Part 2 - Siddhartha Audiobook by Hermann Hesse (Chs 6-9)

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Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse CHAPTER 6.
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
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 should live." "So you've lived of the possessions of
"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 life."
"But if you don't mind me asking: being without possessions, what would you like to
"Everyone gives what he has. The warrior gives strength, the merchant
gives merchandise, the teacher teachings, the farmer rice, the fisher fish."
"Yes indeed.
And what is it now what you've got to give? What is it that you've learned, what you're
able to do?" "I can think.
I can wait.
I can fast." "That's everything?"
"I believe, that's everything!" "And what's the use of that?
For example, the fasting--what is it good for?"
"It is very good, sir. When a person has nothing to eat, fasting
is the smartest thing he could do.
When, for example, Siddhartha hadn't learned to fast, he would have to accept
any kind of service before this day is up, whether it may be with you or wherever,
because hunger would force him 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
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
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
Twice a day, a plentiful meal was served, but Siddhartha only ate once a day, and ate
neither meat nor did he drink wine.
Kamaswami told him about his trade, showed him the merchandise and storage-rooms,
showed him calculations. Siddhartha got to know many new things, he
heard a lot and spoke little.
And thinking of Kamala's words, he was never subservient to the merchant, forced
him to treat him as an equal, yes even more than an equal.
Kamaswami conducted his business with care and often with passion, but Siddhartha
looked upon all of this as if it was a game, the rules of which he tried hard to
learn precisely, but the contents of which did not touch his heart.
He was not in Kamaswami's house for long, when he already took part in his landlords
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
of Kamaswami.
The merchant passed to duties of writing important letters and contracts on to him
and got into the habit of discussing all important affairs with him.
He soon saw that Siddhartha knew little about rice and wool, shipping and trade,
but that he acted in a fortunate manner, and that Siddhartha surpassed him, the
merchant, in calmness and equanimity, and
in the art of listening and deeply understanding previously unknown people.
"This Brahman," he said to a friend, "is no proper merchant and will never be one,
there is never any passion in his soul when he conducts our business.
But he has that mysterious quality of those people to whom success comes all by itself,
whether this may be a good star of his birth, magic, or something he has learned
among Samanas.
He always seems to be merely playing with 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 more zealous." Kamaswami followed the advice.
But Siddhartha cared little about this.
When he made a profit, he accepted it with equanimity; when he made losses, he laughed
and said: "Well, look at this, so this one turned out badly!"
It seemed indeed, as if he did not care about the business.
At one time, he 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
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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse CHAPTER 7.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 concealed anxiety.
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
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
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
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
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 these things.
In the same hour of the night, Siddhartha left his garden, left the city, and never
came back.
For a long time, Kamaswami had people look for him, thinking that he had fallen into
the hands of robbers. Kamala had no one look for him.
When she was told that Siddhartha had disappeared, she was not astonished.
Did she not always expect it? Was he not a Samana, a man who was at home
nowhere, a pilgrim?
And most of all, she had felt this the last time they had been together, and she was
happy, in spite of all the pain of the loss, that she had pulled him so
affectionately to her heart for this last
time, that she had felt one more time to be so completely possessed and penetrated by
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.
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse CHAPTER 8.
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
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
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
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
Siddhartha straightened up, then he saw a person sitting opposite to him, an unknown
man, a monk in a yellow robe with a shaven head, sitting in the position of pondering.
He observed the man, who had neither hair on his head nor a beard, and he had not
observed him for long when he recognised this monk as Govinda, the friend of his
youth, Govinda who had taken his refuge with the exalted Buddha.
Govinda had aged, he too, but still his face bore the same features, expressed
zeal, faithfulness, searching, timidness.
But when Govinda now, sensing his gaze, opened his eyes and looked at him,
Siddhartha saw that Govinda did not recognise him.
Govinda was happy to find him awake; apparently, he had been sitting here for a
long time and been waiting for him to wake up, though he did not know him.
"I have been sleeping," said Siddhartha.
"However did you get here?" "You have been sleeping," answered Govinda.
"It is not good to be sleeping in such places, where snakes often are and the
animals of the forest have their paths.
I, oh sir, am a follower of the exalted Gotama, the Buddha, the Sakyamuni, and have
been on a pilgrimage together with several of us on this path, when I saw you lying
and sleeping in a place where it is dangerous to sleep.
Therefore, I sought to wake you up, oh sir, and since I saw that your sleep was very
deep, I stayed behind from my group and sat with you.
And then, so it seems, I have fallen asleep myself, I who wanted to guard your sleep.
Badly, I have served you, tiredness has overwhelmed me.
But now that you're awake, let me go to catch up with my brothers."
"I thank you, Samana, for watching out over my sleep," spoke Siddhartha.
"You're friendly, you followers of the exalted one.
Now you may go then." "I'm going, sir.
May you, sir, always be in good health."
