In the town where Siddhartha was born, Brahmins and sages and young practitioners of the Brahma way of life are all trying to find the path to enlightenment. Siddhartha is raised listening to the guidance of the Brahmin teachers, but he concludes, based on the fact that none of Brahmin’s have themselves achieved enlightenment, that this path does not seem to lead to the celestial heights that he aims for. In search of enlightenment, Siddhartha embraces numerous different lifestyles. First, the ascetic philosophy of the samanas, who denounce physical needs. Then he meets the Buddha, who it seems should offer him the knowledge that he seeks, since he is himself enlightened.
But as with the Brahmin’s and samanas, Siddhartha finds the seeking of enlightenment through the teachings of others to be impossible. He believes he needs experience, rather than teaching. He goes to the town and follows the path of the child people, who are governed by money, lust, love, and other worldly desires. The anxiety he finds in the town leads him to the river, where he meets a ferryman, a humble servant of the river. When he finds such enlightenment in the ferryman, he too starts to listen to the river, and begins to understand the flows and unity of life.
Siddhartha’s path to enlightenment combines learning from others and from the natural world, with a dose of stubborn disobedience and experiencing the world for himself. In contrast, Govinda follows a path that leaves him always in the shadow of another, first Siddhartha then the Buddha. Govinda seeks teaching, and huddles in the teachings of others like it was a refuge from the world. Govinda’s path of constant dependence on others highlights the independence of Siddhartha’s journey, and Govinda’s failure to achieve enlightenment in comparison to Siddhartha’s success shows that it is the untraveled path, the personal path, that leads to deliverance. Perhaps what had really set Siddhartha apart was not his unusual skill for contemplation, but for his ability to choose his own path.
Through his son, Siddhartha comes to understand the human attachments of the child people he had mocked in his town life. He also comes to understand the suffering and devotion of his own father. So, in making his own sacrifice and sending his son away, Siddhartha becomes connected to the earth—to love and connection, which he had earlier tried to eliminate from himself—in a way he hadn’t before. This poses an interesting possibility for the path to enlightenment – that it is only when Siddhartha continues a familial legacy, and the cycle returns to the paternal bond, that he gains that Buddhistic smile, making spiritual enlightenment much more of a human, earthly image rather than a lofty divine ideal.
The Path to Spiritual Enlightenment ThemeTracker
The Path to Spiritual Enlightenment Quotes in Siddhartha
He had begun to sense that his venerable father and his other teachers, that the wise Brahmins, had already imparted to him the bulk and the best of their knowledge, that they had already poured their fullness into his waiting vessel, and the vessel was not full, his mind was not contented…
Siddhartha had a goal, a single one: to become empty – empty of thirst, empty of desire, empty of dreams, empty of joy and sorrow.
“I do not desire to walk on water,” said Siddhartha. “Let old samanas content themselves with such tricks.”
On all paths of the glorious grove, monks in yellow cloaks were walking; they sat here and there under the trees, absorbed in contemplation or in spiritual conversation; the shady gardens looked like a city, filled with people swarming like bees.
I have never seen anyone gaze and smile like that, sit and stride like that, he thought. Truly, I wish I could gaze and smile, sit and stride like that, so free, so venerable, so concealed, so open, so childlike and mysterious.
He looked around as if seeing the world for the first time. Beautiful was the world, colorful was the world, bizarre and enigmatic was the world! There was blue, there was yellow, there was green. Sky flowed and river, forest jutted and mountain: everything beautiful, everything enigmatic and magical. And in the midst of it he, Siddhartha, the awakening man, was on the way to himself.
“He is like Govinda,” he thought, smiling. “All the people I meet on my path are like Govinda. All are thankful, although they themselves have the right to be thanked. All are subservient, all want to be friends, like to obey, think little. People are children.”
“Why should I fear a samana, a foolish samana from the forest, who comes from the jackals and does not yet know what a woman is?”
“I can think. I can wait. I can fast.”
At times he heard, deep in his breast, a soft and dying voice that admonished softly, lamented softly, barely audible. Then for an hour he was aware that he was leading a strange life, that he was doing all sorts of things that were merely a game, that he was cheerful, granted, and sometimes felt joy, but that a real life was flowing past him and not touching him.
Like a veil, like a thin mist, weariness descended on Siddhartha, slowly, a bit denser each day, a bit dimmer each month, a bit heavier each year. A new garment grows old with time, loses its lovely color with time, gets stains, gets wrinkles, frays out at the hems, starts showing awkward, threadbare areas.
With a twisted face he stared into the water, saw his face reflected, and he spat at it. In deep fatigue, he loosened his arm from the tree trunk and turned slightly in order to plunge in a sheer drop, to go under at last. Closing his eyes, he leaned toward death.
“Where,” he asked his heart, “where do you get this merriment? Does it come from that long, fine sleep, that did me so much good? Or from the word ‘om’ that I uttered? Or was it that I ran away, that my flight is completed, that I am finally free again and standing under the sky like a child?”
He learned incessantly from the river. Above all, it taught him how to listen, to listen with a silent heart, with a waiting, open soul, without passion, without desire, without judgment, without opinion.
“Can I part with him?” he asked softly, embarrassed. “Give me more time, dear friend! Look, I am fighting for him, I am wooing his heart, I want to capture it with love and friendly patience. Let the river speak to him too someday; he too is called.”
He felt deep love in his heart for the runaway. It was like a wound; and he also felt that the wound was not for wallowing, that it must become a blossom and shine.
Radiant was Vasudeva’s smile, it hovered, luminous, over all the wrinkles in his old face just as the om hovered over all the voices of the river. Bright shone his smile when he looked at his friend, and bright now glowed the very same smile on Siddhartha’s face.
“I am going into the forest, I am going into the oneness,” said Vasudeva, radiant.
“I have found a thought, Govinda, that you will again take as a joke or as folly, but it is my best thought. This is it: The opposite of every truth is just as true!”
He no longer saw his friend Siddhartha’s face; instead he saw other faces, many, a long row, a streaming river of faces, hundreds, thousands, which all came and faded and yet seemed all to be there at once, which kept changing and being renewed, and yet which all were Siddhartha.