Meet us on:
Welcome to Read Print! Sign in with
or
to get started!
 
Entire Site
    Try our fun game

    Dueling book covers…may the best design win!

    Random Quote
    "Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter."
     

    Subscribe to Our Newsletter

    Follow us on Twitter

    Never miss a good book again! Follow Read Print on Twitter

    Chapter 12

    • Rate it:
    • Average Rating: 4.1 out of 5 based on 9 ratings
    • 19 Favorites on Read Print
    Launch Reading Mode
    Chapter 12
    Previous Chapter
    GOVINDA

    Together with other monks, Govinda used to spend the time of rest
    between pilgrimages in the pleasure-grove, which the courtesan Kamala
    had given to the followers of Gotama for a gift. He heard talk of an
    old ferryman, who lived one day's journey away by the river, and
    who was regarded as a wise man by many. When Govinda went back on his
    way, he chose the path to the ferry, eager to see the ferryman.
    Because, though he had lived his entire life by the rules, though he was
    also looked upon with veneration by the younger monks on account of his
    age and his modesty, the restlessness and the searching still had not
    perished from his heart.

    He came to the river and asked the old man to ferry him over, and when
    they got off the boat on the other side, he said to the old man:
    "You're very good to us monks and pilgrims, you have already ferried
    many of us across the river. Aren't you too, ferryman, a searcher for
    the right path?"

    Quoth Siddhartha, smiling from his old eyes: "Do you call yourself a
    searcher, oh venerable one, though you are already of an old in years
    and are wearing the robe of Gotama's monks?"

    "It's true, I'm old," spoke Govinda, "but I haven't stopped searching.
    Never I'll stop searching, this seems to be my destiny. You too, so it
    seems to me, have been searching. Would you like to tell me something,
    oh honourable one?"

    Quoth Siddhartha: "What should I possibly have to tell you, oh
    venerable one? Perhaps that you're searching far too much? That in all
    that searching, you don't find the time for finding?"

    "How come?" asked Govinda.

    "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."

    "I don't quite understand yet," asked Govinda, "what do you mean by
    this?"

    Quoth Siddhartha: "A long time ago, oh venerable one, many years ago,
    you've once before been at this river and have found a sleeping man by
    the river, and have sat down with him to guard his sleep. But, oh
    Govinda, you did not recognise the sleeping man."

    Astonished, as if he had been the object of a magic spell, the monk
    looked into the ferryman's eyes.

    "Are you Siddhartha?" he asked with a timid voice. "I wouldn't have
    recognised you this time as well! From my heart, I'm greeting you,
    Siddhartha; from my heart, I'm happy to see you once again! You've
    changed a lot, my friend.--And so you've now become a ferryman?"

    In a friendly manner, Siddhartha laughed. "A ferryman, yes. Many
    people, Govinda, have to change a lot, have to wear many a robe, I am
    one of those, my dear. Be welcome, Govinda, and spend the night in my
    hut."

    Govinda stayed the night in the hut and slept on the bed which used to
    be Vasudeva's bed. Many questions he posed to the friend of his youth,
    many things Siddhartha had to tell him from his life.

    When in the next morning the time had come to start the day's journey,
    Govinda said, not without hesitation, these words: "Before I'll
    continue on my path, Siddhartha, permit me to ask one more question.
    Do you have a teaching? Do you have a faith, or a knowledge, you
    follow, which helps you to live and to do right?"

    Quoth Siddhartha: "You know, my dear, that I already as a young man, in
    those days when we lived with the penitents in the forest, started to
    distrust teachers and teachings and to turn my back to them. I have
    stuck with this. Nevertheless, I have had many teachers since then. A
    beautiful courtesan has been my teacher for a long time, and a rich
    merchant was my teacher, and some gamblers with dice. Once, even a
    follower of Buddha, travelling on foot, has been my teacher; he sat with
    me when I hat fallen asleep in the forest, on the pilgrimage. I've also
    learned from him, I'm also grateful to him, very grateful. But most of
    all, I have learned here from this river and from my predecessor, the
    ferryman Vasudeva. He was a very simple person, Vasudeva, he was no
    thinker, but he knew what is necessary just as well as Gotama, he was a
    perfect man, a saint."

    Govinda said: "Still, oh Siddhartha, you love a bit to mock people, as
    it seems to me. I believe in you and know that you haven't followed a
    teacher. But haven't you found something by yourself, though you've
    found no teachings, you still found certain thoughts, certain insights,
    which are your own and which help you to live? If you would like to
    tell me some of these, you would delight my heart."

    Quoth Siddhartha: "I've had thoughts, yes, and insight, again and
    again. Sometimes, for an hour or for an entire day, I have felt
    knowledge in me, as one would feel life in one's heart. There have
    been many thoughts, but it would be hard for me to convey them to you.
    Look, my dear Govinda, this is one of my thoughts, which I have found:
    wisdom cannot be passed on. Wisdom which a wise man tries to pass on
    to someone always sounds like foolishness."

