When I was ten years old I resolved to follow the path of brahmacharya and already, even in childhood, I was thinking about leaving home. I had three great examples before me: Gautama the Buddha, the Maharashtrian Saint Ramadas and the Jagat-guru (world-teacher) Shankaracharya. They exercised a powerful attraction. The Buddha had left behind his wife and little son; Ramadas had been impelled to abandon his bride while the wedding ceremonies were actually in progress; Shankaracharya had never married at all, but taken the vow of brahmacharya and left home when he was only eight years old. These three men were always in my thoughts, and I cherished the inward hope that someday I too would leave home. I was like a girl whose marriage has been arranged, and who in imagination abandons her parents' home and dwells already in that of her future husband. I too had inwardly left home, and I gave my attention to making sure that I did not go out into the world raw or 'half-baked'. I prepared myself of course by study and meditation, and in addition I did all I could to make my body a fit instrument of spiritual discipline.
During childhood I had got hold of a book which described a brahmachari's rule of life, and quoted Manu the things forbidden to him: he should wear no shoes, use no umbrella, sleep on no mattress. So I too stopped using these things. Giving up the mattress and the umbrella cost me nothing, but going about barefoot, roaming on the tarred roads for hours on end in the fierce midday heat of Baroda, proved to be bad for my eyes. In Manu's time students would probably be living in an Ashram where there was no need for any footgear. But as a boy I was very rigorous about this discipline of the body.
I also observed rules about eating and drinking. I never attended wedding feasts or similar festivities. Sister was married when she was still a child but even at her wedding I stuck to my rule and told Mother that I was not going to eat the feast. Mother said nothing; she cooked some food for me and served me. But afterwards she came to me. 'Vinya,' she said, 'I can understand your not eating the sweets and other wedding delicacies, but why should you object to the plain dal and rice? How can it be wrong to eat the rice and dal cooked for the wedding, when it is exactly the same as what I have cooked for you now?' How skillfully Mother managed it! She didn't argue: she cooked, she fed me, but then she made her point, and I agreed to eat the rice and dal as she said.
I had a knack of putting my thoughts into verse. I would compose poems, taking two or three hours, sometimes a whole day, over each one. Then I would chant the verses aloud and correct any shortcomings that I noticed, and when I felt fully satisfied with it I would offer the poem as a sacrifice to the god of fire. One day during the cold weather I was sitting by the kitchen fire keeping myself warm and burning poems. Mother noticed it and asked what I was doing. When I told her she said: 'But I have never seen your poems!' So after that, whenever I completed a poem, I would first recite it to her and then throw it into the fire. Later in Benares I would sit composing my poems on the banks of the Ganges, and after I was satisfied with them I would immerse them in the water.