Part 3 - Siddhartha Audiobook by Hermann Hesse (Chs 10-12)

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Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse CHAPTER 10.
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
Slowly, he also saw and understood that the eleven-year-old was a pampered boy, a
mother's boy, and that he had grown up in the habits of rich people, accustomed to
finer food, to a soft bed, accustomed to giving orders to servants.
Siddhartha understood that the mourning, pampered child could not suddenly and
willingly be content with a life among strangers and in poverty.
He did not force him, he did many a chore for him, always picked the best piece of
the meal for him. Slowly, he hoped to win him over, by
friendly patience.
Rich and happy, he had called himself, when the boy had come to him.
Since time had passed on in the meantime, and the boy remained a stranger and in a
gloomy disposition, since he displayed a proud and stubbornly disobedient heart, did
not want to do any work, did not pay his
respect to the old men, stole from Vasudeva's fruit-trees, then Siddhartha
began to understand that his son had not brought him happiness and peace, but
suffering and worry.
But he loved him, and he preferred the suffering and worries of love over
happiness and joy without the boy. Since young Siddhartha was in the hut, the
old men had split the work.
Vasudeva had again taken on the job of the ferryman all by himself, and Siddhartha, in
order 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
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 this?" "You're seeing into my heart," Siddhartha
spoke sadly. "Often, I have thought of this.
But look, how shall I put him, who had no tender heart anyhow, into this world?
Won't he become exuberant, won't he lose himself to pleasure and power, won't he
repeat all of his father's mistakes, won't he perhaps get entirely lost in Sansara?"
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
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 patience.
At one time, when the boy's face reminded him very much of Kamala, Siddhartha
suddenly had to think of a line which Kamala a long time ago, in the days of
their youth, had once said to him.
"You cannot love," she had said to him, and he had agreed with her and had compared
himself with a star, while comparing the childlike people with falling leaves, and
nevertheless he had also sensed an accusation in that line.
Indeed, he had never been able to lose or devote himself completely to another
person, to forget himself, to commit foolish acts for the love of another
person; never he had been able to do this,
and this was, as it had seemed to him at that time, the great distinction which set
him apart from the childlike people.
But now, since his son was here, now he, Siddhartha, had also become completely a
childlike person, suffering for the sake of another person, loving another person, lost
to a love, having become a fool on account of love.
Now he too felt, late, once in his lifetime, this strongest and strangest of
all passions, suffered from it, suffered miserably, and was nevertheless in bliss,
was nevertheless renewed in one respect, enriched by one thing.
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
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
Rage and grief boiled over in him, foamed at the father in a hundred savage and evil
words. Then the boy ran away and only returned
late at night.
But the next morning, he had disappeared. What had also disappeared was a small
basket, woven out of bast of two colours, in which the ferrymen kept those copper and
silver coins which they received as a fare.
The boat had also disappeared, Siddhartha saw it lying by the opposite bank.
The 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
But him, you shall let run along, my friend, he is no child any more, he knows
how to get around. He's looking for the path to the city, and
he is right, don't forget that.
He's doing what you've failed to do yourself.
He's taking care of himself, he's taking his course.
Alas, Siddhartha, I see you suffering, but you're suffering a pain at which one would
like to laugh, at which you'll soon laugh for yourself."
Siddhartha did not answer.
He already held the axe in his hands and began to make a raft of bamboo, and
Vasudeva helped him to 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
Vasudeva said: "It might have been possible that the oar of our boat got
lost." But Siddhartha knew what his friend was
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
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 the city.
When, near the city, he reached a wide road, he stopped, by the entrance of the
beautiful pleasure-garden, which used to belong to Kamala, where he had seen her for
the first time in her sedan-chair.
The past rose up in his soul, again he saw himself standing there, young, a bearded,
naked Samana, the hair full of dust.
For a long time, Siddhartha stood there and looked through the open gate into the
garden, seeing monks in yellow robes walking among the beautiful trees.
For a long time, he stood there, pondering, seeing images, listening to the story of
his life.
For a long time, he stood there, looked at the monks, saw young Siddhartha in their
place, saw young Kamala walking among the high trees.
