Author: Hermann Hesse.
Genre: Fiction, literature, religion, philosophical fiction.
Publication Date: 1922 (1951 in English).
Summary: Siddhartha, a young man leaves his family for a contemplative life, then, restless, discards it for one of the flesh. He conceives a son, but bored and sickened by lust and greed, moves on again. Near despair, Siddhartha comes to a river where he hears a unique sound and meets the the ferryman, Vasudeva, with whom he begins a humbler way of life. Vasudeva understands and relates that the river has many voices and significant messages to divulge to any who might listen. This signals the true beginning of Siddhartha's life - the beginning of suffering, rejection, peace, and, finally, wisdom.
My rating: 6.5/10.
♥ “Do not be angry with me, O Illustrious One,” said the young man. “I have not spoken to you thus to quarrel with you about words. You are right when you say that opinions mean little, but may I say one thing more. I did no doubt you for one moment. Not for one moment did I doubt that you were the Buddha, that you have reached the highest goal which so many thousands of Brahmins and Brahmins’ sons are striving to reach. You have done so by your own seeking, in your own way, through thought, through meditation, through knowledge, through enlightenment. You have learned nothing through teachings, and so I think, O Illustrious One, that nobody finds salvation through teachings. To nobody, O Illustrious One, can you communicate in words and teachings what happened to your in the hour of your enlightenment. The teachings of the enlightened Buddha embrace much, they teach much - how to live righteously, how to avoid evil. But there is one thing that this clear, worthy instruction does not contain; it does not contain the secret of what the Illustrious One himself experienced - he alone among hundreds of thousands. That is what I thought and realized when I heard your teachings. That is why I am going on my way - not to seek another and better doctrine, for I know there is none, but to leave all doctrines and all teachers and to reach my goal alone - or die. But I will often remember this day, O Illustrious One, and this hour when my eyes beheld a holy man.
♥ He reflected deeply, until this feeling completely overwhelmed him and he reached a point where he recognized causes; for to recognize causes, it seemed to him, is to think, and through thought alone feelings become knowledge and are not lost, but become real and begin to mature.
♥ He looked around him as if seeing the world for the first time. The world was beautiful, strange and mysterious. Here was blue, here was yellow, here was green, sky and river, woods and mountains, all beautiful, all mysterious and enchanting, and in the midst of it, he, Siddhartha, the awakened one, on the way to himself. All this, all this yellow and blue, river and wood, passed for the first time across Siddhartha’s eyes. It was no longer the magic of Mara, it was no more the veil of Maya, it was no longer meaningless and the chance diversities of the appearances of the world, despised by deep-thinking Brahmins, who scorned diversity, who sought unity. River was river, and if the One and Divine in Siddhartha secretly lived in blue and river, it was just the divine art and intention that there should be yellow and blue, there sky and wood - and here Siddhartha. Meaning and reality were not hidden somewhere behind things, they were in them, in all of them.
♥ Siddhartha learned something new on every step of his path, for the world was transformed and he was enthralled. He saw the sun rise over forest and mountains and set over the distant palm shore. At night he saw the stars in the heavens and the sickle-shaped moon floating like a boat in the blue. He saw trees, stars, animals, clouds, rainbows, rocks, weeds, flowers, brook and river, the sparkle of dew on bushes in the morning, distant high mountains blue and pale; birds sang, bees hummed, the wind blew gently across the rice fields. All this, colored and in a thousand different forms, had always been there. The sun and moon had always shone; the rivers had always flowed and the bees had hummed, but in previous times all this had been nothing to Siddhartha but a fleeting and illusive veil before his eyes, regarded with distrust, condemned to be disregarded and ostracized from the thoughts, because it was not reality, because reality lay on the other side of the visible. But now his eyes lingered on this side; he saw and recognized the visible and he sought his place in this world. He did not seek reality; his goal was not on any other side. The world was beautiful when looked at in this way - without any seeking, so simple, so childlike. The moon and the stars were beautiful, the brook, the shore, the forest and rock, the goat and the golden beetle, the flower and butterfly were beautiful. It was beautiful and pleasant to go through the world like that, so childlike, so awakened, so concerned with the immediate, without any distrust. Elsewhere, the sun burned fiercely, elsewhere there was cool in the forest shade; elsewhere there were pumpkins and bananas. The days and nights were short, every hour passed quickly like a sail on the sea, beneath the sail of a ship of treasures, full of joy. Siddhartha saw a group of monkeys in the depths of the forest, moving about high in the branches, and heard their wild eager cries. Siddhartha saw a ram follow a sheep and mate. In a lake of rushes he saw the pike making chase in evening hunger. Swarms of young fishes, fluttering and glistening, moved anxiously away from it. Strength and desire were reflected in the swiftly moving whirls of water formed by the raging pursuer.
All this had always been and he had never seen it; he was never present. Now he was present and belonged to it. Through his eyes he saw light and shadows; through his mind he was aware of moon and stars.
♥ People are children.
♥ “Why should I be afraid of a Samana, a stupid Samana from the forest, who comes from the jackals and does not know anything about women?”
“Oh, the Samana is strong and afraid of nothing. He could force you, fair maiden, he could rob you, he could hurt you.”
