With the Samanas. Feraco Search for Human Potential 12 October 2010. The First Extreme. The first extreme: Life as a Samana
With the Samanas
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Siddhartha’s first experience with life outside his home is reminiscent of Gotama’s impression of the rest of the world – those first glimpses of pain, depravation, and struggle
The difference is that Gotama was moved, while Siddhartha claims that “all were not worth a passing glance, everything lied, stank of lies; they were all illusions of sense, happiness and beauty. All were doomed to decay. The world tasted bitter. Life was pain.”
Purity is his goal – but should we chase perfection?
The moment where his soul is basically bopping from body to body is another example
“And Siddhartha’s soul returned, died, decayed, turned into dust, experienced the troubled course of the life cycle. He waited with new thirst like a hunter at a chasm where the life cycle ends, where there is an end to causes, where painless eternity begins. He killed his senses, he killed his memory, he slipped out of his Self in a thousand different forms. He was animal, carcass, stone, wood, water, and each time he reawakened. The sun or moon shone, he was again Self, swung into the life cycle, felt thirst, conquered thirst, felt new thirst…Although Siddhartha fled from the Self a thousand times, dwelt in nothing, dwelt in animal and stone, the return was inevitable; the hour was inevitable when he would again find himself, in sunshine or in moonlight, in shadow or in rain, and was again Self and Siddhartha, again felt the torment of the onerous life cycle.”
These visions represent the Samsara cycle Siddhartha’s still trapped in – and he doesn’t quite seem to see it, at least not at first
There’s a dim understanding of unity at work here in his attempts at escape, but he’s so caught up in himself and his “onerous life cycle” that he doesn’t consciously understand what’s happening to him
When Govinda defends the Samanas’ methods, he and Siddhartha begin discussing the futility of their search in terms of intoxication
“You speak thus, my friend, and yet you know that Siddhartha is no driver of oxen and a Samana is no drunkard. The drinker does indeed find escape, he does indeed find a short respite and rest, but he returns from the illusion and finds everything as it was before. He has not grown wiser, he has not gained knowledge, he has not climbed any higher.”
“I do not know. I have never been a drunkard. But that I, Siddhartha, only find a short respite in my exercises and meditation, and am as remote from wisdom, from salvation, as a child in the womb, that, Govinda, I do know.”
“Well, Govinda, are we on the right road? Are we gaining knowledge? Are we approaching salvation? Or are we perhaps going in circles – we who thought to escape from the cycle?”
“We have learned much, Siddhartha. There still remains much to learn. We are not going in circles, we are going upwards. The path is a spiral; we have already climbed many steps.”
They’re definitely spiraling – but they’re heading downwards, not upwards
Every day spent on the wrong path is a day further removed from enlightenment (although it must be pointed out that these experiences, futile as they may seem, do prove critical to Siddhartha’s eventual success)
Gotama’s introduction phrased in terms of plagues and cures – an interesting choice, given his real personal history.
“The world was sick, life was difficult and here there seemed new hope, here there seemed to be a message, comforting, mild, full of fine promises.”
Foreshadowing: “He had heard that this alleged Buddha had formerly been an ascetic and had lived in the woods, had then turned to high living and the pleasures of the world, and he held no brief for this Gotama.”