Clearly, he saw himself being served food and drink by Kamala, receiving his first
kiss from her, looking proudly and disdainfully back on his Brahmanism,
beginning proudly and full of desire his worldly life.
He saw 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 holy Om.
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
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
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
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
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.
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse CHAPTER 11.
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, smiling, oneness.
But the wound still burned, longingly and bitterly Siddhartha thought of his son,
nurtured his love and tenderness in his heart, allowed the pain to gnaw at him,
committed all foolish acts of love.
Not by itself, this flame would go out.
And one day, when the wound burned violently, Siddhartha ferried across the
river, driven by a yearning, got off the boat and was willing to go to the city and
to look for his son.
The river flowed softly and quietly, it was the dry season, but its voice sounded
strange: it laughed! It laughed clearly.
The river laughed, it laughed brightly and clearly at the old ferryman.
Siddhartha stopped, he bent over the water, in order to hear even better, and 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 (?? uber) 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 laughed.
While he spoke, spoke for a long time, while Vasudeva was listening with a quiet
face, Vasudeva's listening gave Siddhartha a stronger sensation than ever before, he
sensed how his pain, his fears flowed over
to him, how his secret hope flowed over, came back at him from his counterpart.
To show his wound to this listener was the same as bathing it in the river, until it
had cooled and become one with the river.
While he was still speaking, still admitting and confessing, Siddhartha felt
more and more that this was no longer Vasudeva, no longer a human being, who was
listening to him, that this motionless
listener was absorbing his confession into himself like a tree the rain, that this
motionless man was the river itself, that he was God himself, that he was the eternal
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
Already, he could no longer tell the many voices apart, not the happy ones from the
weeping ones, not the ones of children from those of men, they all belonged together,
the lamentation of yearning and the
laughter of the knowledgeable one, the scream of rage and the moaning of the dying
ones, everything was one, everything was intertwined and connected, entangled a
thousand times.
And everything together, all voices, all goals, all yearning, all suffering, all
pleasure, all that was good and evil, all of this together was the world.
All of it together was the flow of events, was the music of life.
And when Siddhartha was listening attentively to this river, this song of a
thousand voices, when he neither listened to the suffering nor the laughter, when he
did not tie his soul to any particular
voice and submerged his self into it, but when he heard them all, perceived the
whole, the oneness, then the great song of the thousand voices consisted of a single
word, which was Om: the perfection.
"Do you hear," Vasudeva's gaze asked again. Brightly, Vasudeva's smile was shining,
floating radiantly over all the wrinkles of his old face, as the Om was floating in the
air over all the voices of the river.
Brightly his smile was shining, when he looked at his friend, and brightly the same
smile was now starting to shine on Siddhartha's face as well.
His wound blossomed, his suffering was shining, his self had flown into the
oneness. In this hour, Siddhartha stopped fighting
his fate, stopped suffering.
On his face flourished the cheerfulness of a knowledge, which is no longer opposed by
any will, which knows perfection, which is in agreement with the flow of events, with
the current of life, full of sympathy for
the pain of others, full of sympathy for the pleasure of others, devoted to the
flow, belonging to the oneness.
When Vasudeva rose from the seat by the bank, when he looked into Siddhartha's eyes
and saw the cheerfulness of the knowledge shining in them, he softly touched his
shoulder with his hand, in this careful and
tender manner, and said: "I've been waiting for this hour, my dear.
Now that it has come, let me leave.
For a long time, I've been waiting for this hour; for a long time, I've been Vasudeva
the ferryman. Now it's enough.
Farewell, hut, farewell, river, farewell, Siddhartha!"
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.
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse CHAPTER 12.
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
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 this?"
Quoth Siddhartha: "A long time ago, oh venerable one, many years ago, you've once
before been at this river and have found a sleeping man by the river, and have sat
down with him to guard his sleep.
But, oh Govinda, you did not recognise the sleeping man."
Astonished, as if he had been the object of a magic spell, the monk looked into the
ferryman's eyes.
"Are you Siddhartha?" he asked with a timid voice.
"I wouldn't have recognised you this time as well!
