Page 26. " duties of their order "

The term sangha is used to describe a community of Buddhist monks. Ten principal precepts and seventy-five minor rules for novices rules define how the members of the Sangha should conduct themselves in matters such as proper social etiquette, accepting and consuming food, handling their robes, the delivering of sermons and other miscellaneous day-to-day activities and social interactions.

A fully-fledged monk has to comply with 227 rules contained in a book called Patimokkha.

Read the Bhikkhu Patimokkha - The Bhikkhus' Code of Discipline translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.  

View a photographic documentary on the Sangha's duties

The Bhikkhus' Rules - A Guide for Laypeople - compiled and explained by Bhikkhu Ariyesako also makes for interesting reading.

Page 27. " an eternal chain, linked together by cause and effect "

When this exists, that comes to be. With the arising of this, that arises. When this does not exist, that does not come to be. With the cessation of this, that ceases.Samyutta Nikaya 12.61

The Twelve Nidānas trace the origin of the endless cycle of  action and causation that leads to birth-rebirth and hence suffering in our current and past lives. Read a commentary on the Twelve Nidanas by Theodore de Macedo Soares.

Soares defines the Twelve Nidānas as, "Twelve links in the chain of the causation of samsara. The twelve nidanas are usually depicted in Tibetan Thankas as the ‘Wheel of Life’ drawn with twelve scenes forming a circle. In the center of the circle, passion, aggression and ignorance, usually depicted by a chicken, snake and a pig respectively, represent the basic pull--push--ignore dynamic intrinsic of a dualistic ‘I’ and ‘other‘ relationship. As the ego and its projections need constant maintenance, the nidanas constantly spin."

Page 27. " not dependant on chance, not dependant on the gods "

Fatalism is the acceptance of all things and events as inevitable; submission to fate is the attitude of resignation in the face of some future event or events considered as inevitable. Philosophers and ancient Indian religious texts, reject the view that all acts are preordaineed by the gods, and human beings are powerless in the face of destiny.

In Indian beliefs, the karmic effects of all deeds actively shape the past, present, and future experiences. The results or 'fruits' of actions are called karma-phala. Karma,  the total of present—and past—life actions, as a concept contradicts the notion of faith, and the supremacy of the will of God, as advocated in the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam).


Page 27. " Opinion means nothing; they may be beautiful or ugly "


Ancient Greek philosophers distinguished between demonstrated knowledge and opinion. Plato distinguished between two levels of awareness: opinion and knowledge. According to him, opinions are based on sensations and are impermanent; knowledge on the other hand is timeless and based on essences. In The Republic, these concepts were illustrated using the metaphor of the sun, the divided line, and the allegory of the cave.

Today, Plato's analogy of the divided line is a well-known illustration of the distinction between knowledge and opinion, or knowledge and belief. Opinions can be persuasive, but have to be defended by facts, and assertions, whether true of false.

Read a paper on Plato's Analogy of the Divided Line.

Another interesting reading is available as the Platonic Epistemology and the Nature of Philosophical Activity: A Comparison with Indian Philosophy.

Page 28. " nobody finds salvation through teachings. "

Salvation or freedom from the worldly life and the cycles of birth and death is based on the law of karma - the law of cause and effect. Good or bad behaviour or action leads to an appropriate reward or punishment. It is by becoming aware of one's actions and the impact thereof on one's life, now and the next can one realize the True Self, and move a step closer to Salvation.




A person can attain salvation only by performing the right action, having a feeling of compassion, and acquiring knowledge of the Self. While a learned teacher, an enlightened one can show the way towards self-realization, merely listening to discourses, reading religious texts or performing austerities cannot lead to salvation. Salvation cannot be taught, it cannot be learnt, it has to be attained. 

Page 28. " but to leave all doctrines and all teachers and to reach my goal alone "


No one saves us, but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path, Buddhas merely teach the way.- Paul Carus

This line from the novel, marks a key turning point in Siddhartha’s quest. Unknown to him, it actually symbolizes an awakening, a realization that each one has to seek his own enlightenment. Siddhartha was brought up in a rigorous brahmin household where he learnt the Vedas and the Upanishads, fasted and pronounced the Om, practiced contemplation and meditation, and all the daily customary routines of a pure life, and yet he went out into the world to seek the Self, the Absolute. He joined the roaming ascetics and learnt how to control his senses, how to perform austerities and live with extreme physical deprivation, and he realized that he had not yet learnt how to attain salvation.

