Page 76. " We monks are always on the way, except during the rainy season. "

In the months of June to September, during the Indian summers, the moisture-laden air rises from the Thar Desert, moves in from the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, and strikes against the Himalayan mountain ranges, resulting in the monsoon rains.

One of the earliest rules formulated for the Buddhist Sangha was that the monks and nuns were not allowed to travel during the monsoon. The monks and nuns would gather at one of the several centers donated to the Sangha by the Buddha’s patrons. These “rain retreats” were used for giving discourses, and memorizing parables and teachings. Eventually, these retreats were made into permanent establishments, and hence the foundations of the first monasteries were laid.

In South East Asia, the Theravada monks observe Vassa, a three-month "rains retreat." During Vassa, monks remain in their monasteries and meditate, while the laity brings in offerings of food and other supplies. Many Mahayana sects also observe some form of three-month intensive practice period to respect the rains retreat tradition of the first Sangha.

In South East Asia, the Theravada monks observe Vassa, a three-month "rains retreat." During Vassa, monks remain in their monasteries and intensify their meditation practice. Lay people participate by bringing them food and other supplies. Elsewhere in Asia, many Mahayana sects also observe some form of three-month intensive practice period to respect the rains retreat tradition of the first monks.

Page 76. " the world of appearances is transitory "

Greek Philosopher, Heraclitus, is famous for his doctrine of flux and fire -

Everything flows and nothing abides; everything gives way and nothing stays fixed.

You cannot step twice into the same river, for other waters and yet others, go flowing on.

Time is a child, moving counters in a game; the royal power is a child's.”

Transience or memory in passing attests to the fact that only the present moment is reality. The past is illusionary, and the future is non-existent. In such a circumstance, all appearances, all aspects of the material world are transitory, and only the present moment is real.

Page 77. " The wheel of appearances revolves quickly "
Detail from Netherlandish Proverbs
Public DomainDetail from Netherlandish Proverbs - Credit: Pieter Bruegel

According to the Vedas, the universe goes through repeated cycles of creation, destruction and rebirth, with each cycle lasting 4320 million years.

From the Cosmic perspective, human life is a miniscule part. To a human being, even the finite earth appears as infinite, as incomprehensible in its vastness. When we compare our life with the vastness of the Universe, we realise that our life is passing by quickly; our appearances are here today, gone tomorrow.

Page 77. " he loved everything, he was full of joyous love towards everything that he saw. "

"When we love the body, we bind ourselves; when we love the soul, we free ourselves. It is the soul in the individual, the Supreme in each human being, that we have to love." - Sri Chinmoy

Spiritual love means giving and becoming one with everything, with humanity and divinity. This love of one microcosm for the other, translates into the higher, all encompassing love for the macrocosm, the Infinite and Supreme Being, the Brahman and his creation, the Universe.

To quote Sri Chinmoy again,

The love that spans the universe

Is not new.

It is old,


And eternal.”

Page 79. " I had to become a fool again in order to find Atman in myself. "

By virtue of all his learning as a brahmin pupil, Siddhartha believed that, "Already he knew how to recognize the Atman within the depth of his being..."

However, through the restraints of an ascetic life, and then through the unrestrained life of a pleasure seeker, he realized that he was seeking to satiate his Ego, his false-Self. The True Self, or Atman, can be realized only through simplistic love for the Supreme, when one is able to see the individual soul as an intrinsic part of the Divine.

Page 79. " an atmosphere of pomade, spice, excess and inertia "

Pomade (also called pomatum) is a greasy or waxy substance that is used to style hair, making it look slick and shiny. The main ingredients of pomade are petroleum jelly, mineral oil, and wax, with perfumes or colorants. The word pomade is derived from the French for "apple," as the original product, made in the 16th century, contained mashed apples. In ancient India, Greece and Egypt, fresh roses were also used to make fragrant pomade.

Spices such as cinnamon, cassia, cardamom, ginger, and turmeric were known, and used for commerce, in the Eastern worlds and were common part of cooking and medication in Ancient India.

