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First off, let me start by saying that Siddhartha is a book that I never would have voluntarily chosen to read. A book based on Indian culture (dot, not feather) and set in a period of many years ago didn’t sound like my idea of a fun evening’s read. But now, after completing it, I can say that I was 100 percent incorrect and pleasantly surprised.
This book was just chocked full of all kinds of symbols, signs and ideas, two of which really seemed familiar to me. Not because they are novel or revolutionary, but more because they are beliefs that I have held for sometime now. And the interesting thing is that I am not exactly sure where they came from.
The first and probably most dominant theme was that of where Siddhartha was trying to find his enlightenment. He began by following a strict regime and belief structure that he was born into. He then “rebelled” and started to follow the Samana’s and their practice of self denial. Later, he went 180 degrees and indulged in “the sins of the flesh”. Not finding contentment in either of these, he finally settles on living on the river and becoming a ferryman. This is where he found the true meaning of Nirvana. He realized that true enlightenment cannot be reached through teachers because it cannot be taught- enlightenment comes from within.
This is where I step into the picture. At the start of this semester, we were asked to tell something about ourselves, and where we were spiritually. I stated that I was a “Ten Commandment Kid”, being raised on bible movies on Sunday morning TV. I also stated that I had no formal biblical training, and that I went with my grandfather on “Sunday morning road trips” to his newest church of the month. Or week. I think that he was like Siddhartha in the fact that he was never satisfied with the answer that anyone ever gave him, so he moved on, still searching. This was his gift that he gave to me. The places that I attended and the movies that I watched asked many more questions than they ever answered. Even as young as eight I realized that while knowledge was good, true enlightenment, or wisdom, wasn’t going to come from any one pulpit or preacher. I have since found that the best church is on top of a hill, looking over a pasture with a gentle breeze blowing the clouds slowly by.
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The other chapter that struck home was Siddhartha’s finding of solace in the river. He found that it represented life, and time itself. The many sounds of the river suggested all living things and its continual flow suggests the nature of time. All of these things pointed Siddhartha on his path of enlightenment.
I guess that God gives different analogies to different people that are unique to them so that they might understand. It’s kind of like God’s version of a learning curve. I have felt since I was young that life is like a record. Yes, I know that I am dating myself with that analogy, but you go with the flow, you know what I mean? Not just any record, but a record of greatest hits by many different artists. Each track represents a different person’ life, from beginning to end. As the record spins on the turntable, all of the tracks (lives) are spinning simultaneously. While we may only be listening to one particular song, all of the others are playing in their full glory, we just can’t hear them. Yet this does not make them any less true. At anytime, if we were enlightened enough, I believe that we could pick the needle up and “listen in” to any other life, at any other time or place in that life. I have always believed this to be possible because we are all in control of our own record player. We are like kids with a new Christmas present and we haven’t read the instructions that came with it. Instead of just jumping in, or listening to someone else who thinks that they can teach us to operate it; we could take the time to find a quiet place. Relax. Read to OURSELVES. Absorb the instructions and ask and answer our OWN questions. My needle and my tracks are Siddhartha’s river and his ferryboat. He takes the time to travel up and down the river and listens. He travels back and forth, and listens. He hears one life, he hears many. He experiences one time, he experiences all time. And more correctly, no time.
That’s where I had a problem with my record player up until a few years ago. If I had a record of one person, or group, it was the only thing on the turntable. Their were not “multiple lives” playing at the same time. The same goes for a greatest hits record. While there were many different artists, there was only one track from each, and only 8-9 tracks on the album. How could all of the lives be represented? Then came my answer.
The CD. And, multiple disc players. And just recently, MP3 players. Now, thousands of artists can be “stacked” on top of one another and spin at the same time. You can listen to them one by one, you can jump to the end, or you can set it to play at random. You can hear anyone, at virtually any time in their career. This is Siddhartha’s river of many sounds.
Hesse wrote this in the early 1900’s and I came up with these “ideas or beliefs” somewhere around 1970. I had never heard of Hesse or Siddhartha, but I share many of the same beliefs and conclusions. It makes me wonder if this is some sort of huge coincidence or if there is something more to it? Once two or more people get together to discuss these thoughts and hypothesis, they become more of a shared discussion, or knowledge. A theory if you may, whether it is correct or not is irrelevant. But for an individual person, or persons whom have never met, all to share a common belief, a core belief, is a different situation. Could it be a collective wisdom? While we all may take a different path to the record store, can we really argue that we aren’t all buying the same CD when we get there? Do we not all hear the same music?
I really feel that no matter how many religions there are in the world, no matter how many different ways to pray to OUR GOD, the end result is still the same. We’re all in the coliseum together; we’re all listening to the same band. We’re all one.