Second Part - Samsara
SIDDHARTHA HAD LIVED the life of the world and of desire for a long time, though without being a part of it. His senses, which he had killed off in the heat of his years as a Samana, had awakened again. He had tasted riches, lust, and power; nevertheless he had still remained a Samana in his heart for a long time. Kamala, being clever, had quite astutely realized this. It was still the art of thinking, of waiting, and of fasting which guided his life. The people of the world, the childlike people, had still remained as strange to him as he was to them.
Years passed by; Siddhartha hardly felt them fading away while he was surrounded by the good life. He had become rich, and for quite a while he possessed a house of his own, his own servants, and a garden by the river near the city. The people liked him and they came to him whenever they needed money or advice, but there was nobody close to him except Kamala.
That high, bright state of being awake, which he had experienced that one time at the height of his youth in those days after Gotama's sermon, after he had separated from Govinda—that tense expectation, that proud state of standing alone without lessons and without teachers, that supple willingness to listen to the divine voice in his own heart—had slowly become a fleeting memory. The holy source, which used to be near and to murmur within himself, now murmured from afar. Nevertheless, many things that he had learned from the Samanas, from Gotama, or from his father the Brahmin had remained within him for a long time afterwards: moderate living, the joys of thinking, hours of meditation, secret knowledge of the self and of his eternal entity, which is neither body nor consciousness. He had retained many portions of this, but one part after another had been stifled and now gathered dust. Just as a potter's wheel, once it has been set in motion, will keep on turning for a long time and only slowly lose its vigor and come to a stop, Siddhartha's soul had kept on turning the wheel of asceticism, of thinking, and of discernment for a long time. It was still turning, but it turned slowly and hesitantly and was almost at a standstill. Gradually, like humidity entering the dying stem of a tree, filling it slowly and making it rot, the world and sloth had entered Siddhartha's soul. It gradually filled his soul, made it heavy and tired, and put it to sleep. On the other hand, his senses had become alive; they had learned and experienced a great deal.
Siddhartha had learned how to conduct trade and to use his power over people. He learned to enjoy himself with a woman, how to wear beautiful clothes, give orders to servants, and bathe in perfumed waters. He had learned how to eat food that was tenderly and carefully prepared —even fish, meat, poultry, spices, and sweets. He learned to drink wine, which causes laziness and forgetfulness. He had learned how to play dice and chess, how to watch dancing girls, how to sleep on a soft bed, and how to be carried about in a sedan-chair. However, he still felt different from and superior to the others; he always watched them with a certain amount of ridicule, with mocking disdain, and the same contempt that a Samana constantly feels for the people of the world. When Kamaswami felt ill, when he was annoyed, insulted, or vexed in his mercantile concerns, Siddhartha always looked on with mockery. As slowly and imperceptibly as the harvest and rainy seasons pass by, his mockery had become more tired and his superiority more subdued. Amidst his accumulating wealth, Siddhartha had gradually assumed something of the childlike people's ways for his own—something of their childlikeness and fearfulness. Even so, he envied them all the more as he became more similar to them. He envied them the one thing that he lacked and they possessed: the importance they were able to place on their lives, the amount of passion in their joys and fears, and the trepidation but sweet happiness of being constantly in love. These people were always in love with themselves, with women, with their children, with accolades or riches, and with aspirations. But this out of all things—the joy and foolishness of a child—was not what he learned from them. He learned, of all things, the unpleasant aspects that he himself despised. More and more frequently it happened such that, after having had guests the night before, he stayed in bed for a long time feeling tired and incapable of thought. He became angry and impatient when Kamaswami bored him with worries. He sometimes laughed just a bit too loudly when he lost a game of dice. His countenance was still more intelligent and spiritual than others, but it rarely laughed, and it began to assume one and then another of those features which are so often found in the faces of wealthy people: features of discontent, sickliness, ill-humor, sloth, or cold-heartedness. The disease of the soul which rich people have had slowly taken hold of him.
Fatigue had come slowly over Siddhartha like a veil or a fine mist; it became a bit denser every day, a bit murkier every month, a bit heavier each year. As a new dress in time becomes old, loses its beautiful color, gets stains and wrinkles, becomes worn at the seams, and becomes threadbare in spots here or there, Siddhartha's new life after he separated from Govinda had become old, losing color and splendor as the years went by, or gathering wrinkles and stains, and showing ugliness here or there. Hidden at the bottom, disappointment and disgust were waiting; Siddhartha did not notice it. He noticed only that the bright and reliable voice inside of him that had awakened him in that time and had always guides him in his best times had become silent.
