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Philosophy 312: Oriental Philosophy
Chapter  6: Amongst the People

Abstract: Everyone takes, everyone gives.

I. Siddhartha comes to Kamaswami from a position of strength:  "I am not in need; I have never been in need"  [Hesse 51D].

    A. Suppose you are an employer and aggressively wish to expand—which of the following persons would you hire?

      —the person who needs a job but  who has priorities elsewhere (i.e., the person who "is desperate for the job")

      or

      —the person who does not desperately need it and whose judgment is not swayed by personal reasons.

      1. Which person would follow the rules slavishly?

      2. Whose judgment is better for advancing the business?

    B. The economic argument [Hesse 52B] is everyone takes, everyone gives. Implicit is the idea that it all comes out even in the end.

      1. Life, oftentimes, does not fit the nice neat categories of our personal preferences that some kind of giving is better than other kinds.

        a. The beggar gives the homeowner the opportunity to feel pride in helping, just as you might allow a small child to "help" even though this "help" is more work for you in the long run.

        b. What can a Samana give? Siddhartha responds with the litany: "I can think, I can wait, I can fast." Aren't these characteristics exactly what Kamaswami wants?

        c. Consider the example of the bootlegger during Prohibition in the thirties in a small town in Kansas who wanted to give a large donation to renovate a falling-down church.

          (1) Who is giving and who is taking? Who are we to say that a "bad" person should not do a "good" deed?

          (2) What does the gift say about the nature of the church? (Guilt by association?)

          (3) The church elders conferred and their decision was formed when a great grandmother noted that the money had been "in the hands of the devil
          " long enough.

      2. Siddhartha acted as an equal to Kamaswami and so he was. What is it that makes you an equal to others? Essentially your status is what that you come to think of yourself.

        a. Yet there are servile people by action or nature (i.e., persons who are humble, meek, helpful, etc.)—how are they to be treated as equals?  Often they are very uncomfortable when treated equally.

        b. Consider the dock worker who follows orders, is a good worker, comes to work on time, and is conscientious. When made foreman, he does not do well because of the awkwardness of giving his friends orders and the difficult implicit changes from the familiar relationships.

        c. The importance of self-esteem: Consider Lawrence Johnson Peter's principle (the so-called Peter Principle): employees of an organization advance just above their level of competence and so can be promoted no farther. (That's why most persons on many jobs turn out to be incompetent at what they do.)

II. The Game-Playing Aspect of Life [Hesse 53D]. What is it?

    A. In the game-playing mode of living you don't invest yourself in what you do. Life is like a game of sports: learn the rules, play hard, become a winner all the while "wearing your heart on your sleeve."

      1. By living life by pretending as if life were real is an attitude that can save you from getting hurt.

      2. Too much stress can interfere with your everyday judgment—you worry about losing something you feel could be irreplaceable. (After all, one can care too much.)

      3. Consider also the informal rule that when investing, you don't risk more than that which can give you a good night's sleep.

      4. For example, when Siddhartha's attempted to buy the harvest which was already sold, he didn't desire the deal too much. He was not angry or upset, and he did not worry what the boss would think when he found out the harvest was sold to others.

        a. By staying and visiting, he showed the people that he like them and wasn't just interested in making money from them.

        b. But from another point of view, could it be claimed  that this attitude reflects Siddhartha's "smarter" playing of the game? Couldn't this be an example of deception at a higher level—i.e., with this attitude, isn't it likely he will "win" the harvest next year?

        c. It's possible it could be deception, but one must examine the motives under which the act was performed.. It was to Siddhartha's long-term advantage not to display hastiness—not only for the sake of the rice harvest next year, but also for his own peace of mind. (I.e., contrast being inner-directed vs. the necessity of being directed by others.)

      5. Siddhartha does not have to worry about loss—Consider the lyrics in Bob Dylan's song "Like a Rolling Stone": "When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose."

        a. The Advantage: when you live life with no expectations, you do not get hurt because you can just move on to a new game.

        b. The Disadvantage: nothing seems to matter very much. Life is lived without passion, caring, and commitment.

