A Decisive Step in the Search of Clod.
"I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with loving kindness have I drawn you." (Jeremiah 31:3).
I asked Miss Porter to help me to leave Vrindaban and settle in some other place where I would find good climate, good books and a good body of Christians whose lives would help me see Jesus, His love and grace. While she was making enquiries, I was physically living in the temple but I was not there mentally. I had given up my religious duties there. I was already a Christian though not yet baptized. I spent many hours searching the truths from the Bible. I had not told my temple associates about my vision or about the change in my heart But when I would come upon some new truth in reading the Bible, I would read aloud. They saw that I had given up idol-worship, reading of the Hindu scriptures and meditation with a rosary. After a few days Miss Porter told me that accommodation was available for me to go to a Methodist Theological college. Up to this time I had never thought it necessary to be other than a Hindu Christian. I wrote to my loyal friends to send money since I would need to support myself in Jabalpur. Many of them never answered and some refused help. This came as a shock to me. Then Miss Porter informed me that unless a man was baptized and professed Jesus Christ openly he could not go to Jabalpur, and hope to get anything out of the life there merely by associating with the Christian people. I had to declare openly that I was a Christian.
This upset me very much. To me Baptism meant the forcible putting of a piece of hated beef into my mouth, taking away my Bengali dress and substituting it with Western dress, giving me a Christian name, eating at a table, freely mixing with young women, drinking wine, smoking tobacco etc. I began to suspect Miss Porter of actually secretly trying to trap me with her cleverness as a missionary. I knew that I would at once be cast out by my own religious sect when Baptism was suggested. I wanted to be called Hindu, keep my sacred thread and remain within Hindu society. I was like a sponge that had long been soaking up Hinduism at every pore. Christ had to pick this sponge up and squeeze it hard in order to make it give up the old water and be able to absorb the new. But I did not realize the necessity of this. With suspicion in my heart I asked Miss Porter what she meant by Baptism. She merely handed me a copy of the Discipline of her Church and asked me to read a certain portion of it. With disturbed mind I took the book from her and began to read about Baptism. Before I reached the gate I had finished the reading. I could hardly believe it was all there. No mention of beef! No mention of any of those old things I had been told! I found I had made a mistake. I came back to Miss Porter saying, "I have read this chapter. There are only three questions and I have to answer 'yes' to each. [*(1) Do you truly repent of your sins and accept and confess Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord ? (2) Will you earnestly endeavor to keep Godís Holy will and commandments ? (3) Do you desire to be baptized in this faith ?] I can answer 'yes' to all. In fact I think I have already answered that. Now if this is Baptism I feel I have been baptized already and you may baptize me even a hundred times. She replied, "I am glad you have understood and are not ready to confess something you don't understand".
My whole mind was changed. I went back to my temple with but one thought that I was going to be baptized no matter what the consequences. I was going to confess my soul-baptism by an outward ceremony called baptism at the hands of a priest. Jesus had already done the first act, the soul-baptism. No man could undo it now. But I felt that the outward would be a confession of the inward.
After having my noon meal I lay down and went to sleep. I began to see Jesus as if in a dream standing beside me saying, "Atul, I have accepted you in your sin. I have suffered for your sins. You belong to me alone. I helped and guided you many times. I allowed you to go the way you did, because I can not force myself on any one. You failed in your way. That day I met you and forgave your sins, but sin no more. When you accept me openly in your life and proclaim me to the world as your Savior and give testimony to my saving grace you will be persecuted. My salvation and love were given to you as free gifts. Are you ready to accept this?"
Then the moment He disappeared into the clouds, the hosts of Hindu gods and goddesses and especially Shri Ram, Krishna and Chaitanya, the Hindu saints and reformers, gurus, members of my family, even my wife appeared to me and encircling me began to plead with me, "Atul, what are you about to do? We have sustained you and cared for you from childhood. You were born in Hinduism and you must remain in Hinduism. It is better to die in this religion. We all are yours and you are ours. What are you going to do, forsaking everything, your dear ones, your friends and society, your ways of life. ? You will lose your honor and prestige and all will persecute you and treat you as a traitor, a renegade. Have we not done anything for you? Are you not grateful to us? Jesus Christ is a foreigner. The Americans and the English have brought Him here from their countries to pervert our sacred religion and forms of worship. He is our greatest enemy. He ignores our laws of Manu and other scriptures. Confession, repentance of sin, complete change of heart, acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord, are the main teachings of their religion. Stop and think. if you go that way you will turn all of us into your enemies and all will desert you. You will lose everything. Beware !"
