Siddhartha learned something new on every step of his path, for the world was transformed, and his heart was enchanted. He saw the sun rising over the mountains with their forests and setting over the distant beach with its palm-trees. At night, he saw the stars in the sky in their fixed positions and the crescent of the moon floating like a boat in the blue. He saw trees, stars, animals, clouds, rainbows, rocks, herbs, flowers, stream and river, the glistening dew in the bushes in the morning, distant hight mountains which were blue and pale, birds sang and bees, wind silverishly blew through the rice-field. All of this, a thousand-fold and colourful, had always been there, always the sun and the moon had shone, always rivers had roared and bees had buzzed, but in former times all of this had been nothing more to Siddhartha than a fleeting, deceptive veil before his eyes, looked upon in distrust, destined to be penetrated and destroyed by thought, since it was not the essential existence, since this essence lay beyond, on the other side of, the visible. But now, his liberated eyes stayed on this side, he saw and became aware of the visible, sought to be at home in this world, did not search for the true essence, did not aim at a world beyond. Beautiful was this world, looking at it thus, without searching, thus simply, thus childlike. Beautiful were the moon and the stars, beautiful was the stream and the banks, the forest and the rocks, the goat and the gold-beetle, the flower and the butterfly. Beautiful and lovely it was, thus to walk through the world, thus childlike, thus awoken, thus open to what is near, thus without distrust. Differently the sun burnt the head, differently the shade of the forest cooled him down, differently the stream and the cistern, the pumpkin and the banana tasted. Short were the days, short the nights, every hour sped swiftly away like a sail on the sea, and under the sail was a ship full of treasures, full of joy. Siddhartha saw a group of apes moving through the high canopy of the forest, high in the branches, and heard their savage, greedy song. Siddhartha saw a male sheep following a female one and mating with her. In a lake of reeds, he saw the pike hungrily hunting for its dinner; propelling themselves away from it, in fear, wiggling and sparkling, the young fish jumped in droves out of the water; the scent of strength and passion came forcefully out of the hasty eddies of the water, which the pike stirred up, impetuously hunting.
All of this had always existed, and he had not seen it; he had not been with it. Now he was with it, he was part of it. Light and shadow ran through his eyes, stars and moon ran through his heart.
On the way, Siddhartha also remembered everything he had experienced in the Garden Jetavana, the teaching he had heard there, the divine Buddha, the farewell from Govinda, the conversation with the exalted one. Again he remembered his own words, he had spoken to the exalted one, every word, and with astonishment he became aware of the fact that there he had said things which he had not really known yet at this time. What he had said to Gotama: his, the Buddha's, treasure and secret was not the teachings, but the unexpressable and not teachable, which he had experienced in the hour of his enlightenment—it was nothing but this very thing which he had now gone to experience, what he now began to experience. Now, he had to experience his self. It is true that he had already known for a long time that his self was Atman, in its essence bearing the same eternal characteristics as Brahman. But never, he had really found this self, because he had wanted to capture it in the net of thought. With the body definitely not being the self, and not the spectacle of the senses, so it also was not the thought, not the rational mind, not the learned wisdom, not the learned ability to draw conclusions and to develop previous thoughts in to new ones. No, this world of thought was also still on this side, and nothing could be achieved by killing the random self of the senses, if the random self of thoughts and learned knowledge was fattened on the other hand. Both, the thoughts as well as the senses, were pretty things, the ultimate meaning was hidden behind both of them, both had to be listened to, both had to be played with, both neither had to be scorned nor overestimated, from both the secret voices of the innermost truth had to be attentively perceived. He wanted to strive for nothing, except for what the voice commanded him to strive for, dwell on nothing, except where the voice would advise him to do so. Why had Gotama, at that time, in the hour of all hours, sat down under the bo-tree, where the enlightenment hit him? He had heard a voice, a voice in his own heart, which had commanded him to seek rest under this tree, and he had neither preferred self-castigation, offerings, ablutions, nor prayer, neither food nor drink, neither sleep nor dream, he had obeyed the voice. To obey like this, not to an external command, only to the voice, to be ready like this, this was good, this was necessary, nothing else was necessary.
