Siddhartha now also realised why he had struggled in vain with this Self when he was Brahmin and an ascetic. Too much knowledge had hindered him: too many holy verses, too many sacrificial rites ,too much mortification of the flesh, too much doing and striving. He had been full of arrogance: he had always been the cleverest, the most eager always a step ahead of the others, always the learned and intellectual one, always the priest or the sage. His Self had crawled into his priesthood, into his arrogance, into his intellectuality. It sat there tightly and grew, while he thought he was destroying it by fasting and penitence. Now he understood it and realised that the inward voice had been right, that no teacher could have brought him salvation.
That was why he had to go into the world, to lose himself into the power, women and money: that was why hw had to be a merchant, a dice player, a drinker and the men of property, until the priest and Samana in him were dead. That was why he had to undergo those horrible years, suffer nausea, learn the lesson of the madness of an empty, futile life till the end, till he reached bitter despair, so that Siddhartha the pleasure monger and Siddhartha the men of property could die. He had died and the new Siddhartha had awakened from his sleep. He also would grow old and die Siddhartha was transitory, all forms were transitory, but to day he was young, he was the child the new Siddhartha and he was very happy.
These thoughts passed through his mind. Smiling, he listened to his stomach, listened thankfully to a humming bee. Happily he looked into the flowing river attracted him as much as this one. Never had a river attracted him as much as this one. Never had he found the voice and appearance of flowing water so beautiful. It seemed to him as if the river had something special to tell him something which he did not know, something which still awaited him. Siddhartha had wanted to drown himself in this river: the old, tired, despairing Siddhartha was to day drowned it. The new Siddhartha felt a deep love for this flowing water and decided that he would not leave it again so quickly.
I will remain by this river, thought Siddhartha. It is the same river which l crossed on my way to the town. A friendly ferryman took me across. I will go to him. My path once led from his hut to a new life which is now old and dead. May my present path, my new life, start from there!
He looked lovingly into the flowing water, into the transparent green, into the crystal lines of its wonderful design. He saw bright pearls rise from the depths, bubbles swimming on the mirror, sky blue reflected in them.
The river looked at him with a thousand eyes green, white, crystal, sky blue. How he loved the river, how it enchanted him, how grateful he was to it! In this heart he heard the newly awakened voice speak and it said to him: 'love this river, stay by it, learn from it. 'Yes, he wanted to learn from it, he wanted to listen to it. It seemed to him that whoever understood this river and its secrets would understand much more, many secrets, all secrets.
But to day he only saw on the river's secrets, one that gripped his soul. He saw that the water continually flowed and flowed and yet it was always there: it was always the same and yet every moment it was new. Who could understand, conceive this? He did not understand it: he was only aware of a dim suspicion, a faint memory, Divine voices.
Siddhartha rose: the pangs of hunger were becoming unbearable. He wanted painfully along the river bank, listened to the rippling of the water, listened to the gnawing hunger in his body.
When he reached the ferry the boat was already there and the ferryman, who had once taken the young Samana across, stood in the boat. Siddhartha recognized him again. He had also aged very much.
'Will you take me across? 'he asked.
The ferryman, astonished to see such a distinguished looking man alone and on foot, took him into the boat and set off.
'You have chosen a splendid life, 'said Siddhartha. It must be fine to live near this river and sail on it every day.'
The rower smiled, swaying gently.
'It is fine, sir, as you say, but is not every life, every work fine?'
'Maybe, but I envy you yours.'
'Oh, you would soon lose your taste for it. It is not for people in fine clothes.'
Siddhartha laughed' I have already been judged by my clothes today and regarded with suspicion. Will you accept these clothes from me, which I find a nuisance? For I must tell you that I have no money to pay you for taking me across the river.'
'The gentleman is joking, 'laughed the ferryman.
'I am not joking, my friend. You once previously took me across this river without payment, so please do it today also and take my clothes instead.'
'And will the gentleman continue without clothes?'
'I should prefer not to go further. I should prefer it if you would give me some old clothes and keep me here as your assistant, or rather your apprentice, for I must learn how to handle the boat.'
The ferryman looked keenly at stranger for along time.
'I recognize you.' he said finally. 'You once slept in my hut. It is a long time ago, maybe more than twenty years ago. I took you across the river and we parted good friends. Were you not a Samana? I cannot remember your name.'
'My name is Siddhartha and I was a Samana when you last saw me.' 'You are welcome, Siddhartha. My name is Vasudeva. I hope you will be my guest today and also sleep in my hut, and tell me where you have come from and why are you so tired of your fine clothes.
'They have reached the middle of the river and Vasudeva rowed more strongly because of the current. He rowed calmly, with strong arms, watching the end of the boat.
