On the day when he returned to India in Samvat Year 1947 after completing education in England, Mahatma Gandhi was introduced to Shrimad Rajchandra by Dr. Pranjivandas Mehta. Gandhi writes in his Autobiography - "The Story of My Experiments with Truth" about his first acquaintance with Shrimad.
"...Dr. Metha introduced me to several friends, one of them being his brother Shri Revashankar Jagjivan, with whom there grew up a lifelong friendship. But the introduction that I need particulary take note of was the one to the poet Raychand or Rajchandra, the son-in-law of an elder brother of Dr. Metha, and partner of the firm of jewellers conducted in the name of Revashankar Jagjivan. He was not above twenty-five then, but my first meeting with him convinced me that he was a man of great character and learning. He was also a Shatavadhani (one having the faculty of remembering or attending to a hundred things simultaneously), and Dr. Metha recommended me to see some of his memory feats. I exhausted my vocabulary of all the European tongues I knew, and asked the poet to repeat the words. He did so in the precise order in which I had given them. I envied his gift without, however, coming under its spell. The thing that did cast its spell over me I came to know afterwards. This was his wide knowledge of the scriptures, his spotless character, and his burning passion for self-realization. I saw later that this last was the only thing for which he lived. The following lines of Muktanand were always on his lips and engraved on the tablets of his heart:
'I shall think myself blessed only when I see Him in every one of my daily acts; Verily He is the thread, which supports Muktanand's life.'
Raychandbhai's commerical transactions covered hundreds of thousands. He was a connoisseur of pearls and diamonds. No knotty business problem was too difficult for him. But all these things were not the centre round which his life revolved . That centre was the passion to see God face to face. Amongst the things on his business table there were invariably to be found some religious book and his diary. The moment he finished his business he opened the religious book or the diary. Much of his published writings is a reproduction from his diary. The man who, immediately on finishing his talk about weighty business transcations, began to write about the hidden things of the spirit could evidently not be a businessman at all, but a real seeker after Truth. And I saw him thus obsorbed in godly pursuits in the midst of business, not once or twice, but very often. I never saw him lose his state of equipose. There was no business or other selfish tie that bound him to me, and yet I enjoyed the closest association with him. I was but a briefless barrister then, and yet whenever I saw him he would engage me in conversation of a seriously religious nature. Though I was then groping and could not be said to have any serious interest in religious discussion, still I found his talk of absorbing interest. I have since met many a religious leader or teacher. I have tried to meet the heads of various faiths, and I must say that no one else has ever made on me the impression that Raychandbhai did. His words went straight home to me. His intellect compelled as great a regard from me as his moral earnestnes, and deep down in me was the conviction that he would never willingly lead me astray and would always confide to me his innermost thoughts. In my moments of spritual crisis, therefore, he was my refuge..."
Gandhiji regarded Shrimadji as his friend, philosopher and guide. He acknowledges the debt he owes to Shrimadji in his recollections of his friendship with Shrimadji. From 1891 to 1901 A.D. for a period of ten years they were best friends.
Gandhiji says that most of his lessons for self-improvement and on truth and non-violence, he has learnt from Shri Raichandbhai. Raichandbhai is one of the three personalities that have much impressed his mind, the other two being the writings of Tolstoy and Ruskin's `Unto this last'.
To love the murderer is one of the maxims of non-violence and Gandhiji had well learnt it from Shrimadji, who was full of sympathy, forgiveness and piety for all living beings.
Gandhiji says: "I have drunk to my heart's content the nectar of religion that was offered to me by Shri Raichandbhai. Raichandbhai hated the spread of irreligion in the name of religion and he condemned lies, hypocrisy and such other vices which were getting a free hand in his time. He considered the whole world as his relative and his sympathy extended to all living beings of all ages.
Shrimadji was an embodiment of non-attachment and renunciation. He has written only that which he has experienced. He has never allowed his poetic imagination to get ahead of truth and experience. There is therefore no artificiality in his writings. They come from the heart and appeal to the very heart of the reader. He used to keep diary and a pen with him in all his daily routine and he immediately wrote down important thoughts that occurred to him. I never remember any occasion when Shri Raichandbhai got lost or infatuated in any worldly matter."
GANDHIJI'S PEN-PICTURE OF SHRIMAD RAJCHANDRA
"His living was simple. He was satisfied with whatever food was offered to him. He put on simple but clean clothes. He used to wear Dhoti, Peharan, Khesa and a turban. He used to sit on a Gadi on the floor in his shop or at home.
He was slow in his walk and he used to think while walking. There was a spark in his eyes, they were full of luster and steadiness. They declared the single-mindedness of his purpose. His face was round, his lips thin, nose not pointed nor flat, body single, height average, color darkish white and general appearance that of an idol in peace. His tone was so sweet that one would love to hear him more and more. His face was smiling and in full bloom and joy. It clearly declared the internal joy and peace. His language was so effective and measured that he was never found to be searching for words. Language was his maidservant. He was described by some as an incarnation of the Goddess of Learning, Saraswati. He never changed a word while writing a letter. He expressed his thoughts and meditations in fine and appropriate language.
This description befits only a self-controlled person. By renunciation the external forms one cannot be self-controlled. The real self-control is not an imposition, it is an inspiration and an internal illumination.
