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Ch. 7: Sansara

For a long time, Siddhartha had lived the life of the world and of lust,
though without being a part of it. His senses, which he had killed off
in hot years as a Samana, had awoken again, he had tasted riches, had
tasted lust, had tasted power; nevertheless he had still remained in his
heart for a long time a Samana; Kamala, being smart, had realized this
quite right. It was still the art of thinking, of waiting, of fasting,
which guided his life; still the people of the world, the childlike
people, had remained alien to him as he was alien to them.

Years passed by; surrounded by the good life, Siddhartha hardly felt
them fading away. He had become rich, for quite a while he possessed a
house of his own and his own servants, and a garden before the city by
the river. The people liked him, 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 the separation from Govinda, that tense expectation, that
proud state of standing alone without teachings and without teachers,
that supple willingness to listen to the divine voice in his own heart,
hat slowly become a memory, had been fleeting; distant and quiet, the
holy source murmured, which used to be near, which used to murmur within
himself. Nevertheless, many things he had learned from the Samanas, he
had learned from Gotama, he had learned from his father the Brahman,
had remained within him for a long time afterwards: moderate living,
joy of thinking, hours of meditation, secret knowledge of the self,
of his eternal entity, which is neither body nor consciousness. Many
a part of this he still had, but one part after another had been
submerged and had 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 vigour and come to a stop, thus Siddhartha's soul had kept on
turning the wheel of asceticism, the wheel of thinking, the wheel of
differentiation for a long time, still turning, but it turned slowly and
hesitantly and was close to coming to a standstill. Slowly, 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,
slowly it filled his soul, made it heavy, made it tired, put it to
sleep. On the other hand, his senses had become alive, there was much
they had learned, much they had experienced.

Siddhartha had learned to trade, to use his power over people, to enjoy
himself with a woman, he had learned to wear beautiful clothes, to give
orders to servants, to bathe in perfumed waters. He had learned to eat
tenderly and carefully prepared food, even fish, even meat and poultry,
spices and sweets, and to drink wine, which causes sloth and
forgetfulness. He had learned to play with dice and on a chess-board,
to watch dancing girls, to have himself carried about in a sedan-chair,
to sleep on a soft bed. But still he had felt different from and
superior to the others; always he had watched them with some mockery,
some mocking disdain, with the same disdain which a Samana constantly
feels for the people of the world. When Kamaswami was ailing, when he
was annoyed, when he felt insulted, when he was vexed by his worries as
a merchant, Siddhartha had always watched it with mockery. Just slowly
and imperceptibly, as the harvest seasons and rainy seasons passed by,
his mockery had become more tired, his superiority had become more
quiet. Just slowly, among his growing riches, Siddhartha had assumed
something of the childlike people's ways for himself, something of their
childlikeness and of their fearfulness. And yet, he envied them, envied
them just the more, the more similar he became to them. He envied them
for the one thing that was missing from him and that they had, the
importance they were able to attach to their lives, the amount of
passion in their joys and fears, the fearful but sweet happiness of
being constantly in love. These people were all of the time in love
with themselves, with women, with their children, with honours or money,
with plans or hopes. But he did not learn this from them, this out of
all things, this joy of a child and this foolishness of a child; he
learned from them out of all things the unpleasant ones, which he
himself despised. It happened more and more often that, in the morning
after having had company the night before, he stayed in bed for a long
time, felt unable to think and tired. It happened that he became angry
and impatient, when Kamaswami bored him with his worries. It happened
that he laughed just too loud, when he lost a game of dice. His face
was still smarter and more spiritual than others, but it rarely laughed,
and assumed, one after another, those features which are so often
found in the faces of rich people, those features of discontent, of
sickliness, of ill-humour, of sloth, of a lack of love. Slowly the
disease of the soul, which rich people have, grabbed hold of him.

Like a veil, like a thin mist, tiredness came over Siddhartha, slowly,
getting a bit denser every day, a bit murkier every month, a bit heavier
every year. As a new dress becomes old in time, loses its beautiful
colour in time, gets stains, gets wrinkles, gets worn off at the seams,
and starts to show threadbare spots here and there, thus Siddhartha's
new life, which he had started after his separation from Govinda, had
grown old, lost colour and splendour as the years passed by, was
gathering wrinkles and stains, and hidden at bottom, already showing its
ugliness here and there, disappointment and disgust were waiting.
Siddhartha did not notice it. He only noticed that this bright and
reliable voice inside of him, which had awoken in him at that time and
had ever guided him in his best times, had become silent.

