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Discussion "Siddhartha" by Hermann Hesse



Today, let's discuss "Siddhartha." When I read this book years ago, a teacher told me: "This is a book that should be read after a ritual bath and lighting of incense." Published in 1922, the subtitle translates to "An Indian Poem." Thus, this year marks its centenary. The author of "Siddhartha" is the renowned German writer Hermann Hesse, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946. He passed away in 1962 at the age of 85. Many have found "Siddhartha" challenging to comprehend, which I believe can be attributed to translation and annotation issues. The edition I have now is meticulously translated by Professor Li XueTao. He also dedicated a significant portion of the book to provide background knowledge on Hesse and "Siddhartha", aiding our understanding of the story.

Discussing a novel requires a comprehensive introduction, so let's start at the beginning. The book is divided into two parts; the first part was completed in 1920, and the second, despite its brevity, took Hesse another year and a half, only concluding in 1922. The first part is dedicated to Romain Rolland. After World War I had ended, Germany and France were hostile nations that fought against each other. Romain Rolland was a French writer, and Hesse was a German writer, but both were anti-war, which led to the dedication.

The opening chapter is titled "The Brahmin's Son." It begins:

In the shade of the house, by the sun-kissed riverbank near the boats, in the shade of the Sal-wood tree, in the shade of the fig tree, the handsome Brahmin's son Siddhartha grew up with his friend Govinda, the Brahmin's son. As Siddhartha bathed in the river, the sun tanned his slender arms. With his mother's singing by his side during playful times, with teachings from his father, discussing scriptures with scholars, and engaging with the wise men, time flowed by like the shadows of the mango groves. Siddhartha joined these wise discussions, practicing debate and contemplation techniques alongside Govinda, diving deep into meditation. He had learned the art of chanting the holy word "Om," a sacred utterance to be silently repeated with each breath, and as he exhaled with pure concentration, a serene glow radiated between his eyebrows. He felt the unity of his soul with the universe, an immutable connection deep within.

This leads many to mistakenly believe that Hesse's protagonist is Gautama Buddha, also known as Siddhartha. While Gautama Buddha was of royal descent in ancient India, the Siddhartha in the book is a contemporary living in a Brahmin household, groomed to be an even greater Brahmin. However, Siddhartha was restless, filled with doubts, feeling that his daily practices didn't bring inner peace.

His inner turmoil grew, realizing that the love from his parents and his friend Govinda couldn't bring everlasting happiness and contentment. He began to feel that the teachings from the wise Brahmins, which he thought he had absorbed fully, still left a void. He remained restless, unsatiated, and unpeaceful.

One day, Siddhartha told Govinda, "I'm thinking of leaving." Inspired by wandering ascetics, or shamans, he thought of seeking inner peace through asceticism. When he approached his father with this idea, it was met with disapproval.

Siddhartha said, "With your permission, father. I came to inform you of my decision. Tomorrow, I shall leave your house to become an ascetic. I wish to be a shaman. I hope you won't oppose me."

His father was vehemently against the idea. In silent protest, Siddhartha stood still in his father's room, unmoving, throughout the night. When asked by his father, "What are you waiting for?" Siddhartha simply replied, "You know." He stood resolutely, and by dawn, his father realized his determination.

Father patted Siddhartha on the shoulder.

"You can go into the forest now," he said, "to become a monk. If you find supreme happiness in the woods, come back and teach it to me. If you realize disillusionment, come back as well... Now go, say goodbye to your mother and tell her where you're going. The time has come, I must go to the river for my morning ablutions."

And so, Siddhartha set out to become a monk, accompanied by his loyal friend, Govinda. What did Siddhartha look like after he became a monk?

He wore only a cloth wrapped around his lower body and donned an earthy yellow cloth that was frayed. He ate only once a day and never consumed cooked food. He fasted for fifteen days. Then for twenty-eight days. His thigh and cheek muscles withered away. His eyes, appearing larger and larger, shimmered with fervent dreams, while his withered fingers grew long nails, and his chin bore a dry, unkempt beard. In the presence of women, his gaze was indifferent; as he passed through a city and saw elegantly dressed people, he would curl his lips in disdain. ...Life is suffering; existence is misery.

Only one goal stood before Siddhartha, the only goal: to enter emptiness, where desire, dreams, joy, and pain all become void.

Amongst the monks, Siddhartha followed the eldest, continuously practicing the methods of achieving supernatural powers.

Under the guidance of the eldest monk, Siddhartha practiced self-dissolution based on the new rituals of the monks, meditating deeply... He conjured thousands of different manifestations from within himself. He became animals, corpses, stones, wood, water, and each time he'd awaken, under the sun or moonlight, he became himself again, plunging back into the cycle of life and death, feeling desires, overcoming them, and then feeling new desires.

The practice was far from easy and truly arduous. One day, Siddhartha told Govinda of his intention to leave the monk community, as he felt these methods did not bring him inner peace.