    "Are you kidding?" asked Govinda.

    "I'm not kidding. I'm telling you what I've found. 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. This was what I, even as a
    young man, sometimes suspected, what has driven me away from the
    teachers. I have found a thought, Govinda, which you'll again regard as
    a joke or foolishness, but which is my best thought. It says: The
    opposite of every truth is just as true! That's like this: any truth
    can only be expressed and put into words when it is one-sided.
    Everything is one-sided which can be thought with thoughts and said with
    words, it's all one-sided, all just one half, all lacks completeness,
    roundness, oneness. When the exalted Gotama spoke in his teachings of
    the world, he had to divide it into Sansara and Nirvana, into deception
    and truth, into suffering and salvation. It cannot be done differently,
    there is no other way for him who wants to teach. But the world itself,
    what exists around us and inside of us, is never one-sided. A person or
    an act is never entirely Sansara or entirely Nirvana, a person is never
    entirely holy or entirely sinful. It does really seem like this,
    because we are subject to deception, as if time was something real.
    Time is not real, Govinda, I have experienced this often and often
    again. And if time is not real, then the gap which seems to be between
    the world and the eternity, between suffering and blissfulness, between
    evil and good, is also a deception."

    "How come?" asked Govinda timidly.

    "Listen well, my dear, listen well! The sinner, which I am and which
    you are, is a sinner, but in times to come he will be Brahma again, he
    will reach the Nirvana, will be Buddha--and now see: these "times to
    come" are a deception, are only a parable! The sinner is not on his
    way to become a Buddha, he is not in the process of developing, though
    our capacity for thinking does not know how else to picture these
    things. No, within the sinner is now and today already the future
    Buddha, his future is already all there, you have to worship in him, in
    you, in everyone the Buddha which is coming into being, the possible,
    the hidden Buddha. The world, my friend Govinda, is not imperfect, or
    on a slow path towards perfection: no, it is perfect in every moment,
    all sin already carries the divine forgiveness in itself, all small
    children already have the old person in themselves, all infants already
    have death, all dying people the eternal life. It is nor possible for
    any person to see how far another one has already progressed on his
    path; in the robber and dice-gambler, the Buddha is waiting; in the
    Brahman, the robber is waiting. In deep meditation, there is the
    possibility to put time out of existence, to see all life which was,
    is, and will be as if it was simultaneous, and there everything is
    good, everything is perfect, everything is Brahman. Therefore, I see
    whatever exists as good, death is to me like life, sin like holiness,
    wisdom like foolishness, everything has to be as it is, everything only
    requires my consent, only my willingness, my loving agreement, to be
    good for me, to do nothing but work for my benefit, to be unable to ever
    harm me. I have experienced on my body and on my soul that I needed sin
    very much, I needed lust, the desire for possessions, vanity, and needed
    the most shameful despair, in order to learn how to give up all
    resistance, in order to learn how to love the world, in order to stop
    comparing it to some world I wished, I imagined, some kind of perfection
    I had made up, but to leave it as it is and to love it and to enjoy
    being a part of it.--These, oh Govinda, are some of the thoughts which
    have come into my mind."

    Siddhartha bent down, picked up a stone from the ground, and weighed it
    in his hand.

    "This," he said playing with it, "is a stone, and will, after a
    certain time, perhaps turn into soil, and will turn from soil into a
    plant or animal or human being. In the past, I would have said: This
    stone is just a stone, it is worthless, it belongs to the world of the
    Maja; but because it might be able to become also a human being and a
    spirit in the cycle of transformations, therefore I also grant it
    importance. Thus, I would perhaps have thought in the past. But today
    I think: this stone is a stone, it is also animal, it is also god, it is
    also Buddha, I do not venerate and love it because it could turn into
    this or that, but rather because it is already and always everything--
    and it is this very fact, that it is a stone, that it appears to me now
    and today as a stone, this is why I love it and see worth and purpose in
    each of its veins and cavities, in the yellow, in the gray, in the
    hardness, in the sound it makes when I knock at it, in the dryness or
    wetness of its surface. There are stones which feel like oil or soap,
    and others like leaves, others like sand, and every one is special and
    prays the Om in its own way, each one is Brahman, but simultaneously and
    just as much it is a stone, is oily or juicy, and this is this very fact
    which I like and regard as wonderful and worthy of worship.--But let me
    speak no more of this. The words are not good for the secret meaning,
    everything always becomes a bit different, as soon as it is put into
    words, gets distorted a bit, a bit silly--yes, and this is also very
    good, and I like it a lot, I also very much agree with this, that this
    what is one man's treasure and wisdom always sounds like foolishness to
    another person."

