Second Part - With the Childlike People

SIDDHARTHA WENT TO Kamaswami the merchant; he was directed to an opulent house. Servants led him between precious carpets into a chamber where he awaited the master of the house.

Kamaswami entered, a swiftly, smoothly moving man with very gray hair, very intelligent, cautious eyes, and a greedy mouth. The host and the guest greeted one another politely.

“I have been told,” the merchant began, “that you were a Brahmin, a learned man, but that you seek to be in the service of a merchant. Did you become destitute, Brahmin, that you seek to enter service?”

“No,” said Siddhartha, “I have not become destitute and have never been destitute. You should know that I'm coming from the Samanas, with whom I have lived for a long time.”

“If you're coming from the Samanas, how could you be anything but destitute? Aren't the Samanas entirely without possessions?”

“I am without possessions,” said Siddhartha, “if this is what you mean. Of course I am without possessions. But I am so voluntarily, and therefore I am not destitute.”

“How will you gain a living, being without possessions?”

“I haven't thought of this yet, sir. For more than three years, I have been without possessions, and have never thought about what I should live on.”

“So you've lived off the possessions of others.”

“I suppose that is so. Even a merchant lives off what other people own.”

“Well said. But he wouldn't take anything from another person for nothing; he would give his merchandise in return.”

“So it seems to be indeed. Everyone takes, everyone gives, such is life.”

“But allow me to ask: being without possessions, what would you like to give?”

“Everyone gives what he has. The warrior gives strength, the merchant gives merchandise, the teacher lessons, the farmer rice, the fisherman fish.”

“Yes indeed. And what is it now that you have to give? What is it that you've learned, what are you able to do?”

“I can think. I can wait. I can fast.”

“That's everything?”

“I believe that's everything!”

“And what's the use of that? For example, the fasting—what is it good for?”

“It is very good, sir. When a person has nothing to eat, fasting is the smartest thing he could do. If, for example, Siddhartha hadn't learned to fast, he would have to accept any kind of service before this day is up, whether with you or wherever, because hunger would force him to do so. But as it stands, Siddhartha can wait calmly. He knows no impatience, he knows no emergency. He can allow hunger to besiege him for a long time and can laugh about it. This, sir, is what fasting is good for.”

“You're right, Samana. Wait for a moment.”

Kamaswami left the room and returned with a scroll, which he handed to his guest while asking: “Can you read this?”

Siddhartha looked at the scroll, on which a sales contract had been written down, and began to read out its contents.

“Excellent,” said Kamaswami. “And would you write something for me on this piece of paper?”

He handed him a piece of paper and a pen, and Siddhartha wrote and returned the paper.

Kamaswami read: “Writing is good, but thinking is better. Intelligence is good, but patience is better.”

“You understand writing excellently,” the merchant praised him. “We will still have to discuss certain things with one another. For today, I'm asking you to be my guest and to live in this house.”

Siddhartha thanked him and accepted, and lived in the merchant's house from then on. Clothes were brought to him, and shoes, and every day a servant prepared a bath for him. Twice a day, a plentiful meal was served, but Siddhartha only ate once a day, and he neither ate meat nor drank wine. Kamaswami told him about his trade, showed him the merchandise and storage-rooms, showed him calculations. Siddhartha came to know many new things; he heard much and spoke little. And, thinking of Kamala's words, he was never subservient to the merchant, forcing him to treat him as an equal—yes, even more than an equal. Kamaswami conducted his business with care and often with passion, but Siddhartha looked upon all of this as if it were a game, the rules of which he tried hard to learn precisely, but the subject of which did not touch his heart.

He was not in Kamaswami's house long before he began to take part in his landlord's business. Daily, at the very hour appointed by her, he visited beautiful Kamala while wearing handsome clothes and fine shoes; he soon brought her gifts as well. He learned much from her red, shrewd mouth. He learned much from her tender, supple hand. He was, regarding love, still a boy and had a tendency to plunge blindly and insatiably into lust like into a bottomless pit; she taught him, starting with the basics, about that school of thought which teaches that pleasure cannot be taken without giving pleasure, and that every gesture, every caress, every touch, every look, every area of the body, however small it was, had a secret which would bring happiness to those who know about it and unleash it. She taught him that lovers must not part from one another after celebrating love without admiring one another, without being just as defeated as they are victorious, so that neither one started feeling fed up or bored and get that wicked feeling of having abused or having been abused. He spent wonderful hours with the beautiful and intelligent artist, became her student, her lover, her friend. The worth and purpose of his present life was here with Kamala, not with the business of Kamaswami.