Page 80. " I have now put an end to that self-detestation, to that foolish empty life "
Artist Lowell Boyers portrayal of a person struggling with himself
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeArtist Lowell Boyers portrayal of a person struggling with himself - Credit: Lowell Boyers
Loathing, hatred of the self and low self-esteem are the main components of self-detestation. 

In Neurosis and Human Growth, Karen Horney explains how pride generates self-hate.

"Briefly, when an individual shifts his center of gravity to his idealized self, he not only exalts himself but also is bound to look at his actual self -- all that he is at a given time, body, mind, healthy and neurotic -- from a wrong perspective. The glorified self becomes not only a phantom to be pursued; it also becomes a measuring rod with which to measure his actual being. And this actual being is such an embarrassing sight when viewed from the perspective of a godlike perfection that he cannot but despise it." (Horney, 1950, pp. 110-11).

Exploring self-hate can be part of the path to becoming spiritual.

Page 80. " The bird, the clear spring and voice within himself was still alive "

When Siddhartha dreamt that Kamala's rare song bird in the golden cage had died, he was filled with a sense of loss because he identified with the purity and goodness of the songbird, the rarity of his Self, that he had allowed to dissipate, frittered away in the lust for wealth, wine and women. By referring to the fact that the bird was still alive, and alluding to the inner voice that he now vouched to follow, he is accepting the unique identity of the Atman, the part of the Supreme Soul, within himself.

Page 80. " It is a good thing to experience everything oneself "

The only fertile research is excavatory, immersive, a contraction of the spirit, a descent.

- Samuel Beckett, Proust

While Beckett makes the above statement in the context of “the labours of poetical excavation” it holds true for any form of pursuit to acquire material, spiritual or intellectual experience.

The last sacred words of the Buddha to his disciples, emphasized on experiencing mental and physical phenomenon and things to be able address all obsessions and sensual attractions of the world with vigilance.

"All compounded things, all experiences (mental and physical), all phenomena by their very nature decay and die, and are disappointing: it is through being not-blind-drunk on, obsessed by, or infatuated with, the objects of the senses that you succeed in awakening, or obtain liberation." - interpretation by Dharmacari Jayarava

Page 81. " His Self had creeped into his priesthood, into his arrogance, into his intellectuality. "

"Hypocrisy, pride, self-conceit, wrath, arrogance and ignorance belong, O Partha, to him who is born to the heritage of the demons.” - The Gita, XVI. 4

Pride is an elevated sense of self-worth, of gloated self-esteemed that prevents a man from conceding to others or accepting that he can also be at fault. Pride leads to arrogance, an absorbing sense of one’s own greatness, that makes one unjustly feel superior to others. Pride and arrogance are usually driven by the False-Self, the Ego, by the illusion of being individual, of being a separate entity, strong and secure in their own right.

"...when you have a distorted view of yourself, such as through excessive pride or arrogance, because of these states of mind, you have an exaggerated sense of your qualities and personal abilities. Your view of your own abilities goes far beyond your actual abilities..." - The Art of Happiness at Work" by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D.

Page 84. " The rower smiled, swaying gently. "

Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumRower - Credit: Manish Shewani
The smile is a trait, an expression evident only in the characters that have attained enlightenment in the course of the story of Siddhartha. The smile is thus used as a powerful symbol. Siddhartha smiles only when he attains enlightenment. He however observes the smile and the gait of Gotama, Govinda relates Siddhartha’s smile with that of Gotama and is able to realize that Siddhartha was ultimately at peace with himself. The ferryman, as the enlightened guide and guru, is always silent, patient and smiling.

Page 84. " but is not every life, every work fine? "

King James Bible - Romans 8.28"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose."

A similar thought was echoed by Mahatma Gandhi, "No joy can compare with the joy of doing one's duty quietly."

The theory of karma also espouses the fact that performing one’s assigned duties with mindfulness is the primary goal of a human being's life. Dharma or duty is one's personal obligations, calling and duties and living life in accordance with dharma helps the individual to proceed quickly towards salvation.

Page 85. " My name is Vasudeva. "

In the ancient legendary tales of India, Vasudeva (Devanagari वसुदेव) represents the “Universal God". In the Mahabharata, Vasudeva means "dwelling in all things." The Lord Krishna is referred to as Vasudeva in the Bhagavad-Gita, and revealed as the ultimate goal of all knowledge and possesses the six attributes of knowledge, lordship, potency, strength, virility and splendor.

