The man, who is alive as this earth is, is likewise always
enveloped in the mist of the ideas which he is breathing out.
His real land and water remain hidden, and he appears to be made
of only lights and shadows.
It seems to me, in this story of my life, that, like a living
plant, I am displaying the picture of an ideal world. But I am
not merely what I want, what I think - I am also what I do not
love, what I do not wish to be. My creation had begun before I
was born. I had no choice in regard to my surroundings and so
must make the best of such material as comes to my hand.
My theory of life makes me certain that the Great is cruel To be
just is for ordinary men - it is reserved for the great to be
unjust. The surface of the earth was even. The volcano butted
it with its fiery horn and found its own eminence - its justice
was not towards its obstacle, but towards itself. Successful
injustice and genuine cruelty have been the only forces by which
individual or nation has become millionaire or monarch.
That is why I preach the great discipline of Injustice. I say to
everyone: Deliverance is based upon injustice. Injustice is the
fire which must keep on burning something in order to save itself
from becoming ashes. Whenever an individual or nation becomes
incapable of perpetrating injustice it is swept into the dust-bin
of the world.
As yet this is only my idea - it is not completely myself. There
are rifts in the armour through which something peeps out which
is extremely soft and sensitive. Because, as I say, the best
part of myself was created before I came to this stage of
From time to time I try my followers in their lesson of cruelty.
One day we went on a picnic. A goat was grazing by. I asked
them: "Who is there among you that can cut off a leg of that
goat, alive, with this knife, and bring it to me?" While they
all hesitated, I went myself and did it. One of them fainted at
the sight. But when they saw me unmoved they took the dust of my
feet, saying that I was above all human weaknesses. That is to
say, they saw that day the vaporous envelope which was my idea,
but failed to perceive the inner me, which by a curious freak of
fate has been created tender and merciful.
In the present chapter of my life, which is growing in interest
every day round Bimala and Nikhil, there is also much that
remains hidden underneath. This malady of ideas which afflicts
me is shaping my life within: nevertheless a great part of my
life remains outside its influence; and so there is set up a
discrepancy between my outward life and its inner design which I
try my best to keep concealed even from myself; otherwise it may
wreck not only my plans, but my very life.
Life is indefinite - a bundle of contradictions. We men, with our
ideas, strive to give it a particular shape by melting it into a
particular mould - into the definiteness of success. All the
world-conquerors, from Alexander down to the American
millionaires, mould themselves into a sword or a mint, and thus
find that distinct image of themselves which is the source of
The chief controversy between Nikhil and myself arises from this:
that though I say "know thyself", and Nikhil also says "know
thyself", his interpretation makes this "knowing" tantamount to
"Winning your kind of success," Nikhil once objected, "is success
gained at the cost of the soul: but the soul is greater than
I simply said in answer: "Your words are too vague."
"That I cannot help," Nikhil replied. "A machine is distinct
enough, but not so life. If to gain distinctness you try to know
life as a machine, then such mere distinctness cannot stand for
truth. The soul is not as distinct as success, and so you only
lose your soul if you seek it in your success."
"Where, then, is this wonderful soul?"
"Where it knows itself in the infinite and transcends its
"But how does all this apply to our work for the country?"
"It is the same thing. Where our country makes itself the final
object, it gains success at the cost of the soul. Where it
recognizes the Greatest as greater than all, there it may miss
success, but gains its soul."
"Is there any example of this in history?"
"Man is so great that he can despise not only the success, but
also the example. Possibly example is lacking, just as there is
no example of the flower in the seed. But there is the urgence
of the flower in the seed all the same."
It is not that I do not at all understand Nikhil's point of view;
that is rather where my danger lies. I was born in India and the
poison of its spirituality runs in my blood. However loudly I
may proclaim the madness of walking in the path of self-
abnegation, I cannot avoid it altogether.
This is exactly how such curious anomalies happen nowadays in our
country. We must have our religion and also our nationalism; our
__Bhagavadgita__ and also our __Bande Mataram__. The result is that
both of them suffer. It is like performing with an English military
band, side by side with our Indian festive pipes. I must make it
the purpose of my life to put an end to this hideous confusion.