Complete non-attachment and renunciation is the gift of the soul. It should be spontaneous and from within and not sporadic or externally imposed. Very rare souls by virtue of their high spiritual attainments in their previous births possess these qualities in them. Only those , who actively try to keep away from all attachments from them, know how difficult it is to attain. Such a difficult achievement was easily found in Shri Raichandbhai. The first step to Self-realization is a cultivation of a spirit of complete non-attachment and it was natural in Raichandbhai.
People normally believe that truth-telling and successful business never go together. Shri Raichandbhai on the other hand firmly believed and advised that truth and honesty were not only useful but essential to all good business. Morality is not packed within a prayer book, it is to be practiced and lived in all stations of life. Religion and morality sustain both good life and good business. Though Raichandbhai never played tricks with others, he used to find them out quite easily when they were played by others. And he used to snub the persons using the tricks and force them to leave them.
While we are worldly souls, Shrimadji was quite other worldly or liberated from the worldly life. While we may have to take many further births, for Raichandbhai his present life may be the last. While we perhaps are running away from liberation, Raichandbhai was heading towards liberation with a tremendous speed. This speaks volume of Raichandbhai's self-effort.
Whoever will read his teachings and follow them may speed up his march to Self-liberation. From this is evident that Raichandbhai has written for the advanced and the initiate in religion and not for all and sundry.
While many Christian Missionary friends considered their religious duty to convert me to Christianity on the ground of its wonderful vows of charity, chastity, faith and hope, I made up my mind that I should first find out whether the religion of my birth namely Hinduism, gave me the message that I needed.
And I asked a few fundamental questions on Hinduism to Shri Raichandbhai by post and his replies were so logical, so appealing and convincing that I regained my faith in Hinduism and I was saved from conversion of religion. From that moment onwards, my respect and admiration for Raichandbhai increased with leaps and bounds and I considered him to be my religious guide till he lived."
THE NATURE OF RELIGION AS DESCRIBED BY SHRIMADJI
"Religion does not mean religious differences and set beliefs. Religion does not mean cramming or reading of all religious texts or believing all what is said in them as gospel truth.
Religion is the spiritual quality of the soul. It is embedded in human nature in visible or invisible form. By religion we are able to know the duty of man, by it we are able to know our relations (or kinship) with other living beings. But all this requires the capacity to know one's self. If we do not know ourselves we cannot know others rightly. By religion one can know himself. Such a religion can be selected from wherever it is found. All students of comparative religion will testify to what is said about religion here. No religious scripture advises people to tell a lie or to practice falsehood. Nor does any religion advise violence.
Shankaracharya expressed the quintessence of all scriptures in the formula "Brahma Satyam Jagat Mithya" that Brahma is the only reality, all else called the world and its differences are unreal or mixtures of truth and falsehood.
Koran Sharif declared that God is only one and He is the only real, and there is nothing else.
In Bible, Christ said: "I and my father are one. All the rest are only manifestations of the one God.
In the expression of the same perennial truth that Reality is only one without a second, many religious and philosophical brains have offered their perspectives and unfortunately their verbal differences have been the cause of much doubt, disbelief and despair for the laymen.
Those who are in earnest about their salvation should leave these differences and follow advice of the experienced Guru rather than be lost in the interpretations of the various religious texts.
We, as stepped in the world by consciousness, are already imperfect and we are trying to take the help of the imperfect scriptures thinking that they are less imperfect than ourselves. We are led by them to a certain limit but beyond it they leave us in the lurch and there we are to rely on spiritual experience alone and none else.
Our spiritual experience becomes our guide, illuminates our future path, assures our march and pushes us to the goal.
Shrimadji says in one of his poems i.e. Apurva Avasara, "The stage of experience which the All-seeing Mahavir saw in spiritual knowledge, He could not himself describe in full. I meditated on that very stage of spiritual experience but I found that I was also incompetent to describe it. I have a desire to describe it in full but for the present it has remained only as my cherished desire.
It is clear from the above that Atma or Self alone is to liberate itself. This truth is repeatedly declared by Shrimadji in many of his writings.
He had studied many religious books. He followed Sanskrit and Magadhi languages very well. He studied Vedanta, Bhagavata and Gita. He read the Jain scriptures as many as he could obtain. He had a fine style of reading and a method of quick grasping. He read Koran and Zand Avesta intranslations.
But he used to tell me that he had a soft corner for Jain philosophy and religion, for he strongly believed that soul-saving knowledge had reached its highest possible watermark in Jain philosophy and religion. Nonetheless, Shri Raichandbhai was never disrespectful to any other religion. He had also a partiality for Vedanta. To a Vedanti he might appear a thorough going Vedanti.
In his talks with me he never said that I should follow a particular religion for my salvation. He always advised me to purify my thoughts and behavior.
Looking to my habit and training of my childhood he encouraged me in my reading of the Bhagavata Gita, and he advised me to read among other books Panchikaran, Mani-ratna-mala, non-attachment chapter of Yoga Vashistha, first part of Kavya Dohana and his own composition of Mokshamala.
He repeatedly told me that the various religions are prisons in which men are prisoners. Whoever wants liberation should jump out of them and should not bear any religious mark on his body.
His simple advice is `live easily and in such a way that you can attain the Lord.' Akha Bhagat gave the same advice. Shri Raichandbhai never bothered with religious differences. They used to choke him."