In a soft voice, as if speaking to himself, Siddhartha said, "What is meditation? What does it mean to escape the body? What is fasting? What is holding one's breath? It's an escape, a brief respite from the suffering of existence, a temporary anesthetic against the pain and meaninglessness of life. A cattle driver can achieve the same brief respite by drinking a few bowls of rice wine or coconut wine in a small inn. He will find temporary numbness, no longer feel his existence, no longer feel the suffering of life."

He realized that the supernatural powers from the monk's practices couldn't bring him true inner peace or enlightenment in the realm of emptiness, so he said:

"Govinda, your friend will soon leave this monk's path of seeking. I've walked this path with you for too long. I've been tormented by hunger and thirst, and on this long monk's journey, my thirst has not been quenched. I've always yearned for enlightenment, filled with questions. Year after year, I've consulted with Brahmins, with the holy Vedas, with devout monks. Oh Govinda, perhaps I'd be just as well off consulting with a hornbill or a chimpanzee. Oh, my friend, there is only one kind of knowledge, and it's omnipresent, it's the true self, present in you, me, and all living beings. So, I've started to believe: there's no worse enemy to this knowledge than the desire to know and to learn."

He began to reflect and felt that such ascetic practices could not help him. At this time, they heard about an enlightened person who appeared, and this person was Gautama Siddhartha. People called him the Tathagata or Shakyamuni. Many said they learned the way to enlightenment by following him, so Siddhartha and Kunda decided to seek Gautama Siddhartha. Later, the two came to Shravasti City—the place where the Diamond Sutra was taught, which is the Jeta Grove in Shravasti City, also known as the Jeta Monastery. The grove was a place donated by an elder named Jeta for the Buddha to teach. After arriving in Shravasti, they asked the locals where the Buddha was, and everyone in the city knew. The next day, the locals took them to the grove. Let's see what it was like when Siddhartha saw the Tathagata.

At sunrise, they were surprised to see that there were flocks of believers and curious people who had stayed overnight. All along the roads of the luxurious monastery, there were monks in yellow robes wandering, and under the trees sat these people, either meditating or engaging in religious dialogue. The green-shaded garden was like a city, crowded with bustling people like bees. Most of the monks went out with alms bowls begging for the noon meal, their only meal of the day. Even the Buddha himself went begging with a bowl in the morning.

The Diamond Sutra begins with the Buddha entering the city with his bowl to beg for food. After finishing his meal, the Buddha sat down with everyone and began to preach.

Siddhartha saw him and immediately recognized him, as if guided by divine instruction. He saw a simple man—in a yellow robe, holding a bowl, silently begging for alms.

The Buddha walked humbly on his path, lost in contemplation. His peaceful face showed neither joy nor sadness but seemed to emit a gentle smile from within. With this subtle smile, he was calm and composed, like a healthy infant... He existed in eternal tranquility, in an everlasting glow, exuding a gentle aura.

With his demeanor and the way he walked, the Buddha captivated Siddhartha. Later, they returned to the Jeta Grove, where the Buddha taught them the teachings, mainly about the Four Noble Truths. That evening, many stood up expressing their desire to join the monastic order. Kunda bravely stood up, expressing his wish to join and practice with the Buddha. However, Siddhartha did not stand.

Siddhartha said to Kunda:

"Kunda, my friend, you have finally taken this step and chosen your path. Ah, Kunda, you were always my friend and always by my side. I often wondered if, in the future, Kunda could take a step on his own, not relying on me but on his own soul. Look, now you have become a man and chosen your path. Oh, my friend, may you walk this path! May you achieve liberation!"

Kunda was puzzled and asked Siddhartha, "Aren't you going to join the monastic order? Didn't you previously want to practice and achieve liberation? Why, upon meeting the Buddha, do you not wish to learn?"

Siddhartha had his own thoughts. The next day, he met the Buddha in the garden, leading to a dialogue between Siddhartha and the Buddha.

Siddhartha said: "Ah, Tathagata, first of all, I am astounded by your teachings. Everything in your doctrine is clear and well-founded; you present the world as a complete, never-broken eternal chain connected by cause and effect. No one has ever presented it so clearly, so indisputably... However, according to your teachings, this unity and continuity of all things break at one point... Because of this small flaw, this tiny inconsistency, the entire eternal and unified law of the world is broken and disintegrated. Please forgive me for raising this objection."

He believed there was a slight flaw in the Buddha's teachings. So, what is this tiny flaw? In fact, the Buddha made it very clear in the Diamond Sutra: "There is not a single method to speak of"— I have said so much, but in fact, I have said nothing.

Why? Because "dharma" is an experience, and the integrity of this experience will certainly be wrong when expressed through language. Just like what Laozi said, "The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao; The name that can be named is not the eternal name." This means that once you express the wisdom and experience in your heart through words, you are already wrong. This made Siddhartha unable to accept practicing the dharma as taught by Buddha.

