by Hermann Hesse


An Indian Tale

by Hermann Hesse


To Romain Rolland, my dear friend


In the shade of the house, in the sunshine at the riverbank near the
boats, in the shade of the ?SALWALD?, in the shade of the fig tree is
where Siddhartha grew up, the handsome son of the Brahman, the young
falcon, together with his friend Govinda, son of a Brahman. The sun
tanned his light shoulders during bathing, the sacred ablutions, the
sacred offerings at the banks of the river. In the mango grove, shade
poured into his black eyes, when the boys played, when his mother sang,
when the sacred offerings were made, when his father, the Scholar,
taught him, when the Wise Men talked. For a long time, Siddhartha had
been partaking in the discussions of the Wise Men, practicing debate
with Govinda, practicing the art of reflection with Govinda, the duty
of contemplation. He already knew how to speak the Om silently, the
word of words, to speak it silently into himself while inhaling, to
speak it silently out of himself while exhaling, with his entire soul,
the forehead surrounded by the glow of the clear-thinking spirit. He
already knew to feel Atman in the depths of his being, indestructible,
one with the universe.

Joy leapt in his father's heart for his son who was quick to learn,
thirsty for knowledge; he saw the great wise man and priest in him
grow, a prince among the Brahmans. Bliss leapt in his mother's breast
when she saw him, when she saw him walking, when she saw him sit down
and get up, Siddhartha, strong, beautiful, walking on slim legs,
greeting her with perfect respect.

Love touched the hearts of the Brahmans' young daughters when
Siddhartha walked through the lanes of the town with the luminous
forehead, with the eye of a king, with his slender hips.

Govinda, his friend and a Brahman's son, loved him more than all the
others. He loved Siddhartha's eye and sweet voice, he loved his walk
and the perfect decency of his movements, he loved everything
Siddhartha did and said and what he loved best was his spirit, his
transcendent, fiery thoughts, his ardent will, his high calling.
Govinda knew: he would not become a common Brahman, not a lazy
official making offerings by rote; not a greedy merchant with magic
spells; not a vain, vacuous speaker; not a mean, deceitful priest; and
also not a decent, dumb sheep in the herd of the many. No, and he,
Govinda, as well did not want to become one of those, not one of those
tens of thousands of Brahmans. He would follow Siddhartha, the
beloved, the splendid. And in days to come, when Siddhartha would
become a god, when he would join the Glorious, then Govinda wanted to
follow him as his friend, his companion, his servant, his
spear-carrier, his shadow.

Siddhartha was thus loved by everyone. He was a source of joy for
everybody. He, however, was not a source of joy for himself.
Despite ?strolling/ambling? on the rosy paths of the fig tree garden,
despite sitting in the ?blueish? shadow of the grove of contemplation,
despite washing his limbs daily in the bath of repentance, despite
sacrificing in the dim shade of the mango forest, his gestures of
perfect decency, everyone's love and joy, he lacked any joy in his
heart. Dreams and restless thoughts came into his mind, flowing from
the water of the river, sparkling from the stars of the night, melting
from the beams of the sun, dreams came to him, and a restlessness of
his mind, fuming from the sacrifices, aspiring from the verses of the
Rig-Veda, ?dripping/trickling? from the ?doctrine/teaching? of the old

Siddhartha had started to nurse discontent in himself, he had started
to feel that his father's and mother's love, and also the love of his
friend, Govinda, would not please him for ever and ever, would not
nurse him, feed him, satisfy him. He had started to anticipate that
his venerable father and his other teachers, the wise Brahmans had
already passed to him the most and best of their wisdom, that they had
already filled his expecting vessel with their richness, and the
vessel was not full, the spirit was not content, the mind was not calm,
the heart was not satisfied. The ablutions were good, but they were
of water, they did not wash off the sin, they did not heal the
spirit's thirst, they did not untie an anxious heart. The sacrifices
and the invocation of the gods were excellent--but was that all? Did
the sacrifices give luck? And how were those received by the gods?
Was it really ?Prajapati? who had ?erschaffen? the world? Was it not
the Atman, Him, the One, the Alone? Goods not the Gods.
Organizations, create as I and you, the time subject, passing? Was it
thus good, was correct it, was it meaningful and highest doing to
sacrifice the Gods? Whom differently was to be sacrificed, whom
different was admiration to bring than it, the only one, the Atman?
And where was Atman to find, where he lived, where its eternal heart
struck, where differently than in the own Self, in the internal one,
in the indestructible one, which everyone carried in itself? But
where, where this was I, this internal, this the latter? It was not
meat and leg, it was not thinking still consciousness, then the wisest
ones taught. Where, where thus was it? There to penetrate, to I, TO
me, to the Atman, gave it another way, which to look up was worthwhile
oneself? Oh, and nobody did not show this way, anybody knew it, not
the father, not the teachers and ways, not the holy victim singing!

