On arrival in Poona, we found
ourselves, after the performance of the shraddha ceremonies, discussing
the future of the Society, and the question as to whether I should join
it or not. This question of membership proved a very delicate matter for
me to handle. Whilst Gokhale was there I did not have to seek admission
as a member. I had simply to obey his wish, a position I loved to be in.
Launching on the stormy sea of Indian public life, I was in need of a sure
pilot. I had one in Gokhale, and had felt secure in his keeping. Now that
he was gone, I was thrown on my own resources, and I felt that it was my
duty to seek admission. That, I thought, would please Gokhale's spirit.
So, without hesitation and with firmness, I began the wooing.
Most of the members of the Society
were in Poona at this juncture. I set about pleading with them, and tried
to dispel their fears about me. But I saw that they were divided. One section
favoured my admission, the other was strongly against it. I knew that neither
yielded to the other in its affection for me, but possibly their loyalty
to the Society was greater, at any rate not less, than their love for me.
All our discussions were therefore free from bitterness, and strictly confined
to matters of principle. The section that was opposed to me held that they
and I were as the poles asunder in various vital matters, and they felt
that my membership was likely to imperil the very objects for which the
Society was founded. This naturally was more than they could bear.
We dispersed after prolonged
discussions, the final decision being postponed to a later date.
I was considerably agitated
as I returned home. Was it right for me to be admitted by a majority vote?
Would it be consonant with my loyalty to Gokhale? I saw clearly that when
there was such a sharp division amongst the members of the Society over
admitting me, by far the best course for me was to withdraw my application
for admission, and save those opposed to me from a delicate situation.
Therein, I thought, lay my loyalty to the Society and Gokhale. The decision
came to me in a flash, and immediately I wrote to Mr. Shastri asking him
not to have the adjourned meeting at all. Those who had opposed my application
fully appreciated the decision. It saved them from an awkward position,
and bound us in closer bonds of friendship. The withdrawal of my application
made me truly a member of the Society.
Experience now tells me that
it was well that I did not formally become a member, and that the opposition
of those who had been against me was justified. Experience has shown too
that our views on matters of principle were widely divergent. But the recognition
of the differences has meant no estrangement or bitterness between us.
We have remained as brothers, and the Society's Poona home has always been
for me a place of pilgrimage.
It is true that I did not officially
become a member of the Society, but I have ever been a member in spirit.
Spiritual relationship is far more precious than physical. Physical relationship
divorced from spiritual is body without soul.