Siddhartha listened quietly, motionless. At this moment, the World-Honored One spoke in his kind, polite, and clear voice: "Ah, son of the Brahmin, you have heard the teachings, and you are blessed for deeply contemplating them. You've found a flaw, an error in the teachings. I hope you keep thinking about it. But I must warn you - a diligent student should use language when facing the dense forest of various viewpoints and debates. Do not take these views to heart, whether they are beautiful or ugly, wise or foolish. Everyone can follow or reject these viewpoints. What you hear from me is not my view, and it's not intended to explain the world to the inquisitive. Its purpose is something else; its purpose is to attain liberation from suffering. This is Siddhartha's teaching, nothing more."

Siddhartha then said, "Ah, World-Honored One, this is my thought: no one can attain liberation through teachings! Ah, World-Honored One, there is no such person. You cannot convey what happened at the moment of your enlightenment through language and teachings. This is what I thought and realized while listening to your teachings. This is why I want to continue my journey - not to find a better teaching, because I know there's no such thing, but to depart from all teachings and teachers and achieve my own goal."

As he left the Buddha, he thought, "I've never seen someone with such a gaze, smile, posture, and manner of walking. I really wish I could possess the same gaze, smile, posture, and walk, so free, so admirable, so subtle, so straightforward, so simple, yet so mysterious. Only by delving into the depths of one's heart can one truly possess such a gaze and smile. Alright, I'll try to delve into the depths of my own heart."

Siddhartha decided to experience life after awakening. So he said, "I am alive, I am a person, yet separate from everyone else, I am Siddhartha! Nothing in the world knows Siddhartha as little as I do!"

Before, he either followed the Brahmin teachings or the old hermits. He came to the Buddha to listen to his dharma and never really pondered who Siddhartha truly was. So when he decided to leave the Jeta Grove alone, he felt very doubtful and lost, not knowing who he really was.

I know nothing about myself. Siddhartha is completely unfamiliar to me, completely unknown, for one and only reason: I've always been afraid of myself, always running from myself! I used to seek my true self... I'm willing to dissect and strip away my ego, hoping to find the true self, life, divinity, and the ultimate after peeling off all the layers. But I lost myself in the process.

In fact, many of us have similar experiences. Why do we like to fill our daily lives, read so many books, do so many things, send so many messages? Perhaps it's because we don't really want to face ourselves. We often avoid the question of "what our true self looks like, and what its characteristics are." Siddhartha realized this and decided to be with himself and find out who he truly is.

He said, "I won't read the 'Yoga Veda' or the 'Amanpada Veda' anymore, I won't be an ascetic monk, and I won't accept any teachings. I want to learn from myself, be my own disciple, and understand the secrets of Siddhartha." Veda is a poem from ancient India, and religious poems are generally called Vedas. "I'm no longer who I was before, I'm no longer an ascetic, not a monk, not a Brahmin."

So, Siddhartha decided not to return to his home but headed towards a big river. "So he resumed his fast pace, moving swiftly and eagerly, no longer heading towards his homeland, no longer walking towards his father, never looking back."

By this point, the first part was completed. After finishing the first part, a year and a half passed, and in 1922, he completed the second part. He dedicated the second part to his cousin in Japan, Wilhelm Gundert. Gundert's most significant influence on Hesse was introducing him to the "East." Thus, many when analyzing "Siddhartha," feel that while it seems to tell a story set in India 2500 years ago, it actually reflects the spiritual quest of Germans after World War I, mirroring their post-war pain, spiritual bewilderment, and direction of their search. At that time, Zen Buddhism, Taoism, and Buddhism from the East provided great spiritual strength to Hesse and others, hence he dedicated the second part to his cousin Wilhelm Gundert.

The opening chapter of the second part is titled "Kamala." Siddhartha comes back to the world, observing everything around him. He realizes that everything is so fresh and full of life. He never really looked at the animals, plants, or people around him. He reaches the bank of a great river, which likely represents the Ganges in India. The word "ferry" appears frequently in the book, representing "Paramita," which means reaching the other shore. This river serves as a massive metaphor – from this mundane world to the enlightened one after realization.

"It's a beautiful river," Siddhartha said to the man who brought him there.

"Yes," replied the ferryman, "a very beautiful river. I love it more than anything in this world. I often listen to its voice and look into its eyes, always learning from it. One can learn a lot from a river."

"Thank you, kind man," Siddhartha replied as he stepped onto the opposite bank. "I have no gifts to give you, dear, nor can I repay you. I am a renunciant, a Brahmin's son, a hermit."

"I figured," said the ferryman, "I never expected any payment or gift from you. You will give me a gift the next time."

"Do you think so?" Siddhartha said playfully.

"Of course. That's what I've learned from this river: everything in this world will return! Ascetic, you'll come back. Goodbye! I hope your friendship is my reward, and that you'll remember me when offering sacrifices to the gods."

The ferryman brought him to the opposite shore, a world bustling with worldly life. In the town, Siddhartha saw people of all kinds. Then, in front of a beautiful garden, he suddenly saw an incredibly beautiful woman, surrounded by her servants, walking past the garden. He was entirely captivated by her beauty.

