First Part - Awakening

WHEN SIDDHARTHA LEFT the grove where Buddha, the perfected one, stayed behind, and where Govinda stayed behind, he felt that in this grove his past life also stayed behind and separated from him. This sensation that filled him so completely was something that he pondered as he walked slowly along. He pondered deeply, like diving into deep water: he let himself sink down to the bottom of the sensation, down to the place where the causes lie. He did so because identifying causes, so it seemed to him, was the very essence of thinking, and by this act alone sensations turn into realizations and are not lost, but become entities and start to emit like rays of light what is inside of them.

Slowly walking along, Siddhartha pondered. He realized that he was no longer a youth, but had turned into a man. He realized that one thing had left him, as a snake left its old skin; one thing which had accompanied him throughout his youth and used to be a part of him no longer existed inside him: the desire to have teachers and to listen to teachings. He had also left the last teacher who had appeared on his path, even the highest and wisest teacher, the most holy one, the Buddha. He had left him, parted from him, and was not able to accept his teachings.

The thinker walked forward more slowly, asking himself: “But what is it that you wanted to learn from teachings and from teachers that they, who have taught you much, were still unable to impart to you?” And he found: “It was the self, the purpose and essence of which I sought to learn. It was the self from which I sought freedom and that I wanted to overcome. But I was not able to overcome it; I could only deceive it, flee from it, hide from it. Truly, no thing in this world has so occupied my thoughts as has my own self, the riddle of the fact I am alive, that I am distinct and separate from all others, that I am Siddhartha! And there is no thing in this world I know less about than about me, about Siddhartha!”

After ruminating over this while he was walking along, he stopped as these thoughts caught hold of him, and immediately another thought sprang forth from these, a new thought, namely: “The fact that I know nothing about myself, that Siddhartha has remained alien and unknown to me, stems from one cause, a single cause: I was afraid of myself, I was fleeing from myself! I searched Atman, I searched Brahman, I was willing to dissect my self and peel off all of its layers, to find the core of all peels in its unknown interior, the Atman, life, the divine part, the ultimate part. But I have lost myself in the process.”

Siddhartha opened his eyes and looked around; a smile filled his face and a profound feeling of awakening from long dreams flowed through him from his head down to his toes. And it was not long before he walked again, this time walking quickly like a man who knows what he must do.

“Ah,” he thought, taking a deep breath, “this time I won't allow Siddhartha to escape from me again! I no longer want to begin my thoughts and my life with Atman and with the suffering of the world. I no longer want to kill and dissect myself just to find a secret behind the ruins. Neither Yoga-Veda shall teach me any more, nor Atharva-Veda, nor the ascetics, nor any kind of teachings. I want to learn from myself, want to be my student, want to get to know myself, the secret of Siddhartha.”

He looked around, as if he were seeing the world for the first time. The world was beautiful and colorful; the world was strange and mysterious! Here was blue, here was yellow, here was green; the sky and the river flowed, the forest and the mountains were fixed in their places. All of it was beautiful, all of it was mysterious and magical, and in its midst he, Siddhartha, the awakening one, was on the path to himself. All of this—the yellow and blue, river and forest—entered Siddhartha for the first time through the eyes; it was no longer a spell of Mara, no longer the veil of Maya, no longer a pointless and coincidental diversity of mere appearances, despicable to the Brahmin of deep thoughts who scorns diversity and seeks unity. Blue was blue, river was river, and if the divine principle lay hidden within the blue and the river that lived within Siddhartha, so it was divinity's way and purpose for there to be here yellow, here blue, there sky, there forest, and here Siddhartha. The purpose and the essential properties were not somewhere behind the things; they were in them, in everything.

“How deaf and stupid I have been!” he thought, walking swiftly along. “When someone reads a text and wants to discover its meaning, he will not scorn the symbols and letters and call them deceptions, coincidence, and worthless shells, but he will read them, he will study and love them, letter by letter. But I, who wanted to read the book of the world and the book of my own being, I have, for the sake of a meaning I had assumed before I read, scorned the symbols and letters, I called the visible world a deception, called my eyes and my tongue coincidental and worthless forms without substance. No, this is over; I have awakened, I have indeed awakened and have not been born before this very day.”

In thinking these thoughts, Siddhartha stopped once again, suddenly, as if a snake were lying in front of him on the path.

Because suddenly, this had also become clear to him: he, who was indeed like someone who had just woken up or like a new-born baby, had to start his life anew from the very beginning. When he left the grove of Jetavana this very morning, the grove of that exalted one, already awakening and already on the path towards himself, he had taken for granted and considered it only natural that he, after years as an ascetic, would return to his home and his father. But it was only in this moment when he stopped as if a snake were lying on his path that he came to this realization: “But I am no longer the person I was, I am no longer an ascetic, I am no longer a priest, I am no longer a Brahmin. Whatever would I do at my father's place, at home? Study? Make offerings? Practice meditation? But all this is over, none of this is now on my path.”

Motionless, Siddhartha remained standing there, and for the span of one moment and breath, his heart felt cold. He felt a chill in his chest, just as a small animal, such as a bird or a rabbit, would when seeing how alone he was. For many years, he had been without home and had felt nothing. Now, he felt it. Still, even in the deepest meditation, he had been his father's son, had been a Brahmin, a cleric of a high caste. Now, he was nothing but Siddhartha, the awoken one; nothing else was left. He inhaled deeply, and for a moment, he felt cold, and he shivered. There was no one who was alone as he was. There was no nobleman who did not belong among the noblemen, no worker that did not belong with the workers and found refuge among them, shared their life, spoke their language. There was no Brahmin who would not be regarded as a Brahmin and live with them, no ascetic who would not find shelter in the Samana caste, and even the most forlorn hermit in the forest was not alone, he was also surrounded by a place to which he belonged. He also belonged to a caste where he was at home. Govinda had become a monk, and the thousand monks who were his brothers wore the same robe as he did, believed in his faith, spoke his language. But where did Siddhartha belong? With whom would he share his life? Whose language would he speak?

Out of this moment when the world melted away all around him, when he stood alone like a star in the sky, out of this moment of cold and despair, Siddhartha emerged, more himself than before, firmer in his resolve. He sensed that this had been the last tremor of the awakening, the final pangs of this birth. And it was not long until he walked again in long strides, started to proceed swiftly and impatiently, as he headed no longer for home, no longer to his father, no longer backwards.