Ch. 5: Kamala

This second part is Dedicated to Wilhelm Gundert, my cousin in Japan.

Siddhartha learned something new on every step of his path, for the
world was transformed, and his heart was enchanted. He saw the sun
rising over the mountains with their forests and setting over the
distant beach with its palm-trees. At night, he saw the stars in the
sky in their fixed positions and the crescent of the moon floating like
a boat in the blue. He saw trees, stars, animals, clouds, rainbows,
rocks, herbs, flowers, stream and river, the glistening dew in the
bushes in the morning, distant high mountains which were blue and
pale, birds sang and bees, wind silverishly blew through the rice-field.
All of this, a thousand-fold and colorful, had always been there,
always the sun and the moon had shone, always rivers had roared and
bees had buzzed, but in former times all of this had been nothing more
to Siddhartha than a fleeting, deceptive veil before his eyes,
looked upon in distrust, destined to be penetrated and destroyed by
thought, since it was not the essential existence, since this essence
lay beyond, on the other side of, the visible. But now, his liberated
eyes stayed on this side, he saw and became aware of the visible, sought
to be at home in this world, did not search for the true essence, did
not aim at a world beyond. Beautiful was this world, looking at it thus,
without searching, thus simply, thus childlike. Beautiful were the moon
and the stars, beautiful was the stream and the banks, the forest and
the rocks, the goat and the gold-beetle, the flower and the butterfly.
Beautiful and lovely it was, thus to walk through the world, thus
childlike, thus awoken, thus open to what is near, thus without
distrust. Differently the sun burnt the head, differently the shade
of the forest cooled him down, differently the stream and the cistern,
the pumpkin and the banana tasted. Short were the days, short the
nights, every hour sped swiftly away like a sail on the sea, and under
the sail was a ship full of treasures, full of joy. Siddhartha saw a
group of apes moving through the high canopy of the forest, high in the
branches, and heard their savage, greedy song. Siddhartha saw a male
sheep following a female one and mating with her. In a lake of reeds,
he saw the pike hungrily hunting for its dinner; propelling themselves
away from it, in fear, wiggling and sparkling, the young fish jumped in
droves out of the water; the scent of strength and passion came
forcefully out of the hasty eddies of the water, which the pike stirred
up, impetuously hunting.

All of this had always existed, and he had not seen it; he had not been
with it. Now he was with it, he was part of it. Light and shadow
ran through his eyes, stars and moon ran through his heart.

On the way, Siddhartha also remembered everything he had experienced in
the Garden Jetavana, the teaching he had heard there, the divine Buddha,
the farewell from Govinda, the conversation with the exalted one. Again
he remembered his own words, he had spoken to the exalted one, every
word, and with astonishment he became aware of the fact that there he
had said things which he had not really known yet at this time. What he
had said to Gotama: his, the Buddha's, treasure and secret was not the
teachings, but the unexpressable and not teachable, which he had
experienced in the hour of his enlightenment--it was nothing but this
very thing which he had now gone to experience, what he now began to
experience. Now, he had to experience his self. It is true that he had
already known for a long time that his self was Atman, in its essence
bearing the same eternal characteristics as Brahman. But never, he had
really found this self, because he had wanted to capture it in the net
of thought. With the body definitely not being the self, and not the
spectacle of the senses, so it also was not the thought, not the
rational mind, not the learned wisdom, not the learned ability to draw
conclusions and to develop previous thoughts in to new ones. No, this
world of thought was also still on this side, and nothing could be
achieved by killing the random self of the senses, if the random self of
thoughts and learned knowledge was fattened on the other hand. Both,
the thoughts as well as the senses, were pretty things, the ultimate
meaning was hidden behind both of them, both had to be listened to, both
had to be played with, both neither had to be scorned nor overestimated,
from both the secret voices of the innermost truth had to be attentively
perceived. He wanted to strive for nothing, except for what the voice
commanded him to strive for, dwell on nothing, except where the voice
would advise him to do so. Why had Gotama, at that time, in the hour
of all hours, sat down under the bo-tree, where the enlightenment hit
him? He had heard a voice, a voice in his own heart, which had
commanded him to seek rest under this tree, and he had neither preferred
self-castigation, offerings, ablutions, nor prayer, neither food nor
drink, neither sleep nor dream, he had obeyed the voice. To obey like
this, not to an external command, only to the voice, to be ready like
this, this was good, this was necessary, nothing else was necessary.