Seeing such a beautiful woman, Siddhartha's heart rejoiced. As the palanquin carrying her approached him, he bowed deeply.

Upon inquiry, he learned that she was the famed courtesan of the town named Kamala. Seeing Kamala, Siddhartha suddenly became intensely interested in her. Many found this surprising: hadn't his earlier practices taught him indifference towards women? Yet now, Siddhartha wanted to abandon all doctrines and experience the worldly life following his heart. Entranced by Kamala, what should he do? Kamala's garden wouldn't allow a shabbily dressed, long-haired ascetic inside. So, he found a barber, cut his hair, even applied perfume, bathed in the river to clean himself, and then sought an audience with Kamala.

When he saw Kamala, he said, "Ah, Kamala! You are the first woman to whom Siddhartha no longer looks with weary eyes. ...You are so beautiful. If you don't mind, Kamala, I would like you to be my friend and teacher, for I know nothing of your expertise." He wanted to learn the art of worldly love from Kamala. But Kamala told him, "You need money, or you have no other skills."

Siddhartha said, "I can think. I can wait. I can fast." This phrase, when said in the original German, rhymes and is poetic. So, in the book, Siddhartha often says, "I can think. I can wait. I can fast." He told Kamala that these were the things he had learned from years of asceticism. Kamala replied, "That's not enough; you need money. If you come to me, bring money and dress well and bring me many gifts." Kamala introduced him to Kamaswami. She told Siddhartha, "Kamaswami is a wealthy old man who is good at making money. He needs help now. Learn how to make money from him and then come to me."

The next day, Siddhartha went to meet Kamaswami. This chapter, interestingly titled "With Childlike People", is intriguing. Many may wonder why such a chapter name—With Childlike People? It's because, in Siddhartha's view, most people in this world, including Kamaswami, have a childlike mentality. They are happy when they gain a little, angry when they lose a bit. They use various schemes and means to get more transient things. He feels most people in this world are childlike.

Kamaswami asked him, "What can you do?"

"I can think. I can wait. I can fast."

"Is that all?"

"I think so!"

Kamaswami found out Siddhartha could write, and very well. So, Kamaswami got Siddhartha involved in his business, and Siddhartha was very good at it. But unlike other merchants, he wasn't overly concerned about business and making money. For example, once he went to buy rice, but someone else had already bought it. An ordinary merchant might have been disappointed or angry, but he wasn't. He spent all his money in that place, got along well with the locals, and had a great time. When he returned, he still felt happy; he felt there was no reason to be angry even though he didn't get the rice. He was a very different kind of merchant.

In essence, his soul was not invested in trade. He could easily achieve his goal of talking, getting along, and learning from everyone. He saw people live in a childlike or even animalistic way, both loving and despising this lifestyle. He witnessed their struggles, their sufferings for money, a bit of joy, and a tiny bit of honor—all of which were worthless in his eyes. They lamented, blamed, and hurt each other, all of which Siddhartha, as a samana, found laughable. A samana would never suffer because they felt a lack of something.

This feeling of being involved in worldly affairs but remaining untouched by them can be understood. Once he had amassed enough money, he left it with Kamala and learned the techniques of love from her, indulging in sensory pleasures. Kamala said:

"You are the best lover I have ever seen," she said thoughtfully, "Stronger, more resilient, and more controllable than others. Siddhartha, you have mastered my art. In the future, when I am older, I will have a child for you. But my dear, you are still a samana. You will never love me. You love no one. Isn't that right?"

"Perhaps," Siddhartha said tiredly, "Same as you. You don't love anyone either—otherwise, how could you run love as a business? Maybe people like us don't know how to love. It's a secret of those with a childlike mind."

Wow, this reminds me of the saying in "Shishuo Xinyu" by the Bamboo Grove Seven Sages. Wang Rong said, "Sages forget emotions; the worst don't have emotions. The emotions they cherish are precisely our kind." It talks about those with a childlike mind truly daring to love and hate. This was Siddhartha's life in the world. But as days went by, years passed, and Siddhartha became wealthier, more and more resembling a person with a childlike mind.

Siddhartha not only learned to do business, but he also mastered exercising power over people, learned to indulge in pleasures with women, to wear beautiful clothes, to command servants, and to bathe in fragrant water. He not only learned to appreciate refined and meticulously prepared meals but also learned to eat fish, meat, and poultry, to enjoy various spicy dishes and desserts, and to drink alcohol, which made him slow and forgetful. He also learned to gamble with dice, to play board games, to watch dancing girls perform, to be carried in a palanquin, and to sleep on soft beds.