Siddhartha realizes that salvation can be attained through actions, through experiencing the real world, and not through rote, and escapism. He indicates that he would rather live the life of a karma yogi, and find the path to salvation on his own. He realizes that knowledge can be acquired, can be taught, but wisdom is self-acquired and this wisdom leads to enlightenment, to the ultimate escape from samsara, the cycle of birth and death.

Buddhist teachings reject dogmas, customs and doctrines, as leading to spiritual enlightenment. The central theme of Buddha’s teachings is to practice compassion, right living, right thought and right action to attain the ultimate goal of salvation.

Page 29. " return to the life of the world and desires? "

From a seeker of self-realization, Siddhartha becomes a pleasure-seeker, entering the hedonistic world of the courtesan and the businessman. From the path of the ascetics, he enters the path of desires.

Householders, who also seek enlightenment cannot abandon all worldly concerns. The way of the householder is in the world and through the world, through  particular functions, natures, and talents. Rather than giving up the world, householders or lay men can explore, express, and fulfill our purpose in the world.

Mahayana Buddhism encourages the lay people as well as the monks and nuns (Sangha) to become Bodhisattvas. The Vimalakirti Nidesa Sutra is dwells on the concept of the enlightened householder.

Page 29. " Be on your guard against too much cleverness. "

In Hinduism, there is a great emphasis on the teacher or the Guru (teacher, गुरु), as the guide and mentor, literally the 'weighted one' that is the one who is loaded with spiritual knowledge or divine wisdom. It also means the one who leads his disciples from the darkness of ignorance to spiritual enlightenment by imparting divine knowledge. A guru is the one who guides his or her disciple to become a Jivamukta, a liberated soul who can attain salvation through knowledge.

The Hindu concept of Guru (teacher, गुरु) dates back to the ancient Vedic times when seers revealed their spiritual insights, and sages taught their wisdom to a few select disciples called Shishyas (disciple, शिष्य). This tradition is known as the Guru-Shishya Parampara. The teacher is a central figure in most world religions; Buddha was a teacher, Christ was a teacher – and they use the techniques of parables and miracles to spread their message.

Acquiring knowledge can be a self-driven exercise in learning, something which any intelligent person can undertake on one’s own, but sieving this knowledge to gain true experience, to distill the hidden message, to practice the preaching is one of the ways along with real-life experiences to acquiring wisdom. When Buddha warns Siddhartha against too much cleverness, he is actually warning him against the arrogance to deny the guidance of a teacher. When we believe we are right, when we believe we are clever enough to understand the hidden truth, we are risking the manisfestation of the proverb, "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing."

Today, the Guru-Shishya tradition is kept alive in the field of Indian classical music and dance.


Page 29. " I also will conquer my Self. "

The Upanishads state, "When you realize that you are the Self,  supreme source of light, supreme source of love, you transcend the duality of life and enter into the unitive state.

The Holy Bible echoes teachings on subduing the base nature of the human ego - Proverbs (16:32), "He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city," and (25:28) "He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls." The True Self or Atman must conquer the False Self or Ego, and live according to God's immutable laws.

To conquer the Ego, is to conquer the vasanas, the residues of past actions and thoughts. Vasanas cause desire of wealth and acquisition, false knowledge, and ownership, and indulgences of the mind, and body. To escape from the False Self the polarities of existence, from this illusion of worldly pleasures, is to the first path towards cosmic union of the Atman (True Self) with the Brahman. As Plato says, "The first and best victory is to conquer self."

Listen to His Holiness The Dalai Lama's discourse on the conquering of the Self:

Page 31. " like the old skin that a snake sheds "
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeMoulting - Credit: Mike Ferris
Moulting is the process by which a snake sheds its skin, in one continuous piece,  to allow for growth, as well as to remove parasites along with their old skin. Snakes shed their skin by brushing against something hard and rough, like a rock, and creating a rip in their skin. When a new skin is formed beneath the old skin, a rip is initiated in the nose and mouth area. A snake continues to work on this rip until it can shed its skin completely.
Page 31. " he reached a point where he recognized causes "
Public DomainSutra - Credit: Kyoto National Museum

Causality is the relationship between the cause and effect of an event.