The merchant transferred the duty of writing important letters and contracts on to Siddhartha and became accustomed to discussing all important affairs with him. He soon saw that Siddhartha knew little about rice and wool, shipping and trade, but that he acted in a fortunate manner, and that Siddhartha surpassed him, the merchant, in calmness and equanimity, in the art of listening and deeply understanding previously unknown people. “This Brahmin,” he said to a friend, “is no proper merchant and will never be one, there is never any passion in his soul when he conducts our business. But he has that mysterious quality of those people to whom success comes all by itself, perhaps as a result of a good star during his birth, magic, or something he has learned among Samanas. He always seems to be merely playing with business affairs; they never fully become a part of him and they never rule over him. He is never afraid of failure; he is never upset by a loss.”

The friend advised the merchant: “Give him from the business he conducts for you a third of the profits, but let him also be liable for the same amount of the losses, when there is a loss. Then, he'll become more zealous.”

Kamaswami followed the advice. But Siddhartha cared little about this. When he made a profit, he accepted it with equanimity; when he made losses, he laughed and said: “Well, look at this; this one turned out badly!”

It seemed indeed, as if he did not care about the business. At one time, he traveled to a village to buy a large harvest of rice there. But when he got there, the rice had already been sold to another merchant. Nevertheless, Siddhartha stayed for several days in that village, treated the farmers to a drink, gave copper-coins to their children, joined in the celebration of a wedding, and returned extremely satisfied from his trip. Kamaswami held against him that he had not turned back right away, that he had wasted time and money. Siddhartha answered: “Stop scolding, dear friend! Nothing was ever achieved by scolding. If a loss has occurred, let me bear that loss. I am very satisfied with this trip. I have gotten to know myriad people. A Brahmin has become my friend, children have sat on my knees, farmers have shown me their fields, nobody knew that I was a merchant.”

“That's all very nice,” exclaimed Kamaswami indignantly, “but on the contrary, you are in fact a merchant, I should think! Or might you have only traveled for your amusement?”

“Surely,” Siddhartha laughed, “surely I have traveled for my amusement. For what else? I have gotten to know people and places, I have received kindness and trust, I have found friendship. Look, my good man, if I had been Kamaswami, I would have traveled back, annoyed and in a hurry, as soon as I had seen that my purchase had been rendered impossible. Time and money would indeed have been lost. But as it stands, I've had a few good days, I've learned and had joy, and I've neither harmed myself nor others through annoyance and hastiness. And if I ever return there again, perhaps to buy an upcoming harvest, or for whatever purpose it might be, friendly people will receive me in a friendly and happy manner, and I will praise myself for not showing any hurry and displeasure at that time. So, leave it as it is, my friend, and don't harm yourself by scolding! If the day comes when you say “this Siddhartha is harming me,” then speak a word and Siddhartha will go on his own path. But until then, let's be satisfied with one another.”

The merchant's attempts to convince Siddhartha that he should eat his bread were also futile. Siddhartha ate his own bread, or rather they both ate other people's bread, all people's bread. Siddhartha never listened to Kamaswami's worries, and Kamaswami had many worries. Whether there was a business deal going on which was in danger of failing, or whether a shipment of merchandise seemed to have been lost or a debtor seemed to be unable to pay, Kamaswami could never convince his partner that it would be useful to utter a few words of worry or anger, to have wrinkles on the forehead, to sleep restlessly. When, one day, Kamaswami told Siddhartha that he had learned everything he knew from him, Siddhartha replied: “Quit pulling my leg with these games! What I've learned from you is how much a basket of fish costs and how interests may be charged on money loans. These are your areas of expertise. I haven't learned to think from you, my dear Kamaswami; you ought to be the one seeking to learn from me.”

Indeed, his heart was not in the trade. The business was good enough to provide him with the money for Kamala, and it earned him much more than he needed. Apart from this, Siddhartha's interest and curiosity were concerned only with the people whose businesses, crafts, worries, pleasures, and acts of foolishness used to be as alien and distant to him as the moon. However easily he succeeded in talking to all of them, in living with all of them, in learning from all of them, he was still aware that there was something that separated him from them: this was the fact that he was a Samana. He saw mankind going through life like a child or an animal that he both loved and despised at the same time. He saw them toiling, suffering, and becoming gray-haired for the sake of things which seemed to him entirely unworthy of this price. He saw them scolding and insulting each other for money, for small pleasures, or for some small encomium; he saw them complain about pain at which a Samana would only smile, and suffering because of deprivations which a Samana would not feel.