As his wealth grew, Siddhartha gradually adopted the lifestyle of those with a childlike mindset and was tainted by their timid attitude. In short, he became slower and more tired, looking more and more like an ordinary person. The power of the secular world is potent, what we call inertia. The mundane captured him. Passion, greed, laziness, and the desire that Siddhartha previously looked down upon all invaded his mind. He still dated Kamala, and sometimes when he was with Kamala, she would suddenly ask him, "Can you tell me the story of the Buddha again? I like to hear you tell his story."

At forty, Siddhartha's temples began to gray. More terrifyingly, he saw wrinkles at the corners of Kamala's eyes. Age was catching up with them. One day, Siddhartha finally broke down.

With a gloomy face, Siddhartha entered one of his gardens, closed the door, felt the death in his heart and the fear in his chest. He sat, feeling things inside him dying, withering, and heading towards their end. Thinking of this sent chills down his spine; he felt that something inside him had already died.

That same night, Siddhartha left his garden and the city, never to return. Kamala's friend sent people to search for him for a long time, believing he must have fallen into the hands of robbers. Kamala made no effort to find him. When she heard the news of Siddhartha's disappearance, she wasn't surprised. Hadn't she been waiting for this day? Wasn't he a samana, a monk, a pilgrim? She felt this most acutely during their last meeting.

By this time, Siddhartha was already forty years old and had spent twenty years in this town.

From that day on, Kamala no longer accepted guests and locked her house's main door. After a while, she discovered she was pregnant from her last encounter with Siddhartha.

Siddhartha left the town and went to the river, wandering aimlessly, tired, and hungry.

At this moment, from a corner of his soul, from the distant past of his weary life, a voice trembled. It was a word, a syllable that he uttered without thinking. It was the ancient beginning and end of all Brahman prayers, the sacred "Om," meaning "The Perfect One" or "The Most Good." At that moment, the sound of "Om" reached Siddhartha's ears, and his dormant soul suddenly awakened, realizing his foolish actions.

Then Siddhartha passed out, not knowing how long he slept before slowly waking up.

This was a truly wonderful sleep! Never before had a sleep revitalized him so much, replenished his strength so profoundly, filled him with such youthful energy!

Did you know? This kind of experience is called "Great Death" in Zen Buddhism. It means that one has to undergo enough turmoil, eventually becoming completely exhausted, and only after experiencing this "Great Death" can they truly awaken and repent. Thus, this experience marked a turning point for Siddhartha.

Siddhartha got up to see a stranger sitting across from him, a stranger in a yellow monk's robe with a shaved head, lost in meditation.

Who was this monk? It was Govinda who had become separated from his group. Govinda, who practiced alongside Buddha, found this man emerging from the water during his troupe's passage through the forest. He deemed Siddhartha's situation perilous with dangers of wild animals and snakes. So, Govinda decided to stay behind to protect this pitiable man, planning to rejoin his group after Siddhartha awakened. The monk noticed Siddhartha waking up, but could not recognize him due to Siddhartha's drastic transformation over two decades. As they prepared to part, the conversation went:

"Goodbye, Govinda," said Siddhartha.

The monk stood frozen, "How do you know my name?"

Siddhartha smiled, "Ah, Govinda, I've known you from your father's hut, from the Brahmin school, from our rites, from our time with the samanas, from the moment you took refuge in the Enlightened One at the Jetavana."

"You're Siddhartha!" Govinda exclaimed, "I recognize you now! How could I have not seen it before? I'm overjoyed to see you again."

Govinda asked, "Where are you headed?"

"I'm on a pilgrimage," Siddhartha replied.

"I've never seen a pilgrim dressed as richly as you. Have you lost your wealth?"

Siddhartha remarked, "You could say that. Or perhaps, the wealth lost me."

In truth, Siddhartha had truly lost his pillars of fasting, waiting, and contemplation. Once a man set apart, he had now become mundane. However, this didn't deter his pilgrimage. These twenty years marked a detour from adulthood back to childhood. Eventually, Govinda left to continue his path following Buddha.

"This is good," Siddhartha thought, "to experience firsthand what others deem necessary to understand. From a young age, I learned that worldly pleasures and wealth aren't virtues. I've long known this, but only now have I truly felt it. Now I genuinely understand these truths, not just through memory, but with my eyes, my heart, and my stomach. I'm glad to know this."

Thus, through firsthand experience, Siddhartha felt the falseness of wealth and desire.

He had died, and a new Siddhartha awakened from his slumber. But, he too will age and eventually die. Siddhartha is impermanent, as all forms are. However, today he is young, a child. This is the reborn Siddhartha, brimming with joy.

Siddhartha decided to stay by this river. He walked along the river and found the ferry crossing, hoping to find the ferryman from all those years ago. At the ferry crossing, the ferryman recognized him. He met the ferryman Vasudeva and recounted to him his experiences over the past twenty-plus years, as well as the process of "great death" in the forest. Vasudeva listened patiently. Siddhartha had never met such a good listener before.

After listening, Vasudeva said, "I thought as much. This river has spoken to you. It became your friend and spoke to you. Stay with me, Siddhartha, my friend. I once had a wife; her bed was next to mine. But she passed away a long time ago, and I have lived alone for a long time. Now, come and live with me. We have everything we need here for both of us."