The Heliodorus pillar in Vidisha bearing a sculpture of Garuda was apparently dedicated by Heliodorus, the Greek ambassador in India in 110 BC, to the god Vasudeva, in front of the temple of Vasudeva.

Page 85. " It was one of the ferryman's greatest virtues that, like few people, he knew how to listen. "

The Zeno of Citium said, more than 2,000 years ago, "The reason why we have two ears and only one mouth is that we may listen the more and talk the less. The reward for listening, then, is wisdom."

When we listen to what others have to say, we instill in them a sense of being worthwhile, and also imbibe knowledge from their life experiences. As Kay Lindahl says in the book, Practicing the Sacred Art of Listening, “Envision a conversation in which each person is listened to with respect, even those whose views are different from yours. This is all possible in conversations of the heart.”

Page 85. " led him inside the hut "

A hut is an indigenous and inexpensive shelter, usually used for dwelling, made with local techniques and materials. In India, a hut is usually a single room with mud walls, and a straw thatched roof, pyramidal in shape with a low door.

Page 86. " He did not await anything with impatience and gave neither praise nor blame "
Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way;
On purpose,in the present moment, andnonjudgmentally.”
- Jon Kabat-Zinn

Kabat-Zinn’s definition highlights that an important aspect of mindfulness is acceptance, or of avoiding harsh judgments. Being non-judgmental is about being open-minded enough to understand that other people have different points of view, and their perspective may be correct.

In the Aranavibhanga Sutta, the Buddha preaches, "You should know what praise is and what blame is, and knowing what praise and blame are, you should neither praise nor blame, but teach only Dharma."

Page 86. " The river knows everything; one can learn everything from it. "

Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumRiver - Credit: Aneesha Myles Shewani
In the context of Science and the Secret Doctrine Dr. William M. Davis recognizes, "...the absolute universality of that law of periodicity, of flux and reflux, ebb and flow, which physical science has observed and recorded in all departments of nature.”

The river symbolizes Nature as a teacher, a Guru. The river represents the perennial aspects of life; everything moves in a cycle, making the present moment the only reality. What we once were, are now and will become are all one and the same. The things that are present in our life now will affect us later in life and the things in our earlier life affect that which we have become. We are always changing, while staying the same.

Page 87. " I do not know how to talk or think. I only know how to listen and to be devout; otherwise I have learned nothing. "

Being devout means to have or show deep religious feeling or commitment to a cause or belief. In the guru-shishya parampara, as advocated in the Indian culture, the central theme is that the respect, commitment, devotion and obedience of the student towards his guru, is the best way for attaining subtle or advanced knowledge. Vasudeva asserts that he is not a guru, a philosopher, or a preacher, but a student learning from the greatest teachers of all, Nature.

"It seems clear at last that our love for the natural world — Nature — is the only means by which we can requite God's obvious love for it." - Edward Abbey

Page 87. " he worked in the rice field "
Rice cultivation in India
Creative Commons AttributionRice cultivation in India - Credit: mtkopone

Rice farming is done extensively in South East Asia and relies heavily on the monsoons. India has large areas of land devoted to paddy farming, and is the second largest exporter of rice in the world.

Page 88. " that there is no such thing as time "

Among prominent philosophers, there are two distinct viewpoints on time. Isaac Newton and some other philosophers assert that time is a fundamental part of the structure of the Universe and a dimension or plane in which events occur in relative sequence.

The opposing view as propounded by Gottfried Leibniz and Immanuel Kant is that time is neither an event nor a thing, and can neither be measured nor can it be travelled. They regard time to be an intellectual structure (together with space and number) created by humans for the convenience of defining the sequence of events.

St. Augustine of Hippo called time a “distention” of the mind (Confessions 11.26) in which the past is based on memory, the present based on attention, and the future based on expectation. A similar view was expressed by Henri Bergson who said that time was neither a thing, nor a mental construct, but was Duration, that comprised creativity and memory that lead to reality.