Everything knew they, the Brahman and its holy books, everything knew
them, over everything them had worried and about more than everything,
they knew the ?erschaffung? of the world, developing the speech, the
meal, the inhalation, breathing out, the orders of the senses, the
acts of the Gods infinitely much--however was it valuable to know all
of this if one did not know and only ones, the most important, the
alone important?

Certainly, many verses of the holy books, particularly in
the ?Upanishaden? of the ?Samaveda?, spoke of this internal one and the
latter, wonderful verses. " your soul is the whole world ", was there
written, and written that humans sleep in, in the deep sleep, to its
internal one be received and in the Atman live. Marvelous wisdom was
in these verses, all knowledge of the wisest ones was here in magic
words collected, purely as from bees collected honey. No to live
small not to note was the tremendous at realization, which retains
here from innumerable ?geschlechterfolgen? of wise Brahman collected
and was situated--however where was the Brahman, where the priests,
where the ways or ?Buesser?, which had succeeded to not only know this
deepest knowledge but? Where was the ?Kundige?, that the home its in
the Atman from sleeps ?herueberzauberte? in ?Wachsein?, into the life,
in step and footstep, in word and act? Siddhartha, his father before
everything, the pure one, the scholar, the most venerable one knew
many venerable Brahman. To admire his father was, quietly and nobly
was pure its ?Gehaben?, its life, points his word, purifies and noble
thoughts lived in its forehead--in addition, he, the so much knowing,
lived he in blessedness, had he peace, was he not also only a look-up,
a ?Duerstender? Did it have not always and again and again at holy
sources, ?Durstender?, does drink, at the victim, at the books, at the
change speech of the Brahman? Why did it, which irreproachable ones,
each day sin to wash off, each day around cleaning strive themselves,
each day of new, have? Wasn't Atman in it, flowed not in its own
heart of the ?Urquell? It one had to find, to the ?Urquell? in the own
Self, him must one to own have! All others were searches, were
detours, were erring

Like that Siddharthas thoughts were, this were its thirst, this its
suffering. Often he pronounced himself from a ?Chandogya Upanishad?
the words: "?Fuerwahr?, which is name of the Brahman ?satyam?--indeed,
who knows such, goes daily into the heavenly world." Often it seemed
close, which heavenly world, but never had he her completely achieved,
never the last thirst deleted. And of all ways and wisest ones.
Which it could do and whose instruction it enjoyed, from them all was
none, which had achieved her completely, the heavenly world, which had
deleted him completely, that eternal thirst.

"Govinda," Siddhartha said to his friends, "Govinda, dear one, come
with me under the Banyan tree, we will recite our Verses."

They went to the Banyan tree, they sat beneath the tree, Govinda
twenty steps away. After putting himself down, ready, to speak the Om
Siddhartha repeated murmuring the verse:

Om is elbow, the arrow is soul,
The Brahman is the arrow's target,
That one should incessantly hit.

When the allotted time of the Verse recitation exercise was finished,
Govinda rose. The evening had come, it was time to take the evening
hour bath. He called Siddhartha's name. Siddhartha did not give
response. Siddhartha sat sunken, his eyes was rigidly focused toward
a very far target, the tip of his tongue was protruding a little
between the teeth, he seemed not to breathe. Thus sat he, wrapped up
in his thoughts of Om, his soul sent after the Brahman straight as an

Once Samanas had been pulled through Siddhartha's city, Ascetics
pilgrimed there three dry, ?lost? men, neither old nor still young,
with dusty and bloody shoulders, almost naked from the sun ?versengt?,
surrounded by isolation, ?fremd? and enemy of the world, ?Fremdlinge?
and ?hagere? jackal in the realm of humans. Behind them a smell of
quiet passion blew hotly, of destructive service, of
compassionless ?Entselbstung?.