In the night when he slept in the straw hut of a ferryman by the river,
Siddhartha had a dream: Govinda was standing in front of him, dressed
in the yellow robe of an ascetic. Sad was how Govinda looked like,
sadly he asked: Why have you forsaken me? At this, he embraced
Govinda, wrapped his arms around him, and as he was pulling him close
to his chest and kissed him, it was not Govinda any more, but a woman,
and an full breast popped out of the woman's dress, at which Siddhartha
lay and drank, sweetly and strongly tasted the milk from this breast.
It tasted of woman and man, of sun and forest, of animal and flower,
of every fruit, of every joyful desire. It intoxicated him and rendered
him unconscious.--When Siddhartha woke up, the pale river shimmered
through the door of the hut, and in the forest, a dark call of an owl
resounded deeply and and pleasantly.

When the day began, Siddhartha asked his host, the ferryman, to get him
across the river. The ferryman got him across the river on his
bamboo-raft, the wide water shimmered reddishly in the light of the

"This is a beautiful river," he said to his companion.

"Yes," said the ferryman, "a very beautiful river, I love it more than
anything. Often I have listened to it, often I have looked into its
eyes, and always I have learned from it. Much can be learned from a

"I than you, my benefactor," spoke Siddhartha, disembarking on the other
side of the river. "I have no gift I could give you for your
hospitality, my dear, and also no payment for your work. I am a man
without a home, a son of a Brahman and a Samana."

"I did see it," spoke the ferryman, "and I haven't expected any payment
from you and no gift which would be the custom for guests to bear. You
will give me the gift another time."

"Do you think so?" asked Siddhartha amusedly.

"Surely. This too, I have learned from the river: everything is coming
back! You too, Samana, will come back. Now farewell! Let your
friendship be my reward. Commemorate me, when you'll make offerings to
the gods."

Smiling, they parted. Smiling, Siddhartha was happy about the
friendship and the kindness of the ferryman. "He is like Govinda," he
thought with a smile, "all I meet on my path are like Govinda. All are
thankful, though they are the ones who would have a right to receive
thanks. All are submissive, all would like to be friends, like to
obey, think little. Like children are all people."

At about noon, he came through a village. In front of the mud cottages,
children were rolling about in the street, were playing with
pumpkin-seeds and sea-shells, screamed and wrestled, but they all
timidly fled from the unknown Samana. In the end of the village, the
path led through a stream, and by the side of the stream, an young
woman was kneeling and washing clothes. When Siddhartha greeted her,
she lifted her head and looked up to him with a smile, so that he saw
the white in her eyes glistening. He called out a blessing to her, as
it is the custom among travellers, and asked how far he still had to go
to reach the large city. Then she got up and came to him, beautifully
her wet mouth was shimmering in her young face. She exchanged humorous
banter with him, asked whether he had eaten already, and whether it was
true that the Samanas slept alone in the forest at night and were not
allowed to have any women with them. While talking, she put her left
foot on his right one and made a movement as a woman does who would want
to initiate that kind of sexual pleasure with a man, which the textbooks
call "climbing a tree". Siddhartha felt his blood heating up, and since
in this moment he had to think of his dream again, he bend slightly
down to the woman and kissed with his lips the brown nipple of her
breast. Looking up, he saw her face smiling full of lust and her
eyes, with contracted pupils, begging with desire.

Siddhartha also felt desire and felt the source of his sexuality moving;
but since he had never touched a woman before, he hesitated for a
moment, while his hands were already prepared to reach out for her. And
in this moment he heard, shuddering with awe, the voice if his innermost
self, and this voice said No. Then, all charms disappeared from the
young woman's smiling face, he no longer saw anything else but the damp
glance of a female animal in heat. Politely, he petted her cheek,
turned away from her and disappeared away from the disappointed woman
with light steps into the bamboo-wood.

On this day, he reached the large city before the evening, and was
happy, for he felt the need to be among people. For a long time, he
had lived in the forests, and the straw hut of the ferryman, in which
he had slept that night, had been the first roof for a long time he has
had over his head.

Before the city, in a beautifully fenced grove, the traveller came
across a small group of servants, both male and female, carrying
baskets. In their midst, carried by four servants in an ornamental
sedan-chair, sat a woman, the mistress, on red pillows under a colourful
canopy. Siddhartha stopped at the entrance to the pleasure-garden and
watched the parade, saw the servants, the maids, the baskets, saw the
sedan-chair and saw the lady in it. Under black hair, which made to
tower high on her head, he saw a very fair, very delicate, very smart
face, a brightly red mouth, like a freshly cracked fig, eyebrows which
were well tended and painted in a high arch, smart and watchful dark
eyes, a clear, tall neck rising from a green and golden garment, resting
fair hands, long and thin, with wide golden bracelets over the wrists.

