Siddhartha’s environment, from his birth to his enlightenment, plays an important role in guiding and inspiring his spiritual journey. Nature provides the physical and spiritual sustenance while he is a samana. And when he is suicidal from his excursion into the world of wealth and anxiety, it is the river that saves him, and which becomes not just a metaphor for the idea of enlightenment but the source of Siddhartha’s revelation. Being all places at once, the river shows that time is an illusion and that all things are natural and never-ending. This recognition of nature is a big step towards Siddhartha’s spirit being raised towards enlightenment.
Just as the river brings together the possibility of Siddhartha ‘snuffing himself out’ with his own reflection and the holy word ‘om’, nature brings together birth and death and spiritual enlightenment, and in so doing shows the oneness of the world. When Siddhartha is describing his sadness, he likens it to the death of a bird, his inner voice. Nature is both within and without Siddhartha, and when he realizes this, death seems not to be the end that he thought it was.
Nature also brings together the unity of Siddhartha’s experiences. His eventual philosophy relates to all the trials he has put himself through, from a samana to a merchant. On one hand, ascetism showed him the denial of physical needs, which is an attempt to overcome the natural world. On the other is the materialism of business and sex, which Siddhartha found in the town, centers on the other extreme: what you can get from and enjoy from the natural world. Finally, Siddhartha's ultimate philosophy, like the vision of the stone’s many incarnations, involves learning from the natural world and realizing its fundamental unity.
Nature and the Spirit ThemeTracker
Nature and the Spirit Quotes in Siddhartha
Siddhartha had a goal, a single one: to become empty – empty of thirst, empty of desire, empty of dreams, empty of joy and sorrow.
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.
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.
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.
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.