I want the western military style to prevail, not the Indian.
We shall then not be ashamed of the flag of our passion, which
mother Nature has sent with us as our standard into the
battlefield of life. Passion is beautiful and pure - pure as the
lily that comes out of the slimy soil. It rises superior to its
defilement and needs no Pears' soap to wash it clean.
A question has been worrying me the last few days. Why am I
allowing my life to become entangled with Bimala's? Am I a
drifting log to be caught up at any and every obstacle?
Not that I have any false shame at Bimala becoming an object of
my desire. It is only too clear how she wants me, and so I look
on her as quite legitimately mine. The fruit hangs on the branch
by the stem, but that is no reason why the claim of the stem
should be eternal. Ripe fruit cannot for ever swear by its
slackening stem-hold. All its sweetness has been accumulated for
me; to surrender itself to my hand is the reason of its
existence, its very nature, its true morality. So I must pluck
it, for it becomes me not to make it futile.
But what is teasing me is that I am getting entangled. Am I not
born to rule? - to bestride my proper steed, the crowd, and drive
it as I will; the reins in my hand, the destination known only to
me, and for it the thorns, the mire, on the road? This steed now
awaits me at the door, pawing and champing its bit, its neighing
filling the skies. But where am I, and what am I about, letting
day after day of golden opportunity slip by?
I used to think I was like a storm - that the torn flowers with
which I strewed my path would not impede my progress. But I am
only wandering round and round a flower like a bee - not a storm.
So, as I was saying, the colouring of ideas which man gives
himself is only superficial. The inner man remains as ordinary
as ever. If someone, who could see right into me, were to write
my biography, he would make me out to be no different from that
lout of a Panchu, or even from Nikhil!
Last night I was turning over the pages of my old diary ... I
had just graduated, and my brain was bursting with philosophy.
Even so early I had vowed not to harbour any illusions, whether
of my own or other's imagining, but to build my life on a solid
basis of reality. But what has since been its actual story?
Where is its solidity? It has rather been a network, where,
though the thread be continuous, more space is taken up by the
holes. Fight as I may, these will not own defeat. Just as I was
congratulating myself on steadily following the thread, here I am
badly caught in a hole! For I have become susceptible to
"I want it; it is here; let me take it" - This is a clear-cut,
straightforward policy. Those who can pursue its course with
vigour needs must win through in the end. But the gods would not
have it that such journey should be easy, so they have deputed
the siren Sympathy to distract the wayfarer, to dim his vision
with her tearful mist.
I can see that poor Bimala is struggling like a snared deer.
What a piteous alarm there is in her eyes! How she is torn with
straining at her bonds! This sight, of course, should gladden
the heart of a true hunter. And so do I rejoice; but, then, I am
also touched; and therefore I dally, and standing on the brink I
am hesitating to pull the noose fast.
There have been moments, I know, when I could have bounded up to
her, clasped her hands and folded her to my breast, unresisting.
Had I done so, she would not have said one word. She was aware
that some crisis was impending, which in a moment would change
the meaning of the whole world. Standing before that cavern of
the incalculable but yet expected, her face went pale and her
eyes glowed with a fearful ecstasy. Within that moment, when it
arrives, an eternity will take shape, which our destiny awaits,
holding its breath.
But I have let this moment slip by. I did not, with
uncompromising strength, press the almost certain into the
absolutely assured. I now see clearly that some hidden elements
in my nature have openly ranged themselves as obstacles in my
That is exactly how Ravana, whom I look upon as the real hero of
the __Ramayana__, met with his doom. He kept Sita in his
Asoka garden, awaiting her pleasure, instead of taking her
straight into his harem. This weak spot in his otherwise grand
character made the whole of the abduction episode futile.
Another such touch of compunction made him disregard, and be
lenient to, his traitorous brother Bibhisan, only to get himself
killed for his pains.
