Hermann Hesse’s – Siddhartha


 

Part I.
Discovering the Unseen (or lesser known) Heritage, Image-India,
©Shishir Thadani

Chapter1
The Son of the Brahman
Priest Sitting, Library of Congress
From the reading. . .
“But where, where was this self, this innermost part, this ultimate part?
It was not flesh and bone, it was neither thought nor consciousness,
thus the wisest ones taught. So, where, where was it?”
Ideas of Interest from “The Son of the
Brahman”
1. Why did Siddhartha remain standing? Why didn’t he just leave? Did
1

Chapter 1. The Son of the Brahman
Siddhartha’s father allow him to leave because, in a sense, Siddhartha
had “already left”?
2. What would Siddhartha have done if his father would have said “No”
to his request?
3. Why does Siddhartha speak of himself in the third person?
4. Given that Govinda was Siddhartha’s “lance bearer,” speculate about
the conditions under which Govinda left home.
The Reading Selection from “The Son of the
Brahmin”
In the shade of the house, in the sunshine of the riverbank near the boats,
in the shade of the Sal-wood forest, in the shade of the fig tree is where
Siddhartha grew up, the handsome son of the Brahman, the young falcon,
together with his friend Govinda, son of a Brahman. The sun tanned his
light shoulders by the banks of the river when bathing, performing the sacred
ablutions, the sacred offerings. In the mangogrove, shade poured into
his black eyes, when playing as a boy, when his mother sang, when the sacred
offerings were made, when his father, the scholar, taught him, when
the wise men talked. For a long time, Siddhartha had been partaking in the
discussions of the wise men, practising debate with Govinda, practising
with Govinda the art of reflection, the service of meditation. He already
knew how to speak the Om silently, the word of words, to speak it silently
into himself while inhaling, to speak it silently out of himself while exhaling,
with all the concentration of his soul, the forehead surrounded by
the glow of the clear-thinking spirit. He already knew to feel Atman in the
depths of his being, indestructible, one with the universe.
Joy leapt in his father’s heart for his son who was quick to learn, thirsty
for knowledge; he saw him growing up to become a great wise man and
priest, a prince among the Brahmans.
Bliss leapt in his mother’s breast when she saw him, when she saw him
walking, when she saw him sit down and get up, Siddhartha, strong, handsome,
he who was walking on slender legs, greeting her with perfect respect.

Love touched the hearts of the Brahmans’ young daughters when Siddhartha
walked through the lanes of the town with the luminous forehead,
with the eye of a king, with his slim hips.
But more than all the others he was loved by Govinda, his friend, the son of
a Brahman. He loved Siddhartha’s eye and sweet voice, he loved his walk
and the perfect decency of his movements, he loved everything Siddhartha
did and said and what he loved most was his spirit, his transcendent, fiery
thoughts, his ardent will, his high calling. Govinda knew: he would not
become a common Brahman, not a lazy official in charge of offerings;
not a greedy merchant with magic spells; not a vain, vacuous speaker; not
a mean, deceitful priest; and also not a decent, stupid sheep in the herd
of the many. No, and he, Govinda, as well did not want to become one
of those, not one of those tens of thousands of Brahmans. He wanted to
follow Siddhartha, the beloved, the splendid. And in days to come, when
Siddhartha would become a god, when he would join the glorious, then
Govinda wanted to follow him as his friend, his companion, his servant,
his spear-carrier, his shadow.
Siddhartha was thus loved by everyone. He was a source of joy for everybody,
he was a delight for them all.
But he, Siddhartha, was not a source of joy for himself, he found no delight
in himself. Walking the rosy paths of the fig tree garden, sitting in the
bluish shade of the grove of contemplation, washing his limbs daily in
the bath of repentance, sacrificing in the dim shade of the mango forest,
his gestures of perfect decency, everyone’s love and joy, he still lacked all
joy in his heart. Dreams and restless thoughts came into his mind, flowing
from the water of the river, sparkling from the stars of the night, melting
from the beams of the sun, dreams came to him and a restlessness of the
soul, fuming from the sacrifices, breathing forth from the verses of the
Rig-Veda, being infused into him, drop by drop, from the teachings of the
old Brahmans.
Siddhartha had started to nurse discontent in himself, he had started to
feel that the love of his father and the love of his mother, and also the
love of his friend, Govinda, would not bring him joy for ever and ever,
would not nurse him, feed him, satisfy him. He had started to suspect that
his venerable father and his other teachers, that the wise Brahmans had
already revealed to him the most and best of their wisdom, that they had
already filled his expecting vessel with their richness, and the vessel was
not full, the spirit was not content, the soul was not calm, the heart was

not satisfied. The ablutions were good, but they were water, they did not
wash off the sin, they did not heal the spirit’s thirst, they did not relieve the
fear in his heart. The sacrifices and the invocation of the gods were excellent—
but was that all? Did the sacrifices give a happy fortune? And what
about the gods? Was it really Prajapati who had created the world? Was it
not the Atman, He, the only one, the singular one? Were the gods not creations,
created like me and you, subject to time, mortal? Was it therefore
good, was it right, was it meaningful and the highest occupation to make
offerings to the gods? For whom else were offerings to be made, who else
was to be worshipped but Him, the only one, the Atman? And where was
Atman to be found, where did He reside, where did his eternal heart beat,
where else but in one’s own self, in its innermost part, in its indestructible
part, which everyone had in himself? But where, where was this self, this
innermost part, this ultimate part? It was not flesh and bone, it was neither
thought nor consciousness, thus the wisest ones taught. So, where, where
was it? To reach this place, the self, myself, the Atman, there was another
way, which was worthwhile looking for? Alas, and nobody showed this
way, nobody knew it, not the father, and not the teachers and wise men, not
the holy sacrificial songs! They knew everything, the Brahman and their
holy books, they knew everything, they had taken care of everything and
of more than everything, the creation of the world, the origin of speech,
of food, of inhaling, of exhaling, the arrangement of the senses, the acts
of the gods, they knew infinitely much—but was it valuable to know all
of this, not knowing that one and only thing, the most important thing, the
solely important thing?
Surely, many verses of the holy books, particularly in the Upanishades of
Samaveda, spoke of this innermost and ultimate thing, wonderful verses.
“Your soul is the whole world,” was written there, and it was written that
man in his sleep, in his deep sleep, would meet with his innermost part
and would reside in the Atman. Marvellous wisdom was in these verses,
all knowledge of the wisest ones had been collected here in magic words,
pure as honey collected by bees. No, not to be looked down upon was the
tremendous amount of enlightenment which lay here collected and preserved
by innumerable generations of wise Brahman.—But where were
the Brahman, where the priests, where the wise men or penitents, who had
succeeded in not just knowing this deepest of all knowledge but also to live
it? Where was the knowledgeable one who wove his spell to bring his familiarity
with the Atman out of the sleep into the state of being awake, into
the life, into every step of the way, into word and deed? Siddhartha knew
4 Siddhartha: An Open-Source Reader

Chapter 1. The Son of the Brahman
many venerable Brahmans, chiefly his father, the pure one, the scholar, the
most venerable one. His father was to be admired, quiet and noble were
his manners, pure his life, wise his words, delicate and noble thoughts
lived behind its brow —but even he, who knew so much, did he live in
blissfulness, did he have peace, was he not also just a searching man, a
thirsty man? Did he not, again and again, have to drink from holy sources,
as a thirsty man, from the offerings, from the books, from the disputes of
the Brahman? Why did he, the irreproachable one, have to wash off sins
every day, strive for a cleansing every day, over and over every day? Was
not Atman in him, did not the pristine source spring from his heart? It had
to be found, the pristine source in one’s own self, it had to be possessed!
Everything else was searching, was a detour, was getting lost.
Thus were Siddhartha’s thoughts, this was his thirst, this was his suffering.
Often he spoke to himself from a Chandogya-Upanishad the words:
“Truly, the name of the Brahman is satya—verily, he who knows such a
thing, will enter the heavenly world every day.” Often, it seemed near, the
heavenly world, but never he had reached it completely, never he had
quenched the ultimate thirst. And among all the wise and wisest men, he
knew and whose instructions he had received, among all of them there
was no one, who had reached it completely, the heavenly world, who had
quenched it completely, the eternal thirst.
“Govinda,” Siddhartha spoke to his friend, “Govinda, my dear, come with
me under the Banyan tree, let’s practise meditation.”
They went to the Banyan tree, they sat down, Siddhartha right here,
Govinda twenty paces away. While putting himself down, ready to speak
the Om, Siddhartha repeated murmuring the verse:
Om is the bow, the arrow is soul,
The Brahman is the arrow’s target,
That one should incessantly hit.
After the usual time of the exercise in meditation had passed, Govinda
rose. The evening had come, it was time to perform the evening’s ablution.
He called Siddhartha’s name. Siddhartha did not answer. Siddhartha sat
there lost in thought, his eyes were rigidly focused towards a very distant
target, the tip of his tongue was protruding a little between the teeth, he

seemed not to breathe. Thus sat he, wrapped up in contemplation, thinking
Om, his soul sent after the Brahman as an arrow.
Once, Samanas had travelled through Siddhartha’s town, ascetics on a pilgrimage,
three skinny, withered men, neither old nor young, with dusty
and bloody shoulders, almost naked, scorched by the sun, surrounded by
loneliness, strangers and enemies to the world, strangers and lank jackals
in the realm of humans. Behind them blew a hot scent of quiet passion, of
destructive service, of merciless self-denial.
In the evening, after the hour of contemplation, Siddhartha spoke to
Govinda: “Early tomorrow morning, my friend, Siddhartha will go to the
Samanas. He will become a Samana.”
Govinda turned pale, when he heard these words and read the decision in
the motionless face of his friend, unstoppable like the arrow shot from the
bow. Soon and with the first glance, Govinda realized: Now it is beginning,
now Siddhartha is taking his own way, now his fate is beginning to sprout,
and with his, my own. And he turned pale like a dry banana-skin.
“O Siddhartha,” he exclaimed, “will your father permit you to do that?”
Siddhartha looked over as if he were just waking up. Arrow-fast he read
in Govinda´s soul, read the fear, read the submission.
“O Govinda,” he spoke quietly, “let’s not waste words. Tomorrow, at daybreak
I will begin the life of the Samanas. Speak no more of it.”
Siddhartha entered the chamber, where his father was sitting on a mat of
bast, and stepped behind his father and remained standing there, until his
father felt that someone was standing behind him. Quoth the Brahman: “Is
that you, Siddhartha? Then say what you came to say.”
From the reading. . .
“He had started to suspect that his venerable father and his other teachers,
that the wise Brahmans had already revealed to him the most and
best of their wisdom, that they had already filled his expecting vessel
with their richness, and the vessel was not full, the spirit was not
content, the soul was not calm, the heart was not satisfied. ”

Quoth Siddhartha: “With your permission, my father. I came to tell you
that it is my longing to leave your house tomorrow and go to the ascetics.
My desire is to become a Samana. May my father not oppose this.”
The Brahman fell silent, and remained silent for so long that the stars in
the small window wandered and changed their relative positions, ‘ere the
silence was broken. Silent and motionless stood the son with his arms
folded, silent and motionless sat the father on the mat, and the stars traced
their paths in the sky. Then spoke the father: “Not proper it is for a Brahman
to speak harsh and angry words. But indignation is in my heart. I wish
not to hear this request for a second time from your mouth.”
Slowly, the Brahman rose; Siddhartha stood silently, his arms folded.
“What are you waiting for?” asked the father.
Quoth Siddhartha: “You know what.”
Indignant, the father left the chamber; indignant, he went to his bed and lay down.
After an hour, since no sleep had come over his eyes, the Brahman stood up, paced to and fro, and left the house. Through the small window of the chamber he looked back inside, and there he saw Siddhartha standing, his
arms folded, not moving from his spot. Pale shimmered his bright robe.
With anxiety in his heart, the father returned to his bed.
After another hour, since no sleep had come over his eyes, the Brahman
stood up again, paced to and fro, walked out of the house and saw that
the moon had risen. Through the window of the chamber he looked back
inside; there stood Siddhartha, not moving from his spot, his arms folded,
moonlight reflecting from his bare shins.With worry in his heart, the father
went back to bed.
And he came back after an hour, he came back after two hours, looked
through the small window, saw Siddhartha standing, in the moon light, by
the light of the stars, in the darkness. And he came back hour after hour,
silently, he looked into the chamber, saw him standing in the same place,
filled his heart with anger, filled his heart with unrest, filled his heart with
anguish, filled it with sadness.
And in the night’s last hour, before the day began, he returned, stepped
into the room, saw the young man standing there, who seemed tall and
like a stranger to him.

“Siddhartha,” he spoke, “what are you waiting for?”
“You know what.”
“Will you always stand that way and wait, until it’ll becomes morning,
noon, and evening?”
“I will stand and wait.”
“You will become tired, Siddhartha.”
“I will become tired.”
“You will fall asleep, Siddhartha.”
“I will not fall asleep.”
“You will die, Siddhartha.”
“I will die.”
“And would you rather die, than obey your father?”
“Siddhartha has always obeyed his father.”
“So will you abandon your plan?”
“Siddhartha will do what his father will tell him to do.”
The first light of day shone into the room. The Brahman saw that Siddhartha
was trembling softly in his knees. In Siddhartha’s face he saw no
trembling, his eyes were fixed on a distant spot. Then his father realized
that even now Siddhartha no longer dwelt with him in his home, that he
had already left him.
From the reading. . .
“It had to be found, the pristine source in one’s own self, it had to be
possessed! Everything else was searching, was a detour, was getting
lost.”
The Father touched Siddhartha’s shoulder.
“You will,” he spoke, “go into the forest and be a Samana. When you’ll
have found blissfulness in the forest, then come back and teach me to be
blissful. If you’ll find disappointment, then return and let us once again
8 Siddhartha: An Open-Source Reader

Chapter 1. The Son of the Brahman
make offerings to the gods together. Go now and kiss your mother, tell
her where you are going to. But for me it is time to go to the river and to
perform the first ablution.”
He took his hand from the shoulder of his son and went outside. Siddhartha
wavered to the side, as he tried to walk. He put his limbs back under control,
bowed to his father, and went to his mother to do as his father had
said.
As he slowly left on stiff legs in the first light of day the still quiet town,
a shadow rose near the last hut, who had crouched there, and joined the
pilgrim—Govinda.
“You have come,” said Siddhartha and smiled.
“I have come,” said Govinda.
Banyan Tree

Topics Worth Investigating
1. What does it mean to have the goal to recognize Atman?
2. What do you think is this “innermost self”? Morris Berman writes
Central to Jungian psychology is the concept of “individuation,” the
process whereby a person discovers and evolves his Self, as opposed to
his ego. The ego is a persona, a mask created and demanded by everyday
social interaction, and, as such, it constitutes the center of our conscious
life, our understanding of ourselves through the eyes of others. The Self,
on the other hand, is our true center, our awareness of ourselves without
outside interference, and it is developed by bringing the conscious and
unconscious parts of our minds into harmony.1
Are the subconscious or unconscious parts of our mind the “innermost
self”? Or are the habits which make up our character or our essence,
the “innermost self”?
3. Since Siddhartha seemed to have everything going for him, why
would he be so discontent? Is he simply seeking the independence
of adulthood? Would it be for Siddhartha, as Emerson writes,
“Discontent is the want of self-reliance; it is infirmity of the will”?2
1. Morris Berman. The Reenchantment of the World. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University
Press, 1981.
2. Ralph Waldo Emerson. “Self-Reliance” in Essays: First Series. Boston:
Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1942.
10 Siddhartha: An Open-Source Reader

Chapter2 With the Samanas
Two Figures, Library of Congress
From the reading. . .
“A goal stood before Siddhartha, a single goal: to become empty,
empty of thirst, empty of wishing, empty of dreams, empty of joy and
sorrow.”
Ideas of Interest from “With the Samanas”
1. Siddhartha’s goal is to conquer the self. Explain what this means.
11

Chapter 2. With the Samanas
2. What do you think is the reason for the attempt to capture the
archetypes of life itself in meditation?
3. Explain Siddhartha’s discovery that there are many ways to lose self.
Why are they all tricks?
4. Why is Siddhartha unimpressed with the magic arts?
The Reading Selection from “With the
Samanas”
In the evening of this day they caught up with the ascetics, the skinny
Samanas, and offered them their companionship and—obedience. They
were accepted.
Siddhartha gave his garments to a poor Brahman in the street. He wore
nothing more than the loincloth and the earth-coloured, unsown cloak. He
ate only once a day, and never something cooked. He fasted for fifteen
days. He fasted for twenty-eight days. The flesh waned from his thighs
and cheeks. Feverish dreams flickered from his enlarged eyes, long nails
grew slowly on his parched fingers and a dry, shaggy beard grew on his
chin. His glance turned to icy when he encountered women; his mouth
twitched with contempt, when he walked through a city of nicely dressed
people. He saw merchants trading, princes hunting, mourners wailing for
their dead, whores offering themselves, physicians trying to help the sick,
priests determining the most suitable day for seeding, lovers loving, mothers
nursing their children—and all of this was not worthy of one look from
his eye, it all lied, it all stank, it all stank of lies, it all pretended to be meaningful
and joyful and beautiful, and it all was just concealed putrefaction.
The world tasted bitter. Life was torture.
A goal stood before Siddhartha, a single goal: to become empty, empty
of thirst, empty of wishing, empty of dreams, empty of joy and sorrow.
Dead to himself, not to be a self any more, to find tranquility with an
emptied heard, to be open to miracles in unselfish thoughts, that was his
goal. Once all of my self was overcome and had died, once every desire
and every urge was silent in the heart, then the ultimate part of me had to
awake, the innermost of my being, which is no longer my self, the great
secret.

Silently, Siddhartha exposed himself to burning rays of the sun directly
above, glowing with pain, glowing with thirst, and stood there, until he
neither felt any pain nor thirst any more. Silently, he stood there in the
rainy season, from his hair the water was dripping over freezing shoulders,
over freezing hips and legs, and the penitent stood there, until he could not
feel the cold in his shoulders and legs any more, until they were silent, until
they were quiet. Silently, he cowered in the thorny bushes, blood dripped
from the burning skin, from festering wounds dripped pus, and Siddhartha
stayed rigidly, stayed motionless, until no blood flowed any more, until
nothing stung any more, until nothing burned any more.
Hermit at Gem Lake, University of Minnesota Libraries
Siddhartha sat upright and learned to breathe sparingly, learned to get
along with only few breathes, learned to stop breathing. He learned, beginning
with the breath, to calm the beat of his heart, leaned to reduce the
beats of his heart, until they were only a few and almost none.
Instructed by the oldest of the Samanas Siddhartha practised self-denial,

practised meditation, according to a new Samana rules. A heron flew over
the bamboo forest—and Siddhartha accepted the heron into his soul, flew
over forest and mountains, was a heron, ate fish, felt the pangs of a heron’s
hunger, spoke the heron’s croak, died a heron’s death. A dead jackal was
lying on the sandy bank, and Siddhartha’s soul slipped inside the body,
was the dead jackal, lay on the banks, got bloated, stank, decayed, was
dismembered by hyaenas, was skinned by vultures, turned into a skeleton,
turned to dust, was blown across the fields. And Siddhartha’s soul
returned, had died, had decayed, was scattered as dust, had tasted the
gloomy intoxication of the cycle, awaited in new thirst like a hunter in the
gap, where he could escape from the cycle, where the end of the causes,
where an eternity without suffering began. He killed his senses, he killed
his memory, he slipped out of his self into thousands of other forms, was
an animal, was carrion, was stone, was wood, was water, and awoke every
time to find his old self again, sun shone or moon, was his self again,
turned round in the cycle, felt thirst, overcame the thirst, felt new thirst.
Siddhartha learned a lot when he was with the Samanas, many ways leading
away from the self he learned to go. He went the way of self-denial by
means of pain, through voluntarily suffering and overcoming pain, hunger,
thirst, tiredness. He went the way of self-denial by means of meditation,
through imagining the mind to be void of all conceptions. These and other
ways he learned to go, a thousand times he left his self, for hours and days
he remained in the non-self. But though the ways led away from the self,
their end nevertheless always led back to the self. Though Siddhartha fled
from the self a thousand times, stayed in nothingness, stayed in the animal,
in the stone, the return was inevitable, inescapable was the hour, when he
found himself back in the sunshine or in the moonlight, in the shade or
in the rain, and was once again his self and Siddhartha, and again felt the
agony of the cycle which had been forced upon him.
By his side lived Govinda, his shadow, walked the same paths, undertook
the same efforts. They rarely spoke to one another, than the service and
the exercises required. Occasionally the two of them went through the
villages, to beg for food for themselves and their teachers.
“How do you think, Govinda,” Siddhartha spoke one day while begging
this way, “how do you think did we progress? Did we reach any goals?”
Govinda answered: “We have learned, and we’ll continue learning. You’ll
be a great Samana, Siddhartha. Quickly, you’ve learned every exercise,
often the old Samanas have admired you. One day, you’ll be a holy man,

oh Siddhartha.”
Quoth Siddhartha: “I can’t help but feel that it is not like this, my friend.
What I’ve learned, being among the Samanas, up to this day, this, oh
Govinda, I could have learned more quickly and by simpler means. In
every tavern of that part of a town where the whorehouses are, my friend,
among carters and gamblers I could have learned it.”
From the reading. . .
“But though the ways led away from the self, their end nevertheless
always led back to the self. ”
Quoth Govinda: “Siddhartha is putting me on. How could you have
learned meditation, holding your breath, insensitivity against hunger and
pain there among these wretched people?”
And Siddhartha said quietly, as if he was talking to himself: “What is
meditation? What is leaving one’s body? What is fasting? What is holding
one’s breath? It is fleeing from the self, it is a short escape of the agony
of being a self, it is a short numbing of the senses against the pain and the
pointlessness of life. The same escape, the same short numbing is what
the driver of an ox-cart finds in the inn, drinking a few bowls of rice-wine
or fermented coconut-milk. Then he won’t feel his self any more, then he
won’t feel the pains of life any more, then he finds a short numbing of the
senses. When he falls asleep over his bowl of rice-wine, he’ll find the same
what Siddhartha and Govinda find when they escape their bodies through
long exercises, staying in the non-self. This is how it is, oh Govinda.”
Quoth Govinda: “You say so, oh friend, and yet you know that Siddhartha
is no driver of an ox-cart and a Samana is no drunkard. It’s true that
a drinker numbs his senses, it’s true that he briefly escapes and rests,
but he’ll return from the delusion, finds everything to be unchanged, has
not become wiser, has gathered no enlightenment,—has not risen several
steps.”
And Siddhartha spoke with a smile: “I do not know, I’ve never been a drunkard. But that I, Siddhartha, find only a short numbing of the senses
in my exercises and meditations and that I am just as far removed from

wisdom, from salvation, as a child in the mother’s womb, this I know, oh
Govinda, this I know.”
And once again, “another time, when Siddhartha left the forest together
with Govinda, to beg for some food in the village for their brothers and
teachers, Siddhartha began to speak and said: What now, oh Govinda,
might we be on the right path? Might we get closer to enlightenment?
Might we get closer to salvation? Or do we perhaps live in a circle—we,
who have thought we were escaping the cycle?”
Quoth Govinda: “We have learned a lot, Siddhartha, there is still much to
learn. We are not going around in circles, we are moving up, the circle is
a spiral, we have already ascended many a level.”
Siddhartha answered: “How old, would you think, is our oldest Samana,
our venerable teacher?”
Quoth Govinda: “Our oldest one might be about sixty years of age.”
From the reading. . .
“What is meditation? What is leaving one’s body? . . . It is fleeing from
the self. . . The same escape, the same short numbing is what the driver
of an ox-cart finds in the inn, drinking a few bowls of rice-wine. . . ”
And Siddhartha: “He has lived for sixty years and has not reached the
Nirvana. He’ll turn seventy and eighty, and you and me, we will grow just
as old and will do our exercises, and will fast, and will meditate. But we
will not reach Nirvana, he won’t and we won’t. Oh Govinda, I believe out
of all the Samanas out there, perhaps not a single one, not a single one,
will reach Nirvana. We find comfort, we find numbness, we learn feats,
to deceive others. But the most important thing, the path of paths, we will
not find.”
“If you only,” spoke Govinda, “wouldn’t speak such terrible words, Siddhartha!
How could it be that among so many learned men, among so
many Brahmans, among so many austere and venerable Samanas, among
so many who are searching, so many who are eagerly trying, so many holy
men, no one will find the path of paths?”
16 Siddhartha: An Open-Source Reader

Chapter 2. With the Samanas
But Siddhartha said in a voice which contained just as much sadness as
mockery, with a quiet, a slightly sad, a slightly mocking voice: “Soon,
Govinda, your friend will leave the path of the Samanas he has walked
along your side for so long. I’m suffering of thirst, oh Govinda, and on
this long path of a Samana, my thirst has remained as strong as ever. I
always thirsted for knowledge, I have always been full of questions. I have
asked the Brahmans, year after year, and I have asked the holy Vedas, year
after year, and I have asked the devote Samanas, year after year. Perhaps,
oh Govinda, it had been just as well, had been just as smart and just as
profitable, if I had asked the hornbill-bird or the chimpanzee. It took me a
long time and am not finished learning this yet, oh Govinda: that there is
nothing to be learned! There is indeed no such thing, so I believe, as what
we refer to as ‘learning.’ There is, oh my friend, just one knowledge, this
is everywhere, this is Atman, this is within me and within you and within
every creature. And so I’m starting to believe that this knowledge has no
worse enemy than the desire to know it, than learning.”
At this, Govinda stopped on the path, rose his hands, and spoke: “If you,
Siddhartha, only would not bother your friend with this kind of talk! Truly,
your words stir up fear in my heart. And just consider: what would become
of the sanctity of prayer, what of the venerability of the Brahmins’ caste,
what of the holiness of the Samanas, if it was as you say, if there was no
learning?! What, oh Siddhartha, what would then become of all of this
what is holy, what is precious, what is venerable on earth?!”
And Govinda mumbled a verse to himself, a verse from an Upanishad:
He who ponderingly, of a purified spirit, loses himself in the meditation of
Atman, unexpressable by words is his blissfulness of his heart.
But Siddhartha remained silent. He thought about the words which
Govinda had said to him and thought the words through to their end.
Yes, he thought, standing there with his head low, what would remain of
all that which seemed to us to be holy? What remains? What can stand the
test? And he shook his head.
At one time, when the two young men had lived among the Samanas for
about three years and had shared their exercises, some news, a rumour, a
myth reached them after being retold many times: A man had appeared,
Gotama by name, the exalted one, the Buddha, he had overcome the suf-
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Chapter 2. With the Samanas
fering of the world in himself and had halted the cycle of rebirths. He
was said to wander through the land, teaching, surrounded by disciples,
without possession, without home, without a wife, in the yellow cloak of
an ascetic, but with a cheerful brow, a man of bliss, and Brahmans and
princes would bow down before him and would become his students.
This myth, this rumour, this legend resounded, its fragrants rose up, here
and there; in the towns, the Brahmans spoke of it and in the forest, the
Samanas; again and again, the name of Gotama, the Buddha reached the
ears of the young men, with good and with bad talk, with praise and with
defamation.
It was as if the plague had broken out in a country and news had been
spreading around that in one or another place there was a man, a wise
man, a knowledgeable one, whose word and breath was enough to heal
everyone who had been infected with the pestilence, and as such news
would go through the land and everyone would talk about it, many would
believe, many would doubt, but many would get on their way as soon
as possible, to seek the wise man, the helper, just like this this myth ran
through the land, that fragrant myth of Gotama, the Buddha, the wise man
of the family of Sakya. He possessed, so the believers said, the highest
enlightenment, he remembered his previous lives, he had reached Nirvana
and never returned into the cycle, was never again submerged in the murky
river of physical forms. Many wonderful and unbelievable things were
reported of him, he had performed miracles, had overcome the devil, had
spoken to the gods. But his enemies and disbelievers said, this Gotama was
a vain seducer, he would spent his days in luxury, scorned the offerings,
was without learning, and knew neither exercises nor self-castigation.
The myth of Buddha sounded sweet. The scent of magic flowed from these
reports. After all, the world was sick, life was hard to bear—and behold,
here a source seemed to spring forth, here a messenger seemed to call out,
comforting, mild, full of noble promises. Everywhere where the rumour
of Buddha was heard, everywhere in the lands of India, the young men
listened up, felt a longing, felt hope, and among the Brahmans’ sons of
the towns and villages every pilgrim and stranger was welcome, when he
brought news of him, the exalted one, the Sakyamuni.
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Chapter 2. With the Samanas
From the reading. . .
“We are not going around in circles, we are moving up, the circle is a
spiral, we have already ascended many a level.”
The myth had also reached the Samanas in the forest, and also Siddhartha,
and also Govinda, slowly, drop by drop, every drop laden with hope, every
drop laden with doubt. They rarely talked about it, because the oldest one
of the Samanas did not like this myth. He had heard that this alleged Buddha
used to be an ascetic before and had lived in the forest, but had then
turned back to luxury and worldly pleasures, and he had no high opinion
of this Gotama.
“Oh Siddhartha,” Govinda spoke one day to his friend. “Today, I was in
the village, and a Brahman invited me into his house, and in his house,
there was the son of a Brahman from Magadha, who has seen the Buddha
with his own eyes and has heard him teach. Verily, this made my chest
ache when I breathed, and thought to myself: If only I would too, if only
we both would too, Siddhartha and me, live to see the hour when we will
hear the teachings from the mouth of this perfected man! Speak, friend,
wouldn’t we want to go there too and listen to the teachings from the
Buddha’s mouth?”
Quoth Siddhartha: “Always, oh Govinda, I had thought, Govinda would
stay with the Samanas, always I had believed his goal was to live to be
sixty and seventy years of age and to keep on practising those feats and
exercises, which are becoming a Samana. But behold, I had not known
Govinda well enough, I knew little of his heart. So now you, my faithful
friend, want to take a new path and go there, where the Buddha spreads
his teachings.”
Quoth Govinda: “You’re mocking me. Mock me if you like, Siddhartha!
But have you not also developed a desire, an eagerness, to hear these teachings?
And have you not at one time said to me, you would not walk the
path of the Samanas for much longer?”
At this, Siddhartha laughed in his very own manner, in which his voice
assumed a touch of sadness and a touch of mockery, and said: “Well,
Govinda, you’ve spoken well, you’ve remembered correctly. If you only
remembered the other thing as well, you’ve heard from me, which is that