“No, Samana, I am not afraid. Has a Samana or a Brahmin ever feared that someone could come and strike him and rob him of his knowledge, of his piety, of his power for depth of thought? No, because they belong to himself, and he can only give of them what he wishes, and if he wishes. That is exactly how it is with Kamala and with the pleasures of love. Fair and red are Kamala’s lips, but try to kiss them against Kamala’s will, and not one drop of sweetness will you obtain from them - although they know well how to give sweetness. You are an apt pupil, Siddhartha, so learn also this. One can beg, buy, be presented with and find love in the streets, but it can never be stolen...”
♥ “...Listen, Kamala, when you throw a stone into the water, it finds the quickest way to the bottom of the water. It is the same when Siddhartha has an aim, a goal. Siddhartha does nothing; he waits, he thinks, he fasts, but he goes through the affairs of the world like the stone through the water, without doing anything, without bestirring himself; he is drawn and lets himself fall. He is drawn by his goal, for he does not allow anything to enter his mind which opposes his goal. That is what Siddhartha learned from the Samanas. It is what fools call magic and what they think is caused by demons; there are no demons. Everyone can perform magic, everyone can reach his goal, if he can think, wait and fast.
♥ Never had it been so strangely clear to Siddhartha how closely related passion was to death.
♥ Siddhartha listened. He was now listening intently, completely absorbed, quite empty, taking in everything. He felt that he had now completely learned the art of listening. He had often heard all this before, all these numerous voices of the river, but today they sounded different. He could no longer distinguish the different voices - the merry voice from the weeping voice, the childish voice from the manly voice. They all belonged to each other: the lament of those who yearn, the laughter of the wise, the cry of indignation and the groan of the dying. They were all interwoven and interlocked, entwined in a thousand ways. And all the voices, all the goals, all the yearnings, all the sorrows, all the pleasures, all the good and evil, all of them together was the world. All of them together was the stream of events, the music of life. When Siddhartha listened attentively to this river, to this song of a thousand voices; when he did not listen to the sorrow or laughter, when he did not bind his soul to any one particular voice and absorb it in his Self, but heard them all, the whole, the unity; then the great song if a thousand voices consisted of one word: Om - perfection.
♥ “When someone is seeking,” said Siddhartha, “it happens quite easily that he only sees the thing that he is seeking; that he is unable to find anything, unable to absorb anything, because he is only thinking of the thing he is seeking, because he has a goal, because he is obsessed with his goal. Seeking means: to have a goal; but finding means: to be free, to be receptive, to have no goal. You, O worthy one, are perhaps indeed a seeker, for in striving towards your goal, you do not see the things that are under your nose.”
♥ “...There is one thought I have had, Govinda, which you will again think is a jest of folly: that is, in every truth the opposite is equally true. For example, a truth can only be expressed and enveloped in words if it is one-sided. Everything that is thought and expressed in words is one-sided, only half the truth; it all lacks totality, completeness, unity. When the Illustrious Buddha taught about the world, he had to divide it into Samsara and Nirvana, into illusion and truth, into suffering and salvation. One cannot do otherwise, there is no other method for those who teach. But the world itself, being in and around us, is never one-sided. Never is a man or a deed wholly Samsara or wholly Nirvana; never is a man wholly a saint or a sinner. This only seems so because we suffer the illusion that time is something real. Time is not real, Govinda. I have realized this repeatedly. And if time is not real, then the dividing line that seems to lie between this world and eternity, between suffering and bliss, between good and evil, is also an illusion.”
“How is that?” asked Govinda, puzzled.
“Listen, my friend! I am a sinner and you are a sinner, but someday the sinner will be Brahma again, will someday attain Nirvana, will someday become a Buddha. Now this ‘someday’ is illusion; it is only a comparison. The sinner is not on the way to a Buddha-like state; he is not evolving, although our thinking cannot conceive things otherwise. No, the potential Buddha already exists in the sinner; his future is already there. The potential hidden Buddha must be recognized in him, in you, in everybody. The world, Govinda, is not imperfect or slowly evolving along a long path to perfection. No, it is perfect at every moment; every sin already carries grace within it, all small children are potential old men, all sucklings have death within them, all dying people - eternal life. It is not possible for one person to see how far another is on the way; the Buddha exists in the robber and dice player; the robber exists in the Brahmin. During deep meditation it is possible to dispel time, to see simultaneously all the past, present and future, and then everything is good, everything is perfect, everything is Brahman. Therefore, it seems to me that everything that exists is good - death as well as life, sin as well as holiness, wisdom as well as folly. Everything is necessary, everything needs only my agreement, my assent, my loving understanding; then all is well with me and nothing can harm me. I learned through my body and soul that it was necessary for me to sin, that I needed lust, that I had to strive for property and experience nausea and the depths of despair in order to learn not to resist them, in order to learn to love the world, and no longer compare it with some kind of desired imaginary world, some imaginary vision of perfection, but to leave it as it is, to love it and be glad to belong to it.”
♥ Govinda said: “But what you call thing, is it something real, something intrinsic? Is it not only the illusion of Maya, only image and appearance? Your stone, your tree, are they real?”
“This also does not trouble me much,” said Siddhartha. “If they are illusions, then I also am illusion, and so they are always of the same nature as myself. It is that which makes them so lovable and venerable. That is why I can love them. And here is a doctrine at which you will laugh. It seems to me, Govinda, that love is the most important thing in the world. It may be important to great thinkers to examine the world, to explain and despise it. But I think it is only important to love the world, not to despise it, not for us to hate each other, but to be able to regard the world and ourselves and all beings with love, admiration and respect.”