Thus does the tragic in life come by its own. In the beginning
it lies, a little thing, in some dark under-vault, and ends by
overthrowing the whole superstructure. The real tragedy is, that
man does not know himself for what he really is.
Then again there is Nikhil. Crank though he be, laugh at him as
I may, I cannot get rid of the idea that he is my friend. At
first I gave no thought to his point of view, but of late it has
begun to shame and hurt me. Therefore I have been trying to talk
and argue with him in the same enthusiastic way as of old, but it
does not ring true. It is even leading me at times into such a
length of unnaturalness as to pretend to agree with him. But
such hypocrisy is not in my nature, nor in that of Nikhil either.
This, at least, is something we have in common. That is why,
nowadays, I would rather not come across him, and have taken to
fighting shy of his presence.
All these are signs of weakness. No sooner is the possibility of
a wrong admitted than it becomes actual, and clutches you by the
throat, however you may then try to shake off all belief in it.
What I should like to be able to tell Nikhil frankly is, that
happenings such as these must be looked in the face - as great
Realities - and that which is the Truth should not be allowed to
stand between true friends.
There is no denying that I have really weakened. It was not this
weakness which won over Bimala; she burnt her wings in the blaze
of the full strength of my unhesitating manliness. Whenever
smoke obscures its lustre she also becomes confused, and draws
back. Then comes a thorough revulsion of feeling, and she fain
would take back the garland she has put round my neck, but
cannot; and so she only closes her eyes, to shut it out of sight.
But all the same I must not swerve from the path I have chalked
out. It would never do to abandon the cause of the country,
especially at the present time. I shall simply make Bimala one
with my country. The turbulent west wind which has swept away
the country's veil of conscience, will sweep away the veil of the
wife from Bimala's face, and in that uncovering there will be no
shame. The ship will rock as it bears the crowd across the
ocean, flying the pennant of __Bande Mataram__, and it will
serve as the cradle to my power, as well as to my love.
Bimala will see such a majestic vision of deliverance, that her
bonds will slip from about her, without shame, without her even
being aware of it. Fascinated by the beauty of this terrible
wrecking power, she will not hesitate a moment to be cruel. I
have seen in Bimala's nature the cruelty which is the inherent
force of existence - the cruelty which with its unrelenting might
keeps the world beautiful.
If only women could be set free from the artificial fetters put
round them by men, we could see on earth the living image of
Kali, the shameless, pitiless goddess. I am a worshipper of
Kali, and one day I shall truly worship her, setting Bimala on
her altar of Destruction. For this let me get ready.
The way of retreat is absolutely closed for both of us. We shall
despoil each other: get to hate each other: but never more be
EVERYTHING is rippling and waving with the flood of August. The
young shoots of rice have the sheen of an infant's limbs. The
water has invaded the garden next to our house. The morning
light, like the love of the blue sky, is lavished upon the earth
... Why cannot I sing? The water of the distant river is
shimmering with light; the leaves are glistening; the rice-
fields, with their fitful shivers, break into gleams of gold; and
in this symphony of Autumn, only I remain voiceless. The
sunshine of the world strikes my heart, but is not reflected
When I realize the lack of expressiveness in myself, I know why I
am deprived. Who could bear my company day and night without a
break? Bimala is full of the energy of life, and so she has
never become stale to me for a moment, in all these nine years of
our wedded life.
My life has only its dumb depths; but no murmuring rush. I can
only receive: not impart movement. And therefore my company is
like fasting. I recognize clearly today that Bimala has been
languishing because of a famine of companionship.
Then whom shall I blame? Like Vidyapati I can only lament:
It is August, the sky breaks into a passionate rain;
Alas, empty is my house.
My house, I now see, was built to remain empty, because its doors
cannot open. But I never knew till now that its divinity had
been sitting outside. I had fondly believed that she had
accepted my sacrifice, and granted in return her boon. But,
alas, my house has all along been empty.
Every year, about this time, it was our practice to go in a
house-boat over the broads of Samalda. I used to tell Bimala
that a song must come back to its refrain over and over again.