I have grown distrustful and tired against teachings and learning, and that
my faith in words, which are brought to us by teachers, is small. But let’s
do it, my dear, I am willing to listen to these teachings—though in my
heart I believe that we’ve already tasted the best fruit of these teachings.”
Quoth Govinda: “Your willingness delights my heart. But tell me, how
should this be possible? How should the Gotama’s teachings, even before
we have heard them, have already revealed their best fruit to us?”
Quoth Siddhartha: “Let us eat this fruit and wait for the rest, oh Govinda!
But this fruit, which we already now received thanks to the Gotama, consisted
in him calling us away from the Samanas! Whether he has also other
and better things to give us, oh friend, let us await with calm hearts”
On this very same day, Siddhartha informed the oldest one of the Samanas
of his decision, that he wanted to leave him. He informed the oldest one
with all the courtesy and modesty becoming to a younger one and a student.
But the Samana became angry, because the two young men wanted
to leave him, and talked loudly and used crude swearwords.
Govinda was startled and became embarrassed. But Siddhartha put his
mouth close to Govinda’s ear and whispered to him: “Now, I want to show
the old man that I’ve learned something from him.”
Positioning himself closely in front of the Samana, with a concentrated
soul, he captured the old man’s glance with his glances, deprived him of
his power, made him mute, took away his free will, subdued him under his
own will, commanded him, to do silently, whatever he demanded him to
do. The old man became mute, his eyes became motionless, his will was
paralysed, his arms were hanging down; without power, he had fallen victim
to Siddhartha’s spell. But Siddhartha’s thoughts brought the Samana
under their control, he had to carry out, what they commanded. And thus,
the old man made several bows, performed gestures of blessing, spoke
stammeringly a godly wish for a good journey. And the young men returned
the bows with thanks, returned the wish, went on their way with
salutations.
On the way, Govinda said: “Oh Siddhartha, you have learned more from
the Samanas than I knew. It is hard, it is very hard to cast a spell on an old
Samana. Truly, if you had stayed there, you would soon have learned to
walk on water.”
“I do not seek to walk on water,” said Siddhartha. “Let old Samanas be
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Chapter 2. With the Samanas
content with such feats!”
Fakirs at Amritsar, University of Minnesota Libraries
Topics Worth Investigating
1. Siddhartha and Govinda discover through meditation that the world is
Maya. Why do they think the world is illusion? What do you think is
the source of the recognition that, in the words of the British posmodernist
Angela Carter, “Is not this whole world an illusion? And yet it
fools everybody.”1
2. Beyond appearance and illusion is reality. What is the reality these
holy men seek?
3. Characterize Nirvana. What is Nirvana and what could it mean for it
to be sought?
4. Is conquering self by becoming empty of all thought, will, and desire,
a “nay-saying” attitude toward life? Aristotle writes that such isolation
is unnatural to man:
1. Angela Carter. Nights at the Circus London: Chatto & Windus, 1984.
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Chapter 2. With the Samanas
The proof that the state is a creation of nature and prior to the individual
is that the individual, when isolated, is not self-sufficing; and therefore
he is like a part in relation to the whole. But he who is unable to live in
society, or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must
be either a beast or a god: he is no part of a state. A social instinct is
implanted in all men by nature, and yet he who first founded the state
was the greatest of benefactors. For man, when perfected, is the best of
animals, but, when separated from law and justice, he is the worst of
all. . . 2
Discuss whether you think Siddhartha’s quest is egocentrically antisocial.
5. Discuss whether Siddhartha’s vanity prevents his ability to learn about
himself. He says, “It took me a long time and I am not finished learning
this yet, oh Govinda; that there is nothing to be learned! There is
indeed no such thing, so I believe, as what we refer to as ‘learning.’”
Thomas Szasz notes that learning impacts the ego:
Every act of conscious learning requires the willingness to suffer an
injury to one’s self-esteem. That is why young children, before they
are aware of their own self-importance, learn so easily; and why older
persons, especially if vain or important, cannot learn at all.3
2. Aristotle. Politica. Translated by David Ross. In Richard McKeon, ed. The Basic
Works of Aristotle. New York: Random House, 1970. Book I, Ch. 2, 26-32.
3. Thomas Szasz. The Second Sin. New York: Anchor Press, 1973.
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Chapter 3 Gotama
Buddha Preaching, Library of Congress
From the reading. . .
“Be aware of too much wisdom!”
Ideas of Interest from “Gotama”
1. Why doesn’t it bother these holy men to beg for a living? Explain the
difference in cultural values.
2. How was it that Siddhartha could instantly recognize the Buddha and
Govinda could not?
23

Chapter 3. Gotama
3. Why did Govinda break with his friend, Siddhartha?
4. What need be renounced in order to follow Buddha? From a psychological
point of view, why would these sacrifices be required?
5. Why did Siddhartha knowingly relate to Govinda the false statement,
“Very good are the teachings of the exalted one, how could I find a
fault in them?”
6. Explain in your own words the seeming contradiction in Buddha’s
doctrine of causality as described by Siddhartha. If all events, including
mental events are caused, how can any action be considered right
or wrong?
7. Evaluate Buddha’s pragmatic and implied response that his disciples
are better off with him than in the world of desires even though they
will not find salvation through his teachings. Is Buddha intentionally
deceiving his disciples “for their own good”?
The Reading Selection from “Gotama”
In the town of Savathi, every child knew the name of the exalted Buddha,
and every house was prepared to fill the alms-dish of Gotama’s disciples,
the silently begging ones. Near the town was Gotama’s favourite place to
stay, the grove of Jetavana, which the rich merchant Anathapindika, an
obedient worshiper of the exalted one, had given him and his people for a
gift.
All tales and answers, which the two young ascetics had received in their
search for Gotama’s abode, had pointed them towards this area. And arriving
at Savathi, in the very first house, before the door of which they
stopped to beg, food has been offered to them, and they accepted the food,
and Siddhartha asked the woman, who handed them the food: “We would
like to know, oh charitable one, where the Buddha dwells, the most venerable
one, for we are two Samanas from the forest and have come, to see
him, the perfected one, and to hear the teachings from his mouth”
Quoth the woman: “Here, you have truly come to the right place, you
Samanas from the forest. You should know, in Jetavana, in the garden of
Anathapindika is where the exalted one dwells. There you pilgrims shall
spend the night, for there is enough space for the innumerable, who flock
here, to hear the teachings from his mouth.”
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Chapter 3. Gotama
This made Govinda happy, and full of joy he exclaimed: “Well so, thus we
have reached our destination, and our path has come to an end! But tell us,
oh mother of the pilgrims, do you know him, the Buddha, have you seen
him with your own eyes?”
Quoth the woman: “Many times I have seen him, the exalted one. On many
days, I have seen him, walking through the alleys in silence, wearing his
yellow cloak, presenting his alms-dish in silence at the doors of the houses,
leaving with a filled dish.”
Delightedly, Govinda listened and wanted to ask and hear much more. But
Siddhartha urged him to walk on. They thanked and left and hardly had
to ask for directions, for rather many pilgrims and monks as well from
Gotama’s community were on their way to the Jetavana. And since they
reached it at night, there were constant arrivals, shouts, and talk of those
who sought shelter and got it. The two Samanas, accustomed to life in the
forest, found quickly and without making any noise a place to stay and
rested there until the morning.
At sunrise, they saw with astonishment what a large crowd of believers
and curious people had spent the night here. On all paths of the marvelous
grove, monks walked in yellow robes, under the trees they sat here and
there, in deep contemplation—or in a conversation about spiritual matters,
the shady gardens looked like a city, full of people, bustling like bees. The
majority of the monks went out with their alms-dish, to collect food in
town for their lunch, the only meal of the day. The Buddha himself, the
enlightened one, was also in the habit of taking this walk to beg in the
morning.
Siddhartha saw him, and he instantly recognised him, as if a god had
pointed him out to him. He saw him, a simple man in a yellow robe, bearing
the alms-dish in his hand, walking silently.
“Look here!” Siddhartha said quietly to Govinda. “This one is the Buddha.”
Attentively, Govinda looked at the monk in the yellow robe, who seemed
to be in no way different from the hundreds of other monks. And soon,
Govinda also realized: This is the one. And they followed him and observed
him.
The Buddha went on his way, modestly and deep in his thoughts, his calm face was neither happy nor sad, it seemed to smile quietly and inwardly.
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Chapter 3. Gotama
With a hidden smile, quiet, calm, somewhat resembling a healthy child, the
Buddha walked, wore the robe and placed his feet just as all of his monks
did, according to a precise rule. But his face and his walk, his quietly lowered
glance, his quietly dangling hand and even every finger of his quietly
dangling hand expressed peace, expressed perfection, did not search, did
not imitate, breathed softly in an unwhithering calm, in an unwhithering
light, an untouchable peace.
Thus Gotama walked towards the town, to collect alms, and the two
Samanas recognised him solely by the perfection of his calm, by the
quietness of his appearance, in which there was no searching, no desire,
no imitation, no effort to be seen, only light and peace.
From the reading. . .
“. . . nobody will obtain salvation by means of teachings!”
“Today, we’ll hear the teachings from his mouth.” said Govinda.
Siddhartha did not answer. He felt little curiosity for the teachings, he
did not believe that they would teach him anything new, but he had, just
as Govinda had, heard the contents of this Buddha’s teachings again and
again, though these reports only represented second- or third-hand information.
But attentively he looked at Gotama’s head, his shoulders, his feet,
his quietly dangling hand, and it seemed to him as if every joint of every
finger of this hand was of these teachings, spoke of, breathed of, exhaled
the fragrant of, glistened of truth. This man, this Buddha was truthful
down to the gesture of his last finger. This man was holy. Never before,
Siddhartha had venerated a person so much, never before he had loved a
person as much as this one.
They both followed the Buddha until they reached the town and then returned
in silence, for they themselves intended to abstain from food on
this day. They saw Gotama returning—what he ate could not even have
satisfied a bird’s appetite, and they saw him retiring into the shade of the
mango-trees.
But in the evening, when the heat cooled down and everyone in the camp
started to bustle about and gathered around, they heard the Buddha teaching.
They heard his voice, and it was also perfected, was of perfect calm-
ness, was full of peace. Gotama taught the teachings of suffering, of the
origin of suffering, of the way to relieve suffering. Calmly and clearly his
quiet speech flowed on. Suffering was life, full of suffering was the world,
but salvation from suffering had been found: salvation was obtained by
him who would walk the path of the Buddha. With a soft, yet firm voice
the exalted one spoke, taught the four main doctrines, taught the eightfold
path, patiently he went the usual path of the teachings, of the examples,
of the repetitions, brightly and quietly his voice hovered over the listeners,
like a light, like a starry sky.
Amber Palace and Square, Library of Congress
When the Buddha—night had already fallen—ended his speech, many a
pilgrim stepped forward and asked to be accepted into the community,
sought refuge in the teachings. And Gotama accepted them by speaking:
“You have heard the teachings well, it has come to you well. Thus join us
and walk in holiness, to put an end to all suffering.”
Behold, then Govinda, the shy one, also stepped forward and spoke: “I
also take my refuge in the exalted one and his teachings,” and he asked to
be accepted into the community of his disciples and was accepted.
Right afterwards, when the Buddha had retired for the night, Govinda
turned to Siddhartha and spoke eagerly: “Siddhartha, it is not my place
to scold you. We have both heard the exalted one, we have both perceived
the teachings. Govinda has heard the teachings, he has taken refuge in it.
But you, my honoured friend, don’t you also want to walk the path of
salvation? Would you want to hesitate, do you want to wait any longer?”
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Chapter 3. Gotama
Siddhartha awakened as if he had been asleep, when he heard Govinda’s
words. For a long tome, he looked into Govinda’s face. Then he spoke quietly,
in a voice without mockery: “Govinda, my friend, now you have taken
this step, now you have chosen this path. Always, oh Govinda, you’ve
been my friend, you’ve always walked one step behind me. Often I have
thought: Won’t Govinda for once also take a step by himself, without me,
out of his own soul? Behold, now you’ve turned into a man and are choosing
your path for yourself. I wish that you would go it up to its end, oh my
friend, that you shall find salvation!”
Govinda, not completely understanding it yet, repeated his question in an
impatient tone: “Speak up, I beg you, my dear! Tell me, since it could not
be any other way, that you also, my learned friend, will take your refuge
with the exalted Buddha!”
Siddhartha placed his hand on Govinda’s shoulder: “You failed to hear my
good wish for you, oh Govinda. I’m repeating it: I wish that you would go
this path up to its end, that you shall find salvation!”
In this moment, Govinda realized that his friend had left him, and he
started to weep.
“Siddhartha!” he exclaimed lamentingly.
From the reading. . .
“Truly, only a person who has succeeded in reaching the innermost
part of his self would glance and walk this way. ”
Siddhartha kindly spoke to him: “Don’t forget, Govinda, that you are now
one of the Samanas of the Buddha! You have renounced your home and
your parents, renounced your birth and possessions, renounced your free
will, renounced all friendship. This is what the teachings require, this is
what the exalted one wants. This is what you wanted for yourself. Tomorrow,
oh Govinda, I’ll leave you.”
For a long time, the friends continued walking in the grove; for a long
time, they lay there and found no sleep. And over and over again, Govinda
urged his friend, he should tell him why he would not want to seek refuge
in Gotama’s teachings, what fault he would find in these teachings. But
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Chapter 3. Gotama
Siddhartha turned him away every time and said: “Be content, Govinda!
Very good are the teachings of the exalted one, how could I find a fault in
them?”
Very early in the morning, a follower of Buddha, one of his oldest monks,
went through the garden and called all those to him who had as novices
taken their refuge in the teachings, to dress them up in the yellow robe
and to instruct them in the first teachings and duties of their position. Then
Govinda broke loose, embraced once again his childhood friend and left
with the novices.
But Siddhartha walked through the grove, lost in thought.
Then he happened to meet Gotama, the exalted one, and when he greeted
him with respect and the Buddha’s glance was so full of kindness and
calm, the young man summoned his courage and asked the venerable one
for the permission to talk to him. Silently the exalted one nodded his approval.
Quoth Siddhartha: “Yesterday, oh exalted one, I had been privileged to
hear your wondrous teachings. Together with my friend, I had come from
afar, to hear your teachings. And now my friend is going to stay with your
people, he has taken his refuge with you. But I will again start on my
pilgrimage.”
“As you please,” the venerable one spoke politely.
“Too bold is my speech,” Siddhartha continued, “but I do not want to
leave the exalted one without having honestly told him my thoughts. Does
it please the venerable one to listen to me for one moment longer?”
Silently, the Buddha nodded his approval.
Quoth Siddhartha: “One thing, oh most venerable one, I have admired in
your teachings most of all. Everything in your teachings is perfectly clear,
is proven; you are presenting the world as a perfect chain, a chain which is
never and nowhere broken, an eternal chain the links of which are causes
and effects. Never before, this has been seen so clearly; never before, this
has been presented so irrefutably; truly, the heart of every Brahman has
to beat stronger with love, once he has seen the world through your teachings
perfectly connected, without gaps, clear as a crystal, not depending on
chance, not depending on gods. Whether it may be good or bad, whether
living according to it would be suffering or joy, I do not wish to discuss,
possibly this is not essential—but the uniformity of the world, that every-
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Chapter 3. Gotama
thing which happens is connected, that the great and the small things are
all encompassed by the same forces of time, by the same law of causes,
of coming into being and of dying, this is what shines brightly out of your
exalted teachings, oh perfected one. But according to your very own teachings,
this unity and necessary sequence of all things is nevertheless broken
in one place, through a small gap, this world of unity is invaded by something
alien, something new, something which had not been there before,
and which cannot be demonstrated and cannot be proven: these are your
teachings of overcoming the world, of salvation. But with this small gap,
with this small breach, the entire eternal and uniform law of the world is
breaking apart again and becomes void. Please forgive me for expressing
this objection.”
From the reading. . .
“ This man, this Buddha was truthful down to the gesture of his last
finger. This man was holy.”
Quietly, Gotama had listened to him, unmoved. Now he spoke, the perfected
one, with his kind, with his polite and clear voice: “You’ve heard
the teachings, oh son of a Brahman, and good for you that you’ve thought
about it thus deeply. You’ve found a gap in it, an error. You should think
about this further. But be warned, oh seeker of knowledge, of the thicket
of opinions and of arguing about words. There is nothing to opinions, they
may be beautiful or ugly, smart or foolish, everyone can support them or
discard them. But the teachings, you’ve heard from me, are no opinion,
and their goal is not to explain the world to those who seek knowledge.
They have a different goal; their goal is salvation from suffering. This is
what Gotama teaches, nothing else.”
“I wish that you, oh exalted one, would not be angry with me,” said the
young man. “I have not spoken to you like this to argue with you, to argue
about words. You are truly right, there is little to opinions. But let me
say this one more thing: I have not doubted in you for a single moment. I
have not doubted for a single moment that you are Buddha, that you have
reached the goal, the highest goal towards which so many thousands of
Brahmans and sons of Brahmans are on their way. You have found salvation
from death. It has come to you in the course of your own search, on
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Chapter 3. Gotama
your own path, through thoughts, through meditation, through realizations,
through enlightenment. It has not come to you by means of teachings!
And—thus is my thought, oh exalted one,—nobody will obtain salvation
by means of teachings! You will not be able to convey and say to anybody,
oh venerable one, in words and through teachings what has happened to
you in the hour of enlightenment! The teachings of the enlightened Buddha
contain much, it teaches many to live righteously, to avoid evil. But
there is one thing which these so clear, these so venerable teachings do
not contain: they do not contain the mystery of what the exalted one has
experienced for himself, he alone among hundreds of thousands. This is
what I have thought and realized, when I have heard the teachings. This is
why I am continuing my travels—not to seek other, better teachings, for I
know there are none, but to depart from all teachings and all teachers and
to reach my goal by myself or to die. But often, I’ll think of this day, oh
exalted one, and of this hour, when my eyes beheld a holy man.”
The Buddha’s eyes quietly looked to the ground; quietly, in perfect equanimity
his inscrutable face was smiling.
“I wish,” the venerable one spoke slowly, “that your thoughts shall not
be in error, that you shall reach the goal! But tell me: Have you seen the
multitude of my Samanas, my many brothers, who have taken refuge in
the teachings? And do you believe, oh stranger, oh Samana, do you believe
that it would be better for them all to abandon the teachings and to return
into the life of the world of desires?”
“Far is such a thought from my mind,” exclaimed Siddhartha. “I wish that
they shall all stay with the teachings, that they shall reach their goal! It is
not my place to judge another person’s life. Only for myself, for myself
alone, I must decide, I must chose, I must refuse. Salvation from the self is
what we Samanas search for, oh exalted one. If I merely were one of your
disciples, oh venerable one, I’d fear that it might happen to me that only
seemingly, only deceptively my self would be calm and be redeemed, but
that in truth it would live on and grow, for then I had replaced my self with
the teachings, my duty to follow you, my love for you, and the community
of the monks!”
With half of a smile, with an unwavering openness and kindness, Gotama
looked into the stranger’s eyes and bid him to leave with a hardly noticeable
gesture.
“You are wise, oh Samana,” the venerable one spoke.
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Chapter 3. Gotama
“You know how to talk wisely, my friend. Be aware of too much wisdom!”
The Buddha turned away, and his glance and half of a smile remained
forever etched in Siddhartha’s memory.
I have never before seen a person glance and smile, sit and walk this way,
he thought; truly, I wish to be able to glance and smile, sit and walk this
way, too, thus free, thus venerable, thus concealed, thus open, thus childlike
and mysterious. Truly, only a person who has succeeded in reaching
the innermost part of his self would glance and walk this way. Well so, I
also will seek to reach the innermost part of my self.
I saw a man, Siddhartha thought, a single man, before whom I would have
to lower my glance. I do not want to lower my glance before any other, not
before any other. No teachings will entice me any more, since this man’s
teachings have not enticed me.
I am deprived by the Buddha, thought Siddhartha, I am deprived, and even
more he has given to me. He has deprived me of my friend, the one who
had believed in me and now believes in him, who had been my shadow
and is now Gotama’s shadow. But he has given me Siddhartha, myself.
Well of Knowledge, Library of Congress
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Chapter 3. Gotama
Topics Worth Investigating
1. What are the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path?
2. What is Buddha’s distinction in this chapter between seeking salvation
and seeking knowledge? Does Buddha reject knowledge as a
way to ultimate truth? Is intuition necessarily irrational? In the Noble
Eightfold Path, Buddha states under the topic of “Unprofitable
Questions”:
Should anyone say that he does not wish to lead the holy life under
the Blessed One, unless the Blessed One first tells him, whether the
world is eternal or temporal, finite or infinite; whether the life principle
is identical with the body, or something different; whether the Perfect
One continues after death, and so on such a man would die, ere the
Perfect One could tell him all this.
It is as if a man were pierced by a poisoned arrow, and his friends,
companions, or near relations, should send for a surgeon; but that man
should say: “I will not have this arrow pulled out, until I know who the
man is that has wounded me: whether he is a noble, a priest, a citizen,
or a servant”; or: “what his name is, and to what family he belongs”; or:
“whether he is tall, or short, or of medium height.” Verily, such a man
would die, ere he could adequately learn all this.1
3. What does Siddhartha mean when he states that the Buddha gave him
“Siddhartha, himself”?
4. Is Siddhartha’s injunction that he will never lower his glance before
another man justified from this one experience? If so, then is the finding
of “inner-self” consequently seen to be a wholly personal undertaking?
1. Paul Carus. Buddha, The Word. 1915.
Siddhartha: An Open-Source Reader 33

Chapter4
Awakening
Buddha, Antiquities Project
From the reading. . .
“It was the self, I wanted to free myself from, which I sought to overcome.”
Ideas of Interest from “Awakening”
1. In the context of this chapter, what is the difference between “my self”
and “myself”? Does Siddhartha make sense when he says he tried to
“free my self” from “myself”?
34

