Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse (Part I)

I spent almost all of today reading Hermann Hesse’s novel Siddhartha, which is a brilliant and imaginitive retelling of the life of Siddhartha and Gotama. My only break today was a film viewing of Layer Cake with my Swedish friend Micael (more on Layer Cake in the later morning).

I will throw some more quotes and thoughts from Siddhartha up tomorrow, but wanted to get something down before the power of immediacy from the experience leaves my lazy mind to ponder the amorphous landscapes of my dreams.

On Listening and Rivers:

“He was pleased with everything that he did and learned that the days and months passed quickly. But he learned more from the river than Vasudeva could trach him. He learned from it continually. Above all, he learned from it how to listen, to listen with a still heart, with a waiting, open soul, without passion, without desire, without judgement, without opinions.

He Lived Happily with Vasu deva and occasionally they exchenged words, few and long considered words. Vasudeva was no friend of words. Siddhartha was rarely successful in moving him to speak.

He once asked him, ‘Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?’

A bright smile spread over Vasudeva’s face.

‘Yes, Siddhartha,’ he said. ‘Is this what you mean? That the river is everywhere are the same time, and the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere, and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past, nor the shadow of the future?’

‘That is it,’ said Siddhartha, ‘ and when I learned that, I reviewed my life and it was also a river, and Siddharthat the boy, Siddhartha the mature man and Siddhartha the old man, were only seperated by shadows, not through reality. Siddhartha’s previous lives were also in the past, and his death and his return to Brahma are not in the future. Nothing was, nothing will be, everything has reality and presence’ (p. 87 Siddhartha).”

On Knowledge and Wisdom:

“‘Yes, I have had thoughts and knowledge here and there. Sometimes, for an hour or for a day, I have become aware of knowledge just as one feels life in one’s heart. I have had many thoughts, but it would be difficult for me to tell you about them. But this is one thought that has impressed me, Govinda. Wisdom is not communicable. The wisdom which a wise man tries to communicate always sounds foolish.’
‘Are you jesting?’ asked Govinda?

‘No, I am telling you what I have discovered. Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. One can find it, live it, be fortified by it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate and teach it. I suspected this when I was still a youth and it was this that drove me away from teachers. There is one thought I have had, Govinda, which you will again think is a jest of folly: that is, in every truth the opposite is equally true. For example, a truth can only be expressed and enveloped in words if it is one-sided. Everything that is thought and expressed in words is one-sided, only half the truth; it lacks totality, completeness, unity […] But the world itself, being in and around us, is never one-sided […] This only seems so because we suffer the illusion that time is something real. Time is not real, Govinda. I have realized this repeatedly. And if time is not real, than the dividing line that seems to lie between this world and eternity, between suffering and bliss, between good and evil, is also an illusion'” (p. 115 Siddhartha).

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