Would I be able to get past this testing? Which way to go? There came to my mind those challenging statements of Jesus, 'He that loveth his father and mother more than me is not worthy of me. He that would come after me let him deny himself." Accept Krishna or Christ. Like moving pictures the past details of my life passed before my mind. Ultimately my dead father seemed to come and say, "Atul, I had told you to choose your own wife and your own religion. You chose your wife and you were happy. Now at this crisis choose your own religion. Be strong, do not be afraid of what others may think"
Had I alone been the one to make the choice I might have chosen the wrong thing. But I was not alone. I remembered that I belonged to Jesus. I had worshipped many gods and goddesses but what had they done for me? Though I had long hated Jesus and determined to destroy Him, He showed me His love and came to my rescue. He owns me now.
I woke but stayed just like that with my eyes closed. The vision of that dream was gone, but a line of a song came singing into my mind. I even sang it aloud, Jesus, I promised to serve Thee to the end." The temple-inmates were sitting in the adjoining room. Imagine their surprise at hearing this song coming from their devoted Bhakti-Vijay. I heard them say, "What has become of our Krishna and Chaitanya? Has Bhakti-Vijay become a Christian? His Bible-reading and going to the Christian Mission has become frequent of late. He is neglecting his religious duties. His attitude is changed towards everything. He has become a friend of the former owner of this temple who is our enemy. He pays no attention to the commands of our Guru. As he still has his sacred thread and tuft of hair, however, how can he be a Christian?
When I met them I saw a look of wonder and surprise on their faces. They asked me about the song I sang. I described the whole vision to them and told them, "Because I read the Bible of late and went among the Christians this vision may have come. No, I have not become a Christian and may not become one. Our Guru wanted me to go to the West and preach Hinduism, so I am associating with the Christian people and reading their books in order to know more about them. My book on 'Vaishnavism-Real and Apparent" has in all probability been printed and sent to the West already." Thus I tried to drive away their fears; but nevertheless they did not like my mixing too much with the Christians. Seeds of suspicion went on growing in their minds.
One day as I was walking with Rev. Chakraverti one of my close Hindu friends met us, and very frankly warned me saying, "Beware of these Christians! They know magic. They will make you a Christian in no time!" I replied saying, "I am not a small child who can be fooled so easily. How can one man make another man a Christian? One can only become a Christian after a real experience of Christ. He is a Christian because he follows Christ and believes that Jesus Christ is God and Saves from sin. He becomes a follower not of any religion such as Hinduism or Islam, but of Christ. Was Christ a bad character?" My Hindu friend replied, "Jesus is the best character. His sacrificial love is wonderful and unique. His is the ideal life and all should try to follow Him without forsaking their own religion. Follow Christ but remain a Hindu." I replied, "Thank you for your advice. Don't you be afraid I won't give up my religion".
I went to see Miss Porter and she asked me what I had decided. "Are you ready to be baptized ?" I replied, "Yes, I am ready provided you do not touch my style of dress, my name, ways of food etc. If your rules and customs permit, I am ready to be baptized just as I am." She assured me that there would be no change against my will, and said, "Dress and name do not make one a Christian".
The next day was December 25th; 1926. I preferred to be baptized on this special day of the Christians, rather than on an ordinary day, because I wanted my new birth to be associated with the birth of Christ. At that time there was no Church in the hospital at Vrindaban. Hindus had leased the land to the Mission on the condition that no Church should be built there. Hence I was baptized in that very drawing-room where I first met Miss Porter, and had had many interviews with her later. The same Chakraverti, whom I had vowed to convert to Hinduism, baptized me. I felt as though the final examination was over and felt such a great sense of relief. I told my friends that I had been like an unbridled horse without a driver, running here and there. Now a good driver has not only put on the reins but has a firm hold on the reins. After the ceremony I went for a walk with Chakraverti. For the first time I enjoyed the beauty of nature.
The next day after my baptism, K.K. invited the whole staff of the hospital to his house for dinner. I was invited but only to be there and not to eat. I looked like a Sadhu as I had not changed my way of dressing, and one of the nurses asked why I was there; but K. K. told her I was a Hindu friend of his. I was disturbed about his answer. Even a Christian was unable to tell another Christian about my baptism! That very moment I lifted a prayer from my heart that God would prepare me to come back to Vrindaban to live a Christian life openly and make it possible for others to do openly what I had been compelled to do in secret. I dedicated my life at that moment praying that God could use me to found an Ashram where hungry and thirsty souls of all castes and creeds could come to study religious books, especially the Bible to find where they could discover the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and thus follow Him for life.