"I thank you, Samana." Govinda made the gesture of a salutation
and said: "Farewell." "Farewell, Govinda," said Siddhartha.
The monk stopped.
"Permit me to ask, sir, from where do you know my name?"
Now, Siddhartha smiled.
"I know you, oh Govinda, from your father's hut, and from the school of the Brahmans,
and from the offerings, and from our walk to the Samanas, and from that hour when you
took your refuge with the exalted one in the grove Jetavana."
"You're Siddhartha," Govinda exclaimed loudly.
"Now, I'm recognising you, and don't comprehend any more how I couldn't
recognise you right away. Be welcome, Siddhartha, my joy is great, to
see you again."
"It also gives me joy, to see you again. You've been the guard of my sleep, again I
thank you for this, though I wouldn't have required any guard.
Where are you going to, oh friend?"
"I'm going nowhere.
We monks are always travelling, whenever it is not the rainy season, we always move
from one place to another, live according to the rules if the teachings passed on to
us, accept alms, move on.
It is always like this. But you, Siddhartha, where are you going
to?" Quoth Siddhartha: "With me too, friend, it
is as it is with you.
I'm going nowhere. I'm just travelling.
I'm on a pilgrimage." Govinda spoke: "You're saying: you're on a
pilgrimage, and I believe in you.
But, forgive me, oh Siddhartha, you do not look like a pilgrim.
You're wearing a rich man's garments, you're wearing the shoes of a distinguished
gentleman, and your hair, with the fragrance of perfume, is not a pilgrim's
hair, not the hair of a Samana."
"Right so, my dear, you have observed well, your keen eyes see everything.
But I haven't said to you that I was a Samana.
I said: I'm on a pilgrimage.
And so it is: I'm on a pilgrimage." "You're on a pilgrimage," said Govinda.
"But few would go on a pilgrimage in such clothes, few in such shoes, few with such
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
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
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 don't
know." "You've lost your riches?"
"I've lost them or they me.
They somehow happened to slip away from me. The wheel of physical manifestations is
turning quickly, Govinda. Where is Siddhartha the Brahman?
Where is Siddhartha the Samana?
Where is Siddhartha the rich man? Non-eternal things change quickly, Govinda,
you know it." Govinda looked at the friend of his youth
for a long time, with doubt in his eyes.
After that, he gave him the salutation which one would use on a gentleman and went
on his way.
With a smiling face, Siddhartha watched him leave, he loved him still, this faithful
man, this fearful man.
And how could he not have loved everybody and everything in this moment, in the
glorious hour after his wonderful sleep, filled with Om!
The enchantment, which had happened inside of him in his sleep and by means of the Om,
was this very thing that he loved everything, that he was full of joyful love
for everything he saw.
And it was this very thing, so it seemed to him now, which had been his sickness
before, that he was not able to love anybody or anything.
With a smiling face, Siddhartha watched the leaving monk.
The sleep had strengthened him much, but hunger gave him much pain, for by now he
had not eaten for two days, and the times were long past when he had been tough
against hunger.
With sadness, and yet also with a smile, he thought of that time.
In those days, so he remembered, he had boasted of three three things to Kamala,
had been able to do three noble and undefeatable feats: fasting--waiting--
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 this? Wondrous indeed was my life, so he thought,
wondrous detours it has taken.
As I boy, I had only to do with gods and offerings.
As a youth, I had only to do with asceticism, with thinking and meditation,
was searching for Brahman, worshipped the eternal in the Atman.
But as a young man, I followed the penitents, lived in the forest, suffered of
heat and frost, learned to hunger, taught my body to become dead.
Wonderfully, soon afterwards, insight came towards me in the form of the great
Buddha's teachings, I felt the knowledge of the oneness of the world circling in me
like my own blood.
But I also had to leave Buddha and the great knowledge.
I went and learned the art of love with Kamala, learned trading with Kamaswami,
piled up money, wasted money, learned to love my stomach, learned to please my
I had to spend many years losing my spirit, to unlearn thinking again, to forget the
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
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
"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.
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse CHAPTER 9.
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
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 much.
"Would you like to ferry me over?" he asked.
The ferryman, being astonished to see such an elegant man walking along and on foot,
took him into his boat and pushed it off the bank.
"It's a beautiful life you have chosen for yourself," the passenger spoke.
"It must be beautiful to live by this water every day and to cruise on it."
With a smile, the man at the oar moved from side to side: "It is beautiful, sir, it is
as you say. But isn't every life, isn't every work
"This may be true. But I envy you for yours."
"Ah, you would soon stop enjoying it. This is nothing for people wearing fine
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 more."
"My name is Siddhartha, and I was a Samana, when you've last seen me."
"So be welcome, Siddhartha.
My name is Vasudeva.
You will, so I hope, be my guest today as well and sleep in my hut, and tell me,
where you're coming from and why these beautiful clothes are such a nuisance to
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 bury
in his heart his own life, his own search, his own suffering.