Chapter 4. Awakening
2. As a Samana, Siddhartha says that as he sought Atman in mediation,
he lost his self. Is this different from conquering his self? Is it different
from freeing his self?
3. Siddhartha promised his father that he would return home. Why did
Siddhartha decide not to return?
The Reading Selection from “Awakening”
When Siddhartha left the grove, where the Buddha, the perfected one,
stayed behind, where Govinda stayed behind, then he felt that in this grove
his past life also stayed behind and parted from him. He pondered about
this sensation, which filled him completely, as he was slowly walking
along. He pondered deeply, like diving into a deep water he let himself
sink down to the ground of the sensation, down to the place where the
causes lie, because to identify the causes, so it seemed to him, is the very
essence of thinking, and by this alone sensations turn into realizations and
are not lost, but become entities and start to emit like rays of light what is
inside of them.
Slowly walking along, Siddhartha pondered. He realized that he was no
youth any more, but had turned into a man. He realized that one thing had
left him, as a snake is left by its old skin, that one thing no longer existed
in him, which had accompanied him throughout his youth and used to be
a part of him: the wish to have teachers and to listen to teachings. He
had also left the last teacher who had appeared on his path, even him, the
highest and wisest teacher, the most holy one, Buddha, he had left him,
had to part with him, was not able to accept his teachings.
Slower, he walked along in his thoughts and asked himself: “But what is
this, what you have sought to learn from teachings and from teachers, and
what they, who have taught you much, were still unable to teach you?”
And he found: “It was the self, the purpose and essence of which I sought
to learn. It was the self, I wanted to free myself from, which I sought to
overcome. But I was not able to overcome it, could only deceive it, could
only flee from it, only hide from it. Truly, no thing in this world has kept
my thoughts thus busy, as this my very own self, this mystery of me being
alive, of me being one and being separated and isolated from all others, of
me being Siddhartha! And there is no thing in this world I know less about
than about me, about Siddhartha!”
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Chapter 4. Awakening
Having been pondering while slowly walking along, he now stopped as
these thoughts caught hold of him, and right away another thought sprang
forth from these, a new thought, which was: “That I know nothing about
myself, that Siddhartha has remained thus alien and unknown to me, stems
from one cause, a single cause: I was afraid of myself, I was fleeing from
myself! I searched Atman, I searched Brahman, I was willing to to dissect
my self and peel off all of its layers, to find the core of all peels in its
unknown interior, the Atman, life, the divine part, the ultimate part. But I
have lost myself in the process.”
Siddhartha opened his eyes and looked around, a smile filled his face and a
feeling of awakening from long dreams flowed through him from his head
down to his toes. And it was not long before he walked again, walked
quickly like a man who knows what he has got to do.
From the reading. . .
“Nobody was thus alone as he was.”
“Oh,” he thought, taking a deep breath, “now I would not let Siddhartha
escape from me again! No longer, I want to begin my thoughts and my
life with Atman and with the suffering of the world. I do not want to kill
and dissect myself any longer, to find a secret behind the ruins. Neither
Yoga-Veda shall teach me any more, nor Atharva-Veda, nor the ascetics,
nor any kind of teachings. I want to learn from myself, want to be my
student, want to get to know myself, the secret of Siddhartha.”
He looked around, as if he was seeing the world for the first time. Beautiful
was the world, colourful was the world, strange and mysterious was
the world! Here was blue, here was yellow, here was green, the sky and the
river flowed, the forest and the mountains were rigid, all of it was beautiful,
all of it was mysterious and magical, and in its midst was he, Siddhartha,
the awakening one, on the path to himself. All of this, all this yellow and
blue, river and forest, entered Siddhartha for the first time through the
eyes, was no longer a spell of Mara, was no longer the veil of Maya, was
no longer a pointless and coincidental diversity of mere appearances, despicable
to the deeply thinking Brahman, who scorns diversity, who seeks
unity. Blue was blue, river was river, and if also in the blue and the river,
in Siddhartha, the singular and divine lived hidden, so it was still that very
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Chapter 4. Awakening
divinity’s way and purpose, to be here yellow, here blue, there sky, there
forest, and here Siddhartha. The purpose and the essential properties were
not somewhere behind the things, they were in them, in everything.
Jayanti Park, ©Shishir Thadani
“How deaf and stupid have I been!” he thought, walking swiftly along.
“When someone reads a text, wants to discover its meaning, he will not
scorn the symbols and letters and call them deceptions, coincidence, and
worthless hull, but he will read them, he will study and love them, letter by
letter. But I, who wanted to read the book of the world and the book of my
own being, I have, for the sake of a meaning I had anticipated before I read,
scorned the symbols and letters, I called the visible world a deception,
called my eyes and my tongue coincidental and worthless forms without
substance. No, this is over, I have awakened, I have indeed awakened and
have not been born before this very day.”
In thinking these thoughts, Siddhartha stopped once again, suddenly, as if
there were a snake lying in front of him on the path.
Because suddenly, he had also become aware of this: He, who was indeed
like someone who had just woken up or like a new-born baby, he had to
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Chapter 4. Awakening
start his life anew and start again at the very beginning. When he had left
in this very morning from the grove Jetavana, the grove of that exalted
one, already awakening, already on the path towards himself, he had every
intention, regarded as natural and took for granted, that he, after years as
an ascetic, would return to his home and his father. But now, only in this
moment, when he stopped as if a snake were lying on his path, he also
awoke to this realization: “But I am no longer the one I was, I am no
ascetic any more, I am not a priest any more, I am no Brahman any more.
Whatever should I do at home and at my father’s place? Study? Make
offerings? Practise meditation? But all this is over, all of this is no longer
alongside my path.”
From the reading. . .
“No longer, I want to begin my thoughts and my life with Atman and
with the suffering of the world. I do not want to kill and dissect myself
any longer, to find a secret behind the ruins.”
Motionless, Siddhartha remained standing there, and for the time of one
moment and breath, his heart felt cold, he felt a cold in his chest, as a
small animal, a bird or a rabbit, would when seeing how alone he was.
For many years, he had been without home and had felt nothing. Now,
he felt it. Still, even in the deepest meditation, he had been his father’s
son, had been a Brahman, of a high caste, a cleric. Now, he was nothing
but Siddhartha, the awoken one, nothing else was left. Deeply, he inhaled,
and for a moment, he felt cold and shivered. Nobody was thus alone as
he was. There was no nobleman who did not belong to the noblemen, no
worker that did not belong to the workers, and found refuge with them,
shared their life, spoke their language. No Brahman, who would not be
regarded as Brahmans and lived with them, no ascetic who would not find
his refuge in the caste of the Samanas, and even the most forlorn hermit in
the forest was not just one and alone, he was also surrounded by a place
he belonged to, he also belonged to a caste, in which he was at home.
Govinda had become a monk, and a thousand monks were his brothers,
wore the same robe as he, believed in his faith, spoke his language. But
he, Siddhartha, where did he belong to? With whom would he share his
life? Whose language would he speak?
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Chapter 4. Awakening
Out of this moment, when the world melted away all around him, when he
stood alone like a star in the sky, out of this moment of a cold and despair,
Siddhartha emerged, more a self than before, more firmly concentrated.
He felt: This had been the last tremor of the awakening, the last struggle
of this birth. And it was not long until he walked again in long strides,
started to proceed swiftly and impatiently, heading no longer for home, no
longer to his father, no longer back.
Country Scene, Antiquities Project
Topics Worth Investigating
1. Why do you think the metaphor of a snake is used so often in this
chapter? Do you think this symbol is being used as an archetypal object
suggesting a second kind of danger?
2. Why does Siddhartha give up the attempt to conquer self and, instead,
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Chapter 4. Awakening
seek to return to the world of causes? Could it be that he realizes
that knowledge of himself can only be discovered in a social environment?
Would this be an example of B. F. Skinner’s behavioristic
interpretation of self-knowledge? Skinner explains self-awareness or
self-knowledge in this manner:
There is a . . . difference between behaving and reporting that one is behaving
or reporting the causes of one’s behavior. In arranging conditions
under which a person describes the public or private world in which he
lives, a community generates that very special form of behavior called
knowing . . . Self-knowledge is of social origin.1.
3. Siddhartha found that the world was not Maya. Discuss whether or
not his awakening was an illusion or not.
1. B. F. Skinner. About Behaviorism. New York: Knopf, 1974. 30.
40 Siddhartha: An Open-Source Reader

Part II.
Buddha Standing, Gupta period (ca. 319?-500), 5th century, Uttar Pradesh,
Mathura, India, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Chapter5
Kamala
Kama: God of Love, ©Kathleen Cohen
From the reading. . .
“Now, he had to experience his self.. . . But never, he had really found
this self, because he had wanted to capture it in the net of thought.”
Ideas of Interest from “Kamala”
1. What do you think Siddharta means by the phrase, “the random self
of the senses”?
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Chapter 5. Kamala
2. Explain the passage, “ But never, he had really found this self, because
he had wanted to capture it in the net of thought.” Why cannot my
“self” be thought?
3. What is the significance and what is your interpretation of
Siddhartha’s dream?
4. Siddhartha seems to think the ferryman is one of the childlike people.
Even so, can you find any evidence that the ferryman seems to have
mystical powers?
5. In the encounter with the young woman by the stream, why did not
Siddhartha stay with her? Why, later, does he overlook this encounter
when he says to Kamala, “. . . and the first one I met, even before I had
entered the city, was you”?
6. Explain the significance of the keys to Siddhartha’s abilities and success
in terms of his stated litany, “I can think, I can wait, I can fast.”
7. How does Siddhartha characterize the nature of magic?
The Reading Selection from “Kamala”
Siddhartha learned something new on every step of his path, for the world
was transformed, and his heart was enchanted. He saw the sun rising over
the mountains with their forests and setting over the distant beach with its
palm-trees. At night, he saw the stars in the sky in their fixed positions and
the crescent of the moon floating like a boat in the blue. He saw trees, stars,
animals, clouds, rainbows, rocks, herbs, flowers, stream and river, the glistening
dew in the bushes in the morning, distant hight mountains which
were blue and pale, birds sang and bees, wind silverishly blew through
the rice-field. All of this, a thousand-fold and colourful, had always been
there, always the sun and the moon had shone, always rivers had roared
and bees had buzzed, but in former times all of this had been nothing more
to Siddhartha than a fleeting, deceptive veil before his eyes, looked upon
in distrust, destined to be penetrated and destroyed by thought, since it
was not the essential existence, since this essence lay beyond, on the other
side of, the visible. But now, his liberated eyes stayed on this side, he saw
and became aware of the visible, sought to be at home in this world, did
not search for the true essence, did not aim at a world beyond. Beautiful
was this world, looking at it thus, without searching, thus simply, thus
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Chapter 5. Kamala
childlike. Beautiful were the moon and the stars, beautiful was the stream
and the banks, the forest and the rocks, the goat and the gold-beetle, the
flower and the butterfly. Beautiful and lovely it was, thus to walk through
the world, thus childlike, thus awoken, thus open to what is near, thus
without distrust. Differently the sun burnt the head, differently the shade
of the forest cooled him down, differently the stream and the cistern, the
pumpkin and the banana tasted. Short were the days, short the nights, every
hour sped swiftly away like a sail on the sea, and under the sail was a
ship full of treasures, full of joy. Siddhartha saw a group of apes moving
through the high canopy of the forest, high in the branches, and heard their
savage, greedy song. Siddhartha saw a male sheep following a female one
and mating with her. In a lake of reeds, he saw the pike hungrily hunting
for its dinner; propelling themselves away from it, in fear, wiggling and
sparkling, the young fish jumped in droves out of the water; the scent of
strength and passion came forcefully out of the hasty eddies of the water,
which the pike stirred up, impetuously hunting.
All of this had always existed, and he had not seen it; he had not been with
it. Now he was with it, he was part of it. Light and shadow ran through his
eyes, stars and moon ran through his heart.
On the way, Siddhartha also remembered everything he had experienced in
the Garden Jetavana, the teaching he had heard there, the divine Buddha,
the farewell from Govinda, the conversation with the exalted one. Again
he remembered his own words, he had spoken to the exalted one, every
word, and with astonishment he became aware of the fact that there he had
said things which he had not really known yet at this time. What he had
said to Gotama: his, the Buddha’s, treasure and secret was not the teachings,
but the unexpressable and not teachable, which he had experienced
in the hour of his enlightenment—it was nothing but this very thing which
he had now gone to experience, what he now began to experience. Now,
he had to experience his self. It is true that he had already known for a
long time that his self was Atman, in its essence bearing the same eternal
characteristics as Brahman. But never, he had really found this self,
because he had wanted to capture it in the net of thought. With the body
definitely not being the self, and not the spectacle of the senses, so it also
was not the thought, not the rational mind, not the learned wisdom, not the
learned ability to draw conclusions and to develop previous thoughts in to
new ones. No, this world of thought was also still on this side, and nothing
could be achieved by killing the random self of the senses, if the random
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Chapter 5. Kamala
self of thoughts and learned knowledge was fattened on the other hand.
Both, the thoughts as well as the senses, were pretty things, the ultimate
meaning was hidden behind both of them, both had to be listened to, both
had to be played with, both neither had to be scorned nor overestimated,
from both the secret voices of the innermost truth had to be attentively
perceived. He wanted to strive for nothing, except for what the voice commanded
him to strive for, dwell on nothing, except where the voice would
advise him to do so. Why had Gotama, at that time, in the hour of all
hours, sat down under the bo-tree, where the enlightenment hit him? He
had heard a voice, a voice in his own heart, which had commanded him
to seek rest under this tree, and he had neither preferred self-castigation,
offerings, ablutions, nor prayer, neither food nor drink, neither sleep nor
dream, he had obeyed the voice. To obey like this, not to an external command,
only to the voice, to be ready like this, this was good, this was
necessary, nothing else was necessary.
From the reading. . .
“Much can be learned from a river.”
In the night when he slept in the straw hut of a ferryman by the river,
Siddhartha had a dream: Govinda was standing in front of him, dressed
in the yellow robe of an ascetic. Sad was how Govinda looked like, sadly
he asked: Why have you forsaken me? At this, he embraced Govinda,
wrapped his arms around him, and as he was pulling him close to his
chest and kissed him, it was not Govinda any more, but a woman, and
a full breast popped out of the woman’s dress, at which Siddhartha lay
and drank, sweetly and strongly tasted the milk from this breast. It tasted
of woman and man, of sun and forest, of animal and flower, of every
fruit, of every joyful desire. It intoxicated him and rendered him unconscious.—
When Siddhartha woke up, the pale river shimmered through the
door of the hut, and in the forest, a dark call of an owl resounded deeply
and pleasantly.
When the day began, Siddhartha asked his host, the ferryman, to get him
across the river. The ferryman got him across the river on his bamboo-raft,
the wide water shimmered reddishly in the light of the morning.
“This is a beautiful river,” he said to his companion.
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Chapter 5. Kamala
“Yes,” said the ferryman, “a very beautiful river, I love it more than anything.
Often I have listened to it, often I have looked into its eyes, and
always I have learned from it. Much can be learned from a river.”
“I thank you, my benefactor,” spoke Siddhartha, disembarking on the other
side of the river. “I have no gift I could give you for your hospitality, my
dear, and also no payment for your work. I am a man without a home, a
son of a Brahman and a Samana.” “I did see it,” spoke the ferryman, “and
I haven’t expected any payment from you and no gift which would be the
custom for guests to bear. You will give me the gift another time.”
“Do you think so?” asked Siddhartha amusedly.
“Surely. This too, I have learned from the river: everything is coming back!
You too, Samana, will come back. Now farewell! Let your friendship be
my reward. Commemorate me, when you’ll make offerings to the gods.”
Children, Madras, Library of Congress
Smiling, they parted. Smiling, Siddhartha was happy about the friendship
and the kindness of the ferryman. “He is like Govinda,” he thought with a
smile, “all I meet on my path are like Govinda. All are thankful, though
they are the ones who would have a right to receive thanks. All are sub-
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Chapter 5. Kamala
missive, all would like to be friends, like to obey, think little. Like children
are all people.”
At about noon, he came through a village. In front of the mud cottages,
children were rolling about in the street, were playing with pumpkin-seeds
and sea-shells, screamed and wrestled, but they all timidly fled from the
unknown Samana. In the end of the village, the path led through a stream,
and by the side of the stream, a young woman was kneeling and washing
clothes. When Siddhartha greeted her, she lifted her head and looked up
to him with a smile, so that he saw the white in her eyes glistening. He
called out a blessing to her, as it is the custom among travelers, and asked
how far he still had to go to reach the large city. Then she got up and
came to him, beautifully her wet mouth was shimmering in her young
face. She exchanged humorous banter with him, asked whether he had
eaten already, and whether it was true that the Samanas slept alone in the
forest at night and were not allowed to have any women with them. While
talking, she put her left foot on his right one and made a movement as a
woman does who would want to initiate that kind of sexual pleasure with a
man, which the textbooks call “climbing a tree.” Siddhartha felt his blood
heating up, and since in this moment he had to think of his dream again,
he bent slightly down to the woman and kissed with his lips the brown
nipple of her breast. Looking up, he saw her face smiling full of lust and
her eyes, with contracted pupils, begging with desire.
Siddhartha also felt desire and felt the source of his sexuality moving; but
since he had never touched a woman before, he hesitated for a moment,
while his hands were already prepared to reach out for her. And in this
moment he heard, shuddering with awe, the voice if his innermost self,
and this voice said “No.” Then, all charms disappeared from the young
woman’s smiling face, he no longer saw anything else but the damp glance
of a female animal in heat. Politely, he petted her cheek, turned away from
her and disappeared away from the disappointed woman with light steps
into the bamboo-wood.
On this day, he reached the large city before the evening, and was happy,
for he felt the need to be among people. For a long time, he had lived in
the forests, and the straw hut of the ferryman, in which he had slept that
night, had been the first roof for a long time he has had over his head.
Before the city, in a beautifully fenced grove, the traveler came across a
small group of servants, both male and female, carrying baskets. In their
midst, carried by four servants in an ornamental sedan-chair, sat a woman,
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Chapter 5. Kamala
the mistress, on red pillows under a colourful canopy. Siddhartha stopped
at the entrance to the pleasure-garden and watched the parade, saw the
servants, the maids, the baskets, saw the sedan-chair and saw the lady in it.
Under black hair, which made to tower high on her head, he saw a very fair,
very delicate, very smart face, a brightly red mouth, like a freshly cracked
fig, eyebrows which were well tended and painted in a high arch, smart
and watchful dark eyes, a clear, tall neck rising from a green and golden
garment, resting fair hands, long and thin, with wide golden bracelets over
the wrists.
Siddhartha saw how beautiful she was, and his heart rejoiced. He bowed
deeply, when the sedan-chair came closer, and straightening up again, he
looked at the fair, charming face, read for a moment in the smart eyes with
the high arcs above, breathed in a slight fragrance, he did not know. With
a smile, the beautiful women nodded for a moment and disappeared into
the grove, and then the servant as well.
Thus I am entering this city, Siddhartha thought, with a charming omen.
He instantly felt drawn into the grove, but he thought about it, and only
now he became aware of how the servants and maids had looked at him at
the entrance, how despicable, how distrustful, how rejecting.
I am still a Samana, he thought, I am still an ascetic and beggar. I must
not remain like this, I will not be able to enter the grove like this. And he
laughed.
The next person who came along this path he asked about the grove and for
the name of the woman, and was told that this was the grove of Kamala,
the famous courtesan, and that, aside from the grove, she owned a house
in the city.
Then, he entered the city. Now he had a goal.
Pursuing his goal, he allowed the city to suck him in, drifted through the
flow of the streets, stood still on the squares, rested on the stairs of stone
by the river. When the evening came, he made friends with the barber’s
assistant, whom he had seen working in the shade of an arch in a building,
whom he found again praying in a temple of Vishnu, whom he told about
stories of Vishnu and the Lakshmi. Among the boats by the river, he slept
this night, and early in the morning, before the first customers came into
his shop, he had the barber’s assistant shave his beard and cut his hair,
comb his hair and anoint it with fine oil. Then he went to take his bath in
the river.
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Chapter 5. Kamala
When late in the afternoon, beautiful Kamala approached her grove in
her sedan-chair, Siddhartha was standing at the entrance, made a bow and
received the courtesan’s greeting. But that servant who walked at the very
end of her train he motioned to him and asked him to inform his mistress
that a young Brahman would wish to talk to her. After a while, the servant
returned, asked him, who had been waiting, to follow him, and conducted
him without a word into a pavilion, where Kamala was lying on a couch,
and left him alone with her.
“Weren’t you already standing out there yesterday, greeting me?” asked
Kamala.
“It’s true that I’ve already seen and greeted you yesterday.”
“But didn’t you yesterday wear a beard, and long hair, and dust in your
hair?”
“You have observed well, you have seen everything. You have seen Siddhartha,
the son of a Brahman, who has left his home to become a Samana,
and who has been a Samana for three years. But now, I have left that path
and came into this city, and the first one I met, even before I had entered
the city, was you. To say this, I have come to you, oh Kamala! You are
the first woman whom Siddhartha is not addressing with his eyes turned
to the ground. Never again I want to turn my eyes to the ground, when I’m
coming across a beautiful woman.”
Kamala smiled and played with her fan of peacocks’ feathers. And asked:
“And only to tell me this, Siddhartha has come to me?”
“To tell you this and to thank you for being so beautiful. And if it doesn’t
displease you, Kamala, I would like to ask you to be my friend and teacher,
for I know nothing yet of that art which you have mastered in the highest
degree.”
At this, Kamala laughed aloud.
“Never before this has happened to me, my friend, that a Samana from
the forest came to me and wanted to learn from me! Never before this has
happened to me, that a Samana came to me with long hair and an old,
torn loin-cloth! Many young men come to me, and there are also sons of
Brahmans among them, but they come in beautiful clothes, they come in
fine shoes, they have perfume in their hair and money in their pouches.
This is, oh Samana, how the young men are like who come to me.”
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Chapter 5. Kamala
Quoth Siddhartha: “Already I am starting to learn from you. Even yesterday,
I was already learning. I have already taken off my beard, have
combed the hair, have oil in my hair. There is little which is still missing
in me, oh excellent one: fine clothes, fine shoes, money in my pouch.
You shall know, Siddhartha has set harder goals for himself than such trifles,
and he has reached them. How shouldn’t I reach that goal, which I
have set for myself yesterday: to be your friend and to learn the joys of
love from you! You’ll see that I’ll learn quickly, Kamala, I have already
learned harder things than what you’re supposed to teach me. And now
let’s get to it: You aren’t satisfied with Siddhartha as he is, with oil in his
hair, but without clothes, without shoes, without money?”
Laughing, Kamala exclaimed: “No, my dear, he doesn’t satisfy me yet.
Clothes are what he must have, pretty clothes, and shoes, pretty shoes, and
lots of money in his pouch, and gifts for Kamala. Do you know it now,
Samana from the forest? Did you mark my words?”
“Yes, I have marked your words,” Siddhartha exclaimed. “How should I
not mark words which are coming from such a mouth! Your mouth is like
a freshly cracked fig, Kamala. My mouth is red and fresh as well, it will
be a suitable match for yours, you’ll see.—But tell me, beautiful Kamala,
aren’t you at all afraid of the Samana from the forest, who has come to
learn how to make love?”
“Whatever for should I be afraid of a Samana, a stupid Samana from the
forest, who is coming from the jackals and doesn’t even know yet what
women are?”
“Oh, he’s strong, the Samana, and he isn’t afraid of anything. He could
force you, beautiful girl. He could kidnap you. He could hurt you.”
“No, Samana, I am not afraid of this. Did any Samana or Brahman ever
fear, someone might come and grab him and steal his learning, and his
religious devotion, and his depth of thought? No, for they are his very
own, and he would only give away from those whatever he is willing to
give and to whomever he is willing to give. Like this it is, precisely like
this it is also with Kamala and with the pleasures of love. Beautiful and red
is Kamala’s mouth, but just try to kiss it against Kamala’s will, and you
will not obtain a single drop of sweetness from it, which knows how to
give so many sweet things! You are learning easily, Siddhartha, thus you
should also learn this: love can be obtained by begging, buying, receiving
it as a gift, finding it in the street, but it cannot be stolen. In this, you have
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Chapter 5. Kamala
come up with the wrong path. No, it would be a pity, if a pretty young man
like you would want to tackle it in such a wrong manner.”
Siddhartha bowed with a smile. “It would be a pity, Kamala, you are so
right! It would be such a great pity. No, I shall not lose a single drop
of sweetness from your mouth, nor you from mine! So it is settled: Siddhartha
will return, once he’ll have have what he still lacks: clothes, shoes,
money. But speak, lovely Kamala, couldn’t you still give me one small advice?”
From the reading. . .
“Did any Samana or Brahman ever fear, someone might come and grab
him and steal his learning, and his religious devotion, and his depth of
thought? . . . Like this it is, precisely like this it is also with Kamala
and with the pleasures of love.”
“An advice? Why not? Who wouldn’t like to give an advice to a poor,
ignorant Samana, who is coming from the jackals of the forest?”
“Dear Kamala, thus advise me where I should go to, that I’ll find these
three things most quickly?”
“Friend, many would like to know this. You must do what you’ve learned
and ask for money, clothes, and shoes in return. There is no other way for
a poor man to obtain money. What might you be able to do?”
“I can think. I can wait. I can fast.”
“Nothing else?”
“Nothing. But yes, I can also write poetry. Would you like to give me a
kiss for a poem?”
“I would like to, if I’ll like your poem. What would be its title?”
Siddhartha spoke, after he had thought about it for a moment, these verses:
Into her shady grove stepped the pretty Kamala,
At the grove’s entrance stood the brown Samana.
Deeply, seeing the lotus’s blossom,
Bowed that man, and smiling Kamala thanked.
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Chapter 5. Kamala
More lovely, thought the young man, than offerings for gods,
More lovely is offering to pretty Kamala.
Kamala loudly clapped her hands, so that the golden bracelets clanged.
“Beautiful are your verses, oh brown Samana, and truly, I’m losing nothing
when I’m giving you a kiss for them.”
She beckoned him with her eyes, he tilted his head so that his face touched
hers and placed his mouth on that mouth which was like a freshly cracked
fig. For a long time, Kamala kissed him, and with a deep astonishment
Siddhartha felt how she taught him, how wise she was, how she controlled
him, rejected him, lured him, and how after this first one there was to be
a long, a well ordered, well tested sequence of kisses, everyone different
from the others, he was still to receive. Breathing deeply, he remained
standing where he was, and was in this moment astonished like a child
about the cornucopia of knowledge and things worth learning, which revealed
itself before his eyes.
“Very beautiful are your verses,” exclaimed Kamala, “if I were rich, I
would give you pieces of gold for them. But it will be difficult for you
to earn this much money with verses as you need. For you need a lot of
money, if you want to be Kamala’s friend.”
“The way you’re able to kiss, Kamala!” stammered Siddhartha.
“Yes, this I am able to do, therefore I do not lack clothes, shoes, bracelets,
and all beautiful things. But what will become of you? Aren’t you able to
do anything else but thinking, fasting, making poetry?”
“I also know the sacrificial songs,” said Siddhartha, “but I do not want to
sing them any more. I also know magic spells, but I do not want to speak
them any more. I have read the scriptures—”
“Stop,” Kamala interrupted him. “You’re able to read? And write?”
“Certainly, I can do this. Many people can do this.”
“Most people can’t. I also can’t do it. It is very good that you’re able to
read and write, very good. You will also still find use for the magic spells.”
In this moment, a maid came running in and whispered a message into her
mistress’s ear.
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Chapter 5. Kamala
“There’s a visitor for me,” exclaimed Kamala. “Hurry and get yourself
away, Siddhartha, nobody may see you in here, remember this! Tomorrow,
I’ll see you again.”
But to the maid she gave the order to give the pious Brahman white upper
garments. Without fully understanding what was happening to him,
Siddhartha found himself being dragged away by the maid, brought into
a garden-house avoiding the direct path, being given upper garments as a
gift, led into the bushes, and urgently admonished to get himself out of the
grove as soon as possible without being seen.
Contently, he did as he had been told. Being accustomed to the forest,
he managed to get out of the grove and over the hedge without making a
sound. Contently, he returned to the city, carrying the rolled up garments
under his arm. At the inn, where travelers stay, he positioned himself by
the door, without words he asked for food, without a word he accepted a
piece of rice-cake. Perhaps as soon as tomorrow, he thought, I will ask no
one for food any more.
Suddenly, pride flared up in him. He was no Samana any more, it was
no longer becoming to him to beg. He gave the rice-cake to a dog and
remained without food.
“Simple is the life which people lead in this world here,” thought Siddhartha.
“It presents no difficulties. Everything was difficult, toilsome,
and ultimately hopeless, when I was still a Samana. Now, everything is
easy, easy like that lessons in kissing, which Kamala is giving me. I need
clothes and money, nothing else; this a small, near goals, they won’t make
a person lose any sleep.”
He had already discovered Kamala’s house in the city long before, there
he turned up the following day.
“Things are working out well,” she called out to him. “They are expecting
you at Kamaswami’s, he is the richest merchant of the city. If he’ll like
you, he’ll accept you into his service. Be smart, brown Samana. I had
others tell him about you. Be polite towards him, he is very powerful. But
don’t be too modest! I do not want you to become his servant, you shall
become his equal, or else I won’t be satisfied with you. Kamaswami is
starting to get old and lazy. If he’ll like you, he’ll entrust you with a lot.”
Siddhartha thanked her and laughed, and when she found out that he had
not eaten anything yesterday and today, she sent for bread and fruits and
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Chapter 5. Kamala
treated him to it.
“You’ve been lucky,” she said when they parted, “I’m opening one door
after another for you. How come? Do you have a spell?”
Siddhartha said: “Yesterday, I told you I knew how to think, to wait, and
to fast, but you thought this was of no use. But it is useful for many things,
Kamala, you’ll see. You’ll see that the stupid Samanas are learned and
able to do many pretty things in the forest, which the likes of you aren’t
capable of. The day before yesterday, I was still a shaggy beggar, as soon
as yesterday I have kissed Kamala, and soon I’ll be a merchant and have
money and all those things you insist upon.”
“Well yes,” she admitted. “But where would you be without me? What
would you be, if Kamala wasn’t helping you?”
From the reading. . .
“Siddhartha does nothing . . . he passes through the things of the world
like a rock through water, without doing anything, without stirring; he
is drawn, he lets himself fall.”
“Dear Kamala,” said Siddhartha and straightened up to his full height,
“when I came to you into your grove, I did the first step. It was my resolution
to learn love from this most beautiful woman. From that moment
on when I had made this resolution, I also knew that I would carry it out.
I knew that you would help me, at your first glance at the entrance of the
grove I already knew it.”
“But what if I hadn’t been willing?”
“You were willing. Look, Kamala: When you throw a rock into the water,
it will speed on the fastest course to the bottom of the water. This is how
it is when Siddhartha has a goal, a resolution. Siddhartha does nothing,
he waits, he thinks, he fasts, but he passes through the things of the world
like a rock through water, without doing anything, without stirring; he is
drawn, he lets himself fall. His goal attracts him, because he doesn’t let
anything enter his soul which might oppose the goal. This is what Siddhartha
has learned among the Samanas. This is what fools call magic and
of which they think it would be effected by means of the daemons. Noth-
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Chapter 5. Kamala
ing is effected by daemons, there are no daemons. Everyone can perform
magic, everyone can reach his goals, if he is able to think, if he is able to
wait, if he is able to fast.”
Kamala listened to him. She loved his voice, she loved the look from his
eyes.
“Perhaps it is so,” she said quietly, “as you say, friend. But perhaps it is
also like this: that Siddhartha is a handsome man, that his glance pleases
the women, that therefore good fortune is coming towards him.”
With one kiss, Siddhartha bid his farewell. “I wish that it should be this
way, my teacher; that my glance shall please you, that always good fortune
shall come to me out of your direction!”
Jayanti Park, Shishir Thadani
Topics Worth Investigating
1. What could be meant by “killing the random self of the senses”? If
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Chapter 5. Kamala
there is no self, would there be any sense of personal identity? Compare
David Hume’s conclusion as to the nature of the self:
For from what impression cou’d this idea be deriv’d?. . . It must be some
one impression, that gives rise to every real idea. But self or person is
not any one impression, but that to which our several impressions and
ideas are suppos’d to have a reference. If any impression gives rise to
the idea of self, that impression must continue invariably the same, thro’
the whole course of our lives; since self is suppos’d to exist after that
manner. But there is no impression constant and invariable.
. . . I may venture to affirm of the rest of mankind, that they are nothing
but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each
other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in a perpetual flux and
movement.. . . The mind is a kind of theatre, where several perceptions
successively make their appearance.. . . There is no simplicity in it at any
time, nor identity in different. . . The comparison of the theatre must not
mislead us. They are the successive perceptions only, that constitute the
mind. . . 1
2. Compare Siddhartha’s characterization of magic with the Buddhist
doctrine of anatta or the doctrine of “no self.”
3. Why is it easy for Siddhartha to obtain clothes and money? How is it
that he acts “without traces” with respect to these things?
1. David Hume. A Treatise of Human Nature, Ed. L. A. Selby-Bigge. Oxford:
Clarendon Press, (1888) 1964. I, iv, 6, 251-253.
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Chapter6
With the Childlike People
Official, Library of Congress
From the reading. . .
“Everyone takes, everyone gives, such is life.”
Ideas of Interest from “With the Childlike
People”
1. What does Siddhartha mean when he states, “I can think. I can wait. I
can fast.”? Explain the consequential abilities entailed in each asser-
57