He had been captured by the world, by lust, covetousness, sloth, and
finally also by that vice which ha had used to despise and mock the
most as the most foolish one of all vices: greed. Property,
possessions, and riches also had finally captured him; they were no
longer a game and trifles to him, had become a shackle and a burden.
On a strange and devious way, Siddhartha had gotten into this final and
most base of all dependencies, by means of the game of dice. It was
since that time, when he had stopped being a Samana in his heart, that
Siddhartha began to play the game for money and precious things, which
he at other times only joined with a smile and casually as a custom of
the childlike people, with an increasing rage and passion. He was a
feared gambler, few dared to take him on, so high and audacious were his
stakes. He played the game due to a pain of his heart, losing and
wasting his wretched money in the game brought him an angry joy, in no
other way he could demonstrate his disdain for wealth, the merchants'
false god, more clearly and more mockingly. Thus he gambled with high
stakes and mercilessly, hating himself, mocking himself, won thousands,
threw away thousands, lost money, lost jewelry, lost a house in the
country, won again, lost again. That fear, that terrible and petrifying
fear, which he felt while he was rolling the dice, while he was worried
about losing high stakes, that fear he loved and sought to always renew
it, always increase it, always get it to a slightly higher level, for in
this feeling alone he still felt something like happiness, something
like a intoxication, something like an elevated form of life in the
midst of his saturated, lukewarm, dull life.

And after each big loss, his mind was set on new riches, pursued the
trade more zealously, forced his debtors more strictly to pay, because
he wanted to continue gambling, he wanted to continue squandering,
continue demonstrating his disdain of wealth. Siddhartha lost his
calmness when losses occurred, lost his patience when he was not payed
on time, lost his kindness towards beggars, lost his disposition for
giving away and loaning money to those who petitioned him. He, who
gambled away tens of thousands at one roll of the dice and laughed at
it, became more strict and more petty in his business, occasionally
dreaming at night about money! And whenever he woke up from this ugly
spell, whenever he found his face in the mirror at the bedroom's wall to
have aged and become more ugly, whenever embarrassment and disgust came
over him, he continued fleeing, fleeing into a new game, fleeing into a
numbing of his mind brought on by sex, by wine, and from there he fled
back into the urge to pile up and obtain possessions. In this pointless
cycle he ran, growing tired, growing old, growing ill.

Then the time came when a dream warned him. He had spend the hours of
the evening with Kamala, in her beautiful pleasure-garden. They had
been sitting under the trees, talking, and Kamala had said thoughtful
words, words behind which a sadness and tiredness lay hidden. She had
asked him to tell her about Gotama, and could not hear enough of him,
how clear his eyes, how still and beautiful his mouth, how kind his
smile, how peaceful his walk had been. For a long time, he had to tell
her about the exalted Buddha, and Kamala had sighed and had said: "One
day, perhaps soon, I'll also follow that Buddha. I'll give him my
pleasure-garden for a gift and take my refuge in his teachings." But
after this, she had aroused him, and had tied him to her in the act
of making love with painful fervour, biting and in tears, as if, once
more, she wanted to squeeze the last sweet drop out of this vain,
fleeting pleasure. Never before, it had become so strangely clear to
Siddhartha, how closely lust was akin to death. Then he had lain by
her side, and Kamala's face had been close to him, and under her eyes
and next to the corners of her mouth he had, as clearly as never before,
read a fearful inscription, an inscription of small lines, of slight
grooves, an inscription reminiscent of autumn and old age, just as
Siddhartha himself, who was only in his forties, had already noticed,
here and there, gray hairs among his black ones. Tiredness was written
on Kamala's beautiful face, tiredness from walking a long path, which
has no happy destination, tiredness and the beginning of withering,
and concealed, still unsaid, perhaps not even conscious anxiety: fear of
old age, fear of the autumn, fear of having to die. With a sigh, he had
bid his farewell to her, the soul full of reluctance, and full of
concealed anxiety.

Then, Siddhartha had spent the night in his house with dancing girls
and wine, had acted as if he was superior to them towards the
fellow-members of his caste, though this was no longer true, had drunk
much wine and gone to bed a long time after midnight, being tired and
yet excited, close to weeping and despair, and had for a long time
sought to sleep in vain, his heart full of misery which he thought he
could not bear any longer, full of a disgust which he felt penetrating
his entire body like the lukewarm, repulsive taste of the wine, the
just too sweet, dull music, the just too soft smile of the dancing
girls, the just too sweet scent of their hair and breasts. But more
than by anything else, he was disgusted by himself, by his perfumed
hair, by the smell of wine from his mouth, by the flabby tiredness and
listlessness of his skin. Like when someone, who has eaten and drunk
far too much, vomits it back up again with agonising pain and is
nevertheless glad about the relief, thus this sleepless man wished to
free himself of these pleasures, these habits and all of this pointless
life and himself, in an immense burst of disgust. Not until the light
of the morning and the beginning of the first activities in the street
before his city-house, he had slightly fallen asleep, had found for a
few moments a half unconsciousness, a hint of sleep. In those moments,
he had a dream:

Kamala owned a small, rare singing bird in a golden cage. Of this bird,
he dreamt. He dreamt: this bird had become mute, who at other times
always used to sing in the morning, and since this arose his attention,
he stepped in front of the cage and looked inside; there the small bird
was dead and lay stiff on the ground. He took it out, weighed it for a
moment in his hand, and then threw it away, out in the street, and in
the same moment, he felt terribly shocked, and his heart hurt, as if he
had thrown away from himself all value and everything good by throwing
out this dead bird.