Siddhartha sat and watched him and remembered how once, in those last Samana days, he had felt affection for this man. He gratefully accepted Vasudeva's invitation. When they reached the river bank, he help him to secure the boat. Then Vasudeva led him into the hut, offered him bread and water, which Siddhartha ate with enjoyment, as well as the mango fruit Vasudeva which Vasudeva offered him.
Later, when the sun was beginning to set, they sat on a tree trunk by the river and Siddhartha told him about his origin and his life and how he had seen him today after that hour of despair. The story lasted into the night.
Vasudeva listened with great attention: he heard all about his origin and childhood, about his studies, his seekings, his pleasures and needs. It was one of the ferryman's greatest virtues that, like few people, he knew how to listen. Without his saying a word, the speaker felt that Vasudeva took in every word, quietly, expectantly, that he missed nothing. He did not await anything with impatience and gave neither praise nor blame he only listened. Siddhartha felt how wonderful it was to have such a listener who could be absorbed in his own life, his own strivings, his own sorrows.
However, towards the end of Siddhartha's story when he told him about the tree by the river and his deep despair, about the holy OM, and how after his sleep he felt such a love for the river, the ferryman listened with doubled attention, completely absorbed, his eyes closed.
When Siddhartha had finished and there was a long pause, Vasudeva said: 'It it as I thought; the river has spoken to you. It is friendly towards you, too; it speaks to you. That is good, very good. Stay with me, Siddhartha my friend. I once had a wife, her bed was at the side of mine, but she died long ago. I have lived alone for a long time. Come and live with me; there is room and food for both of us.'
'I thank you,' said Siddhartha, 'I thank you and accept. I also thank you, Vasudeva for listening so well. There are few people how know to listen and I have not met anybody who can do so like you. I will also learn from you in this respect'
'You will learn it, 'said Vasudeva, 'but not from me. The river has taught me to listen; you will learn from it, too. The river knows everything; one can learn everything from it. You have already learned from the river that it is good to strive downwards, to sink, to seek the depths. The rich and distinguished Siddhartha will become a rower; Siddhartha the learned Brahmin will become a ferryman. You have also learned this from the river. You will learn the other thing, too.'
After a long pause, Siddhartha said: 'What other thing, Vasudeva?'
Vasudeva rose. 'It has grown late, 'he said, let us go to bed. I cannot tell what the other thing is, my friend. You will find out, perhaps you already know. I am not a learned man; I do not know how to talk or think. I only know how to listen and be devout; otherwise I have learned nothing. If I could talk and teach, I would perhaps be a teacher. But as it is I am only a ferryman and it is my task to take people across this river. I have taken thousands of people across and to all of them my river has been nothing but a hindrance on their journey. They have travelled for money and business, to weddings and on pilgrImages; the river has been in their way and the ferryman was there to take them quickly across the obstacle. However, amongst the thousands there have been a few, four or five, to whom the river was not an obstacle. They have heard its voice and listened to it and the river has become holy to them as it has to me. Let us now go to bed, Siddhartha.
'Siddhartha stayed with the ferryman and learned how to look after the boat, and there was nothing to do at the ferry, he worked in the rice field with Vasudeva, gathered wood, and picked fruit from the banana trees. He learned how to make oars, how to improve the boat and to make baskets. He was pleased with everything that he did and learned and the days and months passed quickly. But he learned more from the river that Vasudeva could teach him. He learned from it continually. Above all, he learned from it how to listen, to listen with a still heart, with a waiting, open soul, without passion without desire, without judgement, without opinions.
He lived happily with Vasudeva and occasionally they exchanged words, few and long considered words. Vasudeva was no friend of words. Siddhartha was rarely successful in moving him to speak.
He once asked him, 'Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such as time?'
A bright smile spread over Vasudeva's face. 'Yes, Siddhartha, 'he said. 'It is what you mean? That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere, and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past, nor the shadow of the future?'
'That is it, 'said Siddhartha, 'and when I learned that, I reviewed my life and it was also a river, and Siddhartha the boy, Siddhartha the mature man and Siddhartha the old man were only separated by shadows, not through reality. Siddhartha's previous lives were also not in the past, and his death and his return to Brahma are not in the future. Nothing was, nothing will be, everything has reality and presence.
'Siddhartha spoke with delight. This discovery had made him very happy. Was then not all sorrow in time, all self torment and fear in time? Were not all difficulties and evil in the world conquered as soon as one conquered time, as soon as one dispelled time? He had spoken with delight, but Vasudeva just smiled radiantly at him and nodded his agreement. He stroked Siddhartha's shoulder and returned to his work.
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