Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse is one of my all time favorite book. It’s a beautiful journey of self discovery narrated in the backdrop of ancient Indian civilization. It makes its way through religious, spiritual, nomadic and also life full of greed, gluttony and lust. It’s a journey of self discovery through own experience, going through what life has to offer, through ebbs and flows of inherent human emotions, seeking and finding ones own meaning and reality rather than by reading theory and following teachings of sages and spiritual gurus.
There is no single way/path to the enlightenment or a way of life. One needs to fight his/her own battle and endure the pain, make own mistakes, learn own lessons, find own meaning and find own peace and happiness.
I want to talk about a particular conversation in the book between merchant and Siddhartha which has one profound meaning. Thanks to Tim Ferriss’s book, Tools of Titan and Naval Ravikant, I came to know about this and what it can also mean when you broaden the context.
MERCHANT: “… If you are without possessions, how can you give?”
SIDDHARTHA: “Everyone gives what he has. The soldier gives strength, the merchant goods, the teacher instruction, the farmer rice, the fisherman fish.”
MERCHANT: “Very well, and what can you give? What have you learned that you can give?”
SIDDHARTHA: “I can think, I can wait, I can fast.”
MERCHANT: “Is that all?”
SIDDHARTHA: “I think that is all.”
When you think about this statement, “I can think, I can wait, I can fast.” and break it down into three sentences, you have one profound life philosophy.
I can think – Having ability to think and analyze situations before taking decision. Thinking is an art which not many people possess. If you can think effectively, you are already in the elite club.
I can wait – Avoiding instant gratification and playing long game puts you ahead of the crowd.
I can fast – High tolerance for pain and ability to endure difficulties longer than others also puts you ahead in the game. What better time than covid lockdown to test this.
Being a long time student of the financial market I can understand that all these are essential traints of being successful. Not just in investing but in life.
This is a short but profound book which talks about what is important in life. What is the meaning of pain and pleasure. When you let go of searching, you start finding. There are moments in the book where you just close the book after reading something profound and start ruminating. It was only after 2nd or 3rd reading that I started to realize the greatness of this masterpiece. It is certainly one of my regular books to go to every year.
Here are few other gems from the book.
I am continuing my travels, not to seek other, better teachings, for I know there are none, but to depart from all teachings and all teachers and to reach my goal by myself or to die.
It’s not my place to judge another person’s life. Only for myself, for myslef alone, I must decide, I must choose, I must refuse. Salvation from the self is what we Samanas search for.
Most people, Kamala, are like a falling leaf, which is blown and turned around through the air, as it wavers, and tumbles to the ground. But others, a few, are like stars, they go on a fixed course, no wind reaches them, in themselves they have their law and their course.
Was it not a comedy, a strange and stupid matter, this repetition, this running around in a fateful circle.
Knowledge can be conveyed, but not wisdom.
Let me say no more. Words do no justice to the hidden meaning. Everything immediately becomes slightly different when it is expressed in words, a little bit distorted, a little foolish…It is perfectly fine with me that what for one man is precious wisdom for another sounds like foolery.
Gentleness is stronger than severity, water is stronger than rock, love is stronger than force.
Opinions mean nothing; they may be beautiful or ugly, clever or foolish, anyone can embrace or reject them.
I felt knowledge and the unity of the world circulate in me like my own blood.
a person is never entirely holy or entirely sinful.
Nothing was, nothing will be, everything has reality and presence.