Chapter 6. With the Childlike People
tion.
2. Why does Siddhartha speak of himself in the third-person? I.e., Siddhartha
says, “. . . Siddhartha can wait calmly, he knows no impatience,
he knows no emergency. . . ”
3. When Siddhartha arrived in the village after the rice harvest had already
been sold, why was it good business, in spite of Kamaswami’s
protestation, that Siddhartha remain in the village for a while and become
friends with the people?
4. What was the one factor that separated Siddhartha from the childlike
people?
5. In Siddhartha’s business with Kamaswami and in Siddhartha’s love
for Kamala, there was “giving and taking.” For Siddhartha, there was
only meaning and passion for Kamala. Did Siddhartha therefore envy
the childlike people for their imposing meaning and passion on the
giving and taking in everyday events?
6. What is the nature of inner sanctuary that Siddhartha and Kamala
possess, and the childlike people do not possess? Is this the reason
that Siddhartha and Kamala cannot love, whereas the childlike people
can love? Is the “inner sanctuary” a kind of authentic self that the
childlike people in their superficiality lack?
The Reading Selection from “With the
Childlike People”
Siddhartha went to Kamaswami the merchant, he was directed into a rich
house, servants led him between precious carpets into a chamber, where
he awaited the master of the house.
Kamaswami entered, a swiftly, smoothly moving man with very gray hair,
with very intelligent, cautious eyes, with a greedy mouth. Politely, the host
and the guest greeted one another.
“I have been told,” the merchant began, “that you were a Brahman, a
learned man, but that you seek to be in the service of a merchant. Might
you have become destitute, Brahman, so that you seek to serve?”
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Chapter 6. With the Childlike People
“No,” said Siddhartha, “I have not become destitute and have never been
destitute. You should know that I’m coming from the Samanas, with whom
I have lived for a long time.”
“If you’re coming from the Samanas, how could you be anything but destitute?
Aren’t the Samanas entirely without possessions?”
“I am without possessions,” said Siddhartha, “if this is what you mean.
Surely, I am without possessions. But I am so voluntarily, and therefore I
am not destitute.”
“But what are you planning to live of, being without possessions?”
“I haven’t thought of this yet, sir. For more than three years, I have been
without possessions, and have never thought about on what I should live.”
“So you’ve lived on the possessions of others.”
“Presumably this is how it is. After all, a merchant also lives on what other
people own.”
“Well said. But he wouldn’t take anything from another person for nothing;
he would give his merchandise in return.”
“So it seems to be indeed. Everyone takes, everyone gives, such is life.”
“But if you don’t mind me asking: being without possessions, what would
you like to give?”
“Everyone gives what he has. The warrior gives strength, the merchant
gives merchandise, the teacher teachings, the farmer rice, the fisher fish.”
“Yes indeed. And what is it now what you’ve got to give? What is it that
you’ve learned, what you’re able to do?”
“I can think. I can wait. I can fast.”
“That’s everything?”
“I believe, that’s everything!”
“And what’s the use of that? For example, the fasting—what is it good
for?”
“It is very good, sir. When a person has nothing to eat, fasting is the
smartest thing he could do. When, for example, Siddhartha hadn’t learned
to fast, he would have to accept any kind of service before this day is up,
whether it may be with you or wherever, because hunger would force him
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Chapter 6. With the Childlike People
to do so. But like this, Siddhartha can wait calmly, he knows no impatience,
he knows no emergency, for a long time he can allow hunger to
besiege him and can laugh about it. This, sir, is what fasting is good for.”
“You’re right, Samana. Wait for a moment.”
Kamaswami left the room and returned with a scroll, which he handed to
his guest while asking: “Can you read this?”
Siddhartha looked at the scroll, on which a sales-contract had been written
down, and began to read out its contents.
“Excellent,” said Kamaswami. “And would you write something for me
on this piece of paper?”
From the reading. . .
“I can think. I can wait. I can fast.”
He handed him a piece of paper and a pen, and Siddhartha wrote and
returned the paper.
Kamaswami read: “Writing is good, thinking is better. Being smart is
good, being patient is better.”
“It is excellent how you’re able to write,” the merchant praised him. “Many
a thing we will still have to discuss with one another. For today, I’m asking
you to be my guest and to live in this house.”
Siddhartha thanked and accepted, and lived in the dealer’s house from
now on. Clothes were brought to him, and shoes, and every day, a servant
prepared a bath for him. Twice a day, a plentiful meal was served,
but Siddhartha only ate once a day, and ate neither meat nor did he drink
wine. Kamaswami told him about his trade, showed him the merchandise
and storage-rooms, showed him calculations. Siddhartha got to know
many new things, he heard a lot and spoke little. And thinking of Kamala’s
words, he was never subservient to the merchant, forced him to treat him
as an equal, yes even more than an equal. Kamaswami conducted his business
with care and often with passion, but Siddhartha looked upon all of
this as if it was a game, the rules of which he tried hard to learn precisely,
but the contents of which did not touch his heart.
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Chapter 6. With the Childlike People
He was not in Kamaswami’s house for long, when he already took part in
his landlord’s business. But daily, at the hour appointed by her, he visited
beautiful Kamala, wearing pretty clothes, fine shoes, and soon he brought
her gifts as well. Much he learned from her red, smart mouth. Much he
learned from her tender, supple hand. Him, who was, regarding love, still
a boy and had a tendency to plunge blindly and insatiably into lust like
into a bottomless pit, him she taught, thoroughly starting with the basics,
about that school of thought which teaches that pleasure cannot be be taken
without giving pleasure, and that every gesture, every caress, every touch,
every look, every spot of the body, however small it was, had its secret,
which would bring happiness to those who know about it and unleash it.
She taught him, that lovers must not part from one another after celebrating
love, without one admiring the other, without being just as defeated as they
have been victorious, so that with none of them should start feeling fed up
or bored and get that evil feeling of having abused or having been abused.
Wonderful hours he spent with the beautiful and smart artist, became her
student, her lover, her friend. Here with Kamala was the worth and purpose
of his present life, not with the business of Kamaswami.
The merchant passed to duties of writing important letters and contracts
on to him and got into the habit of discussing all important affairs with
him. He soon saw that Siddhartha knew little about rice and wool, shipping
and trade, but that he acted in a fortunate manner, and that Siddhartha
surpassed him, the merchant, in calmness and equanimity, and in the art
of listening and deeply understanding previously unknown people. “This
Brahman,” he said to a friend, “is no proper merchant and will never be
one, there is never any passion in his soul when he conducts our business.
But he has that mysterious quality of those people to whom success
comes all by itself, whether this may be a good star of his birth, magic, or
something he has learned among Samanas. He always seems to be merely
playing with our business-affairs, they never fully become a part of him,
they never rule over him, he is never afraid of failure, he is never upset by
a loss.”
The friend advised the merchant: “Give him from the business he conducts
for you a third of the profits, but let him also be liable for the same amount
of the losses, when there is a loss. Then, he’ll become more zealous.”
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Chapter 6. With the Childlike People
Shelling Rice and Gossiping with the Neighbors, Underwood and Underwood
Kamaswami followed the advice. But Siddhartha cared little about this.
When he made a profit, he accepted it with equanimity; when he made
losses, he laughed and said: “Well, look at this, so this one turned out
badly!”
It seemed indeed, as if he did not care about the business. At one time, he
traveled to a village to buy a large harvest of rice there. But when he got
there, the rice had already been sold to another merchant. Nevertheless,
Siddhartha stayed for several days in that village, treated the farmers for
a drink, gave copper-coins to their children, joined in the celebration of a
wedding, and returned extremely satisfied from his trip. Kamaswami held
against him that he had not turned back right away, that he had wasted time
and money. Siddhartha answered: “Stop scolding, dear friend! Nothing
was ever achieved by scolding. If a loss has occurred, let me bear that loss.
I am very satisfied with this trip. I have gotten to know many kinds of
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Chapter 6. With the Childlike People
people, a Brahman has become my friend, children have sat on my knees,
farmers have shown me their fields, nobody knew that I was a merchant.”
From the reading. . .
“ Here with Kamala was the worth and purpose of his present life, not
with the business of Kamaswami.”
“That’s all very nice,” exclaimed Kamaswami indignantly, “but in fact,
you are a merchant after all, one ought to think! Or might you have only
traveled for your amusement?”
“Surely,” Siddhartha laughed, “surely I have traveled for my amusement.
For what else? I have gotten to know people and places, I have received
kindness and trust, I have found friendship. Look, my dear, if I had been
Kamaswami, I would have traveled back, being annoyed and in a hurry,
as soon as I had seen that my purchase had been rendered impossible, and
time and money would indeed have been lost. But like this, I’ve had a few
good days, I’ve learned, had joy, I’ve neither harmed myself nor others by
annoyance and hastiness. And if I’ll ever return there again, perhaps to buy
an upcoming harvest, or for whatever purpose it might be, friendly people
will receive me in a friendly and happy manner, and I will praise myself
for not showing any hurry and displeasure at that time. So, leave it as it
is, my friend, and don’t harm yourself by scolding! If the day will come,
when you will see: this Siddhartha is harming me, then speak a word and
Siddhartha will go on his own path. But until then, let’s be satisfied with
one another.”
Futile were also the merchant’s attempts, to convince Siddhartha that he
should eat his bread. Siddhartha ate his own bread, or rather they both
ate other people’s bread, all people’s bread. Siddhartha never listened to
Kamaswami’s worries and Kamaswami had many worries. Whether there
was a business-deal going on which was in danger of failing, or whether
a shipment of merchandise seemed to have been lost, or a debtor seemed
to be unable to pay, Kamaswami could never convince his partner that it
would be useful to utter a few words of worry or anger, to have wrinkles
on the forehead, to sleep badly. When, one day, Kamaswami held against
him that he had learned everything he knew from him, he replied: “Would
you please not kid me with such jokes! What I’ve learned from you is how
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Chapter 6. With the Childlike People
much a basket of fish costs and how much interests may be charged on
loaned money. These are your areas of expertise. I haven’t learned to think
from you, my dear Kamaswami, you ought to be the one seeking to learn
from me.”
Parsee Wedding, India, Library of Congress
Indeed his soul was not with the trade. The business was good enough to
provide him with the money for Kamala, and it earned him much more
than he needed. Besides from this, Siddhartha’s interest and curiosity was
only concerned with the people, whose businesses, crafts, worries, pleasures,
and acts of foolishness used to be as alien and distant to him as the
moon. However easily he succeeded in talking to all of them, in living
with all of them, in learning from all of them, he was still aware that there
was something which separated him from them and this separating factor
was him being a Samana. He saw mankind going through life in a childlike
or animal-like manner, which he loved and also despised at the same
time. He saw them toiling, saw them suffering, and becoming gray for the
sake of things which seemed to him to entirely unworthy of this price,
for money, for little pleasures, for being slightly honoured, he saw them
scolding and insulting each other, he saw them complaining about pain at
which a Samana would only smile, and suffering because of deprivations
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Chapter 6. With the Childlike People
which a Samana would not feel.
He was open to everything, these people brought his way. Welcome was
the merchant who offered him linen for sale, welcome was the debtor who
sought another loan, welcome was the beggar who told him for one hour
the story of his poverty and who was not half as poor as any given Samana.
He did not treat the rich foreign merchant any different than the servant
who shaved him and the street-vendor whom he let cheat him out of some
small change when buying bananas. When Kamaswami came to him, to
complain about his worries or to reproach him concerning his business,
he listened curiously and happily, was puzzled by him, tried to understand
him, consented that he was a little bit right, only as much as he considered
indispensable, and turned away from him, towards the next person who
would ask for him. And there were many who came to him, many to do
business with him, many to cheat him, many to draw some secret out of
him, many to appeal to his sympathy, many to get his advice. He gave
advice, he pitied, he made gifts, he let them cheat him a bit, and this entire
game and the passion with which all people played this game occupied his
thoughts just as much as the gods and Brahmans used to occupy them.
From the reading. . .
“But again and again, he came back to beautiful Kamala, learned the
art of love, practised the cult of lust, in which more than in anything
else giving and taking becomes one. . . ”
At times he felt, deep in his chest, a dying, quiet voice, which admonished
him quietly, lamented quietly; he hardly perceived it. And then, for an
hour, he became aware of the strange life he was leading, of him doing
lots of things which were only a game, of, though being happy and feeling
joy at times, real life still passing him by and not touching him. As a ballplayer
plays with his balls, he played with his business-deals, with the
people around him, watched them, found amusement in them; with his
heart, with the source of his being, he was not with them. The source ran
somewhere, far away from him, ran and ran invisibly, had nothing to do
with his life any more. And at several times he suddenly became scared
on account of such thoughts and wished that he would also be gifted with
the ability to participate in all of this childlike-naive occupations of the
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Chapter 6. With the Childlike People
daytime with passion and with his heart, really to live, really to act, really
to enjoy and to live instead of just standing by as a spectator. But again and
again, he came back to beautiful Kamala, learned the art of love, practised
the cult of lust, in which more than in anything else giving and taking
becomes one, chatted with her, learned from her, gave her advice, received
advice. She understood him better than Govinda used to understand him,
she was more similar to him.
Once, he said to her: “You are like me, you are different from most people.
You are Kamala, nothing else, and inside of you, there is a peace and
refuge, to which you can go at every hour of the day and be at home at
yourself, as I can also do. Few people have this, and yet all could have it.”
“Not all people are smart,” said Kamala.
“No,” said Siddhartha, “that’s not the reason why. Kamaswami is just as
smart as I, and still has no refuge in himself. Others have it, who are small
children with respect to their mind. Most people, Kamala, are like a falling
leaf, which is blown and is turning around through the air, and wavers, and
tumbles to the ground. But others, a few, are like stars, they go on a fixed
course, no wind reaches them, in themselves they have their law and their
course. Among all the learned men and Samanas, of which I knew many,
there was one of this kind, a perfected one, I’ll never be able to forget
him. It is that Gotama, the exalted one, who is spreading that teaching.
Thousands of followers are listening to his teachings every day, follow his
instructions every hour, but they are all falling leaves, not in themselves
they have teachings and a law.”
Kamala looked at him with a smile. “Again, you’re talking about him,”
she said, “again, you’re having a Samana’s thoughts.”
Siddhartha said nothing, and they played the game of love, one of the thirty
or forty different games Kamala knew. Her body was flexible like that of
a jaguar and like the bow of a hunter; he who had learned from her how to
make love, was knowledgeable of many forms of lust, many secrets. For
a long time, she played with Siddhartha, enticed him, rejected him, forced
him, embraced him: enjoyed his masterful skills, until he was defeated and
rested exhausted by her side.
The courtesan bent over him, took a long look at his face, at his eyes,
which had grown tired.
“You are the best lover,” she said thoughtfully, “I ever saw. You’re stronger
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than others, more supple, more willing. You’ve learned my art well, Siddhartha.
At some time, when I’ll be older, I’d want to bear your child. And
yet, my dear, you’ve remained a Samana, and yet you do not love me, you
love nobody. Isn’t it so?”
“It might very well be so,” Siddhartha said tiredly. “I am like you. You also
do not love—how else could you practise love as a craft? Perhaps, people
of our kind can’t love. The childlike people can; that’s their secret.”
Dancing Girl, Library of Congress
Topics Worth Investigating
1. Siddhartha adopted a game-playing attitude without passion toward
business, and a passionate attitude without game-playing toward Kamala.
Does one attitude exclude the other? Clarify the similarities and
differences between the two approaches to life.
2. Evaluate the statement, “Everyone takes, everyone gives.” Suppose a
child you do not know offers you a flower. Who is taking and who is
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Chapter 6. With the Childlike People
giving? Explain.
3. Franz Kafka writes in the parable entitled “Couriers”:
They were offered the choice between becoming kings or the couriers
of kings. The way children would, they all wanted to be couriers. Therefore
there are only couriers who hurry about the world, shouting to each
other—since there are no kings—messages that have become meaningless.
they would like to put an end to this miserable life of theirs but
they dare not because of their oaths of service.
How are the childlike people similar to Kafka’s couriers?
4. How is it that neither Siddhartha nor Kamala can love—even though
their relationship is the whole sum, substance, and meaning to their
life at this point in their life’s path?
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Chapter7
Sansara
Bird Cage Library of Congress (detail)
From the reading. . .
“. . . that tense expectation, that proud state of standing alone without
teachings and without teachers, that supple willingness to listen to the
divine voice in his own heart, had slowly become a memory. . . ”
Ideas of Interest from “Sansara”
1. Why did Siddhartha envy the childlike people?
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Chapter 7. Sansara
2. What is the nature of Siddhartha’s “inward voice”? Is his inward voice
the same thing as his conscience? Explain the similarity or the difference
between the two faculties.
3. Why is Siddhartha’s wealth seen as a burden? Isn’t wealth and prestige
what most persons seek?
4. Explain the main points of Siddhartha’s method of self-analysis.
5. In what ways was Siddhartha’s life more wretched than the childlike
people?
6. Why did Kamala expect Siddhartha to leave without explanation and
farewells? Why does Kamala free the golden song-bird?
The Reading Selection from “Sansara”
For a long time, Siddhartha had lived the life of the world and of lust,
though without being a part of it. His senses, which he had killed off in
hot years as a Samana, had awoken again, he had tasted riches, had tasted
lust, had tasted power; nevertheless he had still remained in his heart for a
long time a Samana; Kamala, being smart, had realized this quite right. It
was still the art of thinking, of waiting, of fasting, which guided his life;
still the people of the world, the childlike people, had remained alien to
him as he was alien to them.
Years passed by; surrounded by the good life, Siddhartha hardly felt them
fading away. He had become rich, for quite a while he possessed a house
of his own and his own servants, and a garden before the city by the river.
The people liked him, they came to him, whenever they needed money or
advice, but there was nobody close to him, except Kamala.
That high, bright state of being awake, which he had experienced that one
time at the height of his youth, in those days after Gotama’s sermon, after
the separation from Govinda, that tense expectation, that proud state of
standing alone without teachings and without teachers, that supple willingness
to listen to the divine voice in his own heart, had slowly become a
memory, had been fleeting; distant and quiet, the holy source murmured,
which used to be near, which used to murmur within himself. Nevertheless,
many things he had learned from the Samanas, he had learned from
Gotama, he had learned from his father the Brahman, had remained within
him for a long time afterwards: moderate living, joy of thinking, hours of
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meditation, secret knowledge of the self, of his eternal entity, which is neither
body nor consciousness. Many a part of this he still had, but one part
after another had been submerged and had gathered dust. Just as a potter’s
wheel, once it has been set in motion, will keep on turning for a long time
and only slowly lose its vigour and come to a stop, thus Siddhartha’s soul
had kept on turning the wheel of asceticism, the wheel of thinking, the
wheel of differentiation for a long time, still turning, but it turned slowly
and hesitantly and was close to coming to a standstill. Slowly, like humidity
entering the dying stem of a tree, filling it slowly and making it
rot, the world and sloth had entered Siddhartha’s soul, slowly it filled his
soul, made it heavy, made it tired, put it to sleep. On the other hand, his
senses had become alive, there was much they had learned, much they had
experienced.
Siddhartha had learned to trade, to use his power over people, to enjoy
himself with a woman, he had learned to wear beautiful clothes, to give
orders to servants, to bathe in perfumed waters. He had learned to eat
tenderly and carefully prepared food, even fish, even meat and poultry,
spices and sweets, and to drink wine, which causes sloth and forgetfulness.
He had learned to play with dice and on a chess-board, to watch dancing
girls, to have himself carried about in a sedan-chair, to sleep on a soft
bed. But still he had felt different from and superior to the others; always
he had watched them with some mockery, some mocking disdain, with
the same disdain which a Samana constantly feels for the people of the
world. When Kamaswami was ailing, when he was annoyed, when he felt
insulted, when he was vexed by his worries as a merchant, Siddhartha
had always watched it with mockery. Just slowly and imperceptibly, as
the harvest seasons and rainy seasons passed by, his mockery had become
more tired, his superiority had become more quiet. Just slowly, among
his growing riches, Siddhartha had assumed something of the childlike
people’s ways for himself, something of their childlikeness and of their
fearfulness. And yet, he envied them, envied them just the more, the more
similar he became to them. He envied them for the one thing that was
missing from him and that they had, the importance they were able to
attach to their lives, the amount of passion in their joys and fears, the
fearful but sweet happiness of being constantly in love. These people were
all of the time in love with themselves, with women, with their children,
with honours or money, with plans or hopes. But he did not learn this from
them, this out of all things, this joy of a child and this foolishness of a
child; he learned from them out of all things the unpleasant ones, which
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Chapter 7. Sansara
he himself despised. It happened more and more often that, in the morning
after having had company the night before, he stayed in bed for a long
time, felt unable to think and tired. It happened that he became angry and
impatient, when Kamaswami bored him with his worries. It happened that
he laughed just too loud, when he lost a game of dice. His face was still
smarter and more spiritual than others, but it rarely laughed, and assumed,
one after another, those features which are so often found in the faces of
rich people, those features of discontent, of sickliness, of ill-humour, of
sloth, of a lack of love. Slowly the disease of the soul, which rich people
have, grabbed hold of him.
From the reading. . .
“ Slowly the disease of the soul, which rich people have, grabbed hold
of him.”
Like a veil, like a thin mist, tiredness came over Siddhartha, slowly, getting
a bit denser every day, a bit murkier every month, a bit heavier every
year. As a new dress becomes old in time, loses its beautiful colour in
time, gets stains, gets wrinkles, gets worn off at the seams, and starts to
show threadbare spots here and there, thus Siddhartha’s new life, which he
had started after his separation from Govinda, had grown old, lost colour
and splendour as the years passed by, was gathering wrinkles and stains,
and hidden at bottom, already showing its ugliness here and there, disappointment
and disgust were waiting. Siddhartha did not notice it. He only
noticed that this bright and reliable voice inside of him, which had awoken
in him at that time and had ever guided him in his best times, had become
silent.
He had been captured by the world, by lust, covetousness, sloth, and finally
also by that vice which he had used to despise and mock the most as
the most foolish one of all vices: greed. Property, possessions, and riches
also had finally captured him; they were no longer a game and trifles to
him, had become a shackle and a burden. On a strange and devious way,
Siddhartha had gotten into this final and most base of all dependencies, by
means of the game of dice. It was since that time, when he had stopped
being a Samana in his heart, that Siddhartha began to play the game for
money and precious things, which he at other times only joined with a
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smile and casually as a custom of the childlike people, with an increasing
rage and passion. He was a feared gambler, few dared to take him on, so
high and audacious were his stakes. He played the game due to a pain of
his heart, losing and wasting his wretched money in the game brought him
an angry joy, in no other way he could demonstrate his disdain for wealth,
the merchants’ false god, more clearly and more mockingly. Thus he gambled
with high stakes and mercilessly, hating himself, mocking himself,
won thousands, threw away thousands, lost money, lost jewelry, lost a
house in the country, won again, lost again. That fear, that terrible and
petrifying fear, which he felt while he was rolling the dice, while he was
worried about losing high stakes, that fear he loved and sought to always
renew it, always increase it, always get it to a slightly higher level, for in
this feeling alone he still felt something like happiness, something like an
intoxication, something like an elevated form of life in the midst of his
saturated, lukewarm, dull life.
And after each big loss, his mind was set on new riches, pursued the
trade more zealously, forced his debtors more strictly to pay, because he
wanted to continue gambling, he wanted to continue squandering, continue
demonstrating his disdain of wealth. Siddhartha lost his calmness
when losses occurred, lost his patience when he was not payed on time,
lost his kindness towards beggars, lost his disposition for giving away
and loaning money to those who petitioned him. He, who gambled away
tens of thousands at one roll of the dice and laughed at it, became more
strict and more petty in his business, occasionally dreaming at night about
money! And whenever he woke up from this ugly spell, whenever he found
his face in the mirror at the bedroom’s wall to have aged and become
more ugly, whenever embarrassment and disgust came over him, he continued
fleeing, fleeing into a new game, fleeing into a numbing of his mind
brought on by sex, by wine, and from there he fled back into the urge
to pile up and obtain possessions. In this pointless cycle he ran, growing
tired, growing old, growing ill.
Then the time came when a dream warned him. He had spent the hours of
the evening with Kamala, in her beautiful pleasure-garden. They had been
sitting under the trees, talking, and Kamala had said thoughtful words,
words behind which a sadness and tiredness lay hidden. She had asked
him to tell her about Gotama, and could not hear enough of him, how
clear his eyes, how still and beautiful his mouth, how kind his smile, how
peaceful his walk had been. For a long time, he had to tell her about the
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Chapter 7. Sansara
exalted Buddha, and Kamala had sighed and had said: “One day, perhaps
soon, I’ll also follow that Buddha. I’ll give him my pleasure-garden for a
gift and take my refuge in his teachings.” But after this, she had aroused
him, and had tied him to her in the act of making love with painful fervour,
biting and in tears, as if, once more, she wanted to squeeze the last sweet
drop out of this vain, fleeting pleasure. Never before, it had become so
strangely clear to Siddhartha, how closely lust was akin to death. Then
he had lain by her side, and Kamala’s face had been close to him, and
under her eyes and next to the corners of her mouth he had, as clearly
as never before, read a fearful inscription, an inscription of small lines,
of slight grooves, an inscription reminiscent of autumn and old age, just
as Siddhartha himself, who was only in his forties, had already noticed,
here and there, gray hairs among his black ones. Tiredness was written
on Kamala’s beautiful face, tiredness from walking a long path, which
has no happy destination, tiredness and the beginning of withering, and
concealed, still unsaid, perhaps not even conscious anxiety: fear of old
age, fear of the autumn, fear of having to die. With a sigh, he had bid his
farewell to her, the soul full of reluctance, and full of concealed anxiety.
From the reading. . .
“In this pointless cycle he ran, growing tired, growing old, growing
ill.”
Then, Siddhartha had spent the night in his house with dancing girls and
wine, had acted as if he was superior to them towards the fellow-members
of his caste, though this was no longer true, had drunk much wine and
gone to bed a long time after midnight, being tired and yet excited, close
to weeping and despair, and had for a long time sought to sleep in vain,
his heart full of misery which he thought he could not bear any longer, full
of a disgust which he felt penetrating his entire body like the lukewarm,
repulsive taste of the wine, the just too sweet, dull music, the just too
soft smile of the dancing girls, the just too sweet scent of their hair and
breasts. But more than by anything else, he was disgusted by himself, by
his perfumed hair, by the smell of wine from his mouth, by the flabby
tiredness and listlessness of his skin. Like when someone, who has eaten
and drunk far too much, vomits it back up again with agonising pain and
is nevertheless glad about the relief, thus this sleepless man wished to
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free himself of these pleasures, these habits and all of this pointless life
and himself, in an immense burst of disgust. Not until the light of the
morning and the beginning of the first activities in the street before his
city-house, he had slightly fallen asleep, had found for a few moments a
half unconsciousness, a hint of sleep. In those moments, he had a dream:
Kamala owned a small, rare singing bird in a golden cage. Of this bird, he
dreamt. He dreamt: this bird had become mute, who at other times always
used to sing in the morning, and since this arose his attention, he stepped
in front of the cage and looked inside; there the small bird was dead and
lay stiff on the ground. He took it out, weighed it for a moment in his hand,
and then threw it away, out in the street, and in the same moment, he felt
terribly shocked, and his heart hurt, as if he had thrown away from himself
all value and everything good by throwing out this dead bird.
Starting up from this dream, he felt encompassed by a deep sadness.
Worthless, so it seemed to him, worthless and pointless was the way he
had been going through life; nothing which was alive, nothing which was
in some way delicious or worth keeping he had left in his hands. Alone
he stood there and empty like a castaway on the shore.
With a gloomy mind, Siddhartha went to the pleasure-garden he owned,
locked the gate, sat down under a mango-tree, felt death in his heart and
horror in his chest, sat and sensed how everything died in him, withered in
him, came to an end in him. By and by, he gathered his thoughts, and in his
mind, he once again went the entire path of his life, starting with the first
days he could remember. When was there ever a time when he had experienced
happiness, felt a true bliss? Oh yes, several times he had experienced
such a thing. In his years as a boy, he has had a taste of it, when he had
obtained praise from the Brahmans, he had felt it in his heart: “There is
a path in front of the one who has distinguished himself in the recitation
of the holy verses, in the dispute with the learned ones, as an assistant in
the offerings.” Then, he had felt it in his heart: “There is a path in front
of you, you are destined for, the gods are awaiting you.” And again, as a
young man, when the ever rising, upward fleeing, goal of all thinking had
ripped him out of and up from the multitude of those seeking the same
goal, when he wrestled in pain for the purpose of Brahman, when every
obtained knowledge only kindled new thirst in him, then again he had, in
the midst of the thirst, in the midst of the pain felt this very same thing:
“Go on! Go on! You are called upon!” He had heard this voice when he
had left his home and had chosen the life of a Samana, and again when he
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Chapter 7. Sansara
had gone away from the Samanas to that perfected one, and also when he
had gone away from him to the uncertain. For how long had he not heard
this voice any more, for how long had he reached no height any more, how
even and dull was the manner in which his path had passed through life,
for many long years, without a high goal, without thirst, without elevation,
content with small lustful pleasures and yet never satisfied! For all of these
many years, without knowing it himself, he had tried hard and longed to
become a man like those many, like those children, and in all this, his life
had been much more miserable and poorer than theirs, and their goals were
not his, nor their worries; after all, that entire world of the Kamaswamipeople
had only been a game to him, a dance he would watch, a comedy.
Only Kamala had been dear, had been valuable to him—but was she still
thus? Did he still need her, or she him? Did they not play a game without
an ending?Was it necessary to live for this? No, it was not necessary! The
name of this game was Sansara, a game for children, a game which was
perhaps enjoyable to play once, twice, ten times—but for ever and ever
over again?
Then, Siddhartha knew that the game was over, that he could not play it
any more. Shivers ran over his body, inside of him, so he felt, something
had died.
From the reading. . .
“Never before, it had become so strangely clear to Siddhartha, how
closely lust was akin to death. ”
That entire day, he sat under the mango-tree, thinking of his father, thinking
of Govinda, thinking of Gotama. Did he have to leave them to become
a Kamaswami? He still sat there, when the night had fallen. When, looking
up, he caught sight of the stars, he thought: “Here I’m sitting under my
mango-tree, in my pleasure-garden.” He smiled a little—was it really necessary,
was it right, was it not as foolish game, that he owned a mango-tree,
that he owned a garden?
He also put an end to this, this also died in him. He rose, bid his farewell
to the mango-tree, his farewell to the pleasure-garden. Since he had been
without food this day, he felt strong hunger, and thought of his house in the
city, of his chamber and bed, of the table with the meals on it. He smiled
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tiredly, shook himself, and bid his farewell to these things.
In the same hour of the night, Siddhartha left his garden, left the city, and
never came back. For a long time, Kamaswami had people look for him,
thinking that he had fallen into the hands of robbers. Kamala had no one
look for him. When she was told that Siddhartha had disappeared, she was
not astonished. Did she not always expect it?Was he not a Samana, a man
who was at home nowhere, a pilgrim? And most of all, she had felt this the
last time they had been together, and she was happy, in spite of all the pain
of the loss, that she had pulled him so affectionately to her heart for this
last time, that she had felt one more time to be so completely possessed
and penetrated by him.
When she received the first news of Siddhartha’s disappearance, she went
to the window, where she held a rare singing bird captive in a golden cage.
She opened the door of the cage, took the bird out and let it fly. For a long
time, she gazed after it, the flying bird. From this day on, she received
no more visitors and kept her house locked. But after some time, she became
aware that she was pregnant from the last time she was together with
Siddhartha.
Hyderabad Colonnade, Library of Congress
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Chapter 7. Sansara
Topics Worth Investigating
1. Complete and explain the analogy between the potter’s wheel and
Sansara. What is Sansara?
2. Explain the despair inherent in the “game-playing” attitude toward
life. Why isn’t the game of Sansara a game worth playing?
3. Hesse writes, “Never before, it had become so strangely clear to Siddhartha,
how closely lust was akin to death.” Susan Sontag notes a
similar point:
Tamed as it may be, sexuality remains one of the demonic forces in
human consciousness—pushing us at intervals close to taboo and dangerous
desires, which range from the impulse to commit sudden arbitrary
violence upon another person to the voluptuous yearning for the
extinction of one’s consciousness, for death itself.1
What do psychoanalysts write about the relation between passion and
death?
1. Susan Sontag. Styles of Radical Will. New York: Farrar Straus, 1969.
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Chapter8
By the River
Assault of Mara, ©Kathleen Cohen
From the reading. . .
“Passionately he wished to know nothing about himself anymore, to
have rest, to be dead.”
Ideas of Interest from “By the River”
1. Siddhartha had apparently just concluded that the game of Sansara is
not a game worth losing his life over, and so he left the life of sensa-
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Chapter 8. By the River
tion. Why, then, does he fall even deeper in despair as he assertively
abandons the ways of his old life?
2. Siddhartha defensively replies to Govinda’s inquiries, “I am on a pilgrimage.”
When Govinda expresses surprise, Siddhartha rationalizes
his assertion. Why pose such a pretense before his old friend?
3. Later in life, Siddhartha refers to this meeting with Govinda and
claims that he learned something significant from Govinda. Can you
discover any clue in the chapter as to what Siddhartha learns?
4. In what ways did Buddha’s warning to “be aware of too much knowledge”
foreshadow Siddhartha’s present crisis?
The Reading Selection from “By the River”
Siddhartha walked through the forest, was already far from the city, and
knew nothing but that one thing, that there was no going back for him, that
this life, as he had lived it for many years until now, was over and done
away with, and that he had tasted all of it, sucked everything out of it until
he was disgusted with it. Dead was the singing bird, he had dreamt of.
Dead was the bird in his heart. Deeply, he had been entangled in Sansara,
he had sucked up disgust and death from all sides into his body, like a
sponge sucks up water until it is full. And full he was, full of the feeling of
been sick of it, full of misery, full of death, there was nothing left in this
world which could have attracted him, given him joy, given him comfort.
Passionately he wished to know nothing about himself anymore, to have
rest, to be dead. If there only was a lightning-bolt to strike him dead! If
there only was a tiger a devour him! If there only was a wine, a poison
which would numb his senses, bring him forgetfulness and sleep, and no
awakening from that! Was there still any kind of filth, he had not soiled
himself with, a sin or foolish act he had not committed, a dreariness of
the soul he had not brought upon himself? Was it still at all possible to be
alive?Was it possible, to breathe in again and again, to breathe out, to feel
hunger, to eat again, to sleep again, to sleep with a woman again?Was this
cycle not exhausted and brought to a conclusion for him?
Siddhartha reached the large river in the forest, the same river over which
a long time ago, when he had still been a young man and came from the
town of Gotama, a ferryman had conducted him. By this river he stopped,
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hesitantly he stood at the bank. Tiredness and hunger had weakened him,
and whatever for should he walk on, wherever to, to which goal? No, there
were no more goals, there was nothing left but the deep, painful yearning
to shake off this whole desolate dream, to spit out this stale wine, to put
an end to this miserable and shameful life.
A hang bent over the bank of the river, a coconut-tree; Siddhartha leaned
against its trunk with his shoulder, embraced the trunk with one arm, and
looked down into the green water, which ran and ran under him, looked
down and found himself to be entirely filled with the wish to let go and
to drown in these waters. A frightening emptiness was reflected back at
him by the water, answering to the terrible emptiness in his soul. Yes, he
had reached the end. There was nothing left for him, except to annihilate
himself, except to smash the failure into which he had shaped his life, to
throw it away, before the feet of mockingly laughing gods. This was the
great vomiting he had longed for: death, the smashing to bits of the form
he hated! Let him be food for fishes, this dog Siddhartha, this lunatic, this
depraved and rotten body, this weakened and abused soul! Let him be food
for fishes and crocodiles, let him be chopped to bits by the daemons!
With a distorted face, he stared into the water, saw the reflection of his face
and spit at it. In deep tiredness, he took his arm away from the trunk of the
tree and turned a bit, in order to let himself fall straight down, in order to
finally drown. With his eyes closed, he slipped towards death.
Then, out of remote areas of his soul, out of past times of his now weary
life, a sound stirred up. It was a word, a syllable, which he, without thinking,
with a slurred voice, spoke to himself, the old word which is the beginning
and the end of all prayers of the Brahmans, the holy “Om,” which
roughly means “that what is perfect” or “the completion.” And in the moment
when the sound of “Om” touched Siddhartha’s ear, his dormant spirit
suddenly woke up and realized the foolishness of his actions.
Siddhartha was deeply shocked. So this was how things were with him,
so doomed was he, so much he had lost his way and was forsaken by all
knowledge, that he had been able to seek death, that this wish, this wish
of a child, had been able to grow in him: to find rest by annihilating his
body! What all agony of these recent times, all sobering realizations, all
desperation had not brought about, this was brought on by this moment,
when the Om entered his consciousness: he became aware of himself in
his misery and in his error.
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Om! he spoke to himself: Om! and again he knew about Brahman, knew
about the indestructibility of life, knew about all that is divine, which he
had forgotten.
But this was only a moment, flash. By the foot of the coconut-tree, Siddhartha
collapsed, struck down by tiredness, mumbling Om, placed his
head on the root of the tree and fell into a deep sleep.
Deep was his sleep and without dreams, for a long time he had not known
such a sleep any more. When he woke up after many hours, he felt as if ten
years had passed, he heard the water quietly flowing, did not know where
he was and who had brought him here, opened his eyes, saw with astonishment
that there were trees and the sky above him, and he remembered
where he was and how he got here. But it took him a long while for this,
and the past seemed to him as if it had been covered by a veil, infinitely
distant, infinitely far away, infinitely meaningless. He only knew that his
previous life (in the first moment when he thought about it, this past life
seemed to him like a very old, previous incarnation, like an early pre-birth
of his present self)—that his previous life had been abandoned by him,
that, full of disgust and wretchedness, he had even intended to throw his
life away, but that by a river, under a coconut-tree, he has come to his
senses, the holy word Om on his lips, that then he had fallen asleep and
had now woken up and was looking at the world as a new man. Quietly, he
spoke the word Om to himself, speaking which he had fallen asleep, and it
seemed to him as if his entire long sleep had been nothing but a long meditative
recitation of Om, a thinking of Om, a submergence and complete
entering into Om, into the nameless, the perfected.
From the reading. . .
“. . . when the Om entered his consciousness: he became aware of himself
in his misery and in his error.”
What a wonderful sleep had this been! Never before by sleep, he had
been thus refreshed, thus renewed, thus rejuvenated! Perhaps, he had really
died, had drowned and was reborn in a new body? But no, he knew
himself, he knew his hand and his feet, knew the place where he lay, knew
this self in his chest, this Siddhartha, the eccentric, the weird one, but
this Siddhartha was nevertheless transformed, was renewed, was strangely
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well rested, strangely awake, joyful and curious.
Siddhartha straightened up, then he saw a person sitting opposite to him,
an unknown man, a monk in a yellow robe with a shaven head, sitting in
the position of pondering. He observed the man, who had neither hair on
his head nor a beard, and he had not observed him for long when he recognised
this monk as Govinda, the friend of his youth, Govinda who had
taken his refuge with the exalted Buddha. Govinda had aged, he too, but
still his face bore the same features, expressed zeal, faithfulness, searching,
timidness. But when Govinda now, sensing his gaze, opened his eyes
and looked at him, Siddhartha saw that Govinda did not recognise him.
Govinda was happy to find him awake; apparently, he had been sitting
here for a long time and been waiting for him to wake up, though he did
not know him.
“I have been sleeping,” said Siddhartha. “However did you get here?”
“You have been sleeping,” answered Govinda. “It is not good to be sleeping
in such places, where snakes often are and the animals of the forest
have their paths. I, oh sir, am a follower of the exalted Gotama, the Buddha,
the Sakyamuni, and have been on a pilgrimage together with several
of us on this path, when I saw you lying and sleeping in a place where it is
dangerous to sleep. Therefore, I sought to wake you up, oh sir, and since I
saw that your sleep was very deep, I stayed behind from my group and sat
with you. And then, so it seems, I have fallen asleep myself, I who wanted
to guard your sleep. Badly, I have served you, tiredness has overwhelmed
me. But now that you’re awake, let me go to catch up with my brothers.”
“I thank you, Samana, for watching out over my sleep,” spoke Siddhartha.
“You’re friendly, you followers of the exalted one. Now you may go then.”
“I’m going, sir. May you, sir, always be in good health.”
“I thank you, Samana.”
Govinda made the gesture of a salutation and said: “Farewell.”
“Farewell, Govinda,” said Siddhartha.
The monk stopped.
“Permit me to ask, sir, from where do you know my name?”
Now, Siddhartha smiled.
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“I know you, oh Govinda, from your father’s hut, and from the school of
the Brahmans, and from the offerings, and from our walk to the Samanas,
and from that hour when you took your refuge with the exalted one in the
grove Jetavana.”
“You’re Siddhartha,” Govinda exclaimed loudly. “Now, I’m recognising
you, and don’t comprehend any more how I couldn’t recognise you right
away. Be welcome, Siddhartha, my joy is great, to see you again.”
“It also gives me joy, to see you again. You’ve been the guard of my sleep,
again I thank you for this, though I wouldn’t have required any guard.
Where are you going to, oh friend?”
“I’m going nowhere. We monks are always travelling, whenever it is not
the rainy season, we always move from one place to another, live according
to the rules if the teachings passed on to us, accept alms, move on. It
is always like this. But you, Siddhartha, where are you going to?”
Quoth Siddhartha: “With me too, friend, it is as it is with you. I’m going
nowhere. I’m just travelling. I’m on a pilgrimage.”
Govinda spoke: “You’re saying: you’re on a pilgrimage, and I believe in
you. But, forgive me, oh Siddhartha, you do not look like a pilgrim. You’re
wearing a rich man’s garments, you’re wearing the shoes of a distinguished
gentleman, and your hair, with the fragrance of perfume, is not a pilgrim’s
hair, not the hair of a Samana.”
“Right so, my dear, you have observed well, your keen eyes see everything.
But I haven’t said to you that I was a Samana. I said: I’m on a pilgrimage.
And so it is: I’m on a pilgrimage.”
“You’re on a pilgrimage,” said Govinda. “But few would go on a pilgrimage
in such clothes, few in such shoes, few with such hair. Never I have
met such a pilgrim, being a pilgrim myself for many years.”
“I believe you, my dear Govinda. But now, today, you’ve met a pilgrim just
like this, wearing such shoes, such a garment. Remember, my dear: Not
eternal is the world of appearances, not eternal, anything but eternal are
our garments and the style of our hair, and our hair and bodies themselves.
I’m wearing a rich man’s clothes, you’ve seen this quite right. I’m wearing
them, because I have been a rich man, and I’m wearing my hair like the
worldly and lustful people, for I have been one of them.”
“And now, Siddhartha, what are you now?”
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“I don’t know it, I don’t know it just like you. I’m travelling. I was a rich
man and am no rich man any more, and what I’ll be tomorrow, I don’t
know.”
“You’ve lost your riches?”
“I’ve lost them or they me. They somehow happened to slip away from me.
The wheel of physical manifestations is turning quickly, Govinda. Where
is Siddhartha the Brahman? Where is Siddhartha the Samana? Where is
Siddhartha the rich man? Non-eternal things change quickly, Govinda, you
know it.”
From the reading. . .
“The wheel of physical manifestations is turning quickly, Govinda.”
Govinda looked at the friend of his youth for a long time, with doubt in
his eyes. After that, he gave him the salutation which one would use on a
gentleman and went on his way.
With a smiling face, Siddhartha watched him leave, he loved him still, this
