Near our home in Baroda lived a potter who kept a donkey. When I sat down to study at night it would begin to bray, and I found it especially irritating when I was working at some mathematical problem. Could anything be done, I wondered. Then it occurred to me that though the braying was a nuisance to me, the other donkeys probably enjoyed it, and in that case it couldn't be called 'bad'. From that day forward I began to train myself to think of it as 'good'. Whenever the donkey started to bray I would stop studying and attend to its discourse, trying to hear the music in it. Sometimes I would start braying myself in unison with the donkey, so as to feel more at one with it. I began to hear compassion in the sound and named it, in high-sounding Sanskrit, 'Theme Song of the Donkey'.
As a boy I was physically weak and sometimes had severe headaches. When the pain became unbearable I would say to myself, sometimes speaking aloud, 'This aching head is not I, I am not my aching head! I am not my head, I am something else!' It was a great help to me to use these words; they led me to practice the attitude of mind which declares: 'I am not my body'.
At that time too I read the Yoga-shastra, and in it was a description of the posture of one who has attained Samadhi (the experience of ultimate unity). I would seat myself in this posture and imagine myself to have reached Samadhi, though all the time my mind would be running here and there. In Baroda the summers are extremely hot, so I would sit in this posture under the water-tap. As the water dripped from the tap above me and trickled over my head, I would imagine that I was the Lord Shiva himself entered into Samadhi. As I played these games my mind did sometimes grow so peaceful that I felt I really was in Samadhi. I don't know whether it was what the scriptures mean by Samadhi, but it gave me a great joy and I felt emptied of all desire.
The Gaikwad of Baroda, Maharaja Sayaji Rao, had installed a statue of the Lord Buddha in one of the public parks, the 'Jubilee Gardens', which I always thought of as 'the garden of the Buddha'. The statue attracted me greatly because the thought of leaving home was in my own mind- put there by the life and teachings of Swami Ramdas, and reinforced when I became acquainted with those of Shankaracharya. It was kept continually before me by the statue of the Buddha, who in youth had turned his back on the pomp of kingship and the pleasures of family life, as being things of no account. There was no solitude to be found in my Garden of the Buddha, but I often went there nevertheless, in order to contemplate and reflect upon this image; it had a great influence on me.
Before I left home I made a bonfire of all my certificates, including my matriculation certificate. I wanted to cut loose, once and for all, from every cable that might tie me down, but Mother was very unhappy and asked why I should burn them. 'I don't need them now,' I said. 'Perhaps not now,' she replied, 'but what harm is there in keeping them?' 'No, I shall never take any salaried job,' I said.