Aristotle developed a theory of causality which is commonly known as the doctrine of the four causes. He distinguished the four types of causes as:

  • Material cause resulting in the creation of some thing
  • Formal cause that defines the essence of the thing
  • Efficient cause that is the primary cause of change in that thing
  • Final cause is the end or purpose for which a thing is done

In the classic, Phaedo, Plato stated that the so-called “inquiry into nature” comprised an investigation into “the causes of each thing; why each thing comes into existence, why it goes out of existence, why it exists.

The Illustrated Sutra of Cause and Effect is a handscroll from 8th century Japan and depicts Gautama Buddha’s search for enlightenment. It begins with the training of the Sakyamuni in his past lives, his freedom from suffering and delusion, and the achievement of enlightenment to became a Buddha.

Page 31. " through thought alone feelings become knowledge and are not lost, but become real and become mature "

A thought is a recognized or a focused contemplation on a particular emotion, state, thing or person. It is a mental process and is distinguishable from feelings, which is more related to emotions and matters of the heart, and can be considered as unconscious thought. When a person reflects on the origin, nature and effect of his emotions or feelings, he gets deeper understanding of his emotions, and feelings and can devise ways to control, manage or express his feelings, as the case may be. A focused, thoughtful approach brandishes a person with the knowledge to handle emotions and situations in a more mature and realistic way.

The Complete Psychological Writings of Mark Pettinelli has an interesting module on The Psychology of Emotions, Feelings and Thoughts.

Page 32. " the nucleus of all things, Atman, Life, the Divine, the Absolute "

The Upanishads as translated by Eknath Easwaran explain the concept of the Atman as a part of the Supreme Being: “As long as we think we are the ego, we feel attached and fall into sorrow. But realize that you are the Self, the Lord of life and you will be freed from sorrow. When you realize that you are the Self, supreme source of light, supreme source of love, you transcend the duality of life and enter the unitive state.”

The Mundaka Upanishad, explains this theme with a metaphor in which Brahman is seen into two forms. “Like two golden birds perched on the self same tree, intimate friends, the ego and the Self dwell in the same body. The former eats the sweet and sour fruits of the tree of life while the latter looks on in detachment.”

In the metaphor,  the bird that eats the fruit is the Individual Self, while the bird that is detached is the Universal Self or Divine Force.

Page 32. " I will no longer study Yoga-Veda, Atharva-Veda, "

The four Vedas - Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda - are the primary texts of Hinduism and include the

The Atharva Veda is associated with the ancient poet Atharvan (The Wise Old One), means “the Veda of the Wise and the Old”. The last of the Vedas, the Atharva Veda contains many hymns from the Rig Veda and some popular magic spells which makes it unique in itself. It is also a great source of information on the life of common people in Vedic times.

The Rig Veda and the Atharva Veda lay the foundation stone of Ayurveda, the ancient Indian science of medicine, while the practice of Yoga is rooted within the Yajur Veda. Dr. David Frawley defines Ayurveda as the “healing side” and Yoga as the “practical side” of Vedic teaching.

The Yajur Veda contains rituals and yogic practices for purifying the mind and awakening the inner consciousness. The Yajur Veda is compiled as two major samhitas, or collections, the Black Yajur Veda that deals with explanation of the rituals, and the White Yajur Veda focuses on the liturgy.

Page 32. " I wanted rid myself of the Self, to conquer it, I could only decieve it, could only fly from it,could only hide from it "

In Hindu philosophy, ignorance of the True Self causes ego and the perceived distinction between consciousness and physical matter, between mind and body. In Eastern religions, the human being is often conceived as being in the illusion of individual existence, hence considers himself as separate from the macrocosm, the Universe. The state of illusion, or Maya, gives rise to egoism and desire. For a person seeking enlightenment, the main goal is to bridge this polarity, to dissolve the ego, and see that the Self and the Universe are one.