faithful man, this fearful man. And how could he not have loved everybody
and everything in this moment, in the glorious hour after his wonderful
sleep, filled with Om! The enchantment, which had happened inside of
him in his sleep and by means of the Om, was this very thing that he loved
everything, that he was full of joyful love for everything he saw. And it
was this very thing, so it seemed to him now, which had been his sickness
before, that he was not able to love anybody or anything.
With a smiling face, Siddhartha watched the leaving monk. The sleep had
strengthened him much, but hunger gave him much pain, for by now he
had not eaten for two days, and the times were long past when he had been
tough against hunger. With sadness, and yet also with a smile, he thought
of that time. In those days, so he remembered, he had boasted of three three
things to Kamala, had been able to do three noble and undefeatable feats:
fasting—waiting—thinking. These had been his possession, his power and
strength, his solid staff; in the busy, laborious years of his youth, he had
learned these three feats, nothing else. And now, they had abandoned him,
none of them was his any more, neither fasting, nor waiting, nor thinking.
For the most wretched things, he had given them up, for what fades most
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quickly, for sensual lust, for the good life, for riches! His life had indeed
been strange. And now, so it seemed, now he had really become a childlike
person.
Siddhartha thought about his situation. Thinking was hard on him, he did
not really feel like it, but he forced himself.
Now, he thought, since all these most easily perishing things have slipped
from me again, now I’m standing here under the sun again just as I have
been standing here a little child, nothing is mine, I have no abilities, there
is nothing I could bring about, I have learned nothing. How wondrous is
this! Now, that I’m no longer young, that my hair is already half gray, that
my strength is fading, now I’m starting again at the beginning and as a
child! Again, he had to smile. Yes, his fate had been strange! Things were
going downhill with him, and now he was again facing the world void and
naked and stupid. But he could not feel sad about this, no, he even felt a
great urge to laugh, to laugh about himself, to laugh about this strange,
foolish world.
“Things are going downhill with you!” he said to himself, and laughed
about it, and as he was saying it, he happened to glance at the river, and he
also saw the river going downhill, always moving on downhill, and singing
and being happy through it all. He liked this well, kindly he smiled at the
river. Was this not the river in which he had intended to drown himself, in
past times, a hundred years ago, or had he dreamed this?
Wondrous indeed was my life, so he thought, wondrous detours it has
taken. As I boy, I had only to do with gods and offerings. As a youth, I
had only to do with asceticism, with thinking and meditation, was searching
for Brahman, worshipped the eternal in the Atman. But as a young
man, I followed the penitents, lived in the forest, suffered of heat and
frost, learned to hunger, taught my body to become dead. Wonderfully,
soon afterwards, insight came towards me in the form of the great Buddha’s
teachings, I felt the knowledge of the oneness of the world circling
in me like my own blood. But I also had to leave Buddha and the great
knowledge. I went and learned the art of love with Kamala, learned trading
with Kamaswami, piled up money, wasted money, learned to love my
stomach, learned to please my senses. I had to spend many years losing
my spirit, to unlearn thinking again, to forget the oneness. Isn’t it just as
if I had turned slowly and on a long detour from a man into a child, from
a thinker into a childlike person? And yet, this path has been very good;
and yet, the bird in my chest has not died. But what a path has this been!
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I had to pass through so much stupidity, through so many vices, through
so many errors, through so much disgust and disappointments and woe,
just to become a child again and to be able to start over. But it was right
so, my heart says “Yes” to it, my eyes smile to it. I’ve had to experience
despair, I’ve had to sink down to the most foolish one of all thoughts, to
the thought of suicide, in order to be able to experience divine grace, to
hear Om again, to be able to sleep properly and awake properly again. I
had to become a fool, to find Atman in me again. I had to sin, to be able to
live again. Where else might my path lead me to? It is foolish, this path, it
moves in loops, perhaps it is going around in a circle. Let it go as it likes,
I want to to take it.
Wonderfully, he felt joy rolling like waves in his chest.
Wherever from, he asked his heart, where from did you get this happiness?
Might it come from that long, good sleep, which has done me so good? Or
from the word Om, which I said? Or from the fact that I have escaped, that
I have completely fled, that I am finally free again and am standing like a
child under the sky? Oh how good is it to have fled, to have become free!
How clean and beautiful is the air here, how good to breathe! There, where
I ran away from, there everything smelled of ointments, of spices, of wine,
of excess, of sloth. How did I hate this world of the rich, of those who revel
in fine food, of the gamblers! How did I hate myself for staying in this
terrible world for so long! How did I hate myself, have deprive, poisoned,
tortured myself, have made myself old and evil! No, never again I will, as
I used to like doing so much, delude myself into thinking that Siddhartha
was wise! But this one thing I have done well, this I like, this I must praise,
that there is now an end to that hatred against myself, to that foolish and
dreary life! I praise you, Siddhartha, after so many years of foolishness,
you have once again had an idea, have done something, have heard the
bird in your chest singing and have followed it!
Thus he praised himself, found joy in himself, listened curiously to his
stomach, which was rumbling with hunger. He had now, so he felt, in these
recent times and days, completely tasted and spit out, devoured up to the
point of desperation and death, a piece of suffering, a piece of misery. Like
this, it was good. For much longer, he could have stayed with Kamaswami,
made money, wasted money, filled his stomach, and let his soul die of
thirst; for much longer he could have lived in this soft, well upholstered
hell, if this had not happened: the moment of complete hopelessness and
despair, that most extreme moment, when he hung over the rushing waters
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and was ready to destroy himself. That he had felt this despair, this deep
disgust, and that he had not succumbed to it, that the bird, the joyful source
and voice in him was still alive after all, this was why he felt joy, this was
why he laughed, this was why his face was smiling brightly under his hair
which had turned gray.
From the reading. . .
“‘Things are going downhill with you!’ he said to himself, and laughed
about it . . . and he also saw the river going downhill. . . ”
“It is good,” he thought, “to get a taste of everything for oneself, which
one needs to know. That lust for the world and riches do not belong to the
good things, I have already learned as a child. I have known it for a long
time, but I have experienced only now. And now I know it, don’t just know
it in my memory, but in my eyes, in my heart, in my stomach. Good for
me, to know this!”
For a long time, he pondered his transformation, listened to the bird, as it
sang for joy. Had not this bird died in him, had he not felt its death? No,
something else from within him had died, something which already for a
long time had yearned to die. Was it not this what he used to intend to kill
in his ardent years as a penitent?Was this not his self, his small, frightened,
and proud self, he had wrestled with for so many years, which had defeated
him again and again, which was back again after every killing, prohibited
joy, felt fear? Was it not this, which today had finally come to its death,
here in the forest, by this lovely river? Was it not due to this death, that he
was now like a child, so full of trust, so without fear, so full of joy?
Now Siddhartha also got some idea of why he had fought this self in vain
as a Brahman, as a penitent. Too much knowledge had held him back,
too many holy verses, too many sacrificial rules, to much self-castigation,
so much doing and striving for that goal! Full of arrogance, he had been,
always the smartest, always working the most, always one step ahead of
all others, always the knowing and spiritual one, always the priest or wise
one. Into being a priest, into this arrogance, into this spirituality, his self
had retreated, there it sat firmly and grew, while he thought he would kill
it by fasting and penance. Now he saw it and saw that the secret voice
had been right, that no teacher would ever have been able to bring about
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his salvation. Therefore, he had to go out into the world, lose himself to
lust and power, to woman and money, had to become a merchant, a dicegambler,
a drinker, and a greedy person, until the priest and Samana in him
was dead. Therefore, he had to continue bearing these ugly years, bearing
the disgust, the teachings, the pointlessness of a dreary and wasted life up
to the end, up to bitter despair, until Siddhartha the lustful, Siddhartha the
greedy could also die. He had died, a new Siddhartha had woken up from
the sleep. He would also grow old, he would also eventually have to die,
mortal was Siddhartha, mortal was every physical form. But today he was
young, was a child, the new Siddhartha, and was full of joy.
He thought these thoughts, listened with a smile to his stomach, listened
gratefully to a buzzing bee. Cheerfully, he looked into the rushing river,
never before he had liked a water so well as this one, never before he
had perceived the voice and the parable of the moving water thus strongly
and beautifully. It seemed to him, as if the river had something special to
tell him, something he did not know yet, which was still awaiting him. In
this river, Siddhartha had intended to drown himself, in it the old, tired,
desperate Siddhartha had drowned today. But the new Siddhartha felt a
deep love for this rushing water, and decided for himself, not to leave it
very soon.
Bridge over the Rungroo, Darjeeling, India, Library of Congress
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Topics Worth Investigating
1. Would it be a psychologism to suppose Siddhartha’s despair is a midlife
crisis? From a psychological point of view, what is a mid-life
crisis? In what ways does Siddhartha’s despair mirror this period of
life so often cited in life-span psychology? In your answer consider
the assessment by Gail Sheehy:
The work of adult life is not easy. As in childhood, each step presents not
only new tasks of development but requires a letting go of the techniques
that worked before. With each passage some magic must be given up,
some cherished illusion of safety and comfortably familiar sense of self
must be cast off, to allow for the greater expansion of our distinctiveness.
1
2. What do you suppose is “the wheel of physical manifestation”?Would
it be related to Sansara? Speculate on possible connections.
Buddha explains “the wheel of existence”:
There are ten “Fetters” by which beings are bound to the wheel of existence.
They are: Self-Illusion, Skepticism, Attachment to mere Rule
and Ritual, Sensual Lust, Ill-will, Craving for the World of pure Form,
Craving for the Formless World, Conceit, Restlessness, Ignorance.. . .
An Arahat, or perfectly “Holy One,” is freed from all fetters.2
Is Sansara the world of phenomena or is it the world of subjectivity?
3. What factors enabled Siddhartha to recover from his despair? At the
beginning of this chapter, he wished to learn no more about himself,
yet at the end of the chapter, he begins anew on a pilgrimage. How,
exactly, did this psychological and philosophical transformation occur?
1. Gail Sheehy. Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life. New York: E. P. Dutton,
1974.
2. Paul Carus. Buddha, The Word. 1915.
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Chapter9
The Ferryman
Eddies (detail), NOAA
From the reading. . .
“But isn’t every life, isn’t every work beautiful?”
Ideas of Interest from “The Ferryman”
1. Siddhartha somewhat awkwardly offers the reason “I must learn to
handle the boat” as a motive for being Vasudeva’s assistant. Since the
reason offered is tautologous, what, in all probability, does Siddhartha
genuinely seek?
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2. Vasudeva intimates that he is holy. Interpret Vasudeva’s metaphor of
the river with respect to holiness. When does a life become sacred?
3. Account for Vasudeva’s acceptance of Siddhartha as an assistant.
4. In what manner would the river not be an obstacle to travelers?
5. Explain the idea that there is no suffering without time.
6. Can you interpret the metaphor of the river with respect to the aphorism,
“The more things change, the more things stay the same”?
7. Why was Kamala’s seeing Siddhartha just as sacred a pilgrimage as
seeing Gotama, the perfected one?
The Reading Selection from “The Ferryman”
By this river I want to stay, thought Siddhartha, it is the same which I
have crossed a long time ago on my way to the childlike people, a friendly
ferryman had guided me then, he is the one I want to go to, starting out
from his hut, my path had led me at that time into a new life, which had
now grown old and is dead—my present path, my present new life, shall
also take its start there!
Tenderly, he looked into the rushing water, into the transparent green, into
the crystal lines of its drawing, so rich in secrets. Bright pearls he saw
rising from the deep, quiet bubbles of air floating on the reflecting surface,
the blue of the sky being depicted in it. With a thousand eyes, the river
looked at him, with green ones, with white ones, with crystal ones, with
sky-blue ones. How did he love this water, how did it delight him, how
grateful was he to it! In his heart he heard the voice talking, which was
newly awaking, and it told him: Love this water! Stay near it! Learn from
it! Oh yes, he wanted to learn from it, he wanted to listen to it. He who
would understand this water and its secrets, so it seemed to him, would
also understand many other things, many secrets, all secrets.
But out of all secrets of the river, he today only saw one, this one touched
his soul. He saw: this water ran and ran, incessantly it ran, and was nevertheless
always there, was always at all times the same and yet new in
every moment! Great be he who would grasp this, understand this! He
understood and grasped it not, only felt some idea of it stirring, a distant
memory, divine voices.
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Siddhartha rose, the workings of hunger in his body became unbearable.
In a daze he walked on, up the path by the bank, upriver, listened to the
current, listened to the rumbling hunger in his body.
When he reached the ferry, the boat was just ready, and the same ferryman
who had once transported the young Samana across the river, stood in the
boat, Siddhartha recognised him, he had also aged very much.
“Would you like to ferry me over?” he asked.
The ferryman, being astonished to see such an elegant man walking along
and on foot, took him into his boat and pushed it off the bank.
“It’s a beautiful life you have chosen for yourself,” the passenger spoke.
“It must be beautiful to live by this water every day and to cruise on it.”
With a smile, the man at the oar moved from side to side: “It is beautiful,
sir, it is as you say. But isn’t every life, isn’t every work beautiful?”
“This may be true. But I envy you for yours.”
“Ah, you would soon stop enjoying it. This is nothing for people wearing
fine clothes.”
Siddhartha laughed. “Once before, I have been looked upon today because
of my clothes, I have been looked upon with distrust. Wouldn’t you, ferryman,
like to accept these clothes, which are a nuisance to me, from me?
For you must know, I have no money to pay your fare.”
“You’re joking, sir,” the ferryman laughed.
“I’m not joking, friend. Behold, once before you have ferried me across
this water in your boat for the immaterial reward of a good deed. Thus, do
it today as well, and accept my clothes for it.”
“And do you, sir, intend to continue travelling without clothes?”
“Ah, most of all I wouldn’t want to continue travelling at all. Most of all
I would like you, ferryman, to give me an old loincloth and keep me with
you as your assistant, or rather as your trainee, for I’ll have to learn first
how to handle the boat.”
For a long time, the ferryman looked at the stranger, searching.
“Now I recognise you,” he finally said. “At one time, you’ve slept in my
hut, this was a long time ago, possibly more than twenty years ago, and
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you’ve been ferried across the river by me, and we parted like good friends.
Haven’t you’ve been a Samana? I can’t think of your name any more.”
“My name is Siddhartha, and I was a Samana, when you’ve last seen me.”
“So be welcome, Siddhartha. My name is Vasudeva. You will, so I hope,
be my guest today as well and sleep in my hut, and tell me, where you’re
coming from and why these beautiful clothes are such a nuisance to you.”
They had reached the middle of the river, and Vasudeva pushed the oar
with more strength, in order to overcome the current. He worked calmly,
his eyes fixed in on the front of the boat, with brawny arms. Siddhartha sat
and watched him, and remembered, how once before, on that last day of
his time as a Samana, love for this man had stirred in his heart. Gratefully,
he accepted Vasudeva’s invitation. When they had reached the bank, he
helped him to tie the boat to the stakes; after this, the ferryman asked him
to enter the hut, offered him bread and water, and Siddhartha ate with eager
pleasure, and also ate with eager pleasure of the mango fruits, Vasudeva
offered him.
From the reading. . .
“. . . for I’ll have to learn first how to handle the boat.”
Afterwards, it was almost the time of the sunset, they sat on a log by the
bank, and Siddhartha told the ferryman about where he originally came
from and about his life, as he had seen it before his eyes today, in that hour
of despair. Until late at night, lasted his tale.
Vasudeva listened with great attention. Listening carefully, he let everything
enter his mind, birthplace and childhood, all that learning, all that
searching, all joy, all distress. This was among the ferryman’s virtues one
of the greatest: like only a few, he knew how to listen.Without him having
spoken a word, the speaker sensed how Vasudeva let his words enter his
mind, quiet, open, waiting, how he did not lose a single one, awaited not
a single one with impatience, did not add his praise or rebuke, was just
listening. Siddhartha felt, what a happy fortune it is, to confess to such a
listener, to bury in his heart his own life, his own search, his own suffering.
But in the end of Siddhartha’s tale, when he spoke of the tree by the river,
and of his deep fall, of the holy Om, and how he had felt such a love for
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the river after his slumber, the ferryman listened with twice the attention,
entirely and completely absorbed by it, with his eyes closed.
But when Siddhartha fell silent, and a long silence had occurred, then
Vasudeva said: “It is as I thought. The river has spoken to you. It is your
friend as well, it speaks to you as well. That is good, that is very good.
Stay with me, Siddhartha, my friend. I used to have a wife, her bed was
next to mine, but she has died a long time ago, for a long time, I have lived
alone. Now, you shall live with me, there is space and food for both.”
“I thank you,” said Siddhartha, “I thank you and accept. And I also thank
you for this, Vasudeva, for listening to me so well! These people are rare
who know how to listen. And I did not meet a single one who knew it as
well as you did. I will also learn in this respect from you.”
“You will learn it,” spoke Vasudeva, “but not from me. The river has taught
me to listen, from it you will learn it as well. It knows everything, the river,
everything can be learned from it. See, you’ve already learned this from
the water too, that it is good to strive downwards, to sink, to seek depth.
The rich and elegant Siddhartha is becoming an oarsman’s servant, the
learned Brahman Siddhartha becomes a ferryman: this has also been told
to you by the river. You’ll learn that other thing from it as well.”
Quoth Siddhartha after a long pause: “What other thing, Vasudeva?”
Vasudeva rose. “It is late,” he said, “let’s go to sleep. I can’t tell you that
other thing, oh friend. You’ll learn it, or perhaps you know it already. See,
I’m no learned man, I have no special skill in speaking, I also have no special
skill in thinking. All I’m able to do is to listen and to be godly, I have
learned nothing else. If I was able to say and teach it, I might be a wise
man, but like this I am only a ferryman, and it is my task to ferry people
across the river. I have transported many, thousands; and to all of them, my
river has been nothing but an obstacle on their travels. They travelled to
seek money and business, and for weddings, and on pilgrimages, and the
river was obstructing their path, and the ferryman’s job was to get them
quickly across that obstacle. But for some among thousands, a few, four
or five, the river has stopped being an obstacle, they have heard its voice,
they have listened to it, and the river has become sacred to them, as it has
become sacred to me. Let’s rest now, Siddhartha.”
Siddhartha stayed with the ferryman and learned to operate the boat, and
when there was nothing to do at the ferry, he worked with Vasudeva in
the rice-field, gathered wood, plucked the fruit off the banana-trees. He
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learned to build an oar, and learned to mend the boat, and to weave baskets,
and was joyful because of everything he learned, and the days and months
passed quickly. But more than Vasudeva could teach him, he was taught by
the river. Incessantly, he learned from it. Most of all, he learned from it to
listen, to pay close attention with a quiet heart, with a waiting, opened soul,
without passion, without a wish, without judgement, without an opinion.
Bamboo Boat, Library of Congress
In a friendly manner, he lived side by side with Vasudeva, and occasionally
they exchanged some words, few and at length thought about words. Vasudeva
was no friend of words; rarely, Siddhartha succeeded in persuading
him to speak.
“Did you,” so he asked him at one time, “did you too learn that secret from
the river: that there is no time?”
Vasudeva’s face was filled with a bright smile.
“Yes, Siddhartha,” he spoke. “It is this what you mean, isn’t it: that the
river is everywhere at once, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall,
at the ferry, at the rapids, in the sea, in the mountains, everywhere at once,
and that there is only the present time for it, not the shadow of the past,
not the shadow of the future?”
“This it is,” said Siddhartha. “And when I had learned it, I looked at my
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life, and it was also a river, and the boy Siddhartha was only separated
from the man Siddhartha and from the old man Siddhartha by a shadow,
not by something real. Also, Siddhartha’s previous births were no past, and
his death and his return to Brahma were no future. Nothing was, nothing
will be; everything is, everything has existence and is present.”
Siddhartha spoke with ecstasy; deeply, this enlightenment had delighted
him. Oh, was not all suffering time, where not all forms of tormenting
oneself and being afraid time, was not everything hard, everything hostile
in the world gone and overcome as soon as one had overcome time, as soon
as time would have been put out of existence by one’s thoughts? In ecstatic
delight, he had spoken, but Vasudeva smiled at him brightly and nodded
in confirmation; silently he nodded, brushed his hand over Siddhartha’s
shoulder, turned back to his work.
From the reading. . .
“. . . did you too learn that secret from the river: that there is no time?”
And once again, when the river had just increased its flow in the rainy
season and made a powerful noise, then said Siddhartha: “Isn’t it so, oh
friend, the river has many voices, very many voices? Hasn’t it the voice of
a king, and of a warrior, and of a bull, and of a bird of the night, and of
a woman giving birth, and of a sighing man, and a thousand other voices
more?”
“So it is,” Vasudeva nodded, “all voices of the creatures are in its voice.”
“And do you know,” Siddhartha continued, “what word it speaks, when
you succeed in hearing all of its ten thousand voices at once?”
Happily, Vasudeva’s face was smiling, he bent over to Siddhartha and
spoke the holy Om into his ear. And this had been the very thing which
Siddhartha had also been hearing.
And time after time, his smile became more similar to the ferryman’s,
became almost just as bright, almost just as throughly glowing with bliss,
just as shining out of thousand small wrinkles, just as alike to a child’s,
just as alike to an old man’s. Many travellers, seeing the two ferrymen,
thought they were brothers. Often, they sat in the evening together by the
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bank on the log, said nothing and both listened to the water, which was
no water to them, but the voice of life, the voice of what exists, of what is
eternally taking shape. And it happened from time to time that both, when
listening to the river, thought of the same things, of a conversation from
the day before yesterday, of one of their travellers, the face and fate of
whom had occupied their thoughts, of death, of their childhood, and that
they both in the same moment, when the river had been saying something
good to them, looked at each other, both thinking precisely the same thing,
both delighted about the same answer to the same question.
There was something about this ferry and the two ferrymen which was
transmitted to others, which many of the travellers felt. It happened occasionally
that a traveller, after having looked at the face of one of the
ferrymen, started to tell the story of his life, told about pains, confessed
evil things, asked for comfort and advice. It happened occasionally that
someone asked for permission to stay for a night with them to listen to the
river. It also happened that curious people came, who had been told that
there were two wise men, or sorcerers, or holy men living by that ferry.
The curious people asked many questions, but they got no answers, and
they found neither sorcerers nor wise men, they only found two friendly
little old men, who seemed to be mute and to have become a bit strange and
gaga. And the curious people laughed and were discussing how foolishly
and gullibly the common people were spreading such empty rumours.
The years passed by, and nobody counted them. Then, at one time, monks
came by on a pilgrimage, followers of Gotama, the Buddha, who were
asking to be ferried across the river, and by them the ferrymen were told
that they were most hurriedly walking back to their great teacher, for the
news had spread the exalted one was deathly sick and would soon die
his last human death, in order to become one with the salvation. It was
not long, until a new flock of monks came along on their pilgrimage, and
another one, and the monks as well as most of the other travellers and
people walking through the land spoke of nothing else than of Gotama
and his impending death. And as people are flocking from everywhere
and from all sides, when they are going to war or to the coronation of a
king, and are gathering like ants in droves, thus they flocked, like being
drawn on by a magic spell, to where the great Buddha was awaiting his
death, where the huge event was to take place and the great perfected one
of an era was to become one with the glory.
Often, Siddhartha thought in those days of the dying wise man, the great
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teacher, whose voice had admonished nations and had awoken hundreds
of thousands, whose voice he had also once heard, whose holy face he
had also once seen with respect. Kindly, he thought of him, saw his path
to perfection before his eyes, and remembered with a smile those words
which he had once, as a young man, said to him, the exalted one. They
had been, so it seemed to him, proud and precocious words; with a smile,
he remembered them. For a long time he knew that there was nothing
standing between Gotama and him any more, though he was still unable
to accept his teachings. No, there was no teaching a truly searching person,
someone who truly wanted to find, could accept. But he who had found, he
could approve of any teachings, every path, every goal, there was nothing
standing between him and all the other thousand any more who lived in
that what is eternal, who breathed what is divine.
On one of these days, when so many went on a pilgrimage to the dying
Buddha, Kamala also went to him, who used to be the most beautiful of
the courtesans. A long time ago, she had retired from her previous life, had
given her garden to the monks of Gotama as a gift, had taken her refuge
in the teachings, was among the friends and benefactors of the pilgrims.
Together with Siddhartha the boy, her son, she had gone on her way due to
the news of the near death of Gotama, in simple clothes, on foot. With her
little son, she was travelling by the river; but the boy had soon grown tired,
desired to go back home, desired to rest, desired to eat, became disobedient
and started whining.
Kamala often had to take a rest with him, he was accustomed to having
his way against her, she had to feed him, had to comfort him, had to scold
him. He did not comprehend why he had to to go on this exhausting and
sad pilgrimage with his mother, to an unknown place, to a stranger, who
was holy and about to die. So what if he died, how did this concern the
boy?
The pilgrims were getting close to Vasudeva’s ferry, when little Siddhartha
once again forced his mother to rest. She, Kamala herself, had also become
tired, and while the boy was chewing a banana, she crouched down on
the ground, closed her eyes a bit, and rested. But suddenly, she uttered
a wailing scream, the boy looked at her in fear and saw her face having
grown pale from horror; and from under her dress, a small, black snake
fled, by which Kamala had been bitten.
Hurriedly, they now both ran along the path, in order to reach people, and
got near to the ferry, there Kamala collapsed, and was not able to go any
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further. But the boy started crying miserably, only interrupting it to kiss
and hug his mother, and she also joined his loud screams for help, until
the sound reached Vasudeva’s ears, who stood at the ferry. Quickly, he
came walking, took the woman on his arms, carried her into the boat, the
boy ran along, and soon they all reached the hut, were Siddhartha stood
by the stove and was just lighting the fire. He looked up and first saw the
boy’s face, which wondrously reminded him of something, like a warning
to remember something he had forgotten. Then he saw Kamala, whom he
instantly recognised, though she lay unconscious in the ferryman’s arms,
and now he knew that it was his own son, whose face had been such a
warning reminder to him, and the heart stirred in his chest.
From the reading. . .
“Deeply he felt, more deeply than ever before, in this hour, the indestructibility
of every life, the eternity of every moment.”
Kamala’s wound was washed, but had already turned black and her body
was swollen, she was made to drink a healing potion. Her consciousness
returned, she lay on Siddhartha’s bed in the hut and bent over her stood
Siddhartha, who used to love her so much. It seemed like a dream to her;
with a smile, she looked at her friend’s face; just slowly she, realized her
situation, remembered the bite, called timidly for the boy.
“He’s with you, don’t worry,” said Siddhartha.
Kamala looked into his eyes. She spoke with a heavy tongue, paralysed
by the poison. “You’ve become old, my dear,” she said, “you’ve become
gray. But you are like the young Samana, who at one time came without
clothes, with dusty feet, to me into the garden. You are much more like
him, than you were like him at that time when you had left me and Kamaswami.
In the eyes, you’re like him, Siddhartha. Alas, I have also grown
old, old—could you still recognise me?”
Siddhartha smiled: “Instantly, I recognised you, Kamala, my dear.”
Kamala pointed to her boy and said: “Did you recognise him as well? He
is your son.”
Her eyes became confused and fell shut. The boy wept, Siddhartha took
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him on his knees, let him weep, petted his hair, and at the sight of the
child’s face, a Brahman prayer came to his mind, which he had learned
a long time ago, when he had been a little boy himself. Slowly, with a
singing voice, he started to speak; from his past and childhood, the words
came flowing to him. And with that singsong, the boy became calm, was
only now and then uttering a sob and fell asleep. Siddhartha placed him on
Vasudeva’s bed. Vasudeva stood by the stove and cooked rice. Siddhartha
gave him a look, which he returned with a smile.
“She’ll die,” Siddhartha said quietly.
Vasudeva nodded; over his friendly face ran the light of the stove’s fire.
Once again, Kamala returned to consciousness. Pain distorted her face,
Siddhartha’s eyes read the suffering on her mouth, on her pale cheeks.
Quietly, he read it, attentively, waiting, his mind becoming one with her
suffering. Kamala felt it, her gaze sought his eyes.
Looking at him, she said: “Now I see that your eyes have changed as well.
They’ve become completely different. By what do I still recognise that
you’re Siddhartha? It’s you, and it’s not you.”
Siddhartha said nothing, quietly his eyes looked at hers.
“You have achieved it?” she asked. “You have found peace?”
He smiled and placed his hand on hers.
“I’m seeing it.” she said, “I’m seeing it. I too will find peace.”
“You have found it,” Siddhartha spoke in a whisper.
Kamala never stopped looking into his eyes. She thought about her pilgrimage
to Gotama, which she wanted to take, in order to see the face of
the perfected one, to breathe his peace, and she thought that she had now
found him in his place, and that it was good, just as good, as if she had
seen the other one. She wanted to tell this to him, but the tongue no longer
obeyed her will. Without speaking, she looked at him, and he saw the life
fading from her eyes. When the final pain filled her eyes and made them
grow dim, when the final shiver ran through her limbs, his finger closed
her eyelids.
For a long time, he sat and looked at her peacefully dead face. For a long
time, he observed her mouth, her old, tired mouth, with those lips, which
had become thin, and he remembered, that he used to, in the spring of
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his years, compare this mouth with a freshly cracked fig. For a long time,
he sat, read in the pale face, in the tired wrinkles, filled himself with this
sight, saw his own face lying in the same manner, just as white, just as
quenched out, and saw at the same time his face and hers being young,
with red lips, with fiery eyes, and the feeling of this both being present
and at the same time real, the feeling of eternity, completely filled every
aspect of his being. Deeply he felt, more deeply than ever before, in this
hour, the indestructibility of every life, the eternity of every moment.
When he rose, Vasudeva had prepared rice for him. But Siddhartha did
not eat. In the stable, where their goat stood, the two old men prepared
beds of straw for themselves, and Vasudeva lay himself down to sleep.
But Siddhartha went outside and sat this night before the hut, listening to
the river, surrounded by the past, touched and encircled by all times of his
life at the same time. But occasionally, he rose, stepped to the door of the
hut and listened, whether the boy was sleeping.
Early in the morning, even before the sun could be seen, Vasudeva came
out of the stable and walked over to his friend.
“You haven’t slept,” he said.
“No, Vasudeva. I sat here, I was listening to the river. A lot it has told
me, deeply it has filled me with the healing thought, with the thought of
oneness.”
“You’ve experienced suffering, Siddhartha, but I see: no sadness has entered
your heart.”
“No, my dear, how should I be sad? I, who have been rich and happy, have
become even richer and happier now. My son has been given to me.”
“Your son shall be welcome to me as well. But now, Siddhartha, let’s get
to work, there is much to be done. Kamala has died on the same bed,
on which my wife had died a long time ago. Let us also build Kamala’s
funeral pile on the same hill on which I had then built my wife’s funeral
pile.”
While the boy was still asleep, they built the funeral pile.
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River Scene, Library of Congress
Topics Worth Investigating
1. Explain sacredness or holiness in terms of “having no obstacles.”
Confucius writes in his Doctrine of the Mean, “He rectifies himself,
and seeks for nothing from others, so that he has no dissatisfactions.”1
Would the presence of holiness imply that if one has no expectations,
one has no hindrances? If this were so, an ordinarily supposed hindrance
would simply be an unexpected present event. Is this insight
the basis of Turgenev’s observation: “To desire and expect nothing
for oneself—and to have profound sympathy for others—is genuine
holiness”?2
2. Siddhartha discerns, “. . . I looked at my life, and it was also a river. . . ”
Develop the idea of the river being “everywhere at once” with respect
to the idea that what you really are is not what you are now. As W.
Somerset Maugham expresses it, “The complete life, the perfect pattern,
includes old age as well as youth and maturity. The beauty of
the morning and the radiance of noon are good, but it would be a very
1. Confucius. Doctrine of the Mean. 500 BC. Translated by James Legge.
2. Ivan Sergeevich Turgenev. Turgenev Letters. Edited by David Lowe. New York:
Ardis, 1983.
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silly person who drew the curtains and turned on the light in order to
shut out the tranquillity of the evening.”3
3. With Kamala’s death, Siddhartha felt the “indestructibility of life.”
Can you resolve this apparent paradox? Consider this passage from
the Gita:
Never the spirit was born; the spirit shall cease to be never;
Never was time it was not; End and Beginning are dreams!
Birthless and deathless and changeless remaineth the spirit for ever;
Death hath not touched it at all, dead though the house of it seems!4
4. Hermann Hesse emphasizes in this chapter that Vasudeva learned to
listen from the river. Compare Hess’s description of this process with
Shunryu Suzuki’s:
When you listen to someone, you should give up all your preconceived
ideas and your subjective opinions; you should just listen to him, just
observe what his way is.We put very little emphasis on right and wrong
or good and bad. We just see things as they are with him, and accept
them.. . . Usually when you listen to some statement, you hear it as a
kind of echo of yourself. You are actually listening to your own opinion.5
3. W. Somerset Maugham. The Summing Up. Garden City, N.Y.: International Collector’s
Library, 1938.
4. The Song Celestial or Bhagavad-Gita. Translated by Sir Edwin
Arnold. New York: Dover Books, 1993. Ch. 2, Sect. 20.
5. Shunryu Suzuki. Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. New York:Weatherhill, Inc., 1970.
87-88.
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The Son
Boy, Library of Congress
From the reading. . .
“. . . he preferred the suffering and worries of love over happiness and
joy without the boy.”
Ideas of Interest from “The Son”
1. Given the son’s karma, what will most likely be his path in life? Is his
character the architect of his destiny?
2. In what way is Siddhartha similar to the childlike people?
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Chapter 10. The Son
3. Siddhartha preferred the sorrow of the love for his son to the happiness
without him. Could Siddhartha achieve enlightenment while
tending for his son? Can anyone care for something without trying to
change it?
4. How does Siddhartha’s unconditional love undermine his son’s selfesteem?
Is Siddhartha’s unhappiness a result of seeking goals for his
son or of caring too much for him?
5. How did Vasudeva presage the loss of the oar?
The Reading Selection from “The Son”
Timid and weeping, the boy had attended his mother’s funeral; gloomy
and shy, he had listened to Siddhartha, who greeted him as his son and
welcomed him at his place in Vasudeva’s hut. Pale, he sat for many days
by the hill of the dead, did not want to eat, gave no open look, did not open
his heart, met his fate with resistance and denial.
Siddhartha spared him and let him do as he pleased, he honoured his
mourning. Siddhartha understood that his son did not know him, that he
could not love him like a father. Slowly, he also saw and understood that
the eleven-year-old was a pampered boy, a mother’s boy, and that he had
grown up in the habits of rich people, accustomed to finer food, to a soft
bed, accustomed to giving orders to servants. Siddhartha understood that
the mourning, pampered child could not suddenly and willingly be content
with a life among strangers and in poverty. He did not force him, he did
many a chore for him, always picked the best piece of the meal for him.
Slowly, he hoped to win him over, by friendly patience.
Rich and happy, he had called himself, when the boy had come to him.
Since time had passed on in the meantime, and the boy remained a stranger
and in a gloomy disposition, since he displayed a proud and stubbornly
disobedient heart, did not want to do any work, did not pay his respect
to the old men, stole from Vasudeva’s fruit-trees, then Siddhartha began
to understand that his son had not brought him happiness and peace, but
suffering and worry. But he loved him, and he preferred the suffering and
worries of love over happiness and joy without the boy. Since young Siddhartha
was in the hut, the old men had split the work. Vasudeva had again
taken on the job of the ferryman all by himself, and Siddhartha, in order
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to be with his son, did the work in the hut and the field.
For a long time, for long months, Siddhartha waited for his son to understand
him, to accept his love, to perhaps reciprocate it. For long months,
Vasudeva waited, watching, waited and said nothing. One day, when Siddhartha
the younger had once again tormented his father very much with
spite and an unsteadiness in his wishes and had broken both of his ricebowls,
Vasudeva took in the evening his friend aside and talked to him.
“Pardon me,” he said, “from a friendly heart, I’m talking to you. I’m seeing
that you are tormenting yourself, I’m seeing that you’re in grief. Your son,
my dear, is worrying you, and he is also worrying me. That young bird is
accustomed to a different life, to a different nest. He has not, like you, ran
away from riches and the city, being disgusted and fed up with it; against
his will, he had to leave all this behind. I asked the river, oh friend, many
times I have asked it. But the river laughs, it laughs at me, it laughs at you
and me, and is shaking with laughter at our foolishness. Water wants to
join water, youth wants to join youth, your son is not in the place where
he can prosper. You too should ask the river; you too should listen to it!”
Troubled, Siddhartha looked into his friendly face, in the many wrinkles
of which there was incessant cheerfulness.
“How could I part with him?” he said quietly, ashamed. “Give me some
more time, my dear! See, I’m fighting for him, I’m seeking to win his
heart, with love and with friendly patience I intend to capture it. One day,
the river shall also talk to him, he also is called upon.”
Vasudeva’s smile flourished more warmly. “Oh yes, he too is called upon,
he too is of the eternal life. But do we, you and me, know what he is
called upon to do, what path to take, what actions to perform, what pain
to endure? Not a small one, his pain will be; after all, his heart is proud
and hard, people like this have to suffer a lot, err a lot, do much injustice,
burden themselves with much sin. Tell me, my dear: you’re not taking
control of your son’s upbringing? You don’t force him? You don’t beat
him? You don’t punish him?”
“No, Vasudeva, I don’t do anything of this.”
“I knew it. You don’t force him, don’t beat him, don’t give him orders,
because you know that ‘soft’ is stronger than ‘hard,’ Water stronger than
rocks, love stronger than force. Very good, I praise you. But aren’t you
mistaken in thinking that you wouldn’t force him, wouldn’t punish him?
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Don’t you shackle him with your love? Don’t you make him feel inferior
every day, and don’t you make it even harder on him with your kindness
and patience? Don’t you force him, the arrogant and pampered boy, to live
in a hut with two old banana-eaters, to whom even rice is a delicacy, whose
thoughts can’t be his, whose hearts are old and quiet and beat in a different
pace than his? Isn’t he forced, isn’t he punished by all this?”
Troubled, Siddhartha looked to the ground. Quietly, he asked: “What do
you think I should do?”
Quoth Vasudeva: “Bring him into the city, bring him into his mother’s
house, there’ll still be servants around, give him to them. And when there
aren’t any around any more, bring him to a teacher, not for the teachings’
sake, but so that he shall be among other boys, and among girls, and in the
world which is his own. Have you never thought of this?”
“You’re seeing into my heart,” Siddhartha spoke sadly. “Often, I have
thought of this. But look, how shall I put him, who had no tender heart
anyhow, into this world? Won’t he become exuberant, won’t he lose himself
to pleasure and power, won’t he repeat all of his father’s mistakes,
won’t he perhaps get entirely lost in Sansara?”
From the reading. . .
Don’t you shackle him with your love? Don’t you make him feel inferior
every day, and don’t you make it even harder on him with your
kindness and patience?
Brightly, the ferryman’s smile lit up; softly, he touched Siddhartha’s arm
and said: “Ask the river about it, my friend! Hear it laugh about it! Would
you actually believe that you had committed your foolish acts in order to
spare your son from committing them too? And could you in any way
protect your son from Sansara? How could you? By means of teachings,
prayer, admonition? My dear, have you entirely forgotten that story, that
story containing so many lessons, that story about Siddhartha, a Brahman’s
son, which you once told me here on this very spot? Who has kept
the Samana Siddhartha safe from Sansara, from sin, from greed, from
foolishness? Were his father’s religious devotion, his teacher’s warnings,
his own knowledge, his own search able to keep him safe? Which father,
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which teacher had been able to protect him from living his life for himself,
from soiling himself with life, from burdening himself with guilt, from
drinking the bitter drink for himself, from finding his path for himself?
Would you think, my dear, anybody might perhaps be spared from taking
this path? That perhaps your little son would be spared, because you love
him, because you would like to keep him from suffering and pain and disappointment?
But even if you would die ten times for him, you would not
be able to take the slightest part of his destiny upon yourself.”
Never before, Vasudeva had spoken so many words. Kindly, Siddhartha
thanked him, went troubled into the hut, could not sleep for a long time.
Vasudeva had told him nothing, he had not already thought and known for
himself. But this was a knowledge he could not act upon, stronger than the
knowledge was his love for the boy, stronger was his tenderness, his fear
to lose him. Had he ever lost his heart so much to something, had he ever
loved any person thus, thus blindly, thus sufferingly, thus unsuccessfully,
and yet thus happily?
Siddhartha could not heed his friend’s advice, he could not give up the
boy. He let the boy give him orders, he let him disregard him. He said
nothing and waited; daily, he began the mute struggle of friendliness, the
silent war of patience. Vasudeva also said nothing and waited, friendly,
knowing, patient. They were both masters of patience.
At one time, when the boy’s face reminded him very much of Kamala,
Siddhartha suddenly had to think of a line which Kamala a long time ago,
in the days of their youth, had once said to him. “You cannot love,” she
had said to him, and he had agreed with her and had compared himself
with a star, while comparing the childlike people with falling leaves, and
nevertheless he had also sensed an accusation in that line. Indeed, he had
never been able to lose or devote himself completely to another person, to
forget himself, to commit foolish acts for the love of another person; never
he had been able to do this, and this was, as it had seemed to him at that
time, the great distinction which set him apart from the childlike people.
But now, since his son was here, now he, Siddhartha, had also become
completely a childlike person, suffering for the sake of another person,
loving another person, lost to a love, having become a fool on account of
love. Now he too felt, late, once in his lifetime, this strongest and strangest
of all passions, suffered from it, suffered miserably, and was nevertheless
in bliss, was nevertheless renewed in one respect, enriched by one thing.
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He did sense very well that this love, this blind love for his son, was a
passion, something very human, that it was Sansara, a murky source, dark
waters. Nevertheless, he felt at the same time, it was not worthless, it was
necessary, came from the essence of his own being. This pleasure also had
to be atoned for, this pain also had to be endured, these foolish acts also
had to be committed.
Through all this, the son let him commit his foolish acts, let him court
for his affection, let him humiliate himself every day by giving in to his
moods. This father had nothing which would have delighted him and nothing
which he would have feared. He was a good man, this father, a good,
kind, soft man, perhaps a very devout man, perhaps a saint, all these there
no attributes which could win the boy over. He was bored by this father,
who kept him prisoner here in this miserable hut of his, he was bored by
him, and for him to answer every naughtiness with a smile, every insult
with friendliness, every viciousness with kindness, this very thing was the
hated trick of this old sneak. Much more the boy would have liked it if he
had been threatened by him, if he had been abused by him.
A day came, when what young Siddhartha had on his mind came bursting
forth, and he openly turned against his father. The latter had given him a
task, he had told him to gather brushwood. But the boy did not leave the
hut, in stubborn disobedience and rage he stayed where he was, thumped
on the ground with his feet, clenched his fists, and screamed in a powerful
outburst his hatred and contempt into his father’s face.
“Get the brushwood for yourself!” he shouted foaming at the mouth, “I’m
not your servant. I do know, that you won’t hit me, you don’t dare; I do
know, that you constantly want to punish me and put me down with your
religious devotion and your indulgence. You want me to become like you,
just as devout, just as soft, just as wise! But I, listen up, just to make you
suffer, I rather want to become a highway-robber and murderer, and go
to hell, than to become like you! I hate you, you’re not my father, and if
you’ve ten times been my mother’s fornicator!”
Rage and grief boiled over in him, foamed at the father in a hundred savage
and evil words. Then the boy ran away and only returned late at night.
But the next morning, he had disappeared. What had also disappeared was
a small basket, woven out of bast of two colours, in which the ferrymen
kept those copper and silver coins which they received as a fare. The boat
had also disappeared, Siddhartha saw it lying by the opposite bank. The
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boy had run away.
“I must follow him,” said Siddhartha, who had been shivering with grief
since those ranting speeches, the boy had made yesterday. “A child can’t
go through the forest all alone. He’ll perish. We must build a raft, Vasudeva,
to get over the water.”
