and weeping, the boy had attended his mother's burial; frightened and
gloomy, he had listened to Siddhartha greeting him as his son and making him
welcome in Vasudeva's hut. For days on end he sat with a pale face on the
hill of the dead, looked away, locked his heart, fought and strove against
Siddhartha treated him with consideration and left him alone, for he
respected his grief. Siddhartha understood that his son did not know him,
that he could not love him as a father. Slowly, he also saw and realized
that the eleven-year-old child was the mother's spoilt boy and had been
brought up in the habits of the rich, that he was accustomed to fine food
and a soft bed, accustomed to commanding servants. Siddhartha understood
that the spoilt and grieving boy could not suddenly be content in a strange
and poor place. He did not press him; he did a great deal for him and always
saved the best morsels for him. Slowly, by friendly patience, he hoped to
win him over.
considered himself rich and happy when the boy had come to him, but as time
passed and the boy remained unfriendly and sulky, when he proved arrogant
and defiant, when he would do no work, when he showed no respect to the old
people and robbed Vasudeva's fruit trees, Siddhartha began to realize that
no happiness and peace had come to him with his son, only sorrow and
trouble. But he loved him and preferred the sorrow and trouble of his love
rather than happiness and pleasure without the boy.
young Siddhartha was in the hut, the old men had shared the work. Vasudeva
had taken over all the work at the ferry and Siddhartha, in order to be in
his son, the work in the hut and the fields.
many months Siddhartha waited patiently in the hope that his son would come
to understand him, that he would accept his love and that he would perhaps
return to it. For many months Vasudeva observed this, waited and was silent.
One day, when young Siddhartha was distressing his father with his defiance
and temper and had broken both rice bowls, Vasudeva took his friend aside in
the evening and talked to him.
'Forgive me,' he said. 'I am speaking to you as my friend. I can see that
you are worried and unhappy. Your son, my dear friend, is troubling you, and
also me. The young bird is accustomed to a different life, to a different
nest. He did not run away from riches and the town with a feeling of nausea
and disgust as you did; he has had to leave all these things against his
will. I have asked the river, my friend, I have asked it many times, and the
river laughed, it laughed at me and it laughed at you; it shook itself with
laughter at our folly. Water will go to water, youth to youth. Your son will
not be happy in this place. You ask the river and listen to what it says.'
Troubled, Siddhartha looked at the kind face, in which there were many
can I part from him?' he said softly. 'Give me time yet, my dear friend. I
am fighting for him, I am trying to reach his heart. I will win him with
love and patience. The river will also talk to him some day. He is also
Vasudeva's smile became warmer. 'Oh yes,' he said, 'he is also called; he
also belongs to the everlasting life. But do you and I know to what he is
called, to which path, which deeds, which deeds, which sorrows? His sorrows
will not be slight. His heart is proud and hard. He will probably suffer
much, make many mistakes, do much injustice and commit many sins. Tell me,
my friend, are you educating your son? Is he obedient to you? Do you strike
him or punish him?'
Vasudeva, I do not do any of these things.'
knew it. You are not strict with him, you do not punish him, you do not
command him —
you know that gentleness is stronger than severity, that water is stronger
than rock, that love is stronger than force. Very good, I praise you. But is
it not perhaps a mistake on your part not to be strict with him, not to
punish him? Do you not chain him with your love? Do you not shame him daily
with your goodness and patience and make it still more difficult for him? Do
you not compel this arrogant, spoilt boy to live in a hut with two old
banana eaters, to whom even rice is a dainty, whose thoughts cannot be the
same as his, whose hearts are old and quiet and beat differently from his?
Is he not constrained and punished by all this?'
Siddhartha looked at the ground in perplexity. 'What do you think I should
do?' he asked softly.
Vasudeva said: 'Take him into the town; take him to his mother's house.
There will be servants there; take him to them. And if they are no longer
there, take him to a teacher, not just for the sake of education, but so
that he can meet other boys and girls and be in the world to which he
belongs. Have you never thought about it?'
can see into my heart,' said Siddhartha sadly. 'I have often thought about
it. But how will he, who is so hard-hearted, go on in this world? Will he
not consider himself superior, will he not lose himself in pleasure and
power, will he not repeat all his father's mistakes, will he not perhaps be
quite lost in Sansara?'
ferryman smiled again. He touched Siddhartha's arm gently and said: 'Ask the
river about it, my friend! Listen to it, laugh about it! Do you then really
think that you have committed your follies in order to spare your son then?