Lao Tzu, in his Tao Te Ching, says "Knowing others is wisdom. Knowing the self is enlightenment. Mastering others requires force. Mastering the self requires strength."

The German/ Canadian spiritual teacher, motivational speaker, Eckhart Tolle, has written at length  about the ego in his book A New Earth. 


Page 33. " It was no longer the magic of Mara "

Mara is the tempter, a devil in Buddhism, who tried to seduce the Buddha with the vision of beautiful women, also said to be Mara's daughters. Mara personifies the "death" of the spiritual life; the distraction that humans face from the spiritual path when the mundane becomes alluring or the negative seems positive. Mara can also be one’s desires that fog the mind, and has to be defeated by the person himself. In Hinduism, Mara is also the goddess of death.

Listen to an artist's rendition of the temptation of Mara:

In modern storytelling, Mara continues to be related to evil and darkness. In 2011, 2entertain is all set to release two Doctor Who Mara tales - Kinda and Snakedance.

Page 33. " Meaning and reality where not hidden somewhere behind things, they were in them, in all of them "

Tathata (Sanskrit: तथाता) a central concept in Eastern religions, is translated as "thusness" or "suchness”. It is related to the perception of the present moment, of the reality expressed in each unique moment, for no moment is same as the other.

In the Flower Sermon, the Buddha propogated, "We know we are experiencing the 'thatness' of reality when we experience something and say to ourselves, 'Yes, that's it; that is the way things are.' In the moment, we recognize that reality is wondrously beautiful but also that its patterns are fragile and passing."

The Buddha’s Enlightenment is the attainment of this state of "suchness" or "thusness” where one is able to perceive things as they "really" are. In the state of Tathata, the enlightened person understands that things not in reality, but only through human perception and language.

Page 33. " it was no more the veil of Maya "

In early Vedic literature, Maya is a metaphysical power that makes the hidden apparent, the unreal appear as real, and gives a human form to the soul. In Vedanta philosophy, Maya is a state of mind, a mental perception that emerges from our everyday consciousness, and creates the illusion of truth and reality in that which does not exist.   

Ignorance (avidya) and knowledge (vidya) are the two aspects of Maya – one leading to materialism, greed and caprice, the other based on spiritual values and helping to realize God. It is the aim of all spiritually inclined human beings to transcend this avidya and vidya, to raise the veil of Maya, of the illusion of the separation of the individual from the Brahman, and ultimately unite with the Absolute.

 George William Russell, an Irish poet wrote a poem, The Veils of Maya

MOTHER, with whom our lives should be,

Not hatred keeps our lives apart:

Charmed by some lesser glow in thee,

Our hearts beat not within thy heart

Beauty, the face, the touch, the eyes,

Prophets of thee, allure our sight

From that unfathomed deep where lies

Thine ancient loveliness and light.

Self-found at last, the joy that springs

Being thyself, shall once again

Start thee upon the whirling rings

And through the pilgrimage of pain.

An American metallic band from Chicago, is called Veil of Maya. The band Cynic also used the poem's name as a song in their album, Focus. The word Maya is one of the most popular girl names in the U.S., probably because it carries with it the allure of Indian mysticism.

Page 34. " He was no nobleman belonging to any aristocracy, no artisan belonging to any guild "

A social classification system called varnashrama emerged during the Later Vedic period, as a means to order and regulate society. The system created four main castes based on hereditary occupation - the Brahmins (poets, priests, teachers, scholars), the Kshatriyas (kings, warriors, and nobility), the Vaishyas (agriculturists, and merchants), and Shudras (artisans, service providers and laborers).

The varnashramas were enforced through a rigid code of conduct specific to each class, based on the dharmashastras (law books) of the later Vedic period. An ancient code of conduct (Smriti) defines brahminhood - "By birth, every man is a Shudra (an ignorant person). Through various types of disciplines (samskaras), he becomes a dwija (twice born). Through the studies of scriptures, he becomes a vipra (or a scholar). Through realization of supreme spirit (brahmajnana), he becomes a brahmin."