From the reading. . .
“But even if you would die ten times for him, you would not be able
to take the slightest part of his destiny upon yourself.”
“We will build a raft,” said Vasudeva, “to get our boat back, which the
boy has taken away. But him, you shall let run along, my friend, he is no
child any more, he knows how to get around. He’s looking for the path to
the city, and he is right, don’t forget that. He’s doing what you’ve failed
to do yourself. He’s taking care of himself, he’s taking his course. Alas,
Siddhartha, I see you suffering, but you’re suffering a pain at which one
would like to laugh, at which you’ll soon laugh for yourself.”
Siddhartha did not answer. He already held the axe in his hands and began
to make a raft of bamboo, and Vasudeva helped him to tie the canes
together with ropes of grass. Then they crossed over, drifted far off their
course, pulled the raft upriver on the opposite bank.
“Why did you take the axe along?” asked Siddhartha.
Vasudeva said: “It might have been possible that the oar of our boat got
lost.”
But Siddhartha knew what his friend was thinking. He thought, the boy
would have thrown away or broken the oar in order to get even and in
order to keep them from following him. And in fact, there was no oar left
in the boat. Vasudeva pointed to the bottom of the boat and looked at his
friend with a smile, as if he wanted to say: “Don’t you see what your son is
trying to tell you? Don’t you see that he doesn’t want to be followed?” But
he did not say this in words. He started making a new oar. But Siddhartha
bid his farewell, to look for the run-away. Vasudeva did not stop him.
When Siddhartha had already been walking through the forest for a long
time, the thought occurred to him that his search was useless. Either, so
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he thought, the boy was far ahead and had already reached the city, or, if
he should still be on his way, he would conceal himself from him, the pursuer.
As he continued thinking, he also found that he, on his part, was not
worried for his son, that he knew deep inside that he had neither perished
nor was in any danger in the forest. Nevertheless, he ran without stopping,
no longer to save him, just to satisfy his desire, just to perhaps see him one
more time. And he ran up to just outside of the city.
When, near the city, he reached a wide road, he stopped, by the entrance
of the beautiful pleasure-garden, which used to belong to Kamala, where
he had seen her for the first time in her sedan-chair. The past rose up in
his soul, again he saw himself standing there, young, a bearded, naked
Samana, the hair full of dust. For a long time, Siddhartha stood there and
looked through the open gate into the garden, seeing monks in yellow
robes walking among the beautiful trees.
For a long time, he stood there, pondering, seeing images, listening to the
story of his life. For a long time, he stood there, looked at the monks, saw
young Siddhartha in their place, saw young Kamala walking among the
high trees. Clearly, he saw himself being served food and drink by Kamala,
receiving his first kiss from her, looking proudly and disdainfully
back on his Brahmanism, beginning proudly and full of desire his worldly
life. He saw, the servants, the orgies, the gamblers with the dice, the musicians,
saw Kamala’s song-bird in the cage, lived through all this once
again, breathed Sansara, was once again old and tired, felt once again disgust,
felt once again the wish to annihilate himself, was once again healed
by the holy Om.
After standing by the gate of the garden for a long time, Siddhartha realised
that his desire was foolish, which had made him go up to this place,
that he could not help his son, that he was not allowed to cling him. Deeply,
he felt the love for the run-away in his heart, like a wound, and he felt at
the same time that this wound had not been given to him in order to turn
the knife in it, that it had to become a blossom and had to shine.
That this wound did not blossom yet, did not shine yet, at this hour, made
him sad. Instead of the desired goal, which had drawn him here following
the runaway son, there was now emptiness. Sadly, he sat down, felt something
dying in his heart, experienced emptiness, saw no joy any more, no
goal. He sat lost in thought and waited. This he had learned by the river,
this one thing: waiting, having patience, listening attentively. And he sat
and listened, in the dust of the road, listened to his heart, beating tiredly
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and sadly, waited for a voice. Many an hour he crouched, listening, saw
no images any more, fell into emptiness, let himself fall, without seeing
a path. And when he felt the wound burning, he silently spoke the Om,
filled himself with Om. The monks in the garden saw him, and since he
crouched for many hours, and dust was gathering on his gray hair, one of
them came to him and placed two bananas in front of him. The old man
did not see him.
From the reading. . .
“One day, the river shall also talk to him, he also is called upon.”
From this petrified state, he was awoken by a hand touching his shoulder.
Instantly, he recognised this touch, this tender, bashful touch, and regained
his senses. He rose and greeted Vasudeva, who had followed him. And
when he looked into Vasudeva’s friendly face, into the small wrinkles,
which were as if they were filled with nothing but his smile, into the happy
eyes, then he smiled too. Now he saw the bananas lying in front of him,
picked them up, gave one to the ferryman, ate the other one himself. After
this, he silently went back into the forest with Vasudeva, returned home to
the ferry. Neither one talked about what had happened today, neither one
mentioned the boy’s name, neither one spoke about him running away,
neither one spoke about the wound. In the hut, Siddhartha lay down on his
bed, and when after a while Vasudeva came to him, to offer him a bowl of
coconut-milk, he already found him asleep.
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Palace Jaali, Govind Mandir Palace, ©Shishir Thadani
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Topics Worth Investigating
1. Evaluate the idea that by seeking to change another person’s mistakes,
we limit that person’s resourcefulness in dealing with future problems.
By seeking to help others, we most often make things worse.
2. Is human love Sansara?
3. Would you agree that Siddhartha’s most difficult task is to realize his
son must find his own path? Analyze Siddhartha’s dilemma of childrearing.
Would Barbara Coloroso’s advice been of any help to Siddhartha
in altering the son’s karma?
Strong-willed children are never easily led by anybody—not by you,
but also not by their peers. So celebrate your child’s strength of will
throughout the early years . . . and know that the independent thinking
you are fostering will serve him well in the critical years to come.1
1. Barbara Coloroso. Kids Are Worth It. William Morrow, New York: 1994.
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Om
Meditative Buddha, Library of Congress
From the reading. . .
“They lacked nothing . . . except for one little thing, a single, tiny, small
thing: the consciousness, the conscious thought of the oneness of all
life.”
Ideas of Interest from “Om”
1. What was the one thing that Siddhartha, the thinker, had, that the
childlike people lacked? Characterize in some detail what this real-
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ization is.
2. In what way are the childlike people superior to Siddhartha? Does this
difference make a difference on the path toward enlightenment?
3. According to Siddhartha’s realization, what is the nature of wisdom?
4. Siddhartha promised his father that he would return home, yet he has
not done so. Siddhartha also said that he would not disobey his father.
Does Siddhartha break his word to his father?
5. How does Siddhartha’s listening to the river and his seeing of the
river as an object outside of time (i.e., the cycle of the river) yield
enlightenment?
6. When Siddhartha recognized Vasudeva’s enlightenment, he knew he
must take leave of him. When Siddhartha becomes enlightened, Vasudeva
knows he must leave Siddhartha. What is the necessity of taking
leave of one another?
The Reading Selection from “Om”
For a long time, the wound continued to burn. Many a traveller Siddhartha
had to ferry across the river who was accompanied by a son or a daughter,
and he saw none of them without envying him, without thinking: “So
many, so many thousands possess this sweetest of good fortunes—why
don’t I? Even bad people, even thieves and robbers have children and love
them, and are being loved by them, all except for me.” Thus simply, thus
without reason he now thought, thus similar to the childlike people he had
become.
Differently than before, he now looked upon people, less smart, less
proud, but instead warmer, more curious, more involved. When he
ferried travellers of the ordinary kind, childlike people, businessmen,
warriors, women, these people did not seem alien to him as they used to:
he understood them, he understood and shared their life, which was
not guided by thoughts and insight, but solely by urges and wishes, he
felt like them. Though he was near perfection and was bearing his final
wound, it still seemed to him as if those childlike people were his
brothers, their vanities, desires for possession, and ridiculous aspects
were no longer ridiculous to him, became understandable, became
lovable, even became worthy of veneration to him. The blind love of a
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mother for her child, the stupid, blind pride of a conceited father for his
only son, the blind, wild desire of a young, vain woman for jewelry and
admiring glances from men, all of these urges, all of this childish stuff, all
of these simple, foolish, but immensely strong, strongly living, strongly
prevailing urges and desires were now no childish notions for Siddhartha
any more, he saw people living for their sake, saw them achieving
infinitely much for their sake, travelling, conducting wars, suffering
infinitely much, bearing infinitely much, and he could love them for it, he
saw life, that what is alive, the indestructible, the Brahman in each of
their passions, each of their acts. Worthy of love and admiration were
these people in their blind loyalty, their blind strength and tenacity. They
lacked nothing, there was nothing the knowledgeable one, the thinker,
had to put him above them except for one little thing, a single, tiny, small
thing: the consciousness, the conscious thought of the oneness of all life.
And Siddhartha even doubted in many an hour, whether this knowledge,
this thought was to be valued thus highly, whether it might not also
perhaps be a childish idea of the thinking people, of the thinking and
childlike people. In all other respects, the worldly people were of equal
rank to the wise men, were often far superior to them, just as animals too
can, after all, in some moments, seem to be superior to humans in their
tough, unrelenting performance of what is necessary.
Slowly blossomed, slowly ripened in Siddhartha the realisation, the
knowledge, what wisdom actually was, what the goal of his long search
was. It was nothing but a readiness of the soul, an ability, a secret art, to
think every moment, while living his life, the thought of oneness, to
be able to feel and inhale the oneness. Slowly this blossomed in him,
was shining back at him from Vasudeva’s old, childlike face: harmony,
knowledge of the eternal perfection of the world, smiling, oneness.
But the wound still burned, longingly and bitterly Siddhartha thought of
his son, nurtured his love and tenderness in his heart, allowed the pain to
gnaw at him, committed all foolish acts of love. Not by itself, this flame
would go out.
And one day, when the wound burned violently, Siddhartha ferried across
the river, driven by a yearning, got off the boat and was willing to go to the
city and to look for his son. The river flowed softly and quietly, it was the
dry season, but its voice sounded strange: it laughed! It laughed clearly.
The river laughed, it laughed brightly and clearly at the old ferryman. Siddhartha
stopped, he bent over the water, in order to hear even better, and
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he saw his face reflected in the quietly moving waters, and in this reflected
face there was something, which reminded him, something he had forgotten,
and as he thought about it, he found it: this face resembled another
face, which he used to know and love and also fear. It resembled his father’s
face, the Brahman. And he remembered how he, a long time ago, as
a young man, had forced his father to let him go to the penitents, how he
had bed his farewell to him, how he had gone and had never come back.
Had his father not also suffered the same pain for him, which he now suffered
for his son? Had his father not long since died, alone, without having
seen his son again? Did he not have to expect the same fate for himself?
Was it not a comedy, a strange and stupid matter, this repetition, this running
around in a fateful circle?
From the reading. . .
“Yes, so it was, everything came back, which had not been suffered
and solved up to its end, the same pain was suffered over and over
again.”
The river laughed. Yes, so it was, everything came back, which had not
been suffered and solved up to its end, the same pain was suffered over
and over again. But Siddhartha went back into the boat and ferried back
to the hut, thinking of his father, thinking of his son, laughed at by the
river, at odds with himself, tending towards despair, and not less tending
towards laughing along at1 himself and the entire world.
Alas, the wound was not blossoming yet, his heart was still fighting his
fate, cheerfulness and victory were not yet shining from his suffering.
Nevertheless, he felt hope, and once he had returned to the hut, he felt
an undefeatable desire to open up to Vasudeva, to show him everything,
the master of listening, to say everything.
Vasudeva was sitting in the hut and weaving a basket. He no longer used
the ferry-boat, his eyes were starting to get weak, and not just his eyes; his
1. I think, it should read “über” instead of “aber.” Michael Pullen
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arms and hands as well. Unchanged and flourishing was only the joy and
the cheerful benevolence of his face.
Siddhartha sat down next to the old man, slowly he started talking. What
they had never talked about, he now told him of, of his walk to the city,
at that time, of the burning wound, of his envy at the sight of happy fathers,
of his knowledge of the foolishness of such wishes, of his futile
fight against them. He reported everything, he was able to say everything,
even the most embarrassing parts, everything could be said, everything
shown, everything he could tell. He presented his wound, also told how he
fled today, how he ferried across the water, a childish run-away, willing to
walk to the city, how the river had laughed.
While he spoke, spoke for a long time, while Vasudeva was listening with a
quiet face, Vasudeva’s listening gave Siddhartha a stronger sensation than
ever before, he sensed how his pain, his fears flowed over to him, how his
secret hope flowed over, came back at him from his counterpart. To show
his wound to this listener was the same as bathing it in the river, until it
had cooled and become one with the river. While he was still speaking,
still admitting and confessing, Siddhartha felt more and more that this was
no longer Vasudeva, no longer a human being, who was listening to him,
that this motionless listener was absorbing his confession into himself like
a tree the rain, that this motionless man was the river itself, that he was
God himself, that he was the eternal itself. And while Siddhartha stopped
thinking of himself and his wound, this realisation of Vasudeva’s changed
character took possession of him, and the more he felt it and entered into
it, the less wondrous it became, the more he realised that everything was
in order and natural, that Vasudeva had already been like this for a long
time, almost forever, that only he had not quite recognised it, yes, that he
himself had almost reached the same state. He felt, that he was now seeing
old Vasudeva as the people see the gods, and that this could not last; in
his heart, he started bidding his farewell to Vasudeva. Through all this, he
talked incessantly.
When he had finished talking, Vasudeva turned his friendly eyes, which
had grown slightly weak, at him, said nothing, let his silent love and cheerfulness,
understanding and knowledge, shine at him. He took Siddhartha’s
hand, led him to the seat by the bank, sat down with him, smiled at the
river.
“You’ve heard it laugh,” he said. “But you haven’t heard everything. Let’s
listen, you’ll hear more.”
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They listened. Softly sounded the river, singing in many voices. Siddhartha
looked into the water, and images appeared to him in the moving water:
his father appeared, lonely, mourning for his son; he himself appeared,
lonely, he also being tied with the bondage of yearning to his distant son;
his son appeared, lonely as well, the boy, greedily rushing along the burning
course of his young wishes, each one heading for his goal, each one
obsessed by the goal, each one suffering. The river sang with a voice of
suffering, longingly it sang, longingly, it flowed towards its goal, lamentingly
its voice sang.
From the reading. . .
“Siddhartha felt more and more that this was no longer Vasudeva, no
longer a human being, who was listening to him, that this motionless
listener was absorbing his confession into himself like a tree the rain,
that this motionless man was the river itself, that he was God himself,
that he was the eternal itself.”
“Do you hear?” Vasudeva’s mute gaze asked. Siddhartha nodded.
“Listen better!” Vasudeva whispered.
Siddhartha made an effort to listen better. The image of his father, his
own image, the image of his son merged, Kamala’s image also appeared
and was dispersed, and the image of Govinda, and other images, and
they merged with each other, turned all into the river, headed all, being
the river, for the goal, longing, desiring, suffering, and the river’s voice
sounded full of yearning, full of burning woe, full of unsatisfiable desire.
For the goal, the river was heading, Siddhartha saw it hurrying, the
river, which consisted of him and his loved ones and of all people, he had
ever seen, all of these waves and waters were hurrying, suffering, towards
goals, many goals, the waterfall, the lake, the rapids, the sea, and all goals
were reached, and every goal was followed by a new one, and the water
turned into vapour and rose to the sky, turned into rain and poured down
from the sky, turned into a source, a stream, a river, headed forward once
again, flowed on once again. But the longing voice had changed. It still
resounded, full of suffering, searching, but other voices joined it, voices
of joy and of suffering, good and bad voices, laughing and sad ones, a
hundred voices, a thousand voices.
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Siddhartha listened. He was now nothing but a listener, completely concentrated
on listening, completely empty, he felt, that he had now finished
learning to listen. Often before, he had heard all this, these many voices in
the river, today it sounded new. Already, he could no longer tell the many
voices apart, not the happy ones from the weeping ones, not the ones of
children from those of men, they all belonged together, the lamentation of
yearning and the laughter of the knowledgeable one, the scream of rage
and the moaning of the dying ones, everything was one, everything was
intertwined and connected, entangled a thousand times. And everything
together, all voices, all goals, all yearning, all suffering, all pleasure, all
that was good and evil, all of this together was the world. All of it together
was the flow of events, was the music of life. And when Siddhartha
was listening attentively to this river, this song of a thousand voices, when
he neither listened to the suffering nor the laughter, when he did not tie
his soul to any particular voice and submerged his self into it, but when he
heard them all, perceived the whole, the oneness, then the great song of the
thousand voices consisted of a single word, which was Om: the perfection.
“Do you hear,” Vasudeva’s gaze asked again.
Brightly, Vasudeva’s smile was shining, floating radiantly over all the
wrinkles of his old face, as the Om was floating in the air over all the
voices of the river. Brightly his smile was shining, when he looked at
his friend, and brightly the same smile was now starting to shine on
Siddhartha’s face as well. His wound blossomed, his suffering was
shining, his self had flown into the oneness.
In this hour, Siddhartha stopped fighting his fate, stopped suffering. On
his face flourished the cheerfulness of a knowledge, which is no longer
opposed by any will, which knows perfection, which is in agreement with
the flow of events, with the current of life, full of sympathy for the pain
of others, full of sympathy for the pleasure of others, devoted to the flow,
belonging to the oneness.
When Vasudeva rose from the seat by the bank, when he looked into Siddhartha’s
eyes and saw the cheerfulness of the knowledge shining in them,
he softly touched his shoulder with his hand, in this careful and tender
manner, and said: “I’ve been waiting for this hour, my dear. Now that it
has come, let me leave. For a long time, I’ve been waiting for this hour; for
a long time, I’ve been Vasudeva the ferryman. Now it’s enough. Farewell,
hut, farewell, river, farewell, Siddhartha!”
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Siddhartha made a deep bow before him who bid his farewell.
“I’ve known it,” he said quietly. “You’ll go into the forests?”
“I’m going into the forests, I’m going into the oneness,” spoke Vasudeva
with a bright smile.
With a bright smile, he left; Siddhartha watched him leaving. With deep
joy, with deep solemnity he watched him leave, saw his steps full of peace,
saw his head full of lustre, saw his body full of light.
The Banks of the Ganges near Patna, ©Shishir Thadani
Topics Worth Investigating
1. Just as the river can be seen as a four-dimensional object, so likewise
your life can be seen as a four-dimensional object. Is this how the
holy man, with his insight into the karma of an individual, is able to
presage events?
In this regard, Royce suggests the idea that the self is its history:
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A self is, by its very essence, a being with a past. One must look lengthwise
backwards in the stream of time in order to see the self, or its
shadow, now moving with the stream, now eddying in the currents from
bank to bank of its channel, and now strenuously straining onwards in
the pursuit of its chosen good.2
Would consciousness of the unity of life imply that the self in this
sense is an illusion?
2. Does consciousness of the unity of all life imply that time is an illusion?
Is the recognition of cycles and the circle of time a preliminary
insight to Atman? Dogen Kigen, a thirteenth century Japanese Buddhist,
is known for his deeply profound Shobogenzo. He elucidates
the notion of reality of time and being in the section “Being-Time”:
Man disposes himself and looks upon this disposition [as the world].
That man is time is undeniably like this. One has to accept that in this
world there are millions of objects and that each one is, respectively, the
entire world—this is where the study of Buddhism commences. When
one comes to realize this fact, [one percieves that] every object, every
living thing is the whole, even though it itself does not realize it. As there
is no other time than this, every being-time is the whole of time: one
blade of grass, every single object is time. Each point of time includes
every being and every world.3
3. Is enlightenment just a form of dissociation or some variety of sophisticated
stoicism adopted by an individual in order to cope with life’s
vicissitudes? Interpret the phrases from the text, “. . . when he did not
tie his soul to any particular voice and submerged his self into it . . .
his self had flown into the oneness.” Is, then, Atman, Brahman?
4. Discuss whether when Siddhartha hears the many voices of the river
as Om, he is also affirming Schopenhauer’s recognition that “All the
cruelty and torment of which the world is full is in fact merely the
2. Josiah Royce. “Lecture IX” in The Problem of Christianity. New York: Macmillan,
1914.
3. Quoted in Philip Kapleau. The Three Pillars of Zen. New York: Harper & Row,
1966. 298.
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necessary result of the totality of the forms under which the will to
live is objectified.”4?
4. Authur Schopenhauer. Parerga and Paralipomena. Oxford: Oxford University
Press (1851) 1997. Vol. 2, Ch. 14, Sect. 164
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Govinda
India’s Sacred Lotus, Library of Congress
From the reading. . .
“Perhaps that you’re searching far too much? That in all that searching,
you don’t find the time for finding?”
Ideas of Interest from “Govinda”
1. Explain Siddhartha’s observation that when seeking becomes a goalin-
itself for Govinda, enlightenment is not possible. Is it that Govinda
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Chapter 12. Govinda
is not separate from his goal or is it that Govinda should not have a
goal?
2. What does Siddhartha mean when he states that wisdom cannot be
communicated?
3. Evaluate Siddhartha’s claim that “The opposite of every truth is just
as true!”
4. What are some of the insights Siddhartha has learned throughout his
life?
5. What are some of the implications of the fact that time is not real?
6. How does Govinda know that Siddhartha has reached enlightenment?
The Reading Selection from “Govinda”
Together with other monks, Govinda used to spend the time of rest between
pilgrimages in the pleasure-grove, which the courtesan Kamala had
given to the followers of Gotama for a gift. He heard talk of an old ferryman,
who lived one day’s journey away by the river, and who was regarded
as a wise man by many. When Govinda went back on his way, he chose
the path to the ferry, eager to see the ferryman. Because, though he had
lived his entire life by the rules, though he was also looked upon with veneration
by the younger monks on account of his age and his modesty, the
restlessness and the searching still had not perished from his heart.
He came to the river and asked the old man to ferry him over, and when
they got off the boat on the other side, he said to the old man: “You’re
very good to us monks and pilgrims, you have already ferried many of us
across the river. Aren’t you too, ferryman, a searcher for the right path?”
Quoth Siddhartha, smiling from his old eyes: “Do you call yourself a
searcher, oh venerable one, though you are already of an old in years and
are wearing the robe of Gotama’s monks?”
“It’s true, I’m old,” spoke Govinda, “but I haven’t stopped searching.
Never I’ll stop searching, this seems to be my destiny. You too, so it seems
to me, have been searching. Would you like to tell me something, oh honourable
one?”
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Quoth Siddhartha: “What should I possibly have to tell you, oh venerable
one? Perhaps that you’re searching far too much? That in all that searching,
you don’t find the time for finding?”
“How come?” asked Govinda.
“When someone is searching,” said Siddhartha, “then it might easily happen
that the only thing his eyes still see is that what he searches for, that
he is unable to find anything, to let anything enter his mind, because he always
thinks of nothing but the object of his search, because he has a goal,
because he is obsessed by the goal. Searching means: having a goal. But
finding means: being free, being open, having no goal. You, oh venerable
one, are perhaps indeed a searcher, because, striving for your goal, there
are many things you don’t see, which are directly in front of your eyes.”
“I don’t quite understand yet,” asked Govinda, “what do you mean by
this?”
Quoth Siddhartha: “A long time ago, oh venerable one, many years ago,
you’ve once before been at this river and have found a sleeping man by
the river, and have sat down with him to guard his sleep. But, oh Govinda,
you did not recognise the sleeping man.”
Astonished, as if he had been the object of a magic spell, the monk looked
into the ferryman’s eyes.
“Are you Siddhartha?” he asked with a timid voice. “I wouldn’t have
recognised you this time as well! From my heart, I’m greeting you, Siddhartha;
from my heart, I’m happy to see you once again! You’ve changed
a lot, my friend.—And so you’ve now become a ferryman?”
In a friendly manner, Siddhartha laughed. “A ferryman, yes. Many people,
Govinda, have to change a lot, have to wear many a robe, I am one of those,
my dear. Be welcome, Govinda, and spend the night in my hut.”
Govinda stayed the night in the hut and slept on the bed which used to be
Vasudeva’s bed. Many questions he posed to the friend of his youth, many
things Siddhartha had to tell him from his life.
When in the next morning the time had come to start the day’s journey,
Govinda said, not without hesitation, these words: “Before I’ll continue
on my path, Siddhartha, permit me to ask one more question. Do you have
a teaching? Do you have a faith, or a knowledge, you follow, which helps
you to live and to do right?”
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Quoth Siddhartha: “You know, my dear, that I already as a young man, in
those days when we lived with the penitents in the forest, started to distrust
teachers and teachings and to turn my back to them. I have stuck with this.
Nevertheless, I have had many teachers since then. A beautiful courtesan
has been my teacher for a long time, and a rich merchant was my teacher,
and some gamblers with dice. Once, even a follower of Buddha, travelling
on foot, has been my teacher; he sat with me when I had fallen asleep in
the forest, on the pilgrimage. I’ve also learned from him, I’m also grateful
to him, very grateful. But most of all, I have learned here from this river
and from my predecessor, the ferryman Vasudeva. He was a very simple
person, Vasudeva, he was no thinker, but he knew what is necessary just
as well as Gotama, he was a perfect man, a saint.”
Govinda said: “Still, oh Siddhartha, you love a bit to mock people, as it
seems to me. I believe in you and know that you haven’t followed a
teacher. But haven’t you found something by yourself, though you’ve
found no teachings, you still found certain thoughts, certain insights,
which are your own and which help you to live? If you would like to tell
me some of these, you would delight my heart.”
Quoth Siddhartha: “I’ve had thoughts, yes, and insight, again and again.
Sometimes, for an hour or for an entire day, I have felt knowledge in me,
as one would feel life in one’s heart. There have been many thoughts, but
it would be hard for me to convey them to you. Look, my dear Govinda,
this is one of my thoughts, which I have found: wisdom cannot be passed
on. Wisdom which a wise man tries to pass on to someone always sounds
like foolishness.”
“Are you kidding?” asked Govinda.
“I’m not kidding. I’m telling you what I’ve found. Knowledge can be conveyed,
but not wisdom. It can be found, it can be lived, it is possible to be
carried by it, miracles can be performed with it, but it cannot be expressed
in words and taught. This was what I, even as a young man, sometimes
suspected, what has driven me away from the teachers. I have found a
thought, Govinda, which you’ll again regard as a joke or foolishness, but
which is my best thought. It says: The opposite of every truth is just as
true! That’s like this: any truth can only be expressed and put into words
when it is one-sided. Everything is one-sided which can be thought with
thoughts and said with words, it’s all one-sided, all just one half, all lacks
completeness, roundness, oneness. When the exalted Gotama spoke in his
teachings of the world, he had to divide it into Sansara and Nirvana, into
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Chapter 12. Govinda
deception and truth, into suffering and salvation. It cannot be done differently,
there is no other way for him who wants to teach. But the world
itself, what exists around us and inside of us, is never one-sided. A person
or an act is never entirely Sansara or entirely Nirvana, a person is never
entirely holy or entirely sinful. It does really seem like this, because we
are subject to deception, as if time was something real. Time is not real,
Govinda, I have experienced this often and often again. And if time is not
real, then the gap which seems to be between the world and the eternity,
between suffering and blissfulness, between evil and good, is also a deception.”
From the reading. . .
“. . . this stone is a stone, it is also animal, it is also god, it is also Buddha.”
“How come?” asked Govinda timidly.
“Listen well, my dear, listen well! The sinner, which I am and which you
are, is a sinner, but in times to come he will be Brahma again, he will reach
the Nirvana, will be Buddha—and now see: these ‘times to come’ are a
deception, are only a parable! The sinner is not on his way to become a
Buddha, he is not in the process of developing, though our capacity for
thinking does not know how else to picture these things. No, within the
sinner is now and today already the future Buddha, his future is already
all there, you have to worship in him, in you, in everyone the Buddha
which is coming into being, the possible, the hidden Buddha. The world,
my friend Govinda, is not imperfect, or on a slow path towards perfection:
no, it is perfect in every moment, all sin already carries the divine forgiveness
in itself, all small children already have the old person in themselves,
all infants already have death, all dying people the eternal life. It is not
possible for any person to see how far another one has already progressed
on his path; in the robber and dice-gambler, the Buddha is waiting; in the
Brahman, the robber is waiting. In deep meditation, there is the possibility
to put time out of existence, to see all life which was, is, and will be as
if it was simultaneous, and there everything is good, everything is perfect,
everything is Brahman. Therefore, I see whatever exists as good, death is
to me like life, sin like holiness, wisdom like foolishness, everything has
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to be as it is, everything only requires my consent, only my willingness,
my loving agreement, to be good for me, to do nothing but work for my
benefit, to be unable to ever harm me. I have experienced on my body and
on my soul that I needed sin very much, I needed lust, the desire for possessions,
vanity, and needed the most shameful despair, in order to learn
how to give up all resistance, in order to learn how to love the world, in
order to stop comparing it to some world I wished, I imagined, some kind
of perfection I had made up, but to leave it as it is and to love it and to
enjoy being a part of it.—These, oh Govinda, are some of the thoughts
which have come into my mind.”
Siddhartha bent down, picked up a stone from the ground, and weighed it
in his hand.
Spring in Bhimtal, ©Shishir Thadani
“This here,” he said playing with it, “is a stone, and will, after a certain
time, perhaps turn into soil, and will turn from soil into a plant or animal or
human being. In the past, I would have said: This stone is just a stone, it is
worthless, it belongs to the world of the Maja; but because it might be able
to become also a human being and a spirit in the cycle of transformations,
therefore I also grant it importance. Thus, I would perhaps have thought
in the past. But today I think: this stone is a stone, it is also animal, it
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Chapter 12. Govinda
is also god, it is also Buddha, I do not venerate and love it because it
could turn into this or that, but rather because it is already and always
everything—and it is this very fact, that it is a stone, that it appears to me
now and today as a stone, this is why I love it and see worth and purpose
in each of its veins and cavities, in the yellow, in the gray, in the hardness,
in the sound it makes when I knock at it, in the dryness or wetness of
its surface. There are stones which feel like oil or soap, and others like
leaves, others like sand, and every one is special and prays the Om in its
own way, each one is Brahman, but simultaneously and just as much it is
a stone, is oily or juicy, and this is this very fact which I like and regard as
wonderful and worthy of worship.—But let me speak no more of this. The
words are not good for the secret meaning, everything always becomes
a bit different, as soon as it is put into words, gets distorted a bit, a bit
silly—yes, and this is also very good, and I like it a lot, I also very much
agree with this, that this what is one man’s treasure and wisdom always
sounds like foolishness to another person.”
Govinda listened silently.
“Why have you told me this about the stone?” he asked hesitantly after a
pause.
“I did it without any specific intention. Or perhaps what I meant was, that
I love this very stone, and the river, and all these things we are looking
at and from which we can learn. I can love a stone, Govinda, and also a
tree or a piece of bark. These are things, and things can be loved. But I
cannot love words. Therefore, teachings are no good for me, they have
no hardness, no softness, no colours, no edges, no smell, no taste, they
have nothing but words. Perhaps it is this which keeps you from finding
peace, perhaps it is the many words. Because salvation and virtue as well,
Sansara and Nirvana as well, are mere words, Govinda. There is no thing
which would be Nirvana; there is just the word Nirvana.”
Quoth Govinda: “Not just a word, my friend, is Nirvana. It is a thought.”
Siddhartha continued: “A thought, it might be so. I must confess to you,
my dear: I don’t differentiate much between thoughts and words. To be
honest, I also have no high opinion of thoughts. I have a better opinion
of things. Here on this ferry-boat, for instance, a man has been my predecessor
and teacher, a holy man, who has for many years simply believed
in the river, nothing else. He had noticed that the river’s spoke to him, he
learned from it, it educated and taught him, the river seemed to be a god
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to him, for many years he did not know that every wind, every cloud, every
bird, every beetle was just as divine and knows just as much and can
teach just as much as the worshipped river. But when this holy man went
into the forests, he knew everything, knew more than you and me, without
teachers, without books, only because he had believed in the river.”
From the reading. . .
“The world, my friend Govinda, is not imperfect, or on a slow path
towards perfection: no, it is perfect in every moment”
Govinda said: “But is that what you call ‘things,’ actually something real,
something which has existence? Isn’t it just a deception of the Maja, just
an image and illusion? Your stone, your tree, your river—are they actually
a reality?”
“This too,” spoke Siddhartha, “I do not care very much about. Let the
things be illusions or not, after all I would then also be an illusion, and
thus they are always like me. This is what makes them so dear and worthy
of veneration for me: they are like me. Therefore, I can love them. And
this is now a teaching you will laugh about: love, oh Govinda, seems to
me to be the most important thing of all. To thoroughly understand the
world, to explain it, to despise it, may be the thing great thinkers do. But
I’m only interested in being able to love the world, not to despise it, not to
hate it and me, to be able to look upon it and me and all beings with love
and admiration and great respect.”
“This I understand,” spoke Govinda. “But this very thing was discovered
by the exalted one to be a deception. He commands benevolence,
clemency, sympathy, tolerance, but not love; he forbade us to tie our heart
in love to earthly things.”
“I know it,” said Siddhartha; his smile shone golden. “I know it, Govinda.
And behold, with this we are right in the middle of the thicket of opinions,
in the dispute about words. For I cannot deny, my words of love are in
a contradiction, a seeming contradiction with Gotama’s words. For this
very reason, I distrust in words so much, for I know, this contradiction is
a deception. I know that I am in agreement with Gotama. How should he
not know love, he, who has discovered all elements of human existence
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in their transitoriness, in their meaninglessness, and yet loved people thus
much, to use a long, laborious life only to help them, to teach them! Even
with him, even with your great teacher, I prefer the thing over the words,
place more importance on his acts and life than on his speeches, more on
the gestures of his hand than his opinions. Not in his speech, not in his
thoughts, I see his greatness, only in his actions, in his life.”
For a long time, the two old men said nothing. Then spoke Govinda, while
bowing for a farewell: “I thank you, Siddhartha, for telling me some of
your thoughts. They are partially strange thoughts, not all have been instantly
understandable to me. This being as it may, I thank you, and I wish
you to have calm days.”
(But secretly he thought to himself: This Siddhartha is a bizarre person,
he expresses bizarre thoughts, his teachings sound foolish. So differently
sound the exalted one’s pure teachings, clearer, purer, more comprehensible,
nothing strange, foolish, or silly is contained in them. But different
from his thoughts seemed to me Siddhartha’s hands and feet, his eyes, his
forehead, his breath, his smile, his greeting, his walk. Never again, after
our exalted Gotama has become one with the Nirvana, never since then
have I met a person of whom I felt: this is a holy man! Only him, this
Siddhartha, I have found to be like this. May his teachings be strange, may
his words sound foolish; out of his gaze and his hand, his skin and his hair,
out of every part of him shines a purity, shines a calmness, shines a cheerfulness
and mildness and holiness, which I have seen in no other person
since the final death of our exalted teacher.)
As Govinda thought like this, and there was a conflict in his heart, he once
again bowed to Siddhartha, drawn by love. Deeply he bowed to him who
was calmly sitting.
“Siddhartha,” he spoke, “we have become old men. It is unlikely for one
of us to see the other again in this incarnation. I see, beloved, that you have
found peace. I confess that I haven’t found it. Tell me, oh honourable one,
one more word, give me something on my way which I can grasp, which I
can understand! Give me something to be with me on my path. It is often
hard, my path, often dark, Siddhartha.”
Siddhartha said nothing and looked at him with the ever unchanged, quiet
smile. Govinda stared at his face, with fear, with yearning, suffering, and
the eternal search was visible in his look, eternal not-finding.
Siddhartha saw it and smiled.
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“Bend down to me!” he whispered quietly in Govinda’s ear. “Bend down
to me! Like this, even closer! Very close! Kiss my forehead, Govinda!”
But while Govinda with astonishment, and yet drawn by great love and
expectation, obeyed his words, bent down closely to him and touched his
forehead with his lips, something miraculous happened to him. While his
thoughts were still dwelling on Siddhartha’s wondrous words, while he
was still struggling in vain and with reluctance to think away time, to
imagine Nirvana and Sansara as one, while even a certain contempt for
the words of his friend was fighting in him against an immense love and
veneration, this happened to him:
He no longer saw the face of his friend Siddhartha, instead he saw other
faces, many, a long sequence, a flowing river of faces, of hundreds, of thousands,
which all came and disappeared, and yet all seemed to be there simultaneously,
which all constantly changed and renewed themselves, and
which were still all Siddhartha. He saw the face of a fish, a carp, with
an infinitely painfully opened mouth, the face of a dying fish, with fading
eyes—he saw the face of a new-born child, red and full of wrinkles,
distorted from crying—he saw the face of a murderer, he saw him plunging
a knife into the body of another person—he saw, in the same second,
this criminal in bondage, kneeling and his head being chopped off by the
executioner with one blow of his sword—he saw the bodies of men and
women, naked in positions and cramps of frenzied love—he saw corpses
stretched out, motionless, cold, void—he saw the heads of animals, of
boars, of crocodiles, of elephants, of bulls, of birds—he saw gods, saw
Krishna, saw Agni—he saw all of these figures and faces in a thousand relationships
with one another, each one helping the other, loving it, hating
it, destroying it, giving re-birth to it, each one was a will to die, a passionately
painful confession of transitoriness, and yet none of them died, each
one only transformed, was always re-born, received evermore a new face,
without any time having passed between the one and the other face—and
all of these figures and faces rested, flowed, generated themselves, floated
along and merged with each other, and they were all constantly covered
by something thin, without individuality of its own, but yet existing, like
a thin glass or ice, like a transparent skin, a shell or mold or mask of water,
and this mask was smiling, and this mask was Siddhartha’s smiling
face, which he, Govinda, in this very same moment touched with his lips.
And, Govinda saw it like this, this smile of the mask, this smile of oneness
above the flowing forms, this smile of simultaneousness above the thou-
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Chapter 12. Govinda
sand births and deaths, this smile of Siddhartha was precisely the same,
was precisely of the same kind as the quiet, delicate, impenetrable, perhaps
benevolent, perhaps mocking, wise, thousand-fold smile of Gotama,
the Buddha, as he had seen it himself with great respect a hundred times.
Like this, Govinda knew, the perfected ones are smiling.
Not knowing any more whether time existed, whether the vision had lasted
a second or a hundred years, not knowing any more whether there existed a
Siddhartha, a Gotama, a me and a you, feeling in his innermost self as if he
had been wounded by a divine arrow, the injury of which tasted sweet, being
enchanted and dissolved in his innermost self, Govinda still stood for
a little while bent over Siddhartha’s quiet face, which he had just kissed,
which had just been the scene of all manifestations, all transformations, all
existence. The face was unchanged, after under its surface the depth of the
thousandfoldness had closed up again, he smiled silently, smiled quietly
and softly, perhaps very benevolently, perhaps very mockingly, precisely
as he used to smile, the exalted one.
Deeply, Govinda bowed; tears he knew nothing of, ran down his old face;
like a fire burnt the feeling of the most intimate love, the humblest veneration
in his heart. Deeply, he bowed, touching the ground, before him who
was sitting motionlessly, whose smile reminded him of everything he had
ever loved in his life, what had ever been valuable and holy to him in his
life.
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At Monsoon Palace, Deegh, Rajasthan, ©Shishir Thadani
Topics Worth Investigating
1. What does it mean to imagine Nirvana and Sansara as one?
2. In what ways does Siddhartha’s conclusion “. . . love, oh Govinda,
seems to me to be the most important thing of all” differ from traditional
Buddhist thought?
In one of the best-loved Buddhist texts, the Dhammapada, the teachings
of Buddha were recorded after his death by his disciples. The
chapter on pleasure contains the following verses:
210. Let no man ever look for what is pleasant, or what is unpleasant.
Not to see what is pleasant is pain, and it is pain to see what is unpleasant.
211. Let, therefore, no man love anything; loss of the beloved is evil.
Those who love nothing and hate nothing, have no fetters.
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Chapter 12. Govinda
212. From pleasure comes grief, from pleasure comes fear; he who is
free from pleasure knows neither grief nor fear.
213. From affection comes grief, from affection comes fear; he who is
free from affection knows neither grief nor fear.
214. From lust comes grief, from lust comes fear; he who is free from
lust knows neither grief nor fear.
215. From love comes grief, from love comes fear; he who is free from
love knows neither grief nor fear.
216. From greed comes grief, from greed comes fear; he who is free
from greed knows neither grief nor fear.
217. He who possesses virtue and intelligence, who is just, speaks the
truth, and does what is his own business, him the world will hold dear.
Compare Siddhartha’s view love with these verses. What is the philosophical
difference between the two views?1
3. Arnold Toynbe indicates that the quest for enlightenment or Nirvana
is an egocentric quest:
Love’s way of dealing with us is different from conscience’s way. Conscience
commands; love inspires. What we do out of love, we do because
we want to do it. Love is, indeed, one kind of desire; but it is a
kind that takes us out of ourselves and carries us beyond ourselves, in
contrast to the kind that is self-seeking—a kind that includes the desire
for the “extinguishedness” of Nirvana. Love is freedom; conscience is
constraint; yet, in two points, our relation to love is the same as our relation
to conscience. We are free to reject love’s appeal, as we are free
to reject conscience’s command; yet love, like conscience, cannot be rebuffed
with impunity. Rebuffed, love will continue to importune us; and
this for the reason for which a violated conscience does. Love’s authority,
like conscience’s, is absolute. Like conscience, too, love needs no
authentication or validation by any authority outside itself. Speculations
about love’s credentials, or lack of credentials, cannot either enhance or
diminish love’s absoluteness.2
1. Dhammapada: A Collection of Verses. Translated from the Pali by F. Max Muller.
In Sacred Books of the East. Edited by F. Max Muller. Translated by Various Oriental
Scholars. Volume X, Part I.
2. A. J. Toynbee. Experiences. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969.
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Chapter 12. Govinda
First, which kind of love characterized by Toynbee is it that Siddhartha
says was a necessary condition for his enlightenment? Second,
do you think Toynbee is mistaken that is the desire for Nirvana
is not “the kind of desire that takes us out of ourselves and carries us
beyond ourselves”?
4. Could Siddhartha have reached enlightenment without his varied history?
He states, “. . . I needed sin very much, I needed lust, the desire
for possessions, vanity, and needed the most shameful despair, in order
to learn how to give up all resistance, in order to learn how to love
the world, in order to stop comparing it to some world I wished. . . ”
In this manner, Siddhartha claims he understood the perfection of the
world.
5. In what ways is Henry David Thoreau’s observation that “The unconsciousness
of man is the consciousness of God”3
3. Henry David Thoreau. The Writing of Henry David Thoreau. New York:
Houghton Mifflin, 1906. Vol. 1, p. 371.
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Index
Agni, 135
anatta, 56
appearance, 21
(See Also Maya)
as reality, 36, 43
Arahat, 90
archetypes, 12
Aristotle, 21
Atharva-Veda, 36
Atman, 2, 17, 36, 44, 86
awakening, 37
behaviorism, 40
Berman, Morris, 10
Bhagavad-Gita, 104
Brahma, 97, 130
Brahman
caste, 17, 38, 58
cosmic being, 6, 36, 44, 86, 118,
130
Buddha, 24, 90, 18
(See Also Gotama)
death of, 98
nature, 130
Buddhism, 124
causality, 29
flaw in, 29
goal of, 30
Carter, Angela, 21
Carus, Paul, 90
causality, 35
(See Also Buddhism)
Chandogya-Upanishad, 5
childlike people, 46, 64, 70, 85,
109, 117
envy of, 71
Coloroso, Barbara, 115
Confucius, 103
conscience, 138
cycles
of life, 14, 46, 73, 80, 119
daemons, 54
death, 78, 104
and lust, 74
despair, 90
Dhammapada, 137
discontent, 10
Dogen Kirgen, 124
egoism, 22, 138
Eightfold Path, 27
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 10
enabling, 115
enlightenment, 15, 88, 138
essence of world, 43
(See Also Brahman)
fast, 59, 12
(See Also think, wait, fast)
father
of Siddhartha, 2, 38, 119
ferryman, 80, 45
(See Also Vasudeva)
fetters, 90
the ten, 90
Four Noble Truths, 27
gambling, 72
game-playing, 67, 78
goals, 12, 50
God, 139
Gotama, 45
teachings of, 27
Govinda, 2, 127
joins Gotama, 27
hindrances, 103
holiness, 103
Hume, David, 56
illusion, 21
(See Also Maya)
140

