It has been a few years since I read Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha. I read it in quick succession a few times in the beginning… and a few times hence. But I hadn’t picked it up in the last three years. When I picked it up yesterday again, It felt soothingly familiar. It has refreshed and rejuvenated me.
The first significant event in the book happens when Siddhartha decides to become a Samana and asks his father for permission to leave the house. The father, who loves his brilliant son deeply, is upset and refused to grant him permission. He reminds Siddhartha that he (Siddhartha) has always been obedient and has never thwarted his father’s wishes. Siddhartha concurs and stands, arms folded, and again asks for permission. The father refuses and leaves the room.
Siddharth keep standing in exactly the same position all night long. The father spends a restless, anxious night, checking up on his son again and again. By morning he can’t bear it anymore for he sees that his son’s knees are trembling, though there is no trembling in his resolve. He has no option but to permit Siddhartha to become a Samana. Siddhartha leaves the house immediately.
Sometimes the universe denies us things only so that you can should it how strong your resolve it.
Siddhartha did not argue with his father. He did not use rude words, nor say hurting things. He was determined to he obedient to his father. He had no intention of doing anything against his father’s will. But he did all he could to compel his father to change his mind- not by force, aggression or heated words; but by simply stating what he wanted- resolutely and inflexibly.
Only someone who has a a stillness and steadfastness of purpose in his heart and is convinced of the inevitability and rightness of his chosen path, can remain patient and unmoved in the face of a denial. Siddhartha knew what he wanted; he knew that he will get what he wants- because HE wants it. There was no need for him to get upset when his father refused to give him permission.
This mindset has much benefit to bring to all of us. We bluster when our resolve is weak. We rave and rant when we our path is unclear to us. We throw a tantrum to hide that we are afraid to Step Out. We spew heated words when we see that the universe is not willing to give us a guarantee that we wont fall flat on our face.
Another passage that caught my attention was when Siddhartha is talking to the beautiful courtesan Kamala, who taught him the arts of love.
Once he said to her: “You are like me; you are different from other people. You are Kamala and no one else, and within you there is a stillness and sanctuary to which you can retreat any time and be yourself, just as I can. Few people have that capacity and yet everyone could have it. “
“Not all people are clever”, said Kamala.
“It has nothing to do with that Kamala”, said Siddhattha. “Kamaswami is just as clever as I am and yet he has no sanctuary. Others have it who are only children in understanding. Most people, Kamala, are like a falling leaf that drifts and turns in the air, flutters and falls to the ground. But a few others are like stars which travel one defined path: no wind reaches them, they have within themselves their guide and path. Among all the wise men, of whom I knew many, there was one who was perfect in this respect. I can never forget him. He is Gautam, the Illustrious One, who preaches this gospel. Thousands of young men hear his teachings every day and follow his instructions every hour, but they are still falling leaves; they have not the wisdom and guide within themselves.”
~Herman Hesse, Siddhartha
You can also be a star instead of a drifting leaf.