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At the Feet of The Mother

IX. 1. TALES OF PRISON LIFE. Tales of Prison Life (V)


During the period of my solitary confinement Dr. Daly and the Assistant Superintendent would come to my room almost every day and have a little chat. From the beginning, I do not know why, I had been able to draw their special favour and sympathy. I did not speak much with them, but just answered only when they asked something. If they raised any issues I either listened quietly or would stop after speaking a few words. Yet they did not give up visiting me. One day Mr. Daly spoke to me, “I have been able, through my Assistant Superintendent, to get the big boss to agree that every day, in the morning and evening, you will be allowed to take a walk in front of the decree. I do not like that you should be confined throughout the day in a small cell, it’s bad for both body and mind.” From that day on I would take a stroll everyday in the morning and evening in the open space before decree. In the afternoons it would be for ten, fifteen or twenty minutes, in the morning for an hour; at times I would stay out for two hours, there was no time limit about it. I enjoyed this very much. On one side were the jail industries, on the other, the cowshed — my independent kingdom was flanked by these two. From the industrial section to the cowshed, from the cowshed to the industrial section, travelling to and fro I would recite the deeply moving, immortal, powerful mantras of the Upanishads, or watching the movements and activities of the prisoners I tried to realise the basic truths of the immanent Godhead, God in every form. In the trees, the houses, the walls, in men, animals, birds, metals, the earth, with the help of the mantra: All this is the Brahman, (sarvaṁ khalvidaṁ Brahma), I would try to fix or impose that realisation on all of these.  As I went on doing like this sometimes the prison ceased to appear to be a prison at all. The high wall, those iron bars, the white wall, the green-leaved tree shining in sunlight, it seemed as if these common-place objects were not unconscious at all, but that they were vibrating with a universal consciousness, they love me and wish to embrace me, or so I felt. Men, cows, ants, birds are moving, flying, singing, speaking, yet all is Nature’s game; behind all this is a great pure detached spirit rapt in a serene delight. Once in a while it seemed as if God Himself was standing under the tree, to play upon his Flute of Delight; and with its sheer charm to draw my very soul out. Always it seemed as if someone was embracing me, holding me on one’s lap. The manifestation of these emotions overpowered my whole body and mind, a pure and wide peace reigned everywhere, it is impossible to describe that. The hard cover of my life opened up and a spring of love for all creatures gushed from within. Along with this love such sāttvik emotions as charity, kindness, ahiṁsā, etc., overpowered my dominantly rājasik nature and found an abundant release. And the more these qualities developed, the greater the delight and the deeper the sense of unclouded peace. The anxiety over the case had vanished from the beginning, now it was a contrary emotion that found room in my mind. God is All-Good, He had brought me into the prison-house for my good, my release and the quashing of charges was certain, I grew firm in this faith. After this for many days I did not have to suffer any troubles in the jail.

It took some days for these emotions to settle and deepen. It was while this was going on that the case opened in the magistrate’s court. At first the mind was greatly perturbed, by being dragged from the silence of solitary imprisonment to the noise of the world outside. The patience of inner discipline was lost and the mind did not at all consent to listen for five hours on end to the dull and bothersome arguments by the prosecution. At first I tried to continue the inner life while sitting in the court-room, but the unaccustomed mind would be attracted to every sound and sight, and the attempt would not succeed, in the midst of the noise going on all round. Later the feelings changed and I acquired the power to reject from the mind the immediate sounds and sights, and draw the mind inwards. But this did not take place in the early stages, the true power of concentration had not developed then. For that reason, giving up the futile attempt, I would be content with seeing, now and then, God in all creatures, for the rest I would observe the words and behaviour of my companions in adversity, else think of other things, or sometimes listened to Mr. Norton’s valuable remarks or even the evidence of witnesses. I found that while spending one’s time in solitary imprisonment had grown easy and pleasant, it was not that easy in the midst of the crowd and in the life-and-death game of a serious case. I greatly enjoyed the laughter, the jollities and the pleasantries of the accused lads, else the time spent at the court appeared wholly annoying. At four-thirty I would happily get into the police van and return to the prison.

The contact of human life and each other’s company, after fifteen or sixteen days of prison life, made the other prisoners extremely happy. As soon as they got into the carriage the fountain of laughter and conversation would open and during the ten minutes that they were inside the carriage the stream would never cease for a moment. On the first day they took us to the court with great eclat. There was a small platoon of European sergeants who went along with us and they carried loaded pistols. At the time of our getting into the carriage a band of armed policemen stood guard round us and did some marching behind the carriage, the ritual was repeated at the time of our getting down as well. Looking at so much to-do some inexperienced spectators must have thought that these laughter-loving young lads must be some group of daredevil famous warriors. Who knows how much courage and strength resided in their bodies so that even with their empty hands they might be able to break through the impassive cordon of a hundred policemen and tommies. Maybe it was for this reason that we were being conducted with so much honour and ceremony. For a few days the pomp was kept up, then there was a gradual decline, in the end two to four sergeants would be there to take and bring us back. At the time of our getting down they did not very much observe how we entered the prison; we would walk into it as if we were returning home after a stroll, just as a free person does. Watching this carelessness and slackening the Police Commissioner and some of the Superintendents said angrily: “On the first day we had arranged for twenty-five to thirty sergeants, now we see that not even four or five turn up.” They would scold the sergeants and make strict arrangements for supervision. Then, maybe for two days, two more sergeants would come, and again the earlier slackness followed! The sergeants found that the devotees of the bomb were quite harmless folk, who were not attempting to escape and had no plans to kill or attack anyone, so they wondered why they should waste valuable time in performing unpleasant duties. At first before entering and leaving the court there used to be a personal search, during which we used to have the joy of feeling the soft palms of the sergeants, otherwise no one was likely to profit or to lose from this search. It was clear that our protectors had profound scepticism about the utility of such a procedure, and after a few days this was also given up. We could safely carry with us into the courtroom books, bread, sugar just as we liked. They soon got the feeling that we were not there to hurl a bomb or fire a pistol. But I noticed that there was one singular fear from which the sergeant’s mind was not free. Who knew which of the accused will have the evil brainwave of hurling a pair of a shoes at the glorious pate of the magistrate? Then the fat would be in the fire! For this reason entering the court with shoes on was strictly forbidden, and the sergeants were always alert on that point. I did not notice them to be keen on any other safety measures.

to be continued.

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It is not the personality, the character that is of the first importance in rebirth — it is the psychic being who stands behind the evolution of the nature and evolves with it.