In the evening, after the hour of the view, Siddhartha spoke to
Govinda: "in the early morning, my friend, Siddhartha will go to the
Samanas. He will become a Samana."

Govinda paled, there he heard the words and in the motionless face of
his friend the resolution loosely, ?unablenkbar? like the arrow
loose-snapped by the elbow. Immediately and with the first glance
Govinda knew: Now, now Siddhartha is starting on his way, now his fate
begins to sprout, and with his, my own. And he would bleach like a
dry banana bowl.

"O Siddhartha," he called, "will your father permit you to do that?"

Siddhartha looked over like an awakening. Arrow-fast he read in
Govindas soul, read the fear, read the ?Ergebung?.

"O Govinda," he spoke quietly, "we will not waste words. Tomorrow
with daybreak I will begin the life of the Samanas. Speak no more of

Siddhartha entered the chamber, where his father was sitting on a
velvet mat, stood behind his father and remained standing until his
father felt that someone was standing behind him. Spoke the Brahmane:
"Is that you, Siddhartha? Then say what you came to say."

Spoke Siddhartha: "With your permission, my father. I came to tell
you that it is my longing to leave your house tomorrow and go to the
ascetic. My desire is to become a Samana. May my father not oppose
this." The Brahmane fell silent, and remained silent so long that the
stars in the small window wandered and changed their shape, 'ere the
silence was broken. Dumb and motionless stood the son with his arms
folded, dumb and motionless sat the father on the mat, and the stars
traced their paths in the sky. Then spoke the father: "Not proper it
is for a Brahmane to speak hefty and thorny words. But indignation
my heart. I wish not to hear this request for a second time
from your mouth."

Slowly, the Brahmane arose; Siddhartha stood dumb, his arms folded.

"What are you waiting for?" - asked the father.

Spoke Siddhartha: "You know what."

Indignant, the father left the chamber; indignant, went he to his bed
and lay down.

After an hour, when sleep still had not come to him, the Brahmane
stood up, paced to and fro, and left the house. Through the small
window he looked back inside, and saw Siddhartha standing, motionless,
his arms folded. Pale shimmered his robe. With anxiety in his heart
returned the father to his bed.

After another hour, when sleep had still not come to him, the Brahmane
stood up again, paced to and fro, walked out of the house and saw that
the moon had risen. Through the window looked he inside the chamber;
there stood Siddhartha, motionless, his arms folded, moonlight
reflecting from his bare shins. With concern in his heart the father
went back to bed.

He came again after an hour, he came again after two hours and looked
through the small window, saw Siddhartha, in the moon light, in the
half-darkness. And again his heart filled with anger, his heart
filled with unrest, filled his heart with Zagen, filled it with
sadness. And in the night's last hour, before the day began, he
returned, stepped into the room, saw the young man, who appeared tall
and alien.

"Siddhartha," he said, "on what await you?"

"You know what."

"You will be always stand that way and wait, till it becomes morning,
noon, and evening?"

"I will stand and wait.

"You will become tired and sleepy."

"I will become tired."

"You will fall asleep, Siddhartha."

"I will not fall asleep."

"You will die, Siddhartha."

"I will die."

"And would you rather die, than obey your father?"

"Siddhartha has always obeyed his father."

"So will you abandon your plan?"

"Siddhartha will do what his father tells him to do."

The first light of day shown into the room. The Brahman saw that
Siddhartha was trembled softly on his knees. In Siddhartha's face he
saw no trembling, absently blinking his eyes. Then his father
realized that Siddhartha no longer dwelt with him in his home, that he
had already lost him.

Father touched Siddhartha's shoulder.

"You will go into the forest" he said, "and a become a Samana. When
you find salvation in the forest, then come back and teach me. If you
find disappointment, then return to me and let us worship again to the
common Gods. Go now and kiss your mother, tell her where you are
going. For me it is time to go to the river and take the first

He took his hand from the shoulder of his son and left. Siddhartha
wavered to the side, as he sought to go. He restrained his limbs,
bowed to his father, then went to his mother to do as his father had

As he slowly left on numb legs in the first light of day in the quiet
city, a shutter tentatively opened at the last hut, and closed itself
on the pilgrim--Govinda.

"You have come," said Siddhartha and laughed.

"I am here," replied Govinda.


In the evening of this day they brought him to the Acsetic, the
(parched/dry?) barren Samanas, and offered them his companionship
and--obedience. They accepted him.

