Siddhartha has been searching for fulfillment all his life. Though he was the most scholarly and respected Brahmin, this did not satisfy him. He drank knowledge, yet still felt ignorant. He could not find peace. He could not find fulfillment. His journey is essentially one of trial and error, suffering, mistakes, and rebirth. He was the son of a Brahmin priest and gained all the knowledge he could acquire, learned and practiced the ways of the Brahmin, but found it was not for him. It did not fulfill him, so he left and became a Samana, living by not living, conquering his Self through pain, hunger and fatigue.
Yet, he could not lose his Self. He could only deceive it, trick it, run away from it, and each time it returned mockingly. Because of this, he leaves the Samanas. He finds and listens to the teachings of the illustrious Buddha. He sees that Gotama has attained enlightenment, but he does not practice the ways of the Buddha for he knows that he must take his own path, find his own peace, attain nirvana on his own. So he sets out on this quest alone. Only then does he discover the error of his ways. He realizes that there is beauty in life, the world is not an illusion, but very real to him.
He goes and lives among the common people in a small town where he becomes a successful business man. He learns the art of love, business, and human nature. Slowly he deters, becoming a gambler, eating rich foods, drowning himself in money and drink. He becomes more and more disgusted with himself. Finally, when he can take it no longer, he flees the town in hopes of escaping this new Siddhartha whom he despised. Feeling utterly hopeless, when he reaches a river, he longs to end his life by submerging himself in the water.
As he bent down, he heard a sound from a remote part of his soul, and awoke him from the gravity of the mistake he was about to make. It was the sound “Om,” that saved his life and lulled him to sleep. Upon awakening he found himself changed, renewed, and reborn. He was no longer the man he recognized nor the man that his friend Govinda, who was watching him sleep, recognized. Only by losing everything did he begin to find himself. At the brink of death, where he was about to end his life, did he finally discover himself again.
All these transitory things have slipped away from him, and he is once more standing beneath the sun as he once stood as a small child. “Nothing is mine, I know nothing, I possess nothing, I have learned nothing… Now, when I am no longer young, when my hair is fast growing gray, when strength begins to diminish, now I am beginning again like a child,” he thinks to himself, “I had to become a fool again in order to find Atma in myself. I had to sin in order to live again. Whither will my path yet lead me? This path is stupid, it goes in spirals, perhaps in circles, but whichever way it goes, I will follow it. ” He does follow it.
He follows it right to Vesudeva, the ferryman. He stays with Vesudeva and learns the ways of the river. He learned to listen openly and freely, without judgement or opinions. He learned that time does not exist, that everything has reality and presence. Living simply, but happily as a ferryman he learns from the river; it talks to him; it teaches him. In taking care of his son, and losing him, he finds love, an emotion that he once thought he was not capable of. Regardless of his son’s disobedience, and lack of respect, Siddhartha loved him blindly and unconditionally. Only when his son runs away does he realize that he is his son.
He, too, chose to leave his father, to find his own path, make his own mistakes, suffer from his own sins, before he finally found his path. “I have had to experience so much stupidity, so many vices, so much error, so much nausea, disillusionment and sorrow, just in order to become a child again and begin anew. ” Siddhartha evolved at each stage of his life. After each phase he became more aware of his Self. He spent his entire life running away from his Self, trying to destroy it, only to finally merge with his self in unity. Vesudeva taught him this. He did not make him practice self torture, acrificial rights or religious ceremonies. He helped him find nirvana by teaching him to listen to the river and learn from it. He finally attained peace when he heard the thousand voices of the river, not as individual voices of sorrow or joy, but as one single unified voice, their great song, all in one word: Om- perfection. “His wound was healing, his pain was dispersing; his Self had merged into unity. From that hour Siddahartha ceased to fight against his destiny. ” By finally surrendering himself to the stream and belonging to the unity of things, he attained nirvana and found inner peace.