Siddhartha saw how beautiful she was, and his heart rejoiced. He bowed
deeply, when the sedan-chair came closer, and straightening up again,
he looked at the fair, charming face, read for a moment in the smart
eyes with the high arcs above, breathed in a slight fragrant, he did
not know. With a smile, the beautiful women nodded for a moment and
disappeared into the grove, and then the servant as well.

Thus I am entering this city, Siddhartha thought, with a charming omen.
He instantly felt drawn into the grove, but he thought about it, and
only now he became aware of how the servants and maids had looked at him
at the entrance, how despicable, how distrustful, how rejecting.

I am still a Samana, he thought, I am still an ascetic and beggar. I
must not remain like this, I will not be able to enter the grove like
this. And he laughed.

The next person who came along this path he asked about the grove and
for the name of the woman, and was told that this was the grove of
Kamala, the famous courtesan, and that, aside from the grove, she owned
a house in the city.

Then, he entered the city. Now he had a goal.

Pursuing his goal, he allowed the city to suck him in, drifted through
the flow of the streets, stood still on the squares, rested on the
stairs of stone by the river. When the evening came, he made friends
with barber's assistant, whom he had seen working in the shade of an
arch in a building, whom he found again praying in a temple of Vishnu,
whom he told about stories of Vishnu and the Lakshmi. Among the boats
by the river, he slept this night, and early in the morning, before the
first customers came into his shop, he had the barber's assistant shave
his beard and cut his hair, comb his hair and anoint it with fine oil.
Then he went to take his bath in the river.

When late in the afternoon, beautiful Kamala approached her grove in her
sedan-chair, Siddhartha was standing at the entrance, made a bow and
received the courtesan's greeting. But that servant who walked at the
very end of her train he motioned to him and asked him to inform his
mistress that a young Brahman would wish to talk to her. After a while,
the servant returned, asked the him, who had been waiting, to follow him
conducted him, who was following him, without a word into a pavilion,
where Kamala was lying on a couch, and left him alone with her.

"Weren't you already standing out there yesterday, greeting me?" asked

"It's true that I've already seen and greeted you yesterday."

"But didn't you yesterday wear a beard, and long hair, and dust in your

"You have observed well, you have seen everything. You have seen
Siddhartha, the son of a Brahman, how has left his home to become a
Samana, and who has been a Samana for three years. But now, I have
left that path and came into this city, and the first one I met, even
before I had entered the city, was you. To say this, I have come to
you, oh Kamala! You are the first woman whom Siddhartha is not
addressing with his eyes turned to the ground. Never again I want to
turn my eyes to the ground, when I'm coming across a beautiful woman."

Kamala smiled and played with her fan of peacocks' feathers. And asked:
"And only to tell me this, Siddhartha has come to me?"

"To tell you this and to thank you for being so beautiful. And if it
doesn't displease you, Kamala, I would like to ask you to be my friend
and teacher, for I know nothing yet of that art which you have mastered
in the highest degree."

At this, Kamala laughed aloud.

"Never before this has happened to me, my friend, that a Samana from the
forest came to me and wanted to learn from me! Never before this has
happened to me, that a Samana came to me with long hair and an old, torn
loin-cloth! Many young men come to me, and there are also sons of
Brahmans among them, but they come in beautiful clothes, they come in
fine shoes, they have perfume in their hair and money in their pouches.
This is, oh Samana, how the young men are like who come to me."

Quoth Siddhartha: "Already I am starting to learn from you. Even
yesterday, I was already learning. I have already taken off my beard,
have combed the hair, have oil in my hair. There is little which is
still missing in me, oh excellent one: fine clothes, fine shoes, money
in my pouch. You shall know, Siddhartha has set harder goals for
himself than such trifles, and he has reached them. How shouldn't I
reach that goal, which I have set for myself yesterday: to be your
friend and to learn the joys of love from you! You'll see that I'll
learn quickly, Kamala, I have already learned harder things than what
you're supposed to teach me. And now let's get to it: You aren't
satisfied with Siddhartha as he is, with oil in his hair, but without
clothes, without shoes, without money?"

