Enlightenment, sought by all the spiritual characters in the book, is not just a feeling of peace with the world, but a kind of wisdom, an absolute knowledge and acceptance of the way things are. But this truth eludes most of those who seek for it. Some search within the teachings of other wiser people, like Govinda. But such devotees are always in the shadow of someone else’s enlightenment, and never seem to reach their own.
Real truth turns out to be found at moments of connection and realization with the natural world. At each critical moment of his journey, Siddhartha finds some piece of truth. The nature of the self, comprised of his ancestors, his father, the many faces of human kind, appears like a vision before him. The connectedness of all things also occurs to him as pure and true, like the image of the stone being at once soil, animal, and all its incarnations.
This finding of truth also means avoiding illusion. Many things are labeled as illusion and tricks in Siddhartha’s world: love, wealth, and desire, and especially thoughts and opinions. Siddhartha tells Govinda at the end of the book not to take the explanations of his philosophy literally but to try to understand them with his own experience, because explanations are made of words, and there is always some foolishness and embarrassment that comes of trying to explain something through words. The real truth comes not from seeking knowledge or avoiding illusion but accepting both things. When looking at natural forms, and realizing the unity of the world, Siddhartha knows that there can be no trickery about anything he sees.
Truth and Illusion ThemeTracker
Truth and Illusion 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 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.
Siddhartha replied: “Stop scolding, dear friend! Scolding has never achieved anything. If there has been a loss, then let me bear the burden. I am very content with this trip. I have met all sorts of people, a Brahmin has become my friend, children have ridden on my lap, farmers have shown me their fields. No one took me for a merchant.”
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.
“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.”
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 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.