Zat Rana wrote…

Jul 13, 2018

In Herman Hesse’s novel Siddhartha, the title character and his friend leave home, disowning all possessions, to seek spiritual enlightenment.

They decide to live on the road, homeless, journeying away from the known towards the unknown. It’s not a life of ease, but it is one they embrace.

When they are hungry, they fast. When they are unoccupied, they meditate. When they are looking for answers, they wait. And as they move from place to place, they get more and more fixated on their goal.

Eventually, however, they separate — it occurs due to their meeting with the Buddha himself. After hearing the legends about the Enlightened One and then seeking him out, they are both impressed with his calm poise and the simple profundity of his teachings. The friend, Govinda, stays behind to become his student, while Siddhartha — although appreciating what he has learned — decides to continue on a more individualistic pursuit.

This pursuit takes him through both space and time: He settles down in a city, falls for a woman, and over the years, becomes a successful businessman. This, of course, doesn’t fulfill him either, so he leaves. His next stop, his final stop, is a small home by a river where he lives with a ferryman.

The ferryman is a simple, quiet man, but he possesses an unspoken wisdom that entrances anyone who meets him. Living in his presence, after many more years of unrest and suffering from all the seeking, Siddhartha eventually, in a sudden moment, finds himself at peace.

At the end of his life, Govinda, who is still searching for enlightenment, hears about an older ferryman who people whisper has the answer. This ferryman is Siddhartha, who has now taken over from his old mentor at the river.

When Govinda tells him that he is still a seeker, his old friend — right before the book ends — shares what it is that he has learned after all these years:


“When someone seeks,” said Siddhartha, “then it easily happens that his eyes see only the thing that he seeks, and he is able to find nothing, to take in nothing because he always thinks only about the thing he is seeking, because he has one goal, because he is obsessed with his goal. Seeking means: having a goal. But finding means: being free, being open, having no goal.”


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