Philosophy 312: Oriental Philosophy
Chapter 5: Kamala
Abstract: The keys to Siddhartha's worldly
success are numerated.
I. Siddhartha no longer seeks reality [Hesse 38A];
he seeks only to follow the inner voice.
A. Before now, he sought reality on the other side of the visible—the
noumena beyond phenomena.
II. Siddhartha notes, "People are children—all are like Govinda, they obey, and think little."
1. The purpose of meditation is to get behind the veil of Maya,
to let go of the empirical self, and to find the essence of things.
B. Siddhartha sought experience rather than teachings— in his discussion with the Buddha things he had related insights which at the time he had not experienced and had not practically known
2. Compare Plato's Analogy of the Cave where life in the everyday
world is compared to existing in a cave and watching and reacting to
the play of shadows on the wall.
a. When freed and having exited the cave, the former prisoner would have to get accustomed to the light before he could
assess the cause of the shadows.
b. Upon returning to the cave, again, he would require some time
to become accustomed to the
dark in order to observe the play of shadows—but after doing so, he would see a thousand times better.
c. That is, he would have the insight derived from his former
freedom to discern why events occur and what events portend..
(1) The guru also would have these insights (or "tricks").
For example, a guru would recognize everyday slights from others usually are a
result of unintentional actions and are simply the same kind
of ordinary causes as those which occur among natural
(2) The guru's principle of discovery is based on the
recognition that you need nothing other than yourself to
achieve clarity of thought and action.
1. Very often we can see the deeper truth of events in our lives in
ways we could not foresee when we first learned about them.
C. Siddhartha also learned one cannot trap the Self in the net of thoughts [Hesse 39B]. Q.v., Hume's theory of
self as discussed in the previous chapter and Kant's unity of
apperception. The self as the persistent feature of human experience is
not itself experienced but instead unifies our experience. (The self as
related to all possible experience might well be an apt characterization
a. Examples include recognizing the truth of the aphorism "Honesty is the best policy" for the first
time or being caught in the the midst of controversy and
realizing the truth of "O what a wicked web we weave when first we practice to deceive."
2. Note how Buddha's comment to Siddhartha [Hesse 38B] has become an unconscious suggestion to return to the world of desires
b. Intellectually we can understand theoretically the truth of
the aphorisms—emotionally we can learn
the truth in such a way as to never forget.
a. Occasionally when our conversational defenses are up, we play devil's advocate just to see
another's person's response.
b. The devil's-advocate position can, in turn, become an unconscious suggestion, if
we defend it passionately.
D. So, if, at this point, Siddhartha can't rely on reason, and he can't trust
meditation, and he can't rely upon teachings or authority,
what remains to be tried? Answer: The direct apprehension of experience.
1. The direct experience is the inner voice—intuition, a subconscious grasping of reality [Hesse 39D].
a. The inner voice shows a new-found sense of values. It's not,
as one might initially think, his conscience.
2. Also, consider the evidence of Siddhartha's dream where Govinda
becomes a woman. The dream indicates a similar synthesis of the world of reason and the world of sense.
b. Compare the intuitive personality as characterized by Jung.
3. Even so, Siddhartha's first stirrings of intuitive
insight is contrasted with the ferryman who seems truly to have mystical powers.
a. Be sure to pay close attention to the analogy of the river.
b. The ferryman observes, "Everything comes back—you too will come
back. How was the ferryman able to presage this occurrence?
(1) The mythical power of understanding another's state of mind is often not
(2) The ferryman can view another person openly and honestly without his own
clouds of concern interfering with his perception.
A. This passage shows Siddhartha's awareness of his own superiority.
III. The Encounter with the young woman [Hesse 41]: Why didn't Siddhartha stay with her?
B. People, in general, are not strong enough to take the consequences of risk, so they
play it safe in what can be termed herd behavior. They vie for attention,
vie for goods, and ordinarily desire more.
A. It would lead to a closed experience. The woman is not worthy of him; only the best will do for Siddhartha—since he doesn't know this consciously, his inner voice intervenes.
IV. Enter Kamala.
C. In Siddhartha's mind, she is not a person but a representation. The
evidence for this assessment is Siddhartha's assertion to Kamala: "The first person I met before I came to town was you."
A. Siddhartha notes, "Never again will I lower my eves..." [Hesse, 44C].
V. It's easy for Siddhartha to get clothes and money. Why? Why do many people have
difficulty in this regard?
1. Siddhartha is the great learner—to seek enlightenment, he must overcome all reluctance, to shrink from no area by which he might learn.
B. Kamala [Hesse 46B] states, "You can't steal love any more than you can steal knowledge."
2. No one is any more superior than he.
1. The shortcuts miss the sum and substance of life.
C. The keys to Siddhartha's life: I can think, I can wait, I can fast.
2. Process, not the result, is what is important.
1. Knowledge is power—figuring out the way the world works.
D. Kamala [Hesse 48A] repeats the litany ("think...wait...fast...") but omits "wait."
Is there the unconscious suggestion she doesn't so much want him to
2. All things come to him who waits—supreme confidence (remember the episode
how Siddhartha left home).
3. Fasting overcomes self—no fear.
4. As an afterthought, Siddhartha says he can compose poetry (i.e.,
he can experience feelings).
A. They lack knowledge (thinking), they have a failure of nerve, or they
fear the unknown.
("People are children.")
B. Siddhartha doesn't plead from a position of weakness. Note the
sophisticated concept of giving and taking— e.g., who is the giver and who is the taker in his relationship with
C. Siddhartha, regardless of his own position, can see the flaws in other persons.
D. He acts as though something is already accomplished—very much like why people rehearse
and practice something they have just learned in order to accomplish
1. The first time you sucessfully perform "the trick" it appears
as if it were magic.
2. Through practice, the ability becomes almost second nature.
3. Finally, if the action is in accord with the nature of things, it is
nothing extra. ("Like a stone
through water" [Hesse 50B].)
4. The thing is done from a still mind—no second doubts, no concentration, no conceit--it's just the appropriate thing done at the appropriate time.
5. The doctrine of non-effort (wu wei) is first suggested.