Laughing, Kamala exclaimed: "No, my dear, he doesn't satisfy me yet.
Clothes are what he must have, pretty clothes, and shoes, pretty shoes,
and lots of money in his pouch, and gifts for Kamala. Do you know it
now, Samana from the forest? Did you mark my words?"

"Yes, I have marked your words," Siddhartha exclaimed. "How should I
not mark words which are coming from such a mouth! Your mouth is like
a freshly cracked fig, Kamala. My mouth is red and fresh as well, it
will be a suitable match for yours, you'll see.--But tell me, beautiful
Kamala, aren't you at all afraid of the Samana from the forest, who has
come to learn how to make love?"

"Whatever for should I be afraid of a Samana, a stupid Samana from the
forest, who is coming from the jackals and doesn't even know yet what
women are?"

"Oh, he's strong, the Samana, and he isn't afraid of anything. He could
force you, beautiful girl. He could kidnap you. He could hurt you."

"No, Samana, I am not afraid of this. Did any Samana or Brahman ever
fear, someone might come and grab him and steal his learning, and his
religious devotion, and his depth of thought? No, for they are his very
own, and he would only give away from those whatever he is willing to
give and to whomever he is willing to give. Like this it is, precisely
like this it is also with Kamala and with the pleasures of love.
Beautiful and red is Kamala's mouth, but just try to kiss it against
Kamala's will, and you will not obtain a single drop of sweetness from
it, which knows how to give so many sweet things! You are learning
easily, Siddhartha, thus you should also learn this: love can be
obtained by begging, buying, receiving it as a gift, finding it in the
street, but it cannot be stolen. In this, you have come up with the
wrong path. No, it would be a pity, if a pretty young man like you
would want to tackle it in such a wrong manner."

Siddhartha bowed with a smile. "It would be a pity, Kamala, you are so
right! It would be such a great pity. No, I shall not lose a single
drop of sweetness from your mouth, nor you from mine! So it is settled:
Siddhartha will return, once he'll have have what he still lacks:
clothes, shoes, money. But speak, lovely Kamala, couldn't you still
give me one small advice?"

"An advice?" Why not? Who wouldn't like to give an advice to a poor,
ignorant Samana, who is coming from the jackals of the forest?"

"Dear Kamala, thus advise me where I should go to, that I'll find these
three things most quickly?"

"Friend, many would like to know this. You must do what you've learned
and ask for money, clothes, and shoes in return. There is no other way
for a poor man to obtain money. What might you be able to do?"

"I can think. I can wait. I can fast."

"Nothing else?"

"Nothing. But yes, I can also write poetry. Would you like to give me
a kiss for a poem?"

"I would like to, if I'll like your poem. What would be its title?"

Siddhartha spoke, after he had thought about it for a moment, these

Into her shady grove stepped the pretty Kamala,
At the grove's entrance stood the brown Samana.
Deeply, seeing the lotus's blossom,
Bowed that man, and smiling Kamala thanked.
More lovely, thought the young man, than offerings for gods,
More lovely is offering to pretty Kamala.

Kamala loudly clapped her hands, so that the golden bracelets clanged.

"Beautiful are your verses, oh brown Samana, and truly, I'm losing
nothing when I'm giving you a kiss for them."

She beckoned him with her eyes, he tilted his head so that his face
touched hers and placed his mouth on that mouth which was like a
freshly cracked fig. For a long time, Kamala kissed him, and with a
deep astonishment Siddhartha felt how she taught him, how wise she was,
how she controlled him, rejected him, lured him, and how after this first
one there was to be a long, a well ordered, well tested sequence of
kisses, everyone different from the others, he was still to receive.
Breathing deeply, he remained standing where he was, and was in this
moment astonished like a child about the cornucopia of knowledge and
things worth learning, which revealed itself before his eyes.

"Very beautiful are your verses," exclaimed Kamala, "if I was rich, I
would give you pieces of gold for them. But it will be difficult for
you to earn thus much money with verses as you need. For you need a lot
of money, if you want to be Kamala's friend."

"The way you're able to kiss, Kamala!" stammered Siddhartha.

"Yes, this I am able to do, therefore I do not lack clothes, shoes,
bracelets, and all beautiful things. But what will become of you?
Aren't you able to do anything else but thinking, fasting, making

"I also know the sacrificial songs," said Siddhartha, "but I do not want
to sing them any more. I also know magic spells, but I do not want to
speak them any more. I have read the scriptures--"

"Stop," Kamala interrupted him. "You're able to read? And write?"

