Philosophy 312: Oriental Philosophy
Chapter 12: Govinda
Abstract: Hesse's view
of the necessary conditions for enlightenment are discussed.
I. Although Govinda was a rule-follower, he was still a
A. Siddhartha's advice: "...perhaps you seek too much—as a result of
your seeking you cannot find" [Hesse, 113A].
II. Govinda asks Siddhartha what Siddhartha has learned.
1. What does this advice mean? What is the difference between learning to seek and seeking?
B. Siddhartha's advice is similar to other paradoxes in this regard.
2. When one attends to learning methods only and not to content, the methods become the ends in themselves; so likewise, when one attends to seeking or psychological analysis as an end in itself, one loses sight of self.
3. Consider the analogy of knowing how to do a term paper and knowing how to find any
source but yet unable to find a topic.
1. The hedonistic paradox—cf., ethics.
2. Can the good be directly sought? Do we lose sight of the here and now and sacrifice it for some future good?
3. Consider John Dewey's view as expressed in Experience and
Education, with respect to living in the present:
"...Collateral learning in the way of formation of enduring attitudes, of likes and dislikes, may and often is much more important than the
spelling lesson or lesson in geography or history that is learned. For these attitudes are fundamentally what count in the future. The most important attitude that can be formed is that of the desire to go on learning.
4. "Seeking means: to have a goal; but finding means: ...to have no goal" [Hesse, 113B]. Relate to Vasudeva's doctrine of "no goals, no hindrances, no expectations."
...What avail is it to win prescribed amounts of information about geography and history, to win the ability to read and write, if in the process the individual loses his own soul: loses his appreciation of things worth while, of the values to which these things are relative; if he loses desire to apply what he has learned and , above all, loses the ability to extract meaning from his future experiences as they occur?
...The ideal of using the present simply to get ready for the future contradicts itself. It omits, and even shuts out, the very conditions by which a person can be prepared for his future. We always live at the time we live and not at
some other time, and only by extracting at each present time the full meaning of each present experience are we prepared for doing the same
thing in the future. this is the only preparation which in the long run amounts to anything."
5. You are not separate from your goal: don't compare what is, with what your imagination thinks it should be [116D].
A. Teachers are only pointers—they should be distrusted for complete answers.
III. Siddhartha's smile and Govinda's enlightenment: Govinda sees the whole world-process in the eternal now.
B. Siddhartha says he learned something from Govinda : the love for
everything. (Cf., below the topic of love without attachment.)
C. Wisdom cannot be communicated (remember wisdom is the
consciousness of the unity of life).
1. Communicated wisdom sounds foolish. (E.g., remember the prisoner returning to Plato's cave after being freed.) The communicated wisdom would sound trivial.
D. Thoughts, like words, distort reality also—they shape what is seen and are subjective.
E.g., "Make the most of the moment."
2. Propositional knowledge—there are no unconditional truths.
Language makes distinction which just aren't there.
"Smell the roses along the way."
a. "The Sun rises; the earth turns."
3. Time is not real—most of our psychological difficulties are time related. It is this realization which leads to enlightenment [115D].
"The glass is half-empty; the glass is half full."
b. The Whorf-Sapir Hypothesis: the language we use shapes the world we seek to understand.
"If you are not for me, you are against me."
"Where does your lap go when you stand up?"
"Where does your fist go when you open your hand?"
(1) I.e., our language tends to shape our perceptions of the world.
(2) Words do not express thoughts nor do they express that is real. Instead they distract. Compare the following judgments:
The belongings in little Mary's room were strewn about in gay profusion.
Mary's room was a sloppy mess.
Her room is what it is.
a. One can see simultaneously past, present, and future. (Consider an obituary, the tape of a movie, the conception of a song.)
b. The potential actually exists now in you for you to see you are Buddha. Only the present ever exists.
c. As a whole, everything is perfect as it is—and so indeed are the parts.
d. A thing at one time is not what it is or could be. But, without time, a thing is all that is possible.
e. The example: the stone is a process, a cycle [117A].
stone -—> plant —> animal —> man
each step is necessary for the whole.
1. How do we compare our thought with the things in themselves?
E. Love is the most important thing in the world—not selfish love or desire for the world (or somebody). Siddhartha agrees with Gotama.
2. E.g., in Berkeley's analysis of vision, how do we compare what we see with the thing seen?
3. The subjective vs. the objective is a false dichotomy.
1. What is love without attachment? Love cannot mean "desire."
2. What is selfless love? Take away the goal and there's nothing to possess.
3. I.e., the letting go, the acceptance of Vasudeva's, "Is not everything in the world fine?"