bible, I began to think that the Old Testament was as bad as the new. It was very similar to my Hindu scriptures. The claims of Jesus and his teachings had been Rev. K. K. Chakraverti's defence and strong-hold. Therefore I need not bother about the Old Testament, but all I should do was to tear to pieces the New Testament teachings with my fiery writings. I had to study the New Testament thoroughly. I found that the essence of the New Testament was Jesus Christ Himself and Mc was the shelter of my friend. I thought my work was easy now. I had to find fault with Jesus and His teachings. This idea gripped me and I was obsessed with the project.
My arrangements for the pastor's "Shuddhi" had to be postponed for the time-being. All the people approved of my plan to bring a Christian Padre into the Hindu fold again. Morning and evening they began to come to me to find out who was the winner in our discussions. Had I succeeded there would have been a grand celebration and I would have got many gifts. I forgot all about my daily ceremonials because I was busy finding fault with Jesus. I became very unhappy. Chaitanya, the Veda and the Vaishnava Laws receded from my thoughts. Jesus Christ and the New Testament had taken their place - because I wanted to tear them to pieces. If I went to the temple to worship Krishna, I would see Jesus and His teachings would come to me. I tried to brush away all this but they became persisting. While daubing the tilak-mark on my body or forehead, I seemed to see the blood of Jesus in it. When I would prostrate myself before Krishna, I would see the wooden and blood stained cross on the floor. When I looked at the various names of Krishna and his teachings written on the walls I saw Christ and His teachings. One day the climax came for me. I seemed to be on the verge of insanity. I did not go to Chakraverti's house. He was waiting for me. The decisive day had come. Having spent the day in such a restless state of mind, I went to the temple to perform the evening worship. When I looked at the feet, the breast, and the face of the idol, I saw the blood dripping from those feet, hands and side. It shined in the light. As I waved the lights in front of the idol, I thought the worshippers saw Krishna, but I saw the pierced body of Jesus on the cross aglow with blood. After finishing this devotion, I retired to my room for the night.
I sat in the darkness reviewing the happenings of the whole day. The more I tried to go away from God the more He appeared to me. This picture began to form in my mind. On one side Jesus was standing with his lovely, compelling, beckoning eyes. I could not take my gaze from Him and yet I resented Him. On the other side were a host of the gods I had known, together with my loved ones and friends, all beckoning frantically to me to come away and stay with them. They were threatening a complete boycott should I go towards Christ. Perplexed and weary at this cross-road, I folded my hands and began to pray saying, "Oh Go, I have not yet seen You. I accepted that You were Krishna and Chaitanya, but I have not experienced them. Here is Jesus Christ as God and Savior. The more I try to go away from Him the nearer He comes to me. Oh God, You know my desire. I gave up everything in search of You. You know why I came here. You know why I am fighting against Christ, and I want to be loyal to my religion and faith. Why has Jesus been troubling me so f? Here I am at this cross-road. Help me to choose the right one."