Siddhartha expressed his desire to learn from Vasudeva, feeling that he must be a wise man.

"You have to learn," Vasudeva said, "but not from me. It was this river that taught me to listen. You should learn from it too. It knows everything, this river. You can learn everything from it."

Every day, Siddhartha followed Vasudeva, ferrying people across the river and then listening to the sound of the water. This routine continued for a long time.

Once, he asked Vasudeva, "Did you learn the secret that time does not exist from this river?"

A cheerful smile appeared on Vasudeva's face.

"Yes, Siddhartha," he replied, "Is this your understanding? The river exists simultaneously everywhere, whether at its source, its mouth, the waterfall, on the ferry, in the rapids, in the ocean, in the mountains. For the river, only the present exists. There are no shadows of the past or the future."

"That's right," Siddhartha responded, "Nothing exists in the past or in the future; everything exists in the present, everything has its essence in the present."

The two of them continued ferrying people across the river. One day, a large group of monks came to the ferry crossing because they had heard that the Buddha was on his deathbed and they were rushing to pay their respects.

Among the crowd going to pay their respects to the dying Buddha was Kamala, once the most beautiful courtesan. She had long retired from her former life, donated her garden to Gautama Buddha's monks, and converted to Buddhism. She was among the female devotees and donors in the pilgrimage.

Kamala was with her child, Siddhartha's son. While in the forest, she was suddenly bitten by a small black snake on her ankle and collapsed from the venom. Later, Siddhartha and Vasudeva found the mother and son and brought them to their straw hut. When Siddhartha first saw the boy's face, he was startled, as it reminded him of some things he wanted to forget.

Then he saw Kamala, and even though she was unconscious in the arms of the ferryman, he immediately recognized her. Now, he understood that the boy was his own son. The boy's face starkly reminded him, and his heart began to race.

When Kamala opened her eyes, she recognized Siddhartha. Strangely, while Govinda could not recognize Siddhartha earlier, Kamala, who had been separated from Siddhartha for even longer, recognized him immediately. This was because Siddhartha had now returned to a devout and clean face.

"My dear, you've aged," she said. "Your hair has turned white. But you look just like the young ascetic. Back then, you came to my garden without fancy clothes, covered in dust. You look even more like the young ascetic from when you left me and our son than you did years ago. Your eyes are still the same, Siddhartha. Ah, I've aged too — can you still recognize me?"

Siddhartha said with a smile, "Dear, I recognized you at first sight, Kamala."

Kamala pointed to her boy and said, "You recognize him too, right? He's your son."

As Kamala's body weakened further and there was no way to save her life, her final moments were as follows:

She looked at him, "Have you reached that goal?" she asked, "Have you found tranquility?"

He smiled, placing his hand over hers.

"I see it," she said, "I see it. I too will find tranquility."

"You have already found tranquility," Siddhartha whispered.

Kamala gazed deeply into his eyes. ...And he saw life fading from her eyes. As her eyes filled with pain for the last time and rolled back, and as the final shudder passed through her body, he gently closed her eyelids with his fingers.

Kamala passed away. Vasudeva saw Kamala's departure and observed Siddhartha's demeanor. Vasudeva said to Siddhartha:

"You have experienced pain, Siddhartha, but I see that there is no sorrow in your heart."

"Yes, dear, why should I be sorrowful? I once had wealth and happiness, and now I have even more wealth and happiness. I have my son."

The 11-year-old boy was left behind, to be ferried by the two old men. But he was a spoiled child, often throwing tantrums, breaking things, causing destruction at home, and unwilling to work. Vasudeva advised Siddhartha, "You should send this child back. He doesn't belong in this forest. He should experience his own life." But Siddhartha worried, "What if he goes astray and becomes a prodigal?" Vasudeva could only pat his shoulder and say:

"Ask the river, my friend! Listen, it is laughing at you! Do you truly believe by avoiding mistakes you can prevent your son from making them? Can you shield your son from life's cycles? How is it possible? ...Which father, which teacher can spare him from living his own life, from life's defilements, from the burdens of sin, from swallowing the bitter draught of life, from finding his own path? Dear, do you really believe anyone can avoid this journey? Maybe because you love this young son, you wish he could avoid troubles, pains, disappointments? But even if you died for him ten times over, you couldn't change his fate."

Vasudeva could see the boy's destiny and believed that Siddhartha should not hope to control it or keep him from his own journey. One day, when Siddhartha asked the boy to fetch firewood, the boy exploded:

"Fetch your own firewood!" he roared, "I am not your servant. I know you won't hit me; you dare not. I know you'll only use your piety and tolerance to constantly punish me, to make me bow to you. You want me to be like you, so devout, so gentle, so wise! But listen, I'd rather hurt you. I'd rather be a highway robber, a murderer, go to hell than become someone like you! I hate you, you're not my father."