Page 88. " Nothing was, nothing will be, everything has reality and presence. "

According to the Law of Perpetual Transmutation of Energy, the limitless energy from the Cosmos manifests in the material world. Our thoughts which are also a form of energy, have the power to manifest as reality.

The power of the perpetual transmutation of energy, has been beautifully expressed by Alfred Lord Tennyson in his poem, "Nothing Will Die:"

"When will the stream be aweary of flowing

Under my eye?

When will the wind be aweary of blowing

Over the sky?

When will the clouds be aweary of fleeting?

When will the heart be aweary of beating?

And nature die?

Never, oh! never, nothing will die;

The stream flows,

The wind blows,

The cloud fleets,

The heart beats,

Nothing will die.


Nothing will die;

All things will change

Thro' eternity.

'Tis the world's winter;

Autumn and summer

Are gone long ago;

Earth is dry to the centre,

But spring, a new comer,

A spring rich and strange,

Shall make the winds blow

Round and round,

Thro' and thro',

Here and there,

Till the air

And the ground

Shall be fill'd with life anew.


The world was never made;

It will change, but it will not fade.

So let the wind range;

For even and morn

Ever will be

Thro' eternity.

Nothing was born;

Nothing will die;

All things will change."

Page 88. " Was then not all sorrow in time, all self-torment and fear in time? "
Time's mortal aspect is personified in this bronze statue by Charles van der Stappen
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeTime's mortal aspect is personified in this bronze statue by Charles van der Stappen - Credit: Jardin botanique national de Belgique, Meise

Philosophers like Gottfried Leibniz and Immanuel Kant hold that space and time "do not exist in and of themselves, but ... are the product of the way we represent things", because we can know objects only as they appear to us.

St. Augustine of Hippo called time a “distention” of the mind (Confessions 11.26) in which the past is based on memory, the present based on attention, and the future based on expectation. A similar view was expressed by Henri Bergson who said that time was neither a thing, nor a mental construct, but was Duration, that comprised creativity and memory that lead to reality.

Greek philosopher, Antiphon, in his chief work, On Truth wrote: "Time is not a reality (hypostasis), but a concept (noêma) or a measure (metron)." Parmenides maintained that time, motion, and change was illusionary. The Buddhist thought also considers time to be an illusion.

Page 89. " but the voice of life, the voice of Being, of perpetual Becoming. "

Early Greek philosophers conceived being as objects and becoming as change, and viewed becoming as cyclical-driven modulation of objects.

Heraclitus considered that everything was in a state of flux caused by "becoming" itself was the first principle, and if becoming would cease, then all things, including being, would cease. The process of becoming can be compared to Fire, the element that is unstable nature but has the capacity to bring about change.

Page 89. " confessed sins, asked for comfort and advice "
The Confession, Oil on canvas by Pietro Longhi
Public DomainThe Confession, Oil on canvas by Pietro Longhi - Credit:

Confession is the admission of one's guilt with regard to an action, speech or thought that is not compliant with prescribed social mores, customs and values. Such acts are usually categorized as sin; confession is thus the acknowledgement of sin and acceptance of the appropriate retribution.

The confession of one's faults and sins to a superior is an important part of Buddhist practice. Buddhist Sutras document cases of followers confessing wrongdoings to the Buddha.

In Hinduism the concept of confession is related to the concept of penance and repentance that leads to forgiveness of sins by Divine Grace. This forgiveness, however, may not absolve one from the consequences of the karmic thought or action.

Page 90. " the Illustrious One was seriously ill and would soon suffer his last mortal death and attain salvation. "
Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita Buddha Parinirvana
Public DomainAstasahasrika Prajnaparamita Buddha Parinirvana - Credit: Artwork created circa 700-1100 CE

One of the most profound events in Buddhist history is the physical death, or the final nirvana, of the Buddha in 483 BC in Kushinagar. Buddha became fatally ill after eating a meal offered by a patron.

On his deathbed, Buddha told his monks that if they had any doubts or unanswered questions, they should rely on the Dharma teachings and their own ethical discipline. After his death, Buddha's remains were cremated and his ashes placed in stupas in the locations that became the four major Buddhist pilgrimage places.

