Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Siddhartha and the River



          Already having formal education in both the Anglican and Catholic traditions, this summer I'm doing independent reading into Buddhism in order to study how the faiths relate. 

"Siddhartha" by Hermann Hesse is about a wealthy man who left home at a young age in search of answers. As the travels along his life journey he experiences many extremes and has many teachers, but it’s the lessons he learns from listening to the river 
while working alongside a boatman that finally offer him Peace.        
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An excerpt:

          Siddhartha remained with the ferryman and learned to handle the boat, and when not occupied with the ferry, he worked with Vasudeva in the rice paddy, gathered wood, plucked the fruits of the plantain trees. He learned how to make an oar, how to repair the boat, how to weave baskets, and he was cheerful about everything he learned, and the days and months passed quickly. More though than Vasudeva could teach him, the river taught him. From it he learned ceaselessly. Above all he learned how to listen, to hearken with a quiet heart, with a soul that waited, open, without passion, without desire, without judgment, without opinion.
           He lived in friendship beside Vasudeva, and sometimes they would exchange words with each other, few and well considered words. Vasudeva was no friend of words, Siddhartha seldom succeeded in inducing him to speak.
          "Have you," he asked once, "have you also learned this secret from the river: that time does not exist?"
          A bright smile spread over Vasudeva's face.
          "Yes, Siddhartha," he said. "But do you not mean that the river is everywhere at once, at its origin and at its mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the rapids, in the sea, in the mountains, everywhere at the same time, and for it only the present exists, no shadow of the past, no shadow of the future?"
         "That is it," said Siddhartha. "And when I learned that, I took a look at my life and saw that it too was a river, and the boy Siddhartha was separated from the man Siddhartha and from the graybeard Siddhartha only by shadows, not by anything real. And there was no past for Siddhartha's earlier births, and his death and his return to Brahma are without future. Nothing was, nothing will be; everything is, everything has essence, is present."

My Copy of "Siddhartha" By Hermann Hesse
Photo By Donna Welles 06/26/12 

          Siddhartha spoke as one enraptured, this enlightenment brought him deep bliss. O, was not all suffering time, all self-torment and self-fear - time? All the world's difficulty, all the world's animosity, would they not be gone and conquered, once time was conquered, once it could be thought away? Enraptured he had spoken; Vasudeva, however, smiled radiantly at him and nodded in affirmation; silently he nodded, ran his hand over Siddhartha's shoulder, and turned back to his work.
         And once again, during the rainy season even as the river was swollen and roared mightily, Siddhartha spoke: "Is it not true, o Friend, the river has many voices, very many voices? Has it not the voice of a king, and of a warrior, and of a bull, and of a night bird, and of a woman giving birth, and of someone sighing, and still a thousand other voices?"
         "That is so," Vasudeva nodded, "all the voices of creation are in its voice."
          "And do you know," Siddhartha continued, "which word it speaks, when you succeed in hearing all its ten thousand voices at the same time?"
          Vasudeva's face laughed happily, he bent toward Siddhartha and spoke the holy Om into his ear. And this was just what Siddhartha, too, had heard.

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