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Influence of reading good books

My fourteenth year brought many changes in my life. From the beginning of the year, I had a desire to be a good, virtuous and bright student. I longed to brighten my prospects by studying well. I tried my utmost to make my life good and righteous. I took particular care to see that I continued to have love for all students and on no account felt jealousy or contempt for anyone. In those days, I was good in my studies. The Superintendent showed great affection for me. For that reason, I was constantly on my guard to see that I did not have any arrogance in me that I was better than other students. I also took special precaution to see that I did not fall victim to any kind of addiction.

During that period, I came across a copy of the ‘Bhagavad Gita’. I was drawn towards it. The study of the ‘Gita’ was introduced as a subject in the Kabubai High School from the eighth standard. A ‘Shastri’ had been specially appointed for that purpose. He was very learned and affable. He had many great qualities. He explained to us the meanings of the ‘Slokas’ of one or two chapters of the ‘Gita’. I had heard that the ‘Gita’ was a great book not only of India but of the whole world. I had also heard that great man like Gandhiji recited the ‘Gita’ daily. That had aroused in me the desire to know the ‘Gita’. Of course, my capacity to understand its language was poor at that time. Nevertheless, I got interested in it with ‘Shastriji's’ help. To begin with, I concentrated more on the Gujarati meanings instead of Sanskrit. That helped me a great deal. The meanings were rendered in simple language so I could easily grasp them.

I read the second chapter every now and then. The ideas contained in it had greatly impressed me. The characteristics of equanimity of mind (Sthitaprajna) drew my special attention. They provided me inspiration and a direction. Those ‘slokas’ brought a complete revolution in my life at that time. I aspired to be great. I began thinking about my life in the light of those characteristics. A person with mental equanimity would be beyond desire and anger. He would have complete control over his thoughts and desires. His mind thinks only of the Supreme Being and is one with Him. Hence, one must be an embodiment of virtue and must have in his mind lofty thoughts and ideals. His thoughts and words should be pure and sweet. He should love everybody. That is, he should be an embodiment of love. He should attempt to be near God. I was convinced that it was the only way to bring greatness to life.

It seemed to me that God was showing His grace in abundance. In those days, a student gave me a biography of Ramakrishna Paramahansa Dev. he had borrowed from the library. Ramakrishna Dev’s life was unfamiliar to me. That biography greatly interested me. It brought a new light in my life. I read about experiments in ‘Sadhana’ for realization of God. I saw his constant relation with ‘Jagadamba’ (Universal Mother). I reflected on his ‘Nirvikalpa Samadhi’, which he had attained with the grace of great and competent guru Totapuri. I could see his boundless purity and passivity. I saw how he had shaped Vivekananda. I saw his intense love for God and human compassion. His life was ‘dharma’ in practice, a direct implementation of his ‘Sadhana’.

Subsequently I read about great ideal and exemplary life many times. Reflecting on that life became almost a daily routine. After reading about his life, I had a desire to read the biographies of other saints like him. Hence, I read the biographies of Swami Vivekananda, Ramtirth, Maharshi Dayanand and Swami Shardanand. I also read about the life of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. All this reading strengthened my own feelings. Reading the biographies of Swami Bhaskaranand, Swami Brahmanand, Pauhari Baba and Tailang Swami also helped me further. I was convinced that one could get peace of mind by living a virtuous and pure life. Virtue and purity form the necessary basis of life. No man can ever become great if he neglects these basic factors. Like Paramhans Dev, I too aspired for the realization of God. I wanted to be an ideal saint and earn the fullest grace of God. For that purpose, I thought that I should have faith in God and prepare myself for ‘Sadhana’.

Today's Quote

From the solemn gloom of the temple, children run out to sit in the dust, God watches them play and forgets the priest.
- Rabindranath Tagore


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