The boy vented all his anger and resentment. The next day, Siddhartha and Vasudeva discovered the small stash of money in their hut was stolen, the boy and the boat were gone. They hastily made a raft and crossed the river to search for Siddhartha's son. After a long search in the forest with no success, they assumed the boy had returned to the town. Siddhartha, unable to let go, later sneaked into the town, hoping to bump into his son. But when he reached the entrance of Kamala's garden, the place where he and Kamala first met, he stopped.

After standing at the garden entrance for a long time, Siddhartha realized how foolish it was to be driven by this desire. He couldn't help his son, nor should he make him dependent. He deeply felt his love for the runaway boy, like a wound. Yet, he felt he shouldn't cling to this wound of love, as it would eventually transform and shine.

This is the so-called "the wound is where the light enters." After this, the child disappeared from Siddhartha's life. Siddhartha spent every day ferrying people across the river, and he gradually came to understand and accept these child-minded individuals. He could feel that they were inherently more vibrant and full of life.

A realization slowly blossomed and matured within Siddhartha: what is true wisdom, and what is the goal he has been searching for throughout his life? This knowledge is nothing more than a preparation of the soul in every moment of life, a capability, a secret craft. It allows one to contemplate unity, to feel and breathe this unity. This idea slowly flourished in his heart like a blooming flower and was reflected on Vasudeva's youthful face: it is harmony, it is knowledge about the eternal wholeness of the world, it is a smile, it is unity.

Vasudeva aged, and eventually could no longer ferry people. He could only weave things in his house. One day, Siddhartha heard the river mocking him, laughing at his longing for his son. For he saw his father's face in the river, who was also alone. After his son left home, he never returned, and now Siddhartha wished his own son would come back to him. He went to Vasudeva and told him what he had seen and heard. Vasudeva said, "You heard its laughter, but you haven't heard everything. Let's listen together, and you will hear more."

They listened. The river played a polyphonic chorus. Siddhartha saw various images in the flowing water: his father appeared, lonely and deeply saddened by his son; Siddhartha himself appeared, also alone, bound by the chains of longing for his distant son; his son appeared, also alone, running on the track of burning youthful desires. Everyone has their own goals, everyone is obsessed with their goals, everyone is deeply pained. The sound of the river was full of pain and desire, flowing towards its destination, filled with sorrowful pleas.

Siddhartha listened intently. The images of his father, himself, and his son all merged together. Kamala's image appeared but soon dissipated, and Govinda's image also appeared, along with others. All were engulfed, all flowing into the river, rushing towards the river's goal, yearning, pursuing, suffering. The river's voice was full of desire, full of intense pain, full of insatiable longing.

As Siddhartha listened to the river attentively, hearing a song composed of a thousand voices, when he could hear neither sorrow nor mockery, when his soul, no longer bound by any one voice, followed his self into the sound, he heard everything, the whole, the unity. And then this great tune, composed of a thousand voices, condensed into a single word: "Om" – completeness.

"Did you hear it?" Vasudeva's eyes asked again.

At this moment, Siddhartha ceased his struggle with fate and ended his pain. His face radiated with the joy of knowledge. He no longer resisted any will. He recognized completeness, completely agreed with the flow of all phenomena, the flow of life. He was filled with compassion, filled with joy, devoted to the water flow, and returned to unity.

Finally, Vasudeva witnessed the moment of Siddhartha's enlightenment.

"I have been waiting for this moment, dear one. Now that it's here, let me go. I have been waiting for a long time. I have been Vasudeva, the ferryman, for a long time. No need anymore. Goodbye, thatched hut, goodbye, river, goodbye, Siddhartha!"

Siddhartha deeply bowed to the departing man.

"I've known for a long time," he whispered, "you're going to the forest?"

"I'm entering the forest, I'm entering the unity," Vasudeva said with a radiant face.

With a glowing face, he left, and Siddhartha watched him go.

Po Youtuipo entered Nirvana.

The last chapter of the entire book is called "Qupinduo." Qupinduo is about the same age as Siddhartha; both are now very old men. Qupinduo followed the Buddha in his spiritual practice, but in his later years, he had yet to achieve enlightenment. He heard of a venerable sage by the riverbank who had realized the truth, so he approached Siddhartha, hoping Siddhartha would share some insights about enlightenment. However, he did not recognize Siddhartha because Siddhartha had grown very old.

Siddhartha responded, "Venerable one, what can I say to you? Perhaps you're too engrossed in your quest for truth that you fail to find the very path you seek?"

"Why would that be?" Qupinduo asked.

"When one seeks enlightenment," Siddhartha said, "it often happens that they become so fixated on their goal that they see nothing else. They can't let anything into their heart because they're entirely focused on their objective, controlled by that very objective. Seeking enlightenment means having a goal. Achieving enlightenment means being free, having an open heart, and being without goals. Venerable one, perhaps you are truly a seeker because you're so intent on your goal. Maybe what you seek is right in front of you, but you're blind to it."