He had been captured by the world, by lust, covetousness, indolence, and ultimately by that vice which he had once despised and mocked as the most foolish of all the vices: greed. Property, possessions, and riches had also finally ensnared him; they were no longer the trifles of a game to him and had become a shackle and a burden. In some odd and devious way, Siddhartha had become trapped in this final and most base of all addictions by means of the game of dice. Siddhartha began to play the game for money and precious things when he stopped being a Samana in his heart; the game, which he at other times had joined only casually and with a smile, as if partaking in a custom of the childlike people, he now pursued with increasing rage and passion. He was a feared gambler, and so high and audacious were his stakes that few dared challenge him. He played the game because of the pain in his heart; wasting his wretched money on the game brought him ferocious joy. In no other way could he, more clearly and with more contempt, demonstrate his disdain for wealth, the false god of merchants. In this way he gambled mercilessly and with high stakes, hating and mocking himself. He won thousands and threw away thousands; he lost money, jewelry, a house in the country, and won them back, then lost them again. This terrible and petrifying fear, which he felt while rolling the dice and concerned about the high stakes, was something he loved and always sought to renew or increase. He always tried to raise it to a slightly higher level, because in this sensation alone did he still feel something akin to happiness, intoxication, or an elevated existence in the midst of his lukewarm, dull, and saturated life.
His mind was fixed upon new riches after each big loss, and he pursued trade more zealously, forced his debtors with greater stringency to pay; he wanted to continue gambling, squandering, and demonstrating his disdain for wealth. Siddhartha lost his equanimity when he lost a game, he became impatient when he was not paid promptly, he was no longer kind towards beggars, and he was no longer disposed to give away or even loan money to those who petitioned him. He who laughed at gambling away tens of thousands in one dice roll became stricter and pettier in his business dealings, even dreaming during the nights on occasion about money! Whenever he woke from this accursed ensorcellment, whenever he found himself aged and uglier when he saw his face in the mirror on the bedroom wall, and whenever embarrassment and disgust came over him, he continued fleeing into a new game or into the numbness of the mind brought on by sex and wine. From there, he fled back to the urge to hoard possessions. He ran in this pointless cycle as he grew old, tired, and sick.
Then came the time when a dream warned him. He had spent the evening hours with Kamala in her gorgeous pleasure garden. They had been sitting and talking beneath the trees, and Kamala had said pensive words behind which lay hidden sadness and fatigue. She had asked him to tell her about Gotama, and couldn't hear enough of him—how his eyes were clear, his mouth was still and beautiful, and how his smile was kind and his walk peaceful. He had told her about the exalted Buddha for a long time, and Kamala had sighed, saying: “Perhaps one day soon I'll also follow that Buddha. I'll give him my pleasure garden as a gift and take my refuge in his teachings.”
After this, however, she had aroused him, tying him to her in the act of lovemaking with a painful fervor, amidst biting and tears, as if she once more wanted to squeeze the last drop out of this vain, fleeting pleasure. Never before had it become so oddly clear to Siddhartha how akin lust was to death. He had lain by Kamala's side, and her face was close to his; under her eyes and next to the corners of the mouth he read, as he had never clearly read before, a horrible inscription of small lines, slight grooves. It was an inscription reminiscent of the autumn time and old age, just like Siddhartha himself, had already noticed, in the gray hairs here and there among his black ones. Fatigue was written on Kamala's beautiful face, and exhaustion from walking a long path with no happy destination; it was a fatigue and the start of withering, along with the concealed and unspoken (perhaps even unconscious) fear of old age, of autumn, of death. With a sigh, he said farewell to her while his soul was full of hesitation and hidden anxiety.
Siddhartha then spent the night at his house with dancing girls and wine, acting towards the other members of his caste as if he were superior to them, even though this was no longer true. He had imbibed much wine and went to bed long after midnight; he was tired and yet excited, and was close to weeping and despair. He long sought sleep in vain, and his heart was full of misery that he felt he could no longer bear; it was full of a disgust that he felt penetrating his entire body like the lukewarm and revolting taste of the wine, the music that was dull and all too sweet, the all-too-soft smiles of the dancing girls, and the all-too-sweet scent of their hair and breasts. More than anything else, however, he was disgusted with himself: his perfumed hair, the smell of wine coming from his mouth, the flabby fatigue and the listlessness of his skin. As is a man who has eaten and drunk far too much, vomiting it back up again with agonizing pain and being nevertheless glad for the relief, this sleepless man in an outburst of disgust wanted to free himself from these pleasures and habits. He wanted to free himself from this entire pointless life and from himself. It was not until morning's light came and the first bustling of activity began on the street near his city dwelling that he fell asleep; he had found for a few moments a state of semi-unconsciousness, a hint of slumber. In these moments, he had a dream:
Kamala owned a small, rare songbird in a golden cage. He dreamed of this bird. He dreamed that this bird, which at other times used to sing in the morning, had become mute. This attracted his attention, and he stepped in front of the cage and looked inside. There lay the small bird, stiff and dead on the floor. He took the bird out, weighed it for a moment in his hand, and then threw it away into the street. In the same moment, he felt terribly shocked, and his heart panged him, almost as if he had thrown away from himself everything good or valuable by throwing out this dead bird.
