9 a.m. The Maharshi is reading and talking in a cheerful mood. The white peacock strolls in, pecks a few of the grains placed for him by the attendant and walks off confidently to a short distance. A crow drops in and sets to pecking hastily at the grains. Bhagavan draws our attention to the scene. The peacock stands aghast at the scandalous encroachment of the crow. Horrified, he spreads his feathers round his back, cranes his neck and looks fiercely at the crow, as if ready to spring. Now he steps forward with an extremely bellicose gait. We all thought that a terrific battle was going to be waged before our eyes. To our astonishment the crow proves brazen-faced, as he remains unmoved. He watches the peacock mockingly with one eye and with the other continues to peck greedily – obviously he knows his man.
Still we are apprehensive of the fate of the crow. But alas, the peacock, instead of advancing, suddenly falls two hurried steps back and stops meditatively – planning, we thought, a violent blitzkrieg. We waited, but when at last the assault did come, it was only a single resolute step forward followed by a dead halt. By now all the grains have peacefully reposed into the crow’s belly who then hops to the water in the cement basin nearby, drinks his fill, wipes his beak on the hard ground, bows in deep salute to the proud peacock and flies contentedly away. The Maharshi and all of us had a hearty laugh at the cowardice of the peacock, who now cools down, lowers his feathers and struts away with a feeble show of bravery. We were thoroughly amused.
Sri Bhagavan has all along been very fond of watching the behaviour of animals and has thus become an expert in anticipating their reactions in given circumstances and in knowing how to deal with them to help them. His sympathy and consideration for them seem to exceed even those for humans. Yet he sometimes appears gently severe with them, which puzzles some devotees, as it did once puzzle me in the following incident, which was entered in my diary under the date of 28th March, 1943, and which I feel to the point to record hereunder:
“On the 24th. instant at 10-30 a.m. the Master was dozing. A female squirrel leapt on his couch and bit his thumb (Obviously to draw the Master’s attention) which he quickly pulled back and stroked, remarking, ‘I’ll not feed her.’ Other squirrels crowded on his couch and for half an hour he continued to feed them with cashew nuts, one nut at a time to each. Then he turned to us and, pointing to one of them, said: ‘This She-squirrel has been trying to fool me, thinking I do not recognise her, and so shall feed her. Once she comes from this side, once from the other, once from under the couch and once from above it. But I recognise her very well. She shall not have anything,’ and laughed. At that the following vague thought crossed my mind: ‘Where is the Christ’s injunction that if a man slaps you on one cheek offer him the other?’
“Today a squirrel jumped from the window to the couch. The Master looked at it intently. He gave it a nut, then another and addressed it: ‘Now go. Have you come to bite me again?’ I quickly guessed that that was the guilty squirrel of four days ago and wondered how Sri Bhagavan recognised it and relented. Nevertheless, I asked him if my guess was right, and he confirmed it. After a while the same squirrel came back for more nuts. Usually the Master continues to feed the animals till of their own accord they cease to come. But to this one he refused to give again and, seeing it persisting, he lifted his fan in threat, which made it disappear at once. Then he sat with pensive look and a faint smile on his face. After a while he turned in my direction, broadened his smile and softly spoke in Tamil in his usual telegraphic brevity to my neighbour: ‘Even animals understand a rebuke and, if it is repeated a sufficient number of times, they learn to behave. Some of them are more sensible than some others….’ This was immediately translated to me. I laughed, frankly admitted the vague thought I had had on the first day, and added that although I had never doubted Sri Bhagavan’s wisdom, that thought needed the explanation, which made the Master nod approvingly.”
4 p.m. Maharshi is handed a book, which he turns over and over excitedly, exclaiming “Rai, rai, rai!” It is a Tamil translation of the original Sarvajnanottara, from which he had fifteen years earlier translated 52 verses into Tamil without knowing of the existence of a translation of the whole work made more than ten years earlier. This is a great revelation to him. He hurriedly turns to the verses he has translated and compares them with the corresponding ones of the older translation. The difference he finds to be very small, due to the difference in their view points – his being pure Advaita and the other’s Shaiva Siddhanta. He goes on reading with great joy.