Thus, in the "Diamond Sutra," the Buddha continually emphasizes, "Not a single dharma can be spoken." "The past mind cannot be grasped, the present mind cannot be grasped, the future mind cannot be grasped. ... All conditioned phenomena are like dreams, illusions, bubbles, and shadows, like dewdrops and a flash of lightning. They should be viewed in this way." When we hold onto a fixed notion of the "path," we become slaves to it. True enlightenment means an open heart without goals.

Qupinduo always wanted Siddhartha to share more wisdom. Siddhartha then shared his realization, which is also a significant theme of the book.

Siddhartha said, "You see, my dear Qupinduo, this is one of my realizations: wisdom cannot be conveyed. An attempt by a wise person to convey wisdom often sounds foolish."

"Are you joking?" Qupinduo asked.

"I'm not joking; I'm sharing what I've discovered. Knowledge can be conveyed, but wisdom cannot. ... This means that every opposing side of the truth is equally valid. A truth can only be wrapped in words and expressed when it is partial. Every conceivable thought, every spoken word, is one-sided, lacking wholeness, completeness, unity. ... The issue is, nothing in our surroundings or in our inner world is ever one-sided. A person or an action can never wholly belong to the cycle of birth and death or entirely to Nirvana; no one can be entirely holy or entirely sinful."

"My dear Qupinduo, this world isn't imperfect, or on a slow path to ultimate goodness and beauty. No, it's perfect in every moment. Every sin contains compassion; every child carries aspects of the elderly; every infant has death within, and every dying person contains eternal life. No one can see how far another person can go on their path. The Buddha patiently waits in the robber and the gambler, while in the Brahmin, the robber waits. In deep meditation, it's possible to transcend time, to see all life that has existed, exists now, and will come into being. Everything becomes beautiful, everything is perfect, ... hence, in my view, everything that exists is perfect. For me, life and death, sin and holiness, wisdom and foolishness are indistinguishable. Everything necessarily is as it is, and all it requires from me is agreement, loving agreement. To me, everything is beneficial, never harmful."

So, Siddhartha believed that this world is perfect. He told Govinda about these important matters, and in the end, he said:

"Ah, Govinda, in my view, love is the most important thing. For great thinkers, perceiving this world, explaining it, and looking down upon it are all significant. But to me, the only vital thing is to be able to love this world, not to belittle it, not to hate the world or myself, but to observe all beings with love, admiration, and awe."

Do you all remember when Siddhartha first became an ascetic, how he looked at those with childlike minds with contempt? Now he realizes that "loving all beings" is what's most important.

The two elderly figures remained silent for a long time. When Govinda prepared to leave, he said, "Thank you, Siddhartha, for sharing your thoughts with me. Some of these ideas are wonderful and not something I can understand immediately. Maybe that's just the way it is. I thank you and wish you peaceful days!"

The book concludes with:

Govinda bowed deeply, tears streaming down his aged face, as if a flame ignited the deepest love and the utmost reverence in his heart. He bowed so deeply that he almost touched the ground, paying homage to the still figure in front of him, whose smile reminded him of all the love he had ever experienced in his life and everything valuable and sacred to him.

This is the complete story of the book "Siddhartha". Siddhartha, from being a Brahmin's son, became an ascetic, then followed Buddha's teachings, later returned to the mundane world, experienced love and hatred, wealth and desire, and finally by the river, reconciled with himself and the world, realizing that love is the most important thing in the universe.

Why could Hesse write such an Oriental-flavored novel? Because Hesse's mother was the daughter of a missionary. They (Hesse's grandparents and father) went to India for missionary work, so his mother was born in India and grew up among coconut trees. Additionally, Hesse was fond of Eastern philosophy. Everyone knows that after World War I, Europe was in a state of uncertainty. Thus, Siddhartha's search mirrors Hesse's quest in the 20th century. During the writing of this book, Hesse once faced writer's block and sought consultation from Jung, a renowned psychologist. During the consultation, he even read some passages from "Siddhartha" to Jung.

What's the theme of Hesse's book? "Everyone has their unique journey of the heart, which one must realize for oneself. Siddhartha values his own experiences rather than the teachings of others, even those of Buddha." This means that one must experience life for oneself to truly understand and transcend the limitations of language. Words and books are wonderful, but they can only represent a single perspective. Hence, the Tao Te Ching says, "The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao; The name that can be named is not the eternal name."

Hesse once wrote a letter to Zweig, admitting, "My saint wears Indian clothes, but his wisdom is closer to Laozi than to Gautama." The core message is to respect nature and the rules of complex systems, rather than trying to manipulate life and nature as one would a car. So, there's no need for further interpretation of the book. It's okay to partially understand; everyone can slowly experience life. Everyone has their journey to undertake, so it's okay to understand life at your own pace. A good work is interpreted differently by each individual. Hopefully, this book can inspire and comfort everyone on their quest.

I hope everyone can read this classic work - Hesse's "Siddhartha".

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