From my heart, I'm greeting you, Siddhartha; from my heart, I'm happy to see
you once again! You've changed a lot, my friend.--And so
you've now become a ferryman?"
In a friendly manner, Siddhartha laughed. "A ferryman, yes.
Many people, Govinda, have to change a lot, have to wear many a robe, I am one of
those, my dear.
Be welcome, Govinda, and spend the night in my hut."
Govinda stayed the night in the hut and slept on the bed which used to be
Vasudeva's bed.
Many questions he posed to the friend of his youth, many things Siddhartha had to
tell him from his life.
When in the next morning the time had come to start the day's journey, Govinda said,
not without hesitation, these words: "Before I'll continue on my path,
Siddhartha, permit me to ask one more question.
Do you have a teaching?
Do you have a faith, or a knowledge, you follow, which helps you to live and to do
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
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
"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 another person."
Govinda listened silently.
"Why have you told me this about the stone?" he asked hesitantly after a pause.
"I did it without any specific intention.
Or perhaps what I meant was, that 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
Because salvation and virtue as well, Sansara and Nirvana as well, are mere
words, Govinda. There is no thing which would be Nirvana;
there is just the word Nirvana."
Quoth Govinda: "Not just a word, my friend, is Nirvana.
It is a thought." Siddhartha continued: "A thought, it might
be so.
I must confess to you, my dear: I don't differentiate much between thoughts and
words. To be honest, I also have no high opinion
of thoughts.
I have a better opinion of things. Here on this ferry-boat, for instance, a
man has been my predecessor and teacher, a holy man, who has for many years simply
believed in the river, nothing else.
He had noticed that the river's spoke to him, he learned from it, it educated and
taught him, the river seemed to be a god 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
Govinda said: "But is that what you call `things', actually something real,
something which has existence? Isn't it just a deception of the Maja, just
an image and illusion?
Your stone, your tree, your river-- are they actually a reality?"
"This too," spoke Siddhartha, "I do not care very much about.
Let the things be illusions or not, after all I would then also be an illusion, and
thus they are always like me. This is what makes them so dear and worthy
of veneration for me: they are like me.
Therefore, I can love them. And this is now a teaching you will laugh
about: love, oh Govinda, seems to me to be the most important thing of all.
To thoroughly understand the world, to explain it, to despise it, may be the thing
great thinkers do.
But I'm only interested in being able to love the world, not to despise it, not to
hate it and me, to be able to look upon it and me and all beings with love and
admiration and great respect."
"This I understand," spoke Govinda. "But this very thing was discovered by the
exalted one to be a deception.
He commands benevolence, clemency, sympathy, tolerance, but not love; he
forbade us to tie our heart in love to earthly things."
"I know it," said Siddhartha; his smile shone golden.
"I know it, Govinda.
And behold, with this we are right in the middle of the thicket of opinions, in the
dispute about words.
For I cannot deny, my words of love are in a contradiction, a seeming contradiction
with Gotama's words.
For this very reason, I distrust in words so much, for I know, this contradiction is
a deception. I know that I am in agreement with Gotama.
How should he not know love, he, who has discovered all elements of human existence
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
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
"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 not- finding.
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 are smiling.
Not knowing any more whether time existed, whether the vision had lasted a second or a
hundred years, not knowing any more whether there existed a Siddhartha, a Gotama, a me
and a you, feeling in his innermost self as
if he had been wounded by a divine arrow, the injury of which tasted sweet, being
enchanted and dissolved in his innermost self, Govinda still stood for a little
while bent over Siddhartha's quiet face,
which he had just kissed, which had just been the scene of all manifestations, all
transformations, all existence.
The face was unchanged, after under its surface the depth of the thousandfoldness
had closed up again, he smiled silently, smiled quietly and softly, perhaps very
benevolently, perhaps very mockingly,
precisely as he used to smile, the exalted one.
Deeply, Govinda bowed; tears he knew nothing of, ran down his old face; like a
fire burnt the feeling of the most intimate love, the humblest veneration in his heart.
Deeply, he bowed, touching the ground, before him who was sitting motionlessly,
whose smile reminded him of everything he had ever loved in his life, what had ever
been valuable and holy to him in his life.