Dedicated to Wilhelm Gundert, my cousin in Japan
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 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 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.
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
"This is a beautiful river," he said to his companion.
"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
"I than 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."
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 submissive, 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 travellers, 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 bend 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 traveller 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, 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 fragrant, 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 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.
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
conducted him, who was following 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
"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
"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."
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
"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 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?"
"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. 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
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.
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 was rich, I
would give you pieces of gold for them. But it will be difficult for
you to earn thus 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
"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.
"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 travellers 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 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
learning 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?"
"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. Nothing 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
"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!"
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?"
"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 of what I
"So you've lived of the possessions of others."
"Presumable this is how it is. After all, a merchant also lives of
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
"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
"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."
"I believe, that's everything!"
"And what's the use of that? For example, the fasting-- what is it
"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 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?"
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 dealers 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
He was not in Kamaswami's house for long, when he already took part in
his landlords 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, nit with the business
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 out 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
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
It seemed indeed, as if he did not care about the business. At one
time, he travelled 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 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."
"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 travelled for your amusement?"
"Surely," Siddhartha laughed, "surely I have travelled 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 travelled 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 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."
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 trough
life in a childlike or animallike 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 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.
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 ball-player 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 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 teachings. 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 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."
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 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 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.
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 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 spend 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 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
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
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 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
Kamaswami-people 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.
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 tiredly, shook himself, and bid his farewell to
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.
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, 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.
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.
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 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
"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.
"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
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?"
"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
"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."
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
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 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 feed
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
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! I had to pass through so much
stupidity, through so much 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
hang over the rushing waters 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.
"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 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 dice-gambler, 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 like 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.
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.
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
"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
"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, intent 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 kept 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 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
"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.
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 burry 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 the river after his slumber, the ferryman listened with twice
the attention, entirely and completely absorbed by it, with his eyes
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 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 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.
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 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 was no future. Nothing
was, nothing will be; everything is, everything has existence and is
Siddhartha spoke with ecstasy; deeply, this enlightenment had delighted
him. Oh, was not all suffering time, were 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.
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
"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 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 deadly 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 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
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 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 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
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
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
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 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 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
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
While the boy was still asleep, they built the funeral pile.
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
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 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 rice-bowls, 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 out 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 intent 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? 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 beats in a different pace than his? Isn't forced, isn't
he punished by all this?"
Troubled, Siddhartha looked to the ground. Quietly, he asked: "What
do you think should I 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
"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?"
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
teachers warnings, his own knowledge, his own search able to keep him
safe? Which father, 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
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.
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
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 boy had ran 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."
"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
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 tied 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
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 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
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 Kamaswami, 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
After having been 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 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 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.
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 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,
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 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?
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 want 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 at 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 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
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. Thorough 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."
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.
"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.
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:
"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!"
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.
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?"
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
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
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?"
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 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."
"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 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.
"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 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
Govinda listened silently.
"Why have you told me this about the stone?" he asked hesitantly after
"I did it without any specific intention. Or perhaps what I meant was,
that 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. This 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 are these which keep
you from finding peace, perhaps it are 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
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 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."
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
"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 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 it 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
Siddhartha saw it and smiled.
"Bent 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 thousand 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
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.