Awaking with a start from this dream, he felt enveloped by deep sadness. It seemed to him that the way he had been leading life was worthless and pointless. Nothing was alive, and he had kept nothing in his hands that was in any way delicious or worth keeping. He stood alone and empty, like a castaway on the shore.
With gloomy thoughts, Siddhartha went to his pleasure garden. He locked the gate, sat down under a mango tree, and felt death and in his heart and horror in his chest. He sat and sensed how everything within him had died, withered, and terminated. By and by he gathered his thoughts, and in his mind he once again traveled his entire life's path, beginning with the first days he could remember. Was there ever a time when he had experienced happiness and felt true bliss? Certainly, he had experienced such a thing several times. In his boyhood he had a taste of it when he obtained praise from the Brahmins. He had then felt in his heart: “There is a path in front of the one who has distinguished himself in the recitation of the holy verses, in debates with the scholars, and as an assistant in the sacrifices.” At that time he had felt in his heart: “There is a path in front of you, you have a destiny, and the gods are awaiting you.” Once again, as a young man, the ever-ascendant and always-loftier goal of all contemplation had plucked him out from the masses who also sought the same goal, when with pain he wrestled for the sake of the Brahman, when every bit of knowledge he acquired only ignited new thirst within him, he had again felt this very same thing in the midst of the thirst and pain: “Go on! Go on! You have been called!” He had heard this voice when leaving his home and choosing the Samana's life, and again when he had left the Samanas to go to the perfected one, and also when he had departed from him into that which is uncertain. How long had it been that he did not hear this voice; for how long had he reached no heights? How monotonous was the way in which his path had coursed through life—without a goal, without thirst, without exultation for many long years, being content with small pleasures of lust and yet never satisfied! For all these many years, he had tried and longed, without knowing it himself, to become a man like all the many others, like the children. In all of this his life had been far more miserable and destitute than theirs. Neither their goals nor their worries were his; after all, the entire world of the Kamaswami-people had been only a game to him, a dance or a comedy that he would watch. Only Kamala had been dear and valuable to him—but was she still so? Did he still need her, or she him? Weren't they playing a game that had no end? Was it necessary to live for this? No, it was not necessary! The name of this game was Samsara, a game for children, which was enjoyable to play perhaps once, twice, or ten times—but again and again for ever and ever?
Siddhartha then knew that the game was over and that he could no longer play it. He felt shivers run over his body and inside of him; something had died.
He sat under the mango tree that entire day while thinking of his father, of Govinda, and of Gotama. Did he have to leave them to become a Kamaswami? When night fell he was still sitting there. When he caught sight of the stars while looking up, he thought: “Here I am sitting under my mango tree, in my pleasure garden.” He smiled slightly—was it truly necessary or right, was it even like a foolish game, for him to own a mango tree, to own a garden?
He also put an end to this, and this died within him. He rose up, said farewell to the mango tree and to the pleasure garden. He felt very hungry because he had gone without food that day, and he thought of his house in the city, of his chamber and his bed, and of the table there and the meals upon it. He smiled tiredly, shook himself, and said goodbye to these things.
Siddhartha left his garden at that same hour during the night; he left the city and never came back. Kamaswami had people seek him for a long time, thinking that he had fallen into the hands of robbers. Kamala did not have anyone look for him. She was not astonished when told that Siddhartha had disappeared. Hadn't she always expected it? Wasn't he a Samana, a man who was nowhere at home, a pilgrim? And, most of all, she had sensed this the last time they had been together, and in spite of all the pain of loss she was happy that she had drawn him so affectionately to her heart for that last time, that she had felt once more so completely possessed and penetrated by him.
When she first received the news of Siddhartha's disappearance, she went to the window where she held a rare songbird captive in a golden cage. She opened the door of the cage, took out the bird, and let it fly. She gazed after the flying bird for a long time. She received no more visitors from this day forward, and she kept her house locked. After some time, however, she became aware that she was pregnant from that last time she was together with Siddhartha.