He was open to everything these people brought to him. The merchant who offered him linen for sale was welcome, the debtor who sought another loan was welcome, and also welcome was the beggar who for one hour told Siddhartha the story of poverty, although the beggar was not half as poor as any Samana. He did not treat the rich foreign merchant any different from the servant who shaved him and the street-vendor whom he let cheat him out of some small change when buying bananas. When Kamaswami came to him, complaining about his worries or reproaching him concerning business, he listened curiously and happily. He was puzzled by him, tried to understand him, let him win some arguments (at least, as many as it seemed he had to), and turned away from him towards the next person who would ask for him. And there were many who came to him to do business with him, to cheat him, to draw some secret out of him, to appeal to his sympathy, or to get his advice. He gave advice, pity, and gifts; he let them cheat him a little, and this entire game and the passion with which all people played this game occupied his thoughts just as much as the gods and Brahmins used to occupy them.

At times he felt, deep in his chest, a quiet, dying voice which admonished him with whispers, lamented softly; he hardly perceived it. And then, for an hour, he became aware of the strange life he was leading. He perceived himself doing lots of things which were only a game; he saw that, although happy and joyous at times, that real life was passing him by without touching him. As a ball-player plays with his balls, he played with his business-deals and with the people around him. He watched them and found amusement in them, but with his heart and the source of his being, he was not present with them. The source ran somewhere far away from him, ran and ran invisibly; it had nothing to do with his life any more. And at several times he suddenly became alarmed on account of such thoughts and wanted to be gifted with the ability to participate, with passion and with all his heart, in all of the childish and naïve occupations of the daytime. He really wanted to live, to act, and to enjoy instead of just standing by as a spectator. But again and again, he came back to the beautiful Kamala, learned the art of love, practiced the cult of lust, in which more than in anything else giving and taking become one, chatted with her, learned from her, gave her advice, and received advice. She understood him better than Govinda used to understand him; she was more similar to him.

Once he said to her: “You are like me, you are different from most people. You are Kamala, nothing else, and inside of you, there is a peace and refuge to which you can go at every hour of the day and be at home inside yourself, as I can also do. Few people have this, and yet everyone could have it.”

“Not all people are clever,” said Kamala.

“No,” said Siddhartha, “that's not the reason why. Kamaswami is just as clever as I am, and yet he has no refuge in himself. Others who, in their minds, are small children with respect to their mind have it. Most people, Kamala, are like a falling leaf that is blown and is turning around through the air, wavering and tumbling to the ground. But others, a few, are like stars: they go on a fixed course, no wind reaches them, and in themselves they have their law and their direction. Among all the wise men and Samanas, of which I have known many, there was one of this type, a perfected one; I'll never be able to forget him. It is that Gotama, the exalted one, who is spreading those teachings. Thousands of followers are listening to his teachings every day, follow his instructions every hour, but they are all falling leaves and don't have in themselves the lesson or a law.”

Kamala looked at him with a smile. “You're talking about him again,” she said, “You're having a Samana's thoughts again.”

Siddhartha said nothing, and they played the game of love, one of the thirty or forty different games Kamala knew. Her body was flexible like that of a jaguar and like the bow of a hunter; he who had learned from her how to make love was knowledgeable of many forms of desire, many secrets. She played with Siddhartha for a long time; she enticed him, rejected him, compelled him, embraced him. She enjoyed his masterful skills until he, defeated and exhausted, rested by her side.

The courtesan bent over him, took a long look at his face and at his eyes, which had grown tired.

“You are the best lover,” she said thoughtfully, “I ever saw. You're stronger than others, more supple, more willing. You've learned my art well, Siddhartha. At some time, when I'm older, I want to bear your child. And even so, dear one, you've remained a Samana. You still don't love me; you love nobody. Isn't that so?”

“It might very well be so,” Siddhartha said tiredly. “I am like you. You also do not love—how else could you practice love as a craft? Perhaps people of our kind can't love. The childlike people can; that's their secret.”