The belief that to be a brahmin priest and teacher, one has to be born in a brahmin family, is a much later concept in Ancient India.  Although the Hindu caste system is unique in the world, in some ways it resembles Plato's ideal society of philosophers, warriors and commoners.

Page 34. " the last shudder of the awakening, the last pains of birth "

The statement signifies Siddhartha’s rebirth, his reawakening as a new person, unassociated with any caste, any group, or any past teachings and acquired knowledge. Now, Siddhartha is a new individual, ready to follow a new path, guided by his heart and his mind, to find the truth, not in the forest but amongst the people, in the daily grind.

Like the last forceful thrust of a mother in labour, Siddhartha is thrust into the world with a new vision of how he would attain his goal of salvation.

The last shudder of awakening is also suggestive of the yogic practice of kundalini awakening. Kundalini (Sanskrit: कुण्डलिनी) literally means coiled. In yoga, a corporeal latent energy similar to libido that lies coiled at the base of the spine. When aroused this latent energy can lead to Self-Realization through awakening of the “inner knowledge" that leads to "pure joy, pure knowledge and pure love."

Page 39. " He did not seek reality; his goal was not on any other side "

In Hindu philosophy, it is the responsibility of each person to actively pursue the truth, to acquire knowledge of the Supreme Being, and to shred the "veil of Maya." Salvation consists of the experiential knowledge of Brahman with unconditional love and the offering of the Self to the eternal service of the Unity of Godhead. As the Rig Veda says, “Reality is one; sages call it by different names.”

Page 40. " now he was present and belonged to it "

"But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson (from the 'Self Reliance' essay, 1841)

Living in the moment, or in the present is based on the Vedanta philosophy of "mindfulness." To experience the present moment a person has to train to mindful and aware of the present moment. Described as a calm awareness of one's body functions, feelings, thoughts and consciousness, mindfulness is the seventh element of the Noble Eightfold Path. Mindfulness helps in the development of wisdom.

Eckhart Tolle in his book, A New Earth, postulates that the human mind identifies and understands its surroundings using memory. The manas or mind is preoccupied with the past based on memory, and on the future based on desires. Since, the past and the future are illusionary, Tolle asserts that to connect with the Supreme Being the individual has to remain mindful only of the present, so that the ego does not exist.

Tolle says, “...awareness is the power that is concealed within the present moment. This is why we may also call it Presence. The ultimate purpose of human existence, which is to say, your purpose, is to bring that power into this world.”

Page 41. " he had never really found his Self, because he had wanted to trap it in the net of thoughts "

The act of thinking or the resulting ideas caused by mental or intellectual activity of an individual's consciousness results in thought.  Consciousness is awareness or wakefulness and ability to experience "feelings” and understand the concept of the True Self.

The Ego, or the superficial/False Self comprises mind and body, is thus, the individual person as the object of his or her own reflective consciousness. The thought process related to the ego-self as delusionary, and Buddhist traditions and practices emphasize on the contemplation of or realization of the True Self as opposed to the False Self or Ego.

Page 41. " He would only strive after whatever the inner voice commanded him "

Inner voice is a thought, prompting, or expression that comes from the depth of one's consciousness. It is different from the thoughts that result from the mental processes, which are an integral part of our day-to-day life. The inner voice can exist along with our daily, mundane thoughts and can be subtle or more persistent, nudging us in a certain direction. To listen with clarity to the inner voice requires the practice, of controlling mundane thoughts through contemplation and meditation.

The inner voice can also be understood as a sixth sense or intuition. As South Africa metaphysical teacher Jimmy Henderson, says in his book, Multi-Dimensional Thinking, "Truth lies hidden in subtle clues which are only made known to us during rare moments of revelation, realisation or intuition for which we are often unable to find words, or even to understand in terms of our day to day experience. Such perfect knowledge can only be revealed in the beauty of a desert flower, the passing whispers of the wind, a fleeting impression in a forest glade, a feeling which suddenly comes over us, or even in the content of our dreams, much of which we usually choose to ignore.”

Page 42. " One can learn much from a river "

In Siddhartha’s quest for the Ultimate Truth and Inner Peace, at the beginning of each

Gurgling River
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumGurgling River - Credit: Tejal Chopra
period of his life, he runs into the river and contemplates his previous life experiences. The river is where he finally reaches his enlightenment after reflecting on his life.