In the night when he slept in the straw hut of a ferryman by the river, Siddhartha had a dream: Govinda was standing in front of him, dressed in the yellow robe of an ascetic. Sad was how Govinda looked like, sadly he asked: Why have you forsaken me? At this, he embraced Govinda, wrapped his arms around him, and as he was pulling him close to his chest and kissed him, it was not Govinda any more, but a woman, and a full breast popped out of the woman's dress, at which Siddhartha lay and drank, sweetly and strongly tasted the milk from this breast. It tasted of woman and man, of sun and forest, of animal and flower, of every fruit, of every joyful desire. It intoxicated him and rendered him unconscious.—When Siddhartha woke up, the pale river shimmered through the door of the hut, and in the forest, a dark call of an owl resounded deeply and pleasantly.
When the day began, Siddhartha asked his host, the ferryman, to get him across the river. The ferryman got him across the river on his bamboo-raft, the wide water shimmered reddishly in the light of the morning.
"This is a beautiful river," he said to his companion.
"Yes," said the ferryman, "a very beautiful river, I love it more than anything. Often I have listened to it, often I have looked into its eyes, and always I have learned from it. Much can be learned from a river."
"I thank you, my benefactor," spoke Siddhartha, disembarking on the other side of the river. "I have no gift I could give you for your hospitality, my dear, and also no payment for your work. I am a man without a home, a son of a Brahman and a Samana." "I did see it," spoke the ferryman, "and I haven't expected any payment from you and no gift which would be the custom for guests to bear. You will give me the gift another time."
"Do you think so?" asked Siddhartha amusedly.
"Surely. This too, I have learned from the river: everything is coming back! You too, Samana, will come back. Now farewell! Let your friendship be my reward. Commemorate me, when you'll make offerings to the gods."
Children, Madras, Library of Congress
Smiling, they parted. Smiling, Siddhartha was happy about the friendship and the kindness of the ferryman. "He is like Govinda," he thought with a smile, "all I meet on my path are like Govinda. All are thankful, though they are the ones who would have a right to receive thanks. All are submissive, all would like to be friends, like to obey, think little. Like children are all people."
At about noon, he came through a village. In front of the mud cottages, children were rolling about in the street, were playing with pumpkin-seeds and sea-shells, screamed and wrestled, but they all timidly fled from the unknown Samana. In the end of the village, the path led through a stream, and by the side of the stream, a young woman was kneeling and washing clothes. When Siddhartha greeted her, she lifted her head and looked up to him with a smile, so that he saw the white in her eyes glistening. He called out a blessing to her, as it is the custom among travelers, and asked how far he still had to go to reach the large city. Then she got up and came to him, beautifully her wet mouth was shimmering in her young face. She exchanged humorous banter with him, asked whether he had eaten already, and whether it was true that the Samanas slept alone in the forest at night and were not allowed to have any women with them. While talking, she put her left foot on his right one and made a movement as a woman does who would want to initiate that kind of sexual pleasure with a man, which the textbooks call "climbing a tree." Siddhartha felt his blood heating up, and since in this moment he had to think of his dream again, he bent slightly down to the woman and kissed with his lips the brown nipple of her breast. Looking up, he saw her face smiling full of lust and her eyes, with contracted pupils, begging with desire.
Siddhartha also felt desire and felt the source of his sexuality moving; but since he had never touched a woman before, he hesitated for a moment, while his hands were already prepared to reach out for her. And in this moment he heard, shuddering with awe, the voice if his innermost self, and this voice said "No." Then, all charms disappeared from the young woman's smiling face, he no longer saw anything else but the damp glance of a female animal in heat. Politely, he petted her cheek, turned away from her and disappeared away from the disappointed woman with light steps into the bamboo-wood.
On this day, he reached the large city before the evening, and was happy, for he felt the need to be among people. For a long time, he had lived in the forests, and the straw hut of the ferryman, in which he had slept that night, had been the first roof for a long time he has had over his head.
Before the city, in a beautifully fenced grove, the traveler came across a small group of servants, both male and female, carrying baskets. In their midst, carried by four servants in an ornamental sedan-chair, sat a woman, the mistress, on red pillows under a colourful canopy. Siddhartha stopped at the entrance to the pleasure-garden and watched the parade, saw the servants, the maids, the baskets, saw the sedan-chair and saw the lady in it. Under black hair, which made to tower high on her head, he saw a very fair, very delicate, very smart face, a brightly red mouth, like a freshly cracked fig, eyebrows which were well tended and painted in a high arch, smart and watchful dark eyes, a clear, tall neck rising from a green and golden garment, resting fair hands, long and thin, with wide golden bracelets over the wrists.
