smarted for a long time. Siddhartha took many travellers across the river
who had a son or a daughter with them, and he could not seen any of them
without envying them, without thinking: So many people possess this very
great happiness —
I? Even wicked people, thieves and robbers, have children, love them and are
loved by them, except me. So childishly and illogically did he now reason;
so much had he become like the ordinary people.
regarded people in a different light from previously: not very clever, not
very proud and therefore all the more warm, curious and sympathetic.
he now took the usual kind of travellers across, businessmen, soldiers and
women, they no longer seemed alien to him as they once did. He did not
understand or share their thoughts and views, but he shared with them life's
urges and desires. Although he had reached a high stage of self-discipline
and bore his last wound well, he now felt as if these ordinary people were
his brothers. Their vanities, desires and trivialities no longer seemed
absurd to him; they become understandable, lovable and even worthy of
respect. There was the blind love of a mother for her child, the blind
foolish pride of a fond father for his only son, the blind eager strivings
of a young vain woman for ornament and the admiration of men. All these
little simple, foolish, but tremendously strong, vital, passionate urges and
desires no longer seemed trivial to Siddhartha. For their sake he saw people
live and do great things, travel, conduct wars, suffer and endure immensely,
and he loved them for it. He saw life, vitality, the indestructible and
Brahman in all their desires and needs. These people were worthy of love and
admiration in their blind loyalty, in their blind strength and tenacity.
With the exception of one small thing, one tiny little thing, they lacked
nothing that the sage and thinker had, and that was the consciousness of the
unity of all life. And many a time Siddhartha even doubted whether this
knowledge, this thought, was of such great value, whether it was not also
perhaps only thinking children. The men of the world were equal to the
thinkers in every other respect and were often superior to them, just as
animals in their tenacious undeviating actions in cases of necessity may
often seem superior to human beings.
Siddhartha there slowly grew and ripened the knowledge of what wisdom really
was and the goal of his long seeking. It was nothing but a preparation of
the soul, a capacity, a secret art of thinking, feeling and breathing
thoughts of unity at every moment of life. This thought matured in him
slowly, and it was reflected in Vasudeva's old childlike face: harmony,
knowledge of the eternal perfection of the world, and unity.
the wound still smarted. Siddhartha thought yearningly and bitterly about
his son, nursed his love and feeling tenderness for him, let the pain gnaw
at him, underwent all the follies of love. The flame did not extinguish
day, when the wound was smarting terribly, Siddhartha rowed across the
river, consumed by longing, and got out of the boat with the purpose of
going to the town to seek his son. The river flowed softly and gently; it
was in the dry season but its voice rang out strangely. It was laughing, it
was distinctly laughing! The river was laughing clearly and merrily at the
old ferryman. Siddhartha stood still; he bent over the water in order to
hear better. He saw his face reflected in the quietly moving water, and
there was something in this reflection that reminded him of something he had
forgotten, and when he reflected on it, he remembered. His face resembled
that of another person, whom he had once known and loved and even feared. It
resembled the face of his father, the Brahmin. He remembered how once, as a
youth, he had compelled his father to let him go and join the ascetics, how
he had taken leave of him, how he had gone and never returned. Had not his
father also suffered the same pain that he was now suffering for his son?
Had not his father died long ago, alone, without having seen his son again?
Did he not expect the same fate? Was it not a comedy, a strange and stupid
thing, this repetition, this course of events in a fateful circle?
river laughed. Yes, that was how it was. Everything that was not suffered to
the end and finally concluded, recurred, and the same sorrows were
undergone. Siddhartha climbed into the boat again and rowed back to the hut,
thinking of his father, thinking of his son, laughed at by the river, in
conflict with himself, verging on despair, and no less inclined to laugh
aloud at himself and the whole world. The wound still smarted; he still
rebelled against his fate. There was still no serenity and conquest of his
suffering. Yet he was hopeful and when he returned to the hut he was filled
with an unconquerable desire to confess to Vasudeva, to disclose everything,
to tell everything to the man who knew the art of listening.
Vasudeva sat in the hut weaving a basket. he no longer worked the ferryboat;
his eyes were becoming weak, also his arms and hands, but unchanged and
radiant were the happiness and the serene wellbeing in his face.