"Certainly, I can do this. Many people can do this."

"Most people can't. I also can't do it. It is very good that you're
able to read and write, very good. You will also still find use for
the magic spells."

In this moment, a maid came running in and whispered a message into
her mistress's ear.

"There's a visitor for me," exclaimed Kamala. "Hurry and get yourself
away, Siddhartha, nobody may see you in here, remember this! Tomorrow,
I'll see you again."

But to the maid she gave the order to give the pious Brahman white
upper garments. Without fully understanding what was happening to him,
Siddhartha found himself being dragged away by the maid, brought into
a garden-house avoiding the direct path, being given upper garments as a
gift, led into the bushes, and urgently admonished to get himself out of
the grove as soon as possible without being seen.

Contently, he did as he had been told. Being accustomed to the forest,
he managed to get out of the grove and over the hedge without making a
sound. Contently, he returned to the city, carrying the rolled up
garments under his arm. At the inn, where travellers stay, he
positioned himself by the door, without words he asked for food, without
a word he accepted a piece of rice-cake. Perhaps as soon as tomorrow,
he thought, I will ask no one for food any more.

Suddenly, pride flared up in him. He was no Samana any more, it was no
longer becoming to him to beg. He gave the rice-cake to a dog and
remained without food.

"Simple is the life which people lead in this world here," thought
Siddhartha. "It presents no difficulties. Everything was difficult,
toilsome, and ultimately hopeless, when I was still a Samana. Now,
everything is easy, easy like that lessons in kissing, which Kamala is
giving me. I need clothes and money, nothing else; this a small, near
goals, they won't make a person lose any sleep."

He had already discovered Kamala's house in the city long before, there
he turned up the following day.

"Things are working out well," she called out to him. "They are
expecting you at Kamaswami's, he is the richest merchant of the city.
If he'll like you, he'll accept you into his service. Be smart, brown
Samana. I had others tell him about you. Be polite towards him, he is
very powerful. But don't be too modest! I do not want you to become
his servant, you shall become his equal, or else I won't be satisfied
with you. Kamaswami is starting to get old and lazy. If he'll like
you, he'll entrust you with a lot."

Siddhartha thanked her and laughed, and when she found out that he had
not eaten anything yesterday and today, she sent for bread and fruits
and treated him to it.

"You've been lucky," she said when they parted, "I'm opening one door
after another for you. How come? Do you have a spell?"

Siddhartha said: "Yesterday, I told you I knew how to think, to wait,
and to fast, but you thought this was of no use. But it is useful for
many things, Kamala, you'll see. You'll see that the stupid Samanas are
learning and able to do many pretty things in the forest, which the
likes of you aren't capable of. The day before yesterday, I was still a
shaggy beggar, as soon as yesterday I have kissed Kamala, and soon I'll
be a merchant and have money and all those things you insist upon."

"Well yes," she admitted. "But where would you be without me? What
would you be, if Kamala wasn't helping you?"

"Dear Kamala," said Siddhartha and straightened up to his full height,
"when I came to you into your grove, I did the first step. It was my
resolution to learn love from this most beautiful woman. From that
moment on when I had made this resolution, I also knew that I would
carry it out. I knew that you would help me, at your first glance at
the entrance of the grove I already knew it."

"But what if I hadn't been willing?"

"You were willing. Look, Kamala: Wen you throw a rock into the water,
it will speed on the fastest course to the bottom of the water. This
is how it is when Siddhartha has a goal, a resolution. Siddhartha does
nothing, he waits, he thinks, he fasts, but he passes through the things
of the world like a rock through water, without doing anything, without
stirring; he is drawn, he lets himself fall. His goal attracts him,
because he doesn't let anything enter his soul which might oppose the
goal. This is what Siddhartha has learned among the Samanas. This is
what fools call magic and of which they think it would be effected by
means of the daemons. Nothing is effected by daemons, there are no
daemons. Everyone can perform magic, everyone can reach his goals, if
he is able to think, if he is able to wait, if he is able to fast."

Kamala listened to him. She loved his voice, she loved the look from
his eyes.

"Perhaps it is so," she said quietly, "as you say, friend. But perhaps
it is also like this: that Siddhartha is a handsome man, that his glance
pleases the women, that therefore good fortune is coming towards him."

Wit one kiss, Siddhartha bid his farewell. "I wish that it should be
this way, my teacher; that my glance shall please you, that always
good fortune shall come to me out of your direction!"

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