Siddhartha saw how beautiful she was, and his heart rejoiced. He bowed deeply, when the sedan-chair came closer, and straightening up again, he looked at the fair, charming face, read for a moment in the smart eyes with the high arcs above, breathed in a slight fragrance, he did not know. With a smile, the beautiful women nodded for a moment and disappeared into the grove, and then the servant as well.
Thus I am entering this city, Siddhartha thought, with a charming omen. He instantly felt drawn into the grove, but he thought about it, and only now he became aware of how the servants and maids had looked at him at the entrance, how despicable, how distrustful, how rejecting.
I am still a Samana, he thought, I am still an ascetic and beggar. I must not remain like this, I will not be able to enter the grove like this. And he laughed.
The next person who came along this path he asked about the grove and for the name of the woman, and was told that this was the grove of Kamala, the famous courtesan, and that, aside from the grove, she owned a house in the city.
Then, he entered the city. Now he had a goal.
Pursuing his goal, he allowed the city to suck him in, drifted through the flow of the streets, stood still on the squares, rested on the stairs of stone by the river. When the evening came, he made friends with the barber's assistant, whom he had seen working in the shade of an arch in a building, whom he found again praying in a temple of Vishnu, whom he told about stories of Vishnu and the Lakshmi. Among the boats by the river, he slept this night, and early in the morning, before the first customers came into his shop, he had the barber's assistant shave his beard and cut his hair, comb his hair and anoint it with fine oil. Then he went to take his bath in the river.
When late in the afternoon, beautiful Kamala approached her grove in her sedan-chair, Siddhartha was standing at the entrance, made a bow and received the courtesan's greeting. But that servant who walked at the very end of her train he motioned to him and asked him to inform his mistress that a young Brahman would wish to talk to her. After a while, the servant returned, asked him, who had been waiting, to follow him, and conducted him without a word into a pavilion, where Kamala was lying on a couch, and left him alone with her.
"Weren't you already standing out there yesterday, greeting me?" asked Kamala.
"It's true that I've already seen and greeted you yesterday."
"But didn't you yesterday wear a beard, and long hair, and dust in your hair?"
"You have observed well, you have seen everything. You have seen Siddhartha, the son of a Brahman, who has left his home to become a Samana, and who has been a Samana for three years. But now, I have left that path and came into this city, and the first one I met, even before I had entered the city, was you. To say this, I have come to you, oh Kamala! You are the first woman whom Siddhartha is not addressing with his eyes turned to the ground. Never again I want to turn my eyes to the ground, when I'm coming across a beautiful woman."
Kamala smiled and played with her fan of peacocks' feathers. And asked: "And only to tell me this, Siddhartha has come to me?"
"To tell you this and to thank you for being so beautiful. And if it doesn't displease you, Kamala, I would like to ask you to be my friend and teacher, for I know nothing yet of that art which you have mastered in the highest degree."
At this, Kamala laughed aloud.
"Never before this has happened to me, my friend, that a Samana from the forest came to me and wanted to learn from me! Never before this has happened to me, that a Samana came to me with long hair and an old, torn loin-cloth! Many young men come to me, and there are also sons of Brahmans among them, but they come in beautiful clothes, they come in fine shoes, they have perfume in their hair and money in their pouches. This is, oh Samana, how the young men are like who come to me."
Quoth Siddhartha: "Already I am starting to learn from you. Even yesterday, I was already learning. I have already taken off my beard, have combed the hair, have oil in my hair. There is little which is still missing in me, oh excellent one: fine clothes, fine shoes, money in my pouch. You shall know, Siddhartha has set harder goals for himself than such trifles, and he has reached them. How shouldn't I reach that goal, which I have set for myself yesterday: to be your friend and to learn the joys of love from you! You'll see that I'll learn quickly, Kamala, I have already learned harder things than what you're supposed to teach me. And now let's get to it: You aren't satisfied with Siddhartha as he is, with oil in his hair, but without clothes, without shoes, without money?"