    Govinda listened silently.

    "Why have you told me this about the stone?" he asked hesitantly after
    a pause.

    "I did it without any specific intention. Or perhaps what I meant was,
    that love this very stone, and the river, and all these things we are
    looking at and from which we can learn. I can love a stone, Govinda,
    and also a tree or a piece of bark. This are things, and things can be
    loved. But I cannot love words. Therefore, teachings are no good for
    me, they have no hardness, no softness, no colours, no edges, no smell,
    no taste, they have nothing but words. Perhaps it are these which keep
    you from finding peace, perhaps it are the many words. Because
    salvation and virtue as well, Sansara and Nirvana as well, are mere
    words, Govinda. There is no thing which would be Nirvana; there is just
    the word Nirvana."

    Quoth Govinda: "Not just a word, my friend, is Nirvana. It is a
    thought."

    Siddhartha continued: "A thought, it might be so. I must confess to
    you, my dear: I don't differentiate much between thoughts and words.
    To be honest, I also have no high opinion of thoughts. I have a better
    opinion of things. Here on this ferry-boat, for instance, a man has
    been my predecessor and teacher, a holy man, who has for many years
    simply believed in the river, nothing else. He had noticed that the
    river's spoke to him, he learned from it, it educated and taught him,
    the river seemed to be a god to him, for many years he did not know that
    every wind, every cloud, every bird, every beetle was just as divine and
    knows just as much and can teach just as much as the worshipped river.
    But when this holy man went into the forests, he knew everything, knew
    more than you and me, without teachers, without books, only because he
    had believed in the river."

    Govinda said: "But is that what you call 'things', actually something
    real, something which has existence? Isn't it just a deception of the
    Maja, just an image and illusion? Your stone, your tree, your river--
    are they actually a reality?"

    "This too," spoke Siddhartha, "I do not care very much about. Let the
    things be illusions or not, after all I would then also be an illusion,
    and thus they are always like me. This is what makes them so dear and
    worthy of veneration for me: they are like me. Therefore, I can love
    them. And this is now a teaching you will laugh about: love, oh
    Govinda, seems to me to be the most important thing of all. To
    thoroughly understand the world, to explain it, to despise it, may be
    the thing great thinkers do. But I'm only interested in being able to
    love the world, not to despise it, not to hate it and me, to be able to
    look upon it and me and all beings with love and admiration and great
    respect."

    "This I understand," spoke Govinda. "But this very thing was discovered
    by the exalted one to be a deception. He commands benevolence,
    clemency, sympathy, tolerance, but not love; he forbade us to tie our
    heart in love to earthly things."

    "I know it," said Siddhartha; his smile shone golden. "I know it,
    Govinda. And behold, with this we are right in the middle of the
    thicket of opinions, in the dispute about words. For I cannot deny, my
    words of love are in a contradiction, a seeming contradiction with
    Gotama's words. For this very reason, I distrust in words so much, for
    I know, this contradiction is a deception. I know that I am in
    agreement with Gotama. How should he not know love, he, who has
    discovered all elements of human existence in their transitoriness, in
    their meaninglessness, and yet loved people thus much, to use a long,
    laborious life only to help them, to teach them! Even with him, even
    with your great teacher, I prefer the thing over the words, place more
    importance on his acts and life than on his speeches, more on the
    gestures of his hand than his opinions. Not in his speech, not in his
    thoughts, I see his greatness, only in his actions, in his life."

    For a long time, the two old men said nothing. Then spoke Govinda,
    while bowing for a farewell: "I thank you, Siddhartha, for telling me
    some of your thoughts. They are partially strange thoughts, not all
    have been instantly understandable to me. This being as it may, I thank
    you, and I wish you to have calm days."

    (But secretly he thought to himself: This Siddhartha is a bizarre
    person, he expresses bizarre thoughts, his teachings sound foolish.
    So differently sound the exalted one's pure teachings, clearer, purer,
    more comprehensible, nothing strange, foolish, or silly is contained in
    them. But different from his thoughts seemed to me Siddhartha's hands
    and feet, his eyes, his forehead, his breath, his smile, his greeting,
    his walk. Never again, after our exalted Gotama has become one with the
    Nirvana, never since then have I met a person of whom I felt: this is a
    holy man! Only him, this Siddhartha, I have found to be like this. May
    his teachings be strange, may his words sound foolish; out of his gaze
    and his hand, his skin and his hair, out of every part of him shines a
    purity, shines a calmness, shines a cheerfulness and mildness and
    holiness, which I have seen in no other person since the final death of
    our exalted teacher.)

    As Govinda thought like this, and there was a conflict in his heart, he
    once again bowed to Siddhartha, drawn by love. Deeply he bowed to him
    who was calmly sitting.