individuation, 10
inner refuge, 66
inner voice, 45, 65, 72
Jung, C. G., 10
Jungian psychology, 10
Kafka, Franz, 68
Kamala, 48, 60, 99, 109
death of, 99
Kamaswami, 53, 58, 72, 112
Kapleau, Philip, 124
karma, 46
knowledge, 17, 88
Krishna, 135
Lakshmi, 48
law, 22
learning
and self-esteem, 22
life
as a game, 60, 72
as illusion, 12
listening, 94, 104
love, 68, 85, 115, 133, 137
obtaining of, 50
magic, 12, 20, 52, 56, 61, 90
Maja, 133
Mara, 36
Maugham, W. Somerset, 103
Maya, 36, 40
meditation, 13, 70
midlife crisis, 74, 90
miracles, 12, 129
money
obtaining of, 51
nature, 22
Nirvana, 16, 129
Om, 2, 81, 122
omen, 48
passion, 67, 78
path
of paths, 16
of salvation, 27
of Samanas, 17
persona, 10
personal identity, 56
(See Also self)
phenomena, 90
pilgrimage, 84
pleasure, 137
poetry, 51
poisoned arrow
parable of, 33
Prajapati, 4
psychologism, 90
Raymond, Eric S., ii
reality, 133
Rig-Veda, 3
river, 45, 80, 92, 103, 107, 119,
123, 133
as obstacle, 95
source of enlightenment, 121
Royce, Josiah, 123
Samanas, 6, 59
practices of, 13
Sansara, 76, 78, 80, 90, 129
satyam, 5
self, 4, 10, 32, 34, 44, 71, 90, 124
incarnation, 82
loss of, 89
overcoming, 12, 35
self-awareness, 40
self-knowledge, 40
self-reliance, 10
sexuality, 78
Sheehy, Gail, 90
Siddhartha
despair of, 80
dream of, 45, 75
Siddhartha: An Open-Source Reader 141