Siddhartha sat down beside the old man and slowly began to speak. He told
him now what he had never mentioned before, how he had gone to the town that
time, of his smarting wound, of his envy at the sight of happy fathers, of
his knowledge of the folly of such feelings, of his hopeless struggle with
himself. He mentioned everything, he could tell him everything, even the
most painful things; he could disclose everything. He displayed his wound,
told him of his flight that day, how he had rowed across the river with the
object of wandering into the town, and how the river had laughed.
went on speaking and Vasudeva listened to him with a serene face, Siddhartha
was more keenly aware than ever of Vasudeva's attentiveness. He felt his
troubles, his anxieties and his secret hopes flow across to him and then
return again. Disclosing his wound to his listener was the same as bathing
it in the river, until it became cool and one with the river. As he went on
talking and confessing, Siddhartha felt more and more that this was no
longer Vasudeva, no longer a man who was listening to him. He felt that this
motionless listened was absorbing his confession as a tree absorbs the rain,
that this motionless man was the river itself, that he was God Himself, that
he was eternity itself. As Siddhartha stopped thinking about himself and his
wound, this recognition of the change in Vasudeva possessed him, and the
more he realized it, the less strange did he find it; the more did he
realize that everything was natural and in order, that Vasudeva had long
ago, almost always been like that, only he did not recognize it; indeed he
himself was hardly different from him. He felt that he now regarded Vasudeva
as the people regarded the gods and that his could not last. Inwardly, he
began to take leave of Vasudeva. In the meantime he went on talking.
he had finished talking, Vasudeva directed his somewhat weakened glance at
him. He did not speak, but his face silently radiated love and serenity,
understanding and knowledge. He took Siddhartha's hand, led him to the seat
on the river bank, sat down beside him and smiled at the river.
have heard it laugh,' he said, 'but you have not heard everything. Let us
listen; you will hear more.'
listened. The many-voiced song of the river echoed softly. Siddhartha looked
into the river and saw many pictures in the flowing water. He saw his
father, lonely, mourning for his son; he saw himself, lonely, mourning for
his son; he saw himself, lonely, also with the bonds of longing for his
faraway son; he saw his son, also lonely, the boy eagerly advancing along
the burning path of life's desires, each one concentrating on his goal, each
one obsessed by his goal, each one suffering. The river's voice was
sorrowful. It sang with yearning and sadness, flowing towards its goal.
you hear?' asked Vasudeva's mute glance. Siddhartha nodded.
'Listen better!' whispered Vasudeva.
Siddhartha tried to listen better. The picture of his father, his own
picture, and the picture of his son all flowed into each other. Kamala's
picture also appeared and flowed on, and the picture of Govinda and others
emerged and passed on. They all became part of the river. It was the goal of
all of them, yearning, desiring, suffering; and the river's voice was full
of longing, full of smarting woe, full of insatiable desire. The river
flowed on towards its goal. Siddhartha saw the river hasten, made up of
himself and his relatives and all the people he had ever seen. All the waves
and water hastened, suffering, towards goals, many goals, to the waterfall,
to the sea, to the current, to the ocean and all goals were reached and each
one was succeeded by another. The water changed to vapour and rose, became
rain and came down again, became spring, brook and river, changed anew,
flowed anew. But the yearning voice had altered. It still echoed
sorrowfully, searchingly but other voices accompanied it, voices of pleasure
and sorrow, good and evil voices, laughing and lamenting voices, hundreds of
voices, thousands of voices.
Siddhartha listened. He was now listening intently, completely absorbed,
quite empty, taking in everything. He felt that he had now completely
learned the art of listening. He had often heard all this before, all these
numerous voices in the river, but today they sounded different. He could no
longer distinguish the different voices —
merry voice from the weeping voice, the childish voice from the manly voice.
They all belonged to each other: the lament of those who yearn, the laughter
of the wise, the cry of indignation and groan of the dying. They were all
interwoven and interlocked, entwined in a thousand ways. And all the voices,
all the goals, all the yearnings, all the sorrows, all the pleasures, all
the good and evil, all of them together was the world. All of them together
was the stream of events, the music of life.
Siddhartha listened attentively to this river, to this song of a thousand
voices; when he did not listen to the sorrow of laughter, when he did not
bind his soul to any one particular voice and absorb it in his Self, but
heard them all, the whole, the unity; then the great song of a thousand
voices consisted of one word: Om —
you hear?' asked Vasudeva's glance once again.
Vasudeva's smile was radiant; it hovered brightly in all the wrinkles of his
old face, as the Om hovered over all the voices of the river. His smile was
radiant as he looked at his friend, and now the same smile appeared on
Siddhartha's face. His wound was healing, his pain was dispersing; his Self
had merged into unity.
that hour Siddhartha ceased to fight against his destiny. There shone in his
face the serenity of knowledge, of one who is no longer confronted with
conflict of desires, who has found salvation, who is in harmony with the
stream of events, with the stream of life, full of sympathy and compassion,
surrendering himself to the stream, belonging to the unity of all things.
Vasudeva rose from the seat on the river bank, when he looked into
Siddhartha's eyes and saw the serenity of knowledge shining in them, he
touched his shoulder gently in his kind protective way and said: 'I have
waited for this hour, my friend. Now it has arrived, let me go. I have been
Vasudeva, the ferryman, for a long time. Now it is completed. Farewell hut,
farewell river, farewell Siddhartha.'
Siddhartha bowed low before the departing man.
knew it,' he said softly. 'Are you going into the woods?'
I am. going into the woods: I am going into the unity of all things,' said
he went away. Siddhartha watched him. With great joy and gravity he watched
him, saw his steps full of peace, his face glowing, his form full of light.