Can you then protect your son from Sansara? How? Through instruction,
through prayers, through exhortation? My dear friend, have you forgotten
that instructive story about Siddhartha, the Brahmin's son, which you once
told me here? Who protected Siddhartha the Samana from Sansara, from sin,
greed and folly? Could his father's piety, his teacher's exhortations, his
own knowledge, his own seeking, protect him? Which father, which teacher,
could prevent him from living his own life, from soiling himself with life,
from loading himself with sin, from swallowing the bitter drink himself,
from finding his own path? Do you think, my dear friend, that anybody is
spared this path? Perhaps your little son, because you would like to
see him spared sorrow and pain and disillusionment? But it you were to die
ten times for him, you would not alter his destiny in the slightest.'
had Vasudeva talked so much. He thanked him in a friendly fashion, went
troubled to his hut, but could not sleep. Vasudeva had not told him anything
that he had not already thought and known himself. But stronger than his
knowledge was his love for the boy, his devotion, his fear of losing him.
Had he ever lost his heart to anybody so completely, had he ever loved
anybody so much, so blindly, so painfully, so hopelessly and yet so happily?
Siddhartha could not take his friend's advice; he could not give up his son.
He allowed the boy to command him, to be disrespectful to him. He was silent
and waited; he began daily the mute battle of friendliness and patience.
Vasudeva was also silent and waited, friendly, understanding, forbearing.
They were both masters of patience.
when the boy's face reminded him of Kamala, Siddhartha suddenly remembered
something she had once said to him a long time ago. 'You cannot love,' she
had said to him and he had agreed with her. He had compared himself with a
star, and other people with falling leaves, and yet he had felt some
reproach in her words. It was true that he had never fully lost himself in
another person to such an extent as to forget himself; he had never
undergone the follies of love for another person. He had never been able to
do this, and it had then seemed to him that this was the biggest difference
between him and the ordinary people. But now, since his son was there, he,
Siddhartha, had become completely like one of the people, through sorrow,
through loving. He was madly in love, a fool because of love. Now he also
experienced belatedly, for once in his life, the strongest and strangest
passion: he suffered tremendously through it and yet was uplifted, in some
way renewed and richer.
felt indeed that this love, this blind love for his son, was a very human
passion, that it was Samana, a troubled spring of deep water. At the same
time he felt that it was not worthless, that it was necessary, that it came
from his own nature. This emotion, this pain, these follies also had to be
meantime, his son let him commit his follies, let him strive, let him be
humbled by his moods. There was nothing about his father that attracted him
and nothing that he feared. This father was a good man, a kind gentle man,
perhaps a pious man, perhaps a holy man —
these were not qualities which could win the boy. This father who kept him
in this wretched hut bored him, and when he answered his rudeness with a
smile, every insult with friendliness, every naughtiness with kindness, that
was the most hateful cunning of the old fox. The boy would have much
preferred him to threaten him, to ill-treat him.
came when young Siddhartha said what was in his mind and openly turned
against his father. The latter had told him to gather some twigs. But the
boy did not leave the hut, he stood there, defiant and angry, stamped on the
ground, clenched his fists and forcibly declared his hatred and contempt in
his father's face.
you own twigs,' he shouted, foaming. 'I am not your servant. I know that you
do not beat me; you dare not! I know, however, that you continually punish
me and make me feel small with your piety and indulgence. You want me to
become like you, so pious, so gentle, so wise, but just to spite you, I
would rather become a thief and a murderer and go to hell, than be like you.
I hate you; you are not my father even if you have been my mother's lover a
of rage and misery, he found an outlet in a stream of wild and angry words
at his father. Then the boy ran away and only returned late in the evening.
following morning he had disappeared. A small two-coloured basket made of
bast, in which the ferrymen kept the copper and silver coins which they
received as their payment, had also disappeared. The boat, too, had gone.