encounter with young woman,
47
enlightenment of , 122
inability to love, 109
resolution, 32, 49
Skinner, B. F., 40
society, 22, 40
son
of Siddhartha, 99, 106
song-bird, 75, 80, 112
Sontag, Susan, 78
soul, 81, 92
emptiness of, 81
incarnations, 97
stoicism, 124
subconscious, 10
subjectivity, 90
suffering, 30, 36, 97, 106
Suzuki, Sunryu, 104
Szasz, Thomas, 22
taking and giving, 67
teachings, 31, 35, 99
think, wait, fast, 51, 59, 70, 85
Thoreau, Henry David, 139
thoughts, 36, 132
time, 124
as not real, 130
Toynbee, Arnold, 138
truth, 26, 129
Turgenev, Ivan, 103
unconscious, 10, 139
unity of life, 124
Upanishad, 17
Vasudeva, 119, 94
(See Also ferryman)
as Buddha, 120
on child-rearing, 108
Vishnu, 48
waiting, 7
wheel
of physical manifestations, 85
wisdom, 3, 118, 129
words
as empty, 30, 132
Yoga-Veda, 36
142 Siddhartha: An Open-Source Reader

Colophon
DocBook
This publication is based on Open Source DocBook, a system of writing
structured documents using SGML or XML in a presentation-neutral
form using free programs. The functionality of Docbook is such that
the same file can be published on the Web, printed as a standalone
report, reprinted as part of a journal, processed into an audio file,
changed into Braille, or converted to most other media types. More
information about DocBook can be found at DocBook Open Repository
(http://docbook.openforge.com).
Commands Used in Preparation
This book was prepared with
jade 1.2.1-28
openjade 1.3
jadetex 3.12-2
The PDF version was generated from siddhartha.sgml to
siddhartha.pdf by the following series of command line arguments
using Debian Woody:
First, the index was prepared with. . .
# perl /usr/bin/collateindex.pl -N -o index.sgml
# jade -t sgml -d /usr/share/sgml/docbook/stylesheet/ \
dsssl/modular/html/docbook.dsl -v html-index \
siddhartha.sgml
# perl /usr/bin/collateindex.pl -o index.sgml HTML.index
Second, the document was processed to siddhartha.pdf (where
siddhartha.dsl is a local stylesheet) with a multi-step process. . .
# openjade -V tex-backend -t tex -d siddhartha.dsl \
siddhartha.sgml
# pdftex “&pdfjadetex” siddhartha.tex
# pdftex “&pdfjadetex” siddhartha.tex
143

# pdftex “&pdfjadetex” siddhartha.tex
Processing to siddhartha.html had the command line argument. . .
# jade \
-c /usr/share/sgml/docbook/stylesheet/ \
dsssl/modular/html/docbook.dsl \
-t sgml siddhartha.sgml
Stylesheets, formatting, and help were made possible by docbook-apps
mailing list and Norman Walsh’s DocBook: The Definitive Guide
published by O’Reilly. DocBook SGML is available at OASIS—SGML
(http://www.oasis-open.org/docbook/sgml/). When these resources
proved insufficient, John Archie provided the necessary magic to remove
the rust from the SGML tool-chain.
Emphasis in DocBook has shifted to several ways of creating output from
XML, instead of the process used here.
144 Siddhartha: An Open-Source Reader

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