    "Siddhartha," he spoke, "we have become old men. It is unlikely for
    one of us to see the other again in this incarnation. I see, beloved,
    that you have found peace. I confess that I haven't found it. Tell me,
    oh honourable one, one more word, give my something on my way which I
    can grasp, which I can understand! Give me something to be with me on
    my path. It it often hard, my path, often dark, Siddhartha."

    Siddhartha said nothing and looked at him with the ever unchanged,
    quiet smile. Govinda stared at his face, with fear, with yearning,
    suffering, and the eternal search was visible in his look, eternal
    not-finding.

    Siddhartha saw it and smiled.

    "Bent down to me!" he whispered quietly in Govinda's ear. "Bend down to
    me! Like this, even closer! Very close! Kiss my forehead, Govinda!"

    But while Govinda with astonishment, and yet drawn by great love and
    expectation, obeyed his words, bent down closely to him and touched his
    forehead with his lips, something miraculous happened to him. While his
    thoughts were still dwelling on Siddhartha's wondrous words, while he
    was still struggling in vain and with reluctance to think away time, to
    imagine Nirvana and Sansara as one, while even a certain contempt for
    the words of his friend was fighting in him against an immense love and
    veneration, this happened to him:

    He no longer saw the face of his friend Siddhartha, instead he saw
    other faces, many, a long sequence, a flowing river of faces, of
    hundreds, of thousands, which all came and disappeared, and yet all
    seemed to be there simultaneously, which all constantly changed and
    renewed themselves, and which were still all Siddhartha. He saw the
    face of a fish, a carp, with an infinitely painfully opened mouth, the
    face of a dying fish, with fading eyes--he saw the face of a new-born
    child, red and full of wrinkles, distorted from crying--he saw the face
    of a murderer, he saw him plunging a knife into the body of another
    person--he saw, in the same second, this criminal in bondage, kneeling
    and his head being chopped off by the executioner with one blow of his
    sword--he saw the bodies of men and women, naked in positions and cramps
    of frenzied love--he saw corpses stretched out, motionless, cold, void--
    he saw the heads of animals, of boars, of crocodiles, of elephants, of
    bulls, of birds--he saw gods, saw Krishna, saw Agni--he saw all of these
    figures and faces in a thousand relationships with one another, each one
    helping the other, loving it, hating it, destroying it, giving re-birth
    to it, each one was a will to die, a passionately painful confession of
    transitoriness, and yet none of then died, each one only transformed,
    was always re-born, received evermore a new face, without any time
    having passed between the one and the other face--and all of these
    figures and faces rested, flowed, generated themselves, floated along
    and merged with each other, and they were all constantly covered by
    something thin, without individuality of its own, but yet existing, like
    a thin glass or ice, like a transparent skin, a shell or mold or mask of
    water, and this mask was smiling, and this mask was Siddhartha's smiling
    face, which he, Govinda, in this very same moment touched with his lips.
    And, Govinda saw it like this, this smile of the mask, this smile of
    oneness above the flowing forms, this smile of simultaneousness above
    the thousand births and deaths, this smile of Siddhartha was precisely
    the same, was precisely of the same kind as the quiet, delicate,
    impenetrable, perhaps benevolent, perhaps mocking, wise, thousand-fold
    smile of Gotama, the Buddha, as he had seen it himself with great
    respect a hundred times. Like this, Govinda knew, the perfected ones
    are smiling.

    Not knowing any more whether time existed, whether the vision had lasted
    a second or a hundred years, not knowing any more whether there existed
    a Siddhartha, a Gotama, a me and a you, feeling in his innermost self
    as if he had been wounded by a divine arrow, the injury of which tasted
    sweet, being enchanted and dissolved in his innermost self, Govinda
    still stood for a little while bent over Siddhartha's quiet face, which
    he had just kissed, which had just been the scene of all manifestations,
    all transformations, all existence. The face was unchanged, after under
    its surface the depth of the thousandfoldness had closed up again, he
    smiled silently, smiled quietly and softly, perhaps very benevolently,
    perhaps very mockingly, precisely as he used to smile, the exalted one.

    Deeply, Govinda bowed; tears, he knew nothing of, ran down his old face;
    like a fire burnt the feeling of the most intimate love, the humblest
    veneration in his heart. Deeply, he bowed, touching the ground, before
    him who was sitting motionlessly, whose smile reminded him of everything
    he had ever loved in his life, what had ever been valuable and holy to
    him in his life.
    Chapter 12
    Previous Chapter
    If you're writing a Hermann Hesse essay and need some advice, post your Hermann Hesse essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

    Top 5 Authors

    Top 5 Books

    Book Status
    Finished
    Want to read
    Abandoned

    Are you sure you want to leave this group?