Laughing, Kamala exclaimed: "No, my dear, he doesn't satisfy me yet. Clothes are what he must have, pretty clothes, and shoes, pretty shoes, and lots of money in his pouch, and gifts for Kamala. Do you know it now, Samana from the forest? Did you mark my words?"
"Yes, I have marked your words," Siddhartha exclaimed. "How should I not mark words which are coming from such a mouth! Your mouth is like a freshly cracked fig, Kamala. My mouth is red and fresh as well, it will be a suitable match for yours, you'll see.—But tell me, beautiful Kamala, aren't you at all afraid of the Samana from the forest, who has come to learn how to make love?"
"Whatever for should I be afraid of a Samana, a stupid Samana from the forest, who is coming from the jackals and doesn't even know yet what women are?"
"Oh, he's strong, the Samana, and he isn't afraid of anything. He could force you, beautiful girl. He could kidnap you. He could hurt you."
"No, Samana, I am not afraid of this. Did any Samana or Brahman ever fear, someone might come and grab him and steal his learning, and his religious devotion, and his depth of thought? No, for they are his very own, and he would only give away from those whatever he is willing to give and to whomever he is willing to give. Like this it is, precisely like this it is also with Kamala and with the pleasures of love. Beautiful and red is Kamala's mouth, but just try to kiss it against Kamala's will, and you will not obtain a single drop of sweetness from it, which knows how to give so many sweet things! You are learning easily, Siddhartha, thus you should also learn this: love can be obtained by begging, buying, receiving it as a gift, finding it in the street, but it cannot be stolen. In this, you have come up with the wrong path. No, it would be a pity, if a pretty young man like you would want to tackle it in such a wrong manner."
Siddhartha bowed with a smile. "It would be a pity, Kamala, you are so right! It would be such a great pity. No, I shall not lose a single drop of sweetness from your mouth, nor you from mine! So it is settled: Siddhartha will return, once he'll have have what he still lacks: clothes, shoes, money. But speak, lovely Kamala, couldn't you still give me one small advice?"
"An advice? Why not? Who wouldn't like to give an advice to a poor, ignorant Samana, who is coming from the jackals of the forest?"
"Dear Kamala, thus advise me where I should go to, that I'll find these three things most quickly?"
"Friend, many would like to know this. You must do what you've learned and ask for money, clothes, and shoes in return. There is no other way for a poor man to obtain money. What might you be able to do?"
"I can think. I can wait. I can fast."
"Nothing. But yes, I can also write poetry. Would you like to give me a kiss for a poem?"
"I would like to, if I'll like your poem. What would be its title?"
Siddhartha spoke, after he had thought about it for a moment, these verses:
Into her shady grove stepped the pretty Kamala,
At the grove's entrance stood the brown Samana.
Deeply, seeing the lotus's blossom,
Bowed that man, and smiling Kamala thanked.
More lovely, thought the young man, than offerings for gods,
More lovely is offering to pretty Kamala.
Kamala loudly clapped her hands, so that the golden bracelets clanged.
"Beautiful are your verses, oh brown Samana, and truly, I'm losing nothing when I'm giving you a kiss for them."
She beckoned him with her eyes, he tilted his head so that his face touched hers and placed his mouth on that mouth which was like a freshly cracked fig. For a long time, Kamala kissed him, and with a deep astonishment Siddhartha felt how she taught him, how wise she was, how she controlled him, rejected him, lured him, and how after this first one there was to be a long, a well ordered, well tested sequence of kisses, everyone different from the others, he was still to receive. Breathing deeply, he remained standing where he was, and was in this moment astonished like a child about the cornucopia of knowledge and things worth learning, which revealed itself before his eyes.
"Very beautiful are your verses," exclaimed Kamala, "if I were rich, I would give you pieces of gold for them. But it will be difficult for you to earn this much money with verses as you need. For you need a lot of money, if you want to be Kamala's friend."
"The way you're able to kiss, Kamala!" stammered Siddhartha.
"Yes, this I am able to do, therefore I do not lack clothes, shoes, bracelets, and all beautiful things. But what will become of you? Aren't you able to do anything else but thinking, fasting, making poetry?"
"I also know the sacrificial songs," said Siddhartha, "but I do not want to sing them any more. I also know magic spells, but I do not want to speak them any more. I have read the scriptures—"
"Stop," Kamala interrupted him. "You're able to read? And write?"