But in the end of Siddhartha's tale, when he spoke of the tree by the river, and of
his deep fall, of the holy Om, and how he had felt such a love for 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."
"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
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
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
"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
"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
present." 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 voice."
"And do you know," Siddhartha continued, "what word it speaks, when you succeed in
hearing all of its ten thousand voices at once?"
Happily, Vasudeva's face was smiling, he bent over to Siddhartha and spoke the holy
Om into his ear. And this had been the very thing which
Siddhartha had also been hearing.
And time after time, his smile became more similar to the ferryman's, became almost
just as bright, almost just as throughly glowing with bliss, just as shining out of
thousand small wrinkles, just as alike to a child's, just as alike to an old man's.
Many travellers, seeing the two ferrymen, thought they were brothers.
Often, they sat in the evening together by the 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
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
They had been, so it seemed to him, proud and precocious words; with a smile, he
remembered them.
For a long time he knew that there was nothing standing between Gotama and him any
more, though he was still unable to accept his teachings.
No, there was no teaching a truly searching person, someone who truly wanted to find,
could accept.
But he who had found, he could approve of any teachings, every path, every goal,
there was nothing standing between him and all the other thousand any more who lived
in that what is eternal, who breathed what is divine.
On one of these days, when so many went on a pilgrimage to the dying Buddha, Kamala
also went to him, who used to be the most beautiful of the courtesans.
A long time ago, she had retired from her previous life, had given her garden to the
monks of Gotama as a gift, had taken her refuge in the teachings, was among the
friends and benefactors of the pilgrims.
Together with Siddhartha the boy, her son, she had gone on her way due to the news of
the near death of Gotama, in simple clothes, on foot.
With her little son, she was travelling by the river; but the boy had soon grown
tired, desired to go back home, desired to rest, desired to eat, became disobedient
and started whining.
Kamala often had to take a rest with him, he was accustomed to having his way against
her, she had to feed him, had to comfort him, had to scold him.
He did not comprehend why he had to to go on this exhausting and sad pilgrimage with
his mother, to an unknown place, to a stranger, who was holy and about to die.
So what if he died, how did this concern the boy?
The pilgrims were getting close to Vasudeva's ferry, when little Siddhartha
once again forced his mother to rest.
She, Kamala herself, had also become tired, and while the boy was chewing a banana, she
crouched down on the ground, closed her eyes a bit, and rested.
But suddenly, she uttered a wailing scream, the boy looked at her in fear and saw her
face having grown pale from horror; and from under her dress, a small, black snake
fled, by which Kamala had been bitten.
Hurriedly, they now both ran along the path, in order to reach people, and got
near to the ferry, there Kamala collapsed, and was not able to go any further.
But the boy started crying miserably, only interrupting it to kiss and hug his mother,
and she also joined his loud screams for help, until the sound reached Vasudeva's
ears, who stood at the ferry.
Quickly, he came walking, took the woman on his arms, carried her into the boat, the
boy ran along, and soon they all reached the hut, were Siddhartha stood by the stove
and was just lighting the fire.
He looked up and first saw the boy's face, which wondrously reminded him of something,
like a warning to remember something he had forgotten.
Then he saw Kamala, whom he instantly recognised, though she lay unconscious in
the ferryman's arms, and now he knew that it was his own son, whose face had been
such a warning reminder to him, and the heart stirred in his chest.
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
"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 fire.
Once again, Kamala returned to consciousness.
Pain distorted her face, Siddhartha's eyes read the suffering on her mouth, on her
pale cheeks. Quietly, he read it, attentively, waiting,
his mind becoming one with her suffering.
Kamala felt it, her gaze sought his eyes. Looking at him, she said: "Now I see that
your eyes have changed as well. They've become completely different.
By what do I still recognise that you're Siddhartha?
It's you, and it's not you." Siddhartha said nothing, quietly his eyes
looked at hers.
"You have achieved it?" she asked. "You have found peace?"
He smiled and placed his hand on hers. "I'm seeing it," she said, "I'm seeing it.
I too will find peace."
"You have found it," Siddhartha spoke in a whisper.
Kamala never stopped looking into his eyes.
She thought about her pilgrimage to Gotama, which 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 was sleeping.
Early in the morning, even before the sun could be seen, Vasudeva came out of the
stable and walked over to his friend. "You haven't slept," he said.
"No, Vasudeva.
I sat here, I was listening to the river. A lot it has told me, deeply it has filled
me with the healing thought, with the thought of oneness."
"You've experienced suffering, Siddhartha, but I see: no sadness has entered your
heart." "No, my dear, how should I be sad?
I, who have been rich and happy, have become even richer and happier now.
My son has been given to me." "Your son shall be welcome to me as well.
But now, Siddhartha, let's get to work, there is much to be done.
Kamala has died on the same bed, on which my wife had died a long time ago.
Let us also build Kamala's funeral pile on the same hill on which I had then built my
wife's funeral pile." While the boy was still asleep, they built
the funeral pile.