Siddhartha saw it on the other side of the bank. The boy had run away.
must follow him,' said Siddhartha, who had been in great distress since the
boy's hard words of the previous day. 'A child cannot go through the forest
alone; he will come to some harm. We must make a raft, Vasudeva, in order to
cross the river.'
will make a raft,' said Vasudeva, 'in order to fetch our boat which the boy
took away. But let him go, my friend, he is not a child any more; he knows
how to look after himself. He is seeking the way to the town and he is
right. Do not forget that. He is doing what you yourself have neglected to
do. He is looking after himself; he is going his own way. Oh, Siddhartha, I
can see you are suffering, suffering pain over which one should laugh, over
which you will soon laugh yourself.'
Siddhartha did not reply. He already held the hatchet in his hands and began
to build a raft from bamboo and Vasudeva helped him to bind the cane
together with grass rope. Then they sailed across, were driven far out, but
directed the raft upstream to the other bank.
have you brought the hatchet with you?' asked Siddhartha.
Vasudeva said: 'It is possible that the oar of our boat is lost.'
Siddhartha knew what his friend was thinking —
probably that the boy would have thrown the oar away or broken it out of
revenge and to prevent them following him. And indeed, there was no longer
an oar in the boat. Vasudeva indicated the bottom of the boat and smiled at
his friend as if to say: Do you not see what your son wishes to say? Do you
not see that he does not wish to be followed? But he did not say it in words
and started to make a new oar. Siddhartha took leave of him to look for the
boy. Vasudeva did not hinder him.
Siddhartha had been in the forest a long time when the thought occurred to
him that his search was useless. Either, he thought, the boy had long ago
left the wood and reached the town, or if he were still on the way, he would
hide from the pursuer. And when he reflected further, he found that he was
not troubled about his son, that inwardly he knew he had neither come to any
harm nor was threatened with danger in the forest. Nevertheless, he went on
steadily, no longer to save him, but with a desire perhaps to see him again,
and he walked up to the outskirts of the town.
he reached the wide road near the town, he stood still at the entrance to
the beautiful pleasure garden that had once belonged to Kamala, where he had
once seen her in a sedan chair for the first time. The past rose before his
eyes. Once again he saw himself standing there, a young, bearded, naked
Samana, his hair full of dust. Siddhartha stood there a long time and looked
through the open gate into the garden. He saw monks walking about under the
stood there for a long time, thinking, seeing pictures, seeing the story of
his life. He stood there a long time looking at the monks, saw in their
place the young Siddhartha and Kamala walking beneath the tall trees.
Clearly he saw himself attended by Kamala and receiving her first kiss. He
saw how he had arrogantly and contemptuously looked back on his Samana days,
how he had proudly and eagerly begun his worldly life. He saw Kamaswami, the
servants, the banquets, the dice players, the musicians. He saw Kamala's
songbird in its cage; he lived it all over again, breathed Sansara, was
again old and tired, again felt nausea and the desire to die, again heard
the holy Om.
he had stood for a long time at the gate to the garden, Siddhartha realized
that the desire that had driven him to this place was foolish, that he could
not help his son, that he should not force himself on him. He felt a deep
love for the runaway boy, like a wound, and yet felt at the same time that
this wound was not intended to fester in him, but that it should heal.
Because the wound did not heal during that hour, he was sad. In place of the
goal which had brought him here after his son, there was only emptiness.
Sadly, he sat down. He felt something die in his heart; he saw no more
happiness, no goal. He sat there depressed and waited. He had learned this
from the river: to wait, to have patience, to listen. He sat and listened in
the dusty road, listened to his heart which beat wearily and sadly and
waited for a voice. He crouched there and listened for many hours, saw no
more visions, sank into emptiness and let himself sink without seeing a way
out. And when he felt the wound smarting, he whispered the word Om, filled
himself with Om. The monks in the garden saw him and as he crouched there
for many hours and the dust collected on his grey hairs, one of the monks
came towards him and placed two bananas in front of him. The old man did not
touching his shoulder awakened him from his trance. He recognized his
gentle, timid touch and recovered. He rose and greeted Vasudeva, who had
followed him. When he saw Vasudeva's kind face, looked at his little
laughter wrinkles, into his bright eyes, he smiled also. He now saw the
bananas lying near him. He picked them up, gave one to the ferryman and ate
the other. Then he went silently with Vasudeva through the wood again, back
to the ferry. Neither spoke of what had happened, neither mentioned the
boy's name, neither spoke of his flight, nor of the wound. Siddhartha went
to his bed in the hut and when Vasudeva went to him after a time to offer
him some coconut milk, he found him asleep.