          (1) This is one version of the oft-asked question: Can a Stoic really love? (Cf., the Buddha's doctrines implicit in the Four Noble Truths.)

          (2) How can you commit yourself without the being subject to the alienation of misidentification?

    B. With Kamala lay the value and meaning of his present life. Why did not the value of his life lie with Kamaswami?

      1. With Kamala, he was learning, developing, growing. These kinds of actions cannot be done in the game-playing attitude.

      2. In business, one can learn rules and techniques without mastering the art—the secret of successful people is not to care too much.

        a. "He has the secret of those people to whom success comes by itself..." [Hesse 54D].

        b. He never worried—he can be trusted. Siddhartha knows he is far more than what he does.

    C. Kamaswami says Siddhartha has learned everything from him (i.e.,  Kamaswami). What is Siddhartha's response?

      "I have learned facts, not how to think." What is important for Siddhartha is process not result.

IV. These are the ways Siddhartha differs from the Child-People.

    A. He knew he was different—this difference came, in part, from being a Samana.

      1. People were all treated all the same to him—his problems were treated all the same to him; no priority was set regardless of the relative importance of the problem.

      2. To the Child-People trivia was made important; they can love; whereas, he and Kamala apparently cannot love.

      3. What is the main difference between Siddhartha and the Child-People? Siddhartha has a sanctuary (the ability of self-knowledge or of knowing his own self second-hand).

    B. There is the hint, at this point, of the inner voice that he is going astray; he recognizes the occasional need to compromise so long as he doesn't lose sight of his goal—but, of course, he already has lost sight of his life's goal [Hesse 57D-58A].

      1. Authentic life was flowing past him.

      2. What once made him superior is now leading him astray.

    C. Hess defines the art of love as the giving and taking which becomes one. Is this the love of the Child-People, the love of the nature of business, or what Siddhartha thought love is at the present time (even though he knows he cannot love in his present state). Obviously it's not the kind of love implicit in the compassion of Buddha.

      1. This is the kind of love where no one keeps score—there is the loss of ego; no one is "there" to total up points. 

      2. The sanctuary is the ego, in itself, apart from the repetition of experience.

      3. Kamaswami is identified with his business—if it fails, one would not be surprised at his failure—another example of the alienation of misidentification. I.e., we ought not identify ourselves with the roles we play in life.

      4. The Child-People are like Kafka's "Couriers": "They were offered the choice between becoming kings or the couriers of kings. The way children would, they all wanted to be couriers. Therefore there are only couriers who hurry about the world, shouting to each other—since there are no kings—messages that have become meaningless. They would like to put an end to this miserable life of theirs but they dare not because of their oaths of service."

        a. Most persons are like the falling leaves {58D].

        b. Siddhartha chooses his destiny rather than merely reacting to surrounding circumstances.

      5. Siddhartha notes, "People like us cannot love." The Child-People with their pettiness can love, but Siddhartha and Kamala cannot.

        a. Is it because of their sanctuary that they lack the capacity for commitment? How can you love and be a Stoic?

        b. What he really needs to know is the side of himself which is love in essence. (This is probably the central non-Eastern philosophical feature of this book as written by Hesse, a Western writer.)

V. Siddhartha's journey so far can be represented in terms of  Jung's theory of types.

    A. He has now learned all he can from Kamala and Kamaswami.

    B. He lacks the nature and ability to value "love" as a way to relate to the world—i.e., he lacks this necessary component for the achievement of his final state of unity.

    C. The path shown by the arrows in the following diagram traces Siddhartha's development throughout the novel.

     

Thinking Valuing Sensation Intuition
Father Love 
Seeking
Kamaswami
Kamala
Samana
↑_________↓    ↑__________↓
____________________________________________

 

 
Kamala   Top of Page   Samsara

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