If you do ever want to read Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha, stop reading now because I will spoil the ending.
I’ve often found it difficult to explain how I feel about what I believe in, how I approach life and how one’s experiences can lead to insight and wisdom, but only for you and no one else. If I could, it would be the way Siddhartha explains it to his friend from childhood, Govinda, when they encounter each other for the last time and Govinda asks Siddhartha to tell him what doctrine he adheres to that may help him as well.
Siddhartha responds: “As you know, my dear friend, I began to distrust doctrines and teachers already as a young man…I have stuck to this. Nonetheless I have had many teachers since then.”
Govinda believes Siddhartha is mocking him, but Siddhartha disputes this and then tells him something I’ve thought about many times but have never been able to put into words.
“Wisdom cannot be passed on. Wisdom that a wise man attempts to pass on always sounds like foolishness…One can pass on knowledge but not wisdom. One can find wisdom, one can live it, one can be supported by it, one can work wonders with it, but one cannot speak it or teach it. I sometimes suspected this even as a youth; its what drove me from my teachers.”
And Siddhartha’s view of the world mirrors my own, as unorthodox as it may sound:
“The opposite of every truth is just as true! For this is so: A truth can always only be uttered and cloaked in words when it is one-sided. Everything is one-sided that can be thought in thoughts and said with words, everything one-sided, everything half, everything is lacking wholeness, roundness, oneness…The world itself, however, the Being all around us and within us, is never one-sided. Never is a person, or a deed, purely Sansara or purely Nirvana, never is a person utterly holy or utterly sinful…The world, friend Govinda, is not imperfect, nor is it in the middle of a long path to perfection. No, it is perfect in every moment…therefore everything that *is* appears good to me. Death appears to me like life, sin like holiness, cleverness like folly; everything must be just as it is, everything requires only my assent, only my willingness, my loving approval, and for me it is good and can never harm me. I experienced by observing my own body and my own soul that I sorely needed sin, sorely needed concupiscence, needed greed, vanity and the most shameful despair to learn to stop resisting, to learn to love the world and stop comparing it to some world I only wished for and imagined, some sort of perfection I myself had dreamed up, but instead to let it be as it was and to love it and be happy to belong to it.”