Siddhartha: Classical Spiritual Journey

Siddhartha: Classical Spiritual Journey

Siddhartha is a story of a young man who gave up earthly life to seek spiritual truth. (From this description, I naively thought this was Hesse’s version of Buddha’s life story.) There must be hundreds of modern version of similar spiritual journey books, but the classics often do it better, don’t they?

This is also a type of books I am glad I did NOT read when I was younger. If I did, I would probably have thrown this away and perhaps never tried it again.

It’s been a couple of weeks since I finished reading, but I still think about Siddhartha’s words and his gentle smile (in my imagination).

It was an inspiring read, but also can be read as a good novel. But be careful. This book should not be treated lightly, but need to be read very slowly…

—–

Now, that I’m no longer young, that my hair is already half gray, that my strength is fading, now I’m starting again at the beginning and as a child! Again, he had to smile. Yes, his fate had been strange! Things were going downhill with him, and now he was again facing the world void and naked and stupid. But he could not feel sad about this, no, he even felt a great urge to laugh, to laugh about himself, to laugh about this strange, foolish world.

Enlightenment is like unified theory in spiritual world (or probably the other way around). Something like that, you don’t get in one shot. Siddhartha also struggled. After all, it won’t be a book if he just went into woods and achieved aha moment there. Not much a story.

This isn’t just about achieving enlightenment, but also getting lost and struggling in the process and retrying over and over, restarting own life.

this water ran and ran, incessantly it ran, and was nevertheless always there, was always at all times the same and yet new in every moment!

Siddhartha eventually found the peace he was looking for from observing river. People say we have much to learn from mother nature, and that was literally true for him. There are reason why we almost instinctively go to see nature in order to take break from stressful modern life.

the river is everywhere at once, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the rapids, in the sea, in the mountains, everywhere at once, and there is only the present time for it, not the shadow of the past, not the shadow of the future

One of the secret Siddhartha found was the concept of now and everywhere. The concept of now is now widely popular among modern literatures, but the idea seems to be as old as Buddhism.

Oh, was not all suffering time, were not all forms of tormenting oneself and being afraid time, was not everything hard, everything hostile in the world gone and overcome as soon as one had overcome time, as soon as time would have been put out of existence by one’s thoughts?

Much of human suffering (except real suffering like starvation) are either pain from past memories or fear of uncertain future. It’s all in our minds.

This thing called mind is greatest gift given to human being, which differentiate us from the rest of living things. We have accomplished all those great things, but isn’t it true that this powerful human mind also brought us so much suffering? It makes sense how the rest of the living creatures are free from our mental suffering.

Mind is, like many other technology, an double-edged sword. We should either try to control, or silence it… or it’ll destroy us someday.

Slowly blossomed, slowly ripened in Siddhartha the realization, the knowledge, what wisdom actually was, what the goal of his long search was. It was nothing but a readiness of the soul, an ability, a secret art, to think every moment, while living his life, the thought of oneness, to be able to feel and inhale the oneness.

I used to laugh at senesces like these, but now I can’t help re-reading them several times.

“When someone is searching,” said Siddhartha, “then it might easily happen that the only thing his eyes still see is that what he searches for, that he is unable to find anything, to let anything enter his mind, because he always thinks of nothing but the object of his search, because he has a goal, because he is obsessed by the goal. Searching means: having a goal. But finding means: being free, being open, having no goal. You, oh venerable one, are perhaps indeed a searcher, because, striving for your goal, there are many things you don’t see, which are directly in front of your eyes.”

If now-ness is so important, then as Siddhartha is pointing out here, our goal-oriented life may need to be reconsidered. Goal or no goal is a tough question, but what I am seeing more these days from people like Leo Babauta.

Goal bring us to higher level, but yes, we could lose ourselves. According to recent article on guardian, one of the top five regrets of the dying was “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.” Huge part of their life was occupied by work, they missed things like watching own kids growing up.

Goal is a useful concept, but we should try our best not to be carried away by it.

Knowledge can be conveyed, but not wisdom. It can be found, it can be lived, it is possible to be carried by it, miracles can be performed with it, but it cannot be expressed in words and taught.

You know modern version of this quote? One of my favorite characters in movies, Morpheus from The Matrix, put it nicely;

“I’m trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it.”

Ah, he might be a Buddhist master.