Now he saw it and saw that the secret voice had been right, that no teacher would ever have been able to bring about his salvation. Therefore, he had to go out into the world, lose himself to lust and power, to woman and money, had to become a merchant, a dice-gambler, a drinker, and a greedy person, until the priest and Samana in him was dead. Therefore, he had to continue bearing these ugly years, bearing the disgust, the teachings, the pointlessness of a dreary and wasted life up to the end, up to bitter despair, until Siddhartha the lustful, Siddhartha the greedy could also die. He had died, a new Siddhartha had woken up from the sleep.
Hesse, Hermann | Siddhartha (p. 46)
Siddhartha is a great book. It’s not that long, it’s not a particularly difficult read, and it’s got a lot of interesting ideas (especially if, like me, you’re not particularly familiar with eastern philosophy).
There’s so much going going on in this quote, but I’ll just focus on one thing: Siddhartha gives himself completely to whatever phase of life he’s in. This idea is probably one of the things that had me thinking about consistency in opinion yesterday. In the book, Siddhartha has a friend from youth, Govinda, who leaves him and becomes a follower of Buddha, where he stays for the rest of his life. Govinda seems to lead a fulfilling life, and it’s one in which he really doesn’t have to change who he is. He makes a decision and he sticks with it for the rest of his life. Which is great, and interesting, but, I think, not nearly interesting as how Siddhartha lived.
Siddhartha commits completely to whatever phase of his life he’s in. When he’s an ascetic, he’s a committed ascetic. When he’s a merchant, he becomes wealthy and successful. Siddhartha is unwilling to accept teachings without experiencing them firsthand for himself – He accepts that he’ll change throughout his life, and that to find his path, to continue moving forward, he has to be different people, and then let those people die.
Siddhartha learned through living.