"Certainly, I can do this. Many people can do this."
"Most people can't. I also can't do it. It is very good that you're able to read and write, very good. You will also still find use for the magic spells."
In this moment, a maid came running in and whispered a message into her mistress's ear.
"There's a visitor for me," exclaimed Kamala. "Hurry and get yourself away, Siddhartha, nobody may see you in here, remember this! Tomorrow, I'll see you again."
But to the maid she gave the order to give the pious Brahman white upper garments. Without fully understanding what was happening to him, Siddhartha found himself being dragged away by the maid, brought into a garden-house avoiding the direct path, being given upper garments as a gift, led into the bushes, and urgently admonished to get himself out of the grove as soon as possible without being seen.
Contently, he did as he had been told. Being accustomed to the forest, he managed to get out of the grove and over the hedge without making a sound. Contently, he returned to the city, carrying the rolled up garments under his arm. At the inn, where travelers stay, he positioned himself by the door, without words he asked for food, without a word he accepted a piece of rice-cake. Perhaps as soon as tomorrow, he thought, I will ask no one for food any more.
Suddenly, pride flared up in him. He was no Samana any more, it was no longer becoming to him to beg. He gave the rice-cake to a dog and remained without food.
"Simple is the life which people lead in this world here," thought Siddhartha. "It presents no difficulties. Everything was difficult, toilsome, and ultimately hopeless, when I was still a Samana. Now, everything is easy, easy like that lessons in kissing, which Kamala is giving me. I need clothes and money, nothing else; this a small, near goals, they won't make a person lose any sleep."
He had already discovered Kamala's house in the city long before, there he turned up the following day.
"Things are working out well," she called out to him. "They are expecting you at Kamaswami's, he is the richest merchant of the city. If he'll like you, he'll accept you into his service. Be smart, brown Samana. I had others tell him about you. Be polite towards him, he is very powerful. But don't be too modest! I do not want you to become his servant, you shall become his equal, or else I won't be satisfied with you. Kamaswami is starting to get old and lazy. If he'll like you, he'll entrust you with a lot."
Siddhartha thanked her and laughed, and when she found out that he had not eaten anything yesterday and today, she sent for bread and fruits and treated him to it.
"You've been lucky," she said when they parted, "I'm opening one door after another for you. How come? Do you have a spell?"
Siddhartha said: "Yesterday, I told you I knew how to think, to wait, and to fast, but you thought this was of no use. But it is useful for many things, Kamala, you'll see. You'll see that the stupid Samanas are learned and able to do many pretty things in the forest, which the likes of you aren't capable of. The day before yesterday, I was still a shaggy beggar, as soon as yesterday I have kissed Kamala, and soon I'll be a merchant and have money and all those things you insist upon."
"Well yes," she admitted. "But where would you be without me? What would you be, if Kamala wasn't helping you?"
"Dear Kamala," said Siddhartha and straightened up to his full height, "when I came to you into your grove, I did the first step. It was my resolution to learn love from this most beautiful woman. From that moment on when I had made this resolution, I also knew that I would carry it out. I knew that you would help me, at your first glance at the entrance of the grove I already knew it."
"But what if I hadn't been willing?"
"You were willing. Look, Kamala: When you throw a rock into the water, it will speed on the fastest course to the bottom of the water. This is how it is when Siddhartha has a goal, a resolution. Siddhartha does nothing, he waits, he thinks, he fasts, but he passes through the things of the world like a rock through water, without doing anything, without stirring; he is drawn, he lets himself fall. His goal attracts him, because he doesn't let anything enter his soul which might oppose the goal. This is what Siddhartha has learned among the Samanas. This is what fools call magic and of which they think it would be effected by means of the daemons. Nothing is effected by daemons, there are no daemons. Everyone can perform magic, everyone can reach his goals, if he is able to think, if he is able to wait, if he is able to fast."
Kamala listened to him. She loved his voice, she loved the look from his eyes.
"Perhaps it is so," she said quietly, "as you say, friend. But perhaps it is also like this: that Siddhartha is a handsome man, that his glance pleases the women, that therefore good fortune is coming towards him."
With one kiss, Siddhartha bid his farewell. "I wish that it should be this way, my teacher; that my glance shall please you, that always good fortune shall come to me out of your direction!"
Jayanti Park, Shishir Thadani