The original refrain of every song is in Nature, where the rain-
laden wind passes over the rippling stream, where the green
earth, drawing its shadow-veil over its face, keeps its ear close
to the speaking water. There, at the beginning of time, a man
and a woman first met - not within walls. And therefore we two
must come back to Nature, at least once a year, to tune our love
anew to the first pure note of the meeting of hearts.
The first two anniversaries of our married life I spent in
Calcutta, where I went through my examinations. But from the
next year onwards, for seven years without a break, we have
celebrated our union among the blossoming water-lilies. Now
begins the next octave of my life.
It was difficult for me to ignore the fact that the same month of
August had come round again this year. Does Bimala remember it,
I wonder? - she has given me no reminder. Everything is mute
It is August, the sky breaks into a passionate rain;
Alas, empty is my house.
The house which becomes empty through the parting of lovers,
still has music left in the heart of its emptiness. But the
house that is empty because hearts are asunder, is awful in its
silence. Even the cry of pain is out of place there.
This cry of pain must be silenced in me. So long as I continue
to suffer, Bimala will never have true freedom. I must free her
completely, otherwise I shall never gain my freedom from untruth
I think I have come to the verge of understanding one thing. Man
has so fanned the flame of the loves of men and women, as to make
it overpass its rightful domain, and now, even in the name of
humanity itself, he cannot bring it back under control. Man's
worship has idolized his passion. But there must be no more
human sacrifices at its shrine ...
I went into my bedroom this morning, to fetch a book. It is long
since I have been there in the day-time. A pang passed through
me as I looked round it today, in the morning light. On the
clothes rack was hanging a __sari__ of Bimala's, crinkled
ready for wear. On the dressing-table were her perfumes, her
comb, her hair-pins, and with them, still, her vermilion box!
Underneath were her tiny gold-embroidered slippers.
Once, in the old days, when Bimala had not yet overcome her
objections to shoes, I had got these out from Lucknow, to tempt
her. The first time she was ready to drop for very shame, to go
in them even from the room to the verandah. Since then she has
worn out many shoes, but has treasured up this pair. When first
showing her the slippers, I chaffed her over a curious practice
of hers; "I have caught you taking the dust of my feet, thinking
me asleep! These are the offerings of my worship to ward the
dust off the feet of my wakeful divinity." "You must not say
such things," she protested, "or I will never wear your shoes!"
This bedroom of mine - it has a subtle atmosphere which goes
straight to my heart. I was never aware, as I am today, how my
thirsting heart has been sending out its roots to cling round
each and every familiar object. The severing of the main root, I
see, is not enough to set life free. Even these little slippers
serve to hold one back.
My wandering eyes fall on the niche. My portrait there is
looking the same as ever, in spite of the flowers scattered round
it having been withered black! Of all the things in the room
their greeting strikes me as sincere. They are still here simply
because it was not felt worth while even to remove them. Never
mind; let me welcome truth, albeit in such sere and sorry garb,
and look forward to the time when I shall be able to do so
unmoved, as does my photograph.
As I stood there, Bimal came in from behind. I hastily turned my
eyes from the niche to the shelves as I muttered: "I came to get
Amiel's Journal." What need had Ito volunteer an explanation? I
felt like a wrong-doer, a trespasser, prying into a secret not
meant for me. I could not look Bimal in the face, but hurried
I had just made the discovery that it was useless to keep up a
pretence of reading in my room outside, and also that it was
equally beyond me to busy myself attending to anything at all - so
that all the days of my future bid fair to congeal into one solid
mass and settle heavily on my breast for good - when Panchu, the
tenant of a neighbouring __zamindar__, came up to me with a
basketful of cocoa-nuts and greeted me with a profound obeisance.
"Well, Panchu," said I. "What is all this for?"
I had got to know Panchu through my master. He was extremely
poor, nor was I in a position to do anything for him; so I
supposed this present was intended to procure a tip to help the
poor fellow to make both ends meet. I took some money from my
purse and held it out towards him, but with folded hands he
protested: "I cannot take that, sir!"
"Why, what is the matter?"