It is by the riverside that he realized his weakness and where he found true happiness.  The river in Siddhartha represents life itself, time, and the path to enlightenment. As a representation of life, it provides knowledge without words, and by learning from the river. Siddhartha’s acquires an intuitive understanding of the Divinity of Nature and of his Self, as a coherent part of Nature.



Page 42. " People are children "

Sculpture depicting children playing with marbles
Creative Commons AttributionSculpture depicting children playing with marbles - Credit: Gopal Aggarwal
The statement suggests the innate innocence of human beings, the Buddha-nature that is within each one of us. Mahayana Buddhism, teaches that Buddha-nature is an intrinsic, immortal potential for reaching enlightenment that exists within the mind of every sentient being. Buddhist scholar and chronicler, Fowler, writes that the Buddha-nature really is present as an essence within each being. Fowler comments:

The teaching that Buddha-nature is the hidden essence within all sentient beings … all living beings are in essence identical to the Buddha regardless of their defilements or their continuing transmigration from life to life... As in the earlier traditions, there is present the idea that enlightenment, or nirvana, is not something which has to be achieved, it is something which is already there... In a way, it means that everyone is really a Buddha now.

While childlike purity is inherent, so is childlike ignorance of this potential. Where “ignorance is bliss,” men and women go about their daily chores, with the simplicity of children, by rote, unable to comprehend that they can be the masters of their destiny, and the harbingers of change, in their lives and the world.

Page 44. " Kamala, the well-known courtesan "

The American Heritage Dictionary defines a courtesan as, "A woman prostitute, especially one whose clients are members of a royal court or men of high social standing."

The history of courtesans in India goes back to the religious tradition of Devadasi (देवदासी  "a woman who serves god") in which girls are "married" and dedicated to a deity (deva or devi) or to a temple. They were responsible for taking care of the temple and performing rituals, were adept in Bharatanatyam, Odissi and other classical Indian artistic traditions and enjoyed a high social status.  The custom was quite common in the 6th century BC, and finds frequent reference in the Puranas, with documented recommendations on the arrangements for enlisting the services of singing girls for worship at temples,

Local kings often invited temple dancers to dance in their courts, which created a new category of dancers, the rajadasis. A devadasi danced for the gods, but the rajadasi danced for the entertainment of the royal court. Rajadasis eventually became courtesans, women with patronage of the court or the nobility, and continued to be custodians of fine arts, and studies classics (Sanskrit and regional languages.) No stigma was attached to their profession and to their children and they frequented social and festive ceremonies. In the medieval ages courtesans came to indulge in prostitution, and were widely escorted by men who sought pleasure for money.

Read about some world-famous courtesans from across the globe

Courtesans, have been romantized in many a novels with an Indian theme. Get your own copy of one such novel: Aranyani - The Courtesan's Lament: A Romance Of Ancient India by Stephen Alter.

The famous novel, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden is a story of the traditional, female Japanese entertainers whose skills include performing various Japanese arts such as classical music and dance.

Page 44. " in an ornamented sedan chair carried by four people "

A sedan chair is an enclosed chair that is borne on poles by two bearers. Though the term sedan chair is used in the English translation of the novel, the actual Indian term commonly used for such chairs is the “Palanquin” or “Palki.”

Palanquins were used in Ancient Indian for traveling by the women, the aged and the rich.  In its simplest form, a palanquin consisted of a central space with seating arrangement, and with scaffolding on either side for bearers to carry it. Two to four or six people used to carry it and were known as "Boyees." For longer distance, another team of bearers accompanied, to give relief to the tired bearers.

Palanquins are mentioned in literature as early as the Ramayana (250BC.) and have featured in historical writings of Domingo Paes (1522), Ceasar Fredrick (1567-68), Peter Mundy (1632), Edward Terry (1652-60), Captain Basil Hall (1822).

