Philosophy 312: Oriental Philosophy
Chapter 11: Om
Abstract: Wisdom is
illustrated by the merging of Self into all things.
I. Because of his love for his son and the consequent
humiliation, Siddhartha returns to Samsara.
A. Ordinary people were no longer Child-People; he was like them. "I
had to sin before I could live again" [78D]—reflects his necessary, but last
experience before enlightenment.
II. Siddhartha chooses authenticity: wisdom.
B. His only edge  over the child-people was consciousness of the unity of all life.
1. Quotation [106C]: "With the exception of one small thing, one tiny little thing, they lacked nothing that the sage and thinker had, and that was the
consciousness of the unity of all life" (italics mine).
2. That is, he knew time was an illusion—this knowledge was a necessary realization for his own development.
3. People of the world (Child-People) were often superior because of their undeviating actions. "The men of the world were equal to the thinkers in every other respect and were often superior to them, just as
animals in their tenacious undeviating actions in cases of necessity may often seem superior to human beings" [106D].
4. At such a crisis of life, sometimes only four possibilities are
seen (Compare Tolstoy's summary of similar possibilities in his My
a. Alienation of Misidentification—finding value only in what you do
(e.g., a role) and classifying other people on life-quests as fools, misguided, or dreamers lost in their own imaginations. What you do is the only thing that has real value.
b. Self-Deception: take the road of the common people, pretend your own ignorance of the truths of the world. Trust and have faith and live as the
Child-People do.) Yet, you feel superior to them, but avoid your own thoughts by losing yourself in the world.)
c. Authenticity: recognize how difficult the road is to enlightenment and continue your path
(yoga) in the face of meaninglessness.
d. Suicide: judging that life is not worth the bother.
A. Wisdom: "...a preparation of the soul, a capacity, a secret art of thinking, feeling and breathing thought of unity at every
moment of life." [106D].
III. Vasudeva can now be seen as the Buddha.
B. Wisdom comes from seeing yourself second-hand or what we have been
1. Seeing yourself in the here and now in the eternal moment at this place at this time in the unity of the world is
the same thing as the active awareness of seeing part to whole.
C. Why didn't Siddhartha go back to see his Dad? Remember when Siddhartha said that he never disobeyed his father?
2. The permanence of the circle of time: Siddhartha and his father went through the same process of life (similar cycles).
1. His father had said, "If you find bliss in the forest, come back and teach it to me. If you find disillusionment, come back and we shall offer sacrifices to the gods together" [9A].
2. Siddhartha didn't find bliss, or disillusionment, so he didn't come back.
3. There is a sense of generational karma suggested: the sins of the father are visited upon the son. One reviewer said of Mary Gordon's
The Other Side, "We come to understand how familial traits—beauty, anger, shame, and fear—are passed down, generation to generation. How bonds of affection develop or fail to develop between parents and children."
A. For Vasudeva, everything was natural and in order—[Hesse, 109A]. "Is not everything fine, Sir?"
IV. Another way to view the cycle of time and the cycle of the river is as follows.
B. Siddhartha saw that Vasudeva had reached enlightenment and inwardly began to take leave of him.
1. Why? "If you see the Buddha on the road, kill him!"
2. You are not what you are (your Buddha nature) if you attempt to become someone or something else.
A. The circle of time: "Everything that was not suffered to the end and finally concluded, recurred and the same sorrows were undergone" [Hesse, 107D]. Compare to Nietzsche's doctrine of the
eternal return where we affirm the next moment in spite of its inevitability.
V. Siddhartha's enlightenment: he lets go. He knows that he does not and
cannot control events.
B. This means that everything recurs; e.g, rearing children, family hang-ups.
C. The River—he saw all the people and insatiable desire. All goals reached and
succeeded by others .
D. Similar metaphors include the stream of events—Wagner's music of life—Schopenhauer's theory of the will.
The cycle of time and the cycle of the river can be seen as the recognition of the
unity of all.
A. He sees himself as part of the unity of things but detached from the world of
desires—with consequent great joy thereby.
B. "Self had merged into unity" [Hesse, 111B].
1. No longer did he fight his destiny—he let it be.
2. Sympathy and compassion result.