Siddhartha gave his garments to one of the poor Brahmans in the street.
He carried only the badge of shame and the earth colored, unclaimed
discards. He ate only once a day, and never cooked. He fasted
fifteen days. He fasted twenty-eight days. The flesh shrank from his
thighs and cheeks. Troubling dreams floated before his enlarged eyes,
long nails grew on his parched fingers and a shaggy beard grew on his
chin. His glance was icy when he encountered women; his mouth breed
contempt from the nicely dressed people when he went through the city.
He saw dealers trading, princes going on hunting trips, bereaved
wailing for their dead, whores offering themselves, doctors trying to
help the sick, priests tending the lepers, lovers loving, mothers
calming their children--and none of this was the vision in his eyes,
everything registered, everything smelled, everything stank of lies,
everything deceived the senses and joy and beauty, and everything was
unconfessed decay. The world tasted bitter. Life was a struggle.

A goal stood before Siddhartha, a single-mindedness: become empty,
empty of thirst, empty of wishing, empty of dreams, empty of joy and
sorrow. Divorced from himself, no more be an "I", to find an emptied
heart's tranquility, to stand open to the self-absorbed thoughts of
wonder, that was his goal. If I were to overcome everything, if every
desire and every urge of the heart was silent, then the latter had to
awake, the internal in the nature, which is no more I, the large

Being silent, Siddhartha positioned himself perpendicular to the sun's
rays, glowing with pain, glowing with thirst, until he did not feel
pain or thirst any more. Being silent it was in the rain time, from
his hair dripped the water over freezing shoulders, over freezing hips
and legs, and the ?Buesser?, until shoulders and legs did not freeze
any longer, until they were silent, until they were quiet. Being
silent he cowered in the thorny bushes, blood dripped from the burning
skin, from ?Schwaeren? of pus, and Siddhartha stayed rigidly, stayed
rainless, until no more blood flowed, until nothing more stung, until
nothing more burned.

Siddhartha sat upright and learned to breathe sparingly, learned to
get along with only few breathes, learned to store the breath. He
learned, with the beginning breath, to calm the beat of his heart, his
heart's beat to slow down, until few and almost none was present.

Siddhartha practiced ?Entselbstung? with the oldest of the Samanas,
practiced sublimation, according to a new Samana regimen. A heron
flew over the bamboo forest--and Siddhartha assumed the heron soul,
flew over forest and mountain, was heron, ate fish, felt the pangs of
heron hunger, cawed the heron call, died a heron death. A dead jackal
was lying on the sandy bank, and Siddhartha's soul slipped inside the
body and became the dead jackal, was because of the beach, blew
themselves, stank, decayed, was dismembered by hyeana's, was skinned
by vultures, was ?stripped to the bone?, was dust, and blew in
the ?Gefild?. And Siddharthas soul returned, had died, had decayed,
was sputtered, had tasted the gloomy intoxication of the cycle,
awaited in new thirst like a hunter in the gap, where would be to be
escaped from the cycle, where the end of the causes, where sadless
eternity began. It killed its senses, it killed its memory, it
slipped out of its Self into thousands other organizations, was animal,
was carrion, was stone, was wood, was water, and appeared each time,
sun seemed awaking or moon, was again Self, vogue in the cycle, felt
thirst, overcame the thirst, felt new thirst.

Much learned Siddhartha with the Samanas, many ways of I away learned
it to go. It went the way of the ?Entselbstung? through the pain,
through freely suffering and overcoming the pain, hunger, the thirst,
to the tiredness. It went the way of the ?Entselbstung? through
Meditation, through the empty thinking of the sense of all conceptions.
He learned these and other ways to go, a thousand times left he his
Self, grants long and several-day-long remained he into not None-Self.
But whether also the ways of Self led away, its end nevertheless
always led back to Self.

Whether Siddhartha a thousand times which I escaped, in nothing stayed,
in the animal, in the stone stayed, inevitably was the return,
?unentrinn? without the hour, since he appeared, in the sunshine or in
the moonlight, in the shadow or in the rain, and again I and
Siddhartha were, and again the agony on hunted cycle felt.

Beside him lived Govinda, his shadow, went the same ways, undertook
the same efforts. They rarely spoke to one another, than the service
and the exercises required. Occasionally they went to...

{The remainder of this text is under construction and will be released
as it is completed.}


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