Page 45. " stories about Vishnus and Lakshmi "

Vishnu riding on Garuda with Shri Lakshmi
Public DomainVishnu riding on Garuda with Shri Lakshmi - Credit: Unknown artist from Bundi, Rajasthan, India
Vishnu is one of the three gods in the Great Trinity (Trimurti ) of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. Vishnu is the maintainer or preserver, Brahma is the creator, and Shiva is the destroyer or transformer of Creation or the Universe. Vishnu is the embodiment of mercy and goodness, the omnipresent, omniscient power that preserves the universe and maintains the dharma and cosmic order.

Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth, Love and Grace, is the consort of Lord Vishnu. Vishnu is often depicted in art, as reclining on the coiled serpent Shesha, with Lakshmi sitting by his feet.

Page 45. " When the beautiful Kamala was approaching her grove "

The selection of the name Kamala, the female protagonist of the novel, is a personification of Kama (Sanskrit: काम). Kama implies pleasure, sensual gratification and fulfillment, desire, Eros, or the aesthetic enjoyment of life. Kamala is also one of the names of Lakshmi, the goddess of material wealth.

The Rig Veda represents desire as the first movement towards manifestation of the Absolute, while the Atharva Veda states that kama acts as desire through creative energy and is the first to be born. In Hinduism, kama is one of the four purusharthas, or goals of life, along with duty (dharma), material wealth (artha) and salvation (moksha).

In Buddhism, kama is considered one of the primary obstacles in the spiritual path towards enlightenment. In Buddhist Cosmology, kamaloka or the domain of desire, is the lowest of the three domains (triloka). The Five Precepts recited by the lay practitioner comprise a commitment to abstain from "sexual misconduct" (kāmesu micchācāra).

In mythology, Kama deva shot the ascetic god Shiva with a honey-dipped arrow so that he was enamored with the goddess Parvati and had to marry her in a wave of desire. In Roman mythology, Cupid (Latin cupido, meaning "desire") is the god of desire, affection and erotic love, and is the son of goddess Venus and god Mars.

Page 46. " her fan made of peacocks' feathers "
Peacock feathers
Public DomainPeacock feathers - Credit: Peter Carson

A Sanskrit-drama dating from 200 A.C. describes a thunderstorm: "The peacocks suddenly fly upwards when they hear the noisy clouds; they beat the air as if with fans made of thousand jewels." (cit. Buss, Library No.54)

Peafowl are native the South East Asian continent and

Public Domain"A Lady Holding a Peacock-Feather Fan" oil on Canvas. - Credit: Pierre Oliver Joseph Coomans
domesticated nearly 3,000 years ago. Only the male of the species, the peacock, has beautiful, multicolored tail feathers, sporting an eye-like pattern at the tip. Each peacock sheds more than 150 feathers annually before the breeding season begins. The feathers can grow several feet long and, and are collected and sold, as fans and brooms. Sanctums, and worship rooms are swept with peacock feather brooms.

Peacock feathers represent pride, nobility and glory. Peacocks are known to eat poisonous plants and hence their feathers are considered a symbol of incorruptibility and immortality. In some traditions, it is believed that peacock feathers can be used by an individual to connect with the Universal Healing Energy to heal maladies and ailments.

Page 47. " who comes from the jackals "


The jackal is a canine predator that hunts in packs with its original home in the jungles and plains of Asia. The jackal features in many mythological takes; in Indian folklore it is portrayed as a trickster; in Ancient Egyptian religion, it is supposed to take the guise of Anubis, the god of embalming.

In the novel, the reference is indicative of Siddhartha’s life in the forest, as a wandering ascetic, fraught with dangers and deprivations. It also suggests Siddhartha’s free spirit, the lack of wealth and material well-being, and dependence on alms.

Page 47. " One can beg, buy, be presented with and find love in the streets, but it can never be stolen "

Attic red-figure pelike (wine-holding vessel) by Polygnotos, ca. 430 BC. From Kameiros, Rhodes showing a youth giving a purse to a sitting hetaera (courtesan
Creative Commons AttributionAttic red-figure pelike (wine-holding vessel) by Polygnotos, ca. 430 BC. From Kameiros, Rhodes showing a youth giving a purse to a sitting hetaera (courtesan - Credit: Marsyas
Prostitution has been described as the "world's oldest profession” with every culture adopting its own standards and attitudes towards this profession. In ancient times, concubines and courtiers were known to live in the same house as the wife and often had equal status and some legal rights.

