Thursday, June 13, 2013

Contemplative vs Conventional Life; How I Got Schooled By Herman Hesse's Siddhartha

“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. I had to experience despair, I had to sink to the greatest mental depths, to thoughts of suicide, in order to experience grace.” 

Long it has been that I read a book and made feel like a child once more in a school of life. This short novel Siddhartha by Herman Hesse did just that. I read through it in one sitting and could not put it down, while shedding some tears along the way.  

Despite its' title, Siddhartha is a fictional character not the historical Buddha, (although he does meet him in the storyline once). It is also not a 'Buddhist book' per se - there are no teachings here to offer or practice. It is about something deeper that touches the soul in a very real way. I've heard the mystic Osho once say that the "Buddha was pointing to the moon, but aspirants instead try to imitate his finger". I think Siddhartha is about the moon.

I will not spoil the book for you - but suffice to say that it is a spiritual journey that I and many of you share - the search for unconditional happiness, for ultimate meaning, inner contentment, for wisdom. 

I've wondered whether living conventionally is just...  a looped trap and therefore empty. That people fool themselves in seeking new goals, competing, in buying toys, going places, partying, marrying and having large families, having infidelity, etc. All to find happiness, all to fit in with society, all for a peace of mind. 

That such material lives without wisdom get people further trapped in the rat race. Attachments, aversions, and hastiness pervade their daily experience. Look around, everyone is in it. This is called suffering. 

But although this may be true,  I have gotten myself into trouble by asking such questions and getting no good answers. My problem - I was asking through the delusion of my Ego. And I've gotten myself trapped in the idea that a spiritual/contemplative life is somehow superior, opposite or mutually exclusive to conventional life. That to experience liberation and enlightenment one must give up the material world, because the latter is just full of suffering and delusion.

I admit that I have fallen victim to this Ego delusion, and this is my confession. This treasure book reminded what wisdom really is, and that it is found in life and not outside it. I hope to one day become as wise as Siddartha and the Buddha. 


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