"Let me make a clean breast of it, sir. Once, when I was hard
pressed, I stole some cocoa-nuts from the garden here. I am
getting old, and may die any day, so I have come to pay them
Amiel's Journal could not have done me any good that day. But
these words of Panchu lightened my heart. There are more things
in life than the union or separation of man and woman. The great
world stretches far beyond, and one can truly measure one's joys
and sorrows when standing in its midst.
Panchu was devoted to my master. I know well enough how he
manages to eke out a livelihood. He is up before dawn every day,
and with a basket of __pan__ leaves, twists of tobacco,
coloured cotton yarn, little combs, looking-glasses, and other
trinkets beloved of the village women, he wades through the knee-
deep water of the marsh and goes over to the Namasudra quarters.
There he barters his goods for rice, which fetches him a little
more than their price in money. If he can get back soon enough
he goes out again, after a hurried meal, to the sweetmeat
seller's, where he assists in beating sugar for wafers. As soon
as he comes home he sits at his shell-bangle making, plodding on
often till midnight. All this cruel toil does not earn, for
himself and his family, a bare two meals a day during much more
than half the year. His method of eating is to begin with a good
filling draught of water, and his staple food is the cheapest
kind of seedy banana. And yet the family has to go with only one
meal a day for the rest of the year.
At one time I had an idea of making him a charity allowance,
"But," said my master, "your gift may destroy the man, it cannot
destroy the hardship of his lot. Mother Bengal has not only this
one Panchu. If the milk in her breasts has run dry, that cannot
be supplied from the outside."
These are thoughts which give one pause, and I decided to devote
myself to working it out. That very day I said to Bimal: "Let us
dedicate our lives to removing the root of this sorrow in our
"You are my Prince Siddharta,  I see," she replied with a
smile. "But do not let the torrent of your feelings end by
sweeping me away also!"
"Siddharta took his vows alone. I want ours to be a joint
The idea passed away in talk. The fact is, Bimala is at heart
what is called a "lady". Though her own people are not well off,
she was born a Rani. She has no doubts in her mind that there is
a lower unit of measure for the trials and troubles of the "lower
classes". Want is, of course, a permanent feature of their
lives, but does not necessarily mean "want" to them. Their very
smallness protects them, as the banks protect the pool; by
widening bounds only the slime is exposed.
The real fact is that Bimala has only come into my home, not into
my life. I had magnified her so, leaving her such a large place,
that when I lost her, my whole way of life became narrow and
confined. I had thrust aside all other objects into a corner to
make room for Bimala - taken up as I was with decorating her and
dressing her and educating her and moving round her day and
night; forgetting how great is humanity and how nobly precious is
man's life. When the actualities of everyday things get the
better of the man, then is Truth lost sight of and freedom
missed. So painfully important did Bimala make the mere
actualities, that the truth remained concealed from me. That is
why I find no gap in my misery, and spread this minute point of
my emptiness over all the world. And so, for hours on this
Autumn morning, the refrain has been humming in my ears:
It is the month of August, and the sky breaks into a passionate
Alas, my house is empty.
- - -
17. The name by which Buddha was known when a Prince, before
renouncing the world.
The change which had, in a moment, come over the mind of Bengal
was tremendous. It was as if the Ganges had touched the ashes of
the sixty thousand sons of Sagar  which no fire could
enkindle, no other water knead again into living clay. The ashes
of lifeless Bengal suddenly spoke up: "Here am I."
I have read somewhere that in ancient Greece a sculptor had the
good fortune to impart life to the image made by his own hand.
Even in that miracle, however, there was the process of form
preceding life. But where was the unity in this heap of barren
ashes? Had they been hard like stone, we might have had hopes of
some form emerging, even as Ahalya, though turned to stone, at
last won back her humanity. But these scattered ashes must have
dropped to the dust through gaps in the Creator's fingers, to be
blown hither and thither by the wind. They had become heaped up,
but were never before united. Yet in this day which had come to
Bengal, even this collection of looseness had taken shape, and
proclaimed in a thundering voice, at our very door: "Here I am."