In Ancient India, devadasis were celibate dancing girls dedicated to the temple. Around the 6th century BC devadasis began performing at the royal court, and the practice of dedicating girls to Hindu gods developed into ritualized prostitution.

Page 48. " I can think, I can wait, I can fast. "

Buddha as an Ascetic
Public DomainBuddha as an Ascetic - Credit: Mountain
Living in austere conditions with the Samanas, amongst harsh natural conditions, embracing physical deprivation, Siddhartha learnt how to control basic instincts, to curb wants, and subsequently ignore desire, while learning to contemplate on the meaning of life. The essence of all austerities and a disciplined way of life is to make a person perseverant and patient, and give him the power to live with the most meager of the basic necessities of food, clothes and shelter.

When a person can live in the barest possible surroundings, in the ochre robes of an ascetic, braving the weather and unconcerned with the pangs of hunger, he is able to turn inward, conquer his feelings and contemplate on the Self. When the needs are curbed, the wants are subdued, and desire does not arise. Pure thought and puritan living are the consequences of such a disciplined life. Yogic practitioners also aim at reaching this state of pure thought by curbing the needs of the body, the wants of the mind, and desires of the heart.

Page 49. " If I were rich, I would give you money for it. "
Sketch for the Ceiling of the Banqueting House, Hampton Court Palace; Work symbolised enlightened royal patronage of the Arts
Public DomainSketch for the Ceiling of the Banqueting House, Hampton Court Palace; Work symbolised enlightened royal patronage of the Arts - Credit: Antonio Verrio

Patronage to the creative works of art, including poetry, was one of the main sources of income for the creative gentry and also the reason for the rich spring of art and poetry in Ancient India. Dana, gift-giving, was considered a meritorious act and patronage of the commoners by the wealthy and the powerful was an important aspect of the early Buddhist period. Later Hindu kings primarily patronized temples but also held court of people talented in the arts.

Dropping the Bow: Poems of Ancient India (Companions for the Journey) by Translator Andrew Schelling is a collection of poems that are more than two thousand years old.

Read about the art and patrongage of Ancient India in Huntingtons' book The Art of Ancient India.

Page 50. " I require clothes and money, that is all "

Chest with Inlaid Interior to keep money and clothes
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeChest with Inlaid Interior to keep money and clothes - Credit: David Jackson
Siddhartha had experienced two phases in his life, one as a student and the other as a wandering ascetic. Both phases had meant a disciplined and arduous life, with intense mental and physical involvement, and in the latter case even deprivation.

In such a scenario, the life of a commoner, who has to earn his living, with daily labor seems alluring and easy, because at the end of the day it offers fulfillment of the immediate needs. Acquiring material possessions is simpler than attempting to attain salvation, realize the Absolute Truth and merge with Brahman.

Page 50. " Kamaswami expects you to call on him "
Painting of merchants by Colesworthy Grant
Public DomainPainting of merchants by Colesworthy Grant - Credit: P.K.Niyogi

Kamaswami, the name of Siddhartha’s mentor in the novel, is made up of two Sanskrit words kama and swami. Swami means "owner" or "master" and is an Indian title of respect for a religious teacher or member of an ascetic order.

Kama or the fulfillment of sensory pleasures and the acquiring of material wealth is seen as one of the primary obstacle on the spiritual path towards enlightenment. In Siddhartha's spiritual quest, Kamaswami, the merchant, is a distraction. Working with Kamaswami, in order to acquire wealth and distinction to be able to court Kamala, Siddhartha also begins to appreciate material possessions. Kamaswami teaches him the way of the merchant; the business and economics of it. While Siddhartha embarks on the way of the merchant, with humility and compassion, his ascetic temperament cannot protect him from the pitfalls of leading a materialistic life.

Read about the maritime history of India.

Page 50. " one door after the other is being opened to you "

Paulo Coelho in his book, The Alchemist, writes one of the most famous lines of modern times, “When you want something, the entire universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” It corroborates the power of affirmations and of positive thinking to manifest positive life changes.

The Alchemist on Book Drum