Starting up from this dream, he felt encompassed by a deep sadness.
Worthless, so it seemed to him, worthless and pointless was the way he
had been going through life; nothing which was alive, nothing which was
is some way delicious or worth keeping he had left in his hands. Alone
he stood there and empty like a castaway on the shore.

With a gloomy mind, Siddhartha went to the pleasure-garden he owned,
locked the gate, sat down under a mango-tree, felt death in his heart
and horror in his chest, sat and sensed how everything died in him,
withered in him, came to an end in him. By and by, he gathered his
thoughts, and in his mind, he once again went the entire path of his
life, starting with the first days he could remember. When was there
ever a time when he had experienced happiness, felt a true bliss? Oh
yes, several times he had experienced such a thing. In his years as a
boy, he has had a taste of it, when he had obtained praise from the
Brahmans, he had felt it in his heart: "There is a path in front of
the one who has distinguished himself in the recitation

{It seems to me, as if there are a few words missing from
the German text, which I can only guess. My guess is, that
it should read: Ein Weg liegt vor dem, der sich im Hersagen
der heiligen Verse, ...}

of the holy verses, in the dispute with the learned ones, as an
assistant in the offerings." Then, he had felt it in his heart: "There
is a path in front of you, you are destined for, the gods are awaiting
you." And again, as a young man, when the ever rising, upward fleeing,
goal of all thinking had ripped him out of and up from the multitude of
those seeking the same goal, when he wrestled in pain for the purpose of
Brahman, when every obtained knowledge only kindled new thirst in him,
then again he had, in the midst of the thirst, in the midst of the pain
felt this very same thing: "Go on! Go on! You are called upon!" He
had heard this voice when he had left his home and had chosen the life
of a Samana, and again when he had gone away from the Samanas to that
perfected one, and also when he had gone away from him to the uncertain.
For how long had he not heard this voice any more, for how long had he
reached no height any more, how even and dull was the manner in which
his path had passed through life, for many long years, without a high
goal, without thirst, without elevation, content with small lustful
pleasures and yet never satisfied! For all of these many years, without
knowing it himself, he had tried hard and longed to become a man like
those many, like those children, and in all this, his life had been
much more miserable and poorer than theirs, and their goals were not
his, nor their worries; after all, that entire world of the
Kamaswami-people had only been a game to him, a dance he would watch, a
comedy. Only Kamala had been dear, had been valuable to him--but was
she still thus? Did he still need her, or she him? Did they not play
a game without an ending? Was it necessary to live for this? No, it
was not necessary! The name of this game was Sansara, a game for
children, a game which was perhaps enjoyable to play once, twice, ten
times--but for ever and ever over again?

Then, Siddhartha knew that the game was over, that he could not play it
any more. Shivers ran over his body, inside of him, so he felt,
something had died.

That entire day, he sat under the mango-tree, thinking of his father,
thinking of Govinda, thinking of Gotama. Did he have to leave them to
become a Kamaswami? He still sat there, when the night had fallen.
When, looking up, he caught sight of the stars, he thought: "Here I'm
sitting under my mango-tree, in my pleasure-garden." He smiled a little
--was it really necessary, was it right, was it not as foolish game,
that he owned a mango-tree, that he owned a garden?

He also put an end to this, this also died in him. He rose, bid his
farewell to the mango-tree, his farewell to the pleasure-garden. Since
he had been without food this day, he felt strong hunger, and thought
of his house in the city, of his chamber and bed, of the table with the
meals on it. He smiled tiredly, shook himself, and bid his farewell to
these things.

In the same hour of the night, Siddhartha left his garden, left the
city, and never came back. For a long time, Kamaswami had people look
for him, thinking that he had fallen into the hands of robbers. Kamala
had no one look for him. When she was told that Siddhartha had
disappeared, she was not astonished. Did she not always expect it? Was
he not a Samana, a man who was at home nowhere, a pilgrim? And most of
all, she had felt this the last time they had been together, and she was
happy, in spite of all the pain of the loss, that she had pulled him so
affectionately to her heart for this last time, that she had felt one
more time to be so completely possessed and penetrated by him.

When she received the first news of Siddhartha's disappearance, she went
to the window, where she held a rare singing bird captive in a golden
cage. She opened the door of the cage, took the bird out and let it
fly. For a long time, she gazed after it, the flying bird. From this
day on, she received no more visitors and kept her house locked. But
after some time, she became aware that she was pregnant from the last
time she was together with Siddhartha.

Hermann Hesse

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