Page 90. " No, a true seeker could not accept any teachings, not if he sincerely wished to find something. "

Esoteric philosophy asserts that man has to earn his gifts and realize his worth through mastery of his ego, through personal effort and merit and through a long series of transmigration of the soul, and reincarnations.

Gautam Buddha’s Dhammapada Teachings on The Seeker, say:

Master your senses,

What you taste and smell,

What you see, what you hear.

In all things be a master.

Of what you do and say and think.

Be free.

You are a seeker.

Delight in the mastery

Of your hands and your feet,

Of your words and your thoughts.

Delight in meditation

And in solitude.

Page 90. " the other thousands who lived in eternity, who breathed the Divine "

The term deva (देव Sanskrit) refers to all ethereal beings that reside in the heavens and are reborn there as the result of good karma. From a human perspective, devas manifest divine qualities and are invisible to the physical human eye. Through extrasensory perception that can be attained through practice, some humans can open the divyacakṣus that can enable them to see beings from other planes. Some human beings can also develop auditory powers to be hear the voices from the ethereal world.

The nine devas
GNU Free Documentation LicenseThe nine devas - Credit: Ddalbiez

Depicted in Sandstone, the nine Devas - Left to right: Surya (the sun) on a chariot pulled by two horses, Candra (moon) on a pedestal, Yama (judge of the dead, guardian of the South) on the buffalo, Varuna (god of water, guardian of the west) on Hamsa, Indra (king of gods, guardian of the east) on elephant Airavata, Kubera (god of wealth, guardian of the north) on the horse, Agni (god of fire, the guardian of the south-east) on the ram, Rahu (the demon of eclipse) in a swirl of clouds and Ketu (comet) on the lion. 

Page 91. " belonged to the women and benefactresses attached to the pilgrims "

The Buddha believed that both men and women could attain enlightenment and he established an order of bhikkhus (monks) and as well as bhikkhunis (nuns), with identical practices and rules of governance.

As Susan Murcott comments, "The nun's sangha was a radical experiment for its time."

Thousands of women joined the order of bhikkhunis, while lay Buddhist women followers, many of them from wealthy backgrounds, supported the reformatory movement, with money, shelter, gardens, and material for robes, food, medicine, and so forth. Buddhism also received the patronage of wealthy queens and royal women.

Readn an account of some famous women who figure prominently in the early Buddhist texts.

Page 91. " a small black snake, which had bitten Kamala "
Illustration from Children's Book
Public DomainIllustration from Children's Book - Credit: Cygnis Insignis

The four poisonous snakes that cause the largest number of snake bites and deaths in the South East Asian region are the Indian Cobra, Common Krait, Russell's Viper, and Saw-Scaled Viper. Since, snakes are nocturnal, and thrive in heavy vegetation, most snake bites are caused at night or when a person accidentally steps on them.

Page 94. " he felt more acutely the indestructibleness of every life, the eternity of every moment. "

A Chinese dish made of red lacquer over wood, from the Ming Dynasty, showing the Endless Knot in the center
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeA Chinese dish made of red lacquer over wood, from the Ming Dynasty, showing the Endless Knot in the center - Credit: Self-made at the Freer and Sackler Galleries, Washington D.C
Death of a loved one drives home the destructibility of the body, the eternity of the soul, and the cyclic process of birth and death, followed by rebirth.

The endless knot or eternal knot (Sanskrit: Shrivatsa) is one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols that symbolizes "the interweaving of the Spiritual path, the flowing of Time and Movement within That Which is Eternal.

Pre-Kantian philosophers have conceived time as a temporal reality, with the Divine Force viewing the surface of this reality, as if it was a stretched line and hence being "omnipresent" with regard to time. From this perspective, the past, present and future moments all lay spread out in a line, and hence comprising eternity.

Page 94. " they built a funeral pyre "

Cremation pyre on the banks of a river
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeCremation pyre on the banks of a river - Credit: Gregor Younger
In Hinduism, the body is seen as an instrument to carry the soul. In Hindu philosophy, the human body is a combination of five basic natural elements - fire, water, air, earth and ether. When one dies, the fire element ceases, and that living form retreats to the original state of creation. The fire used in cremation completes the fifth element.

A wooden structure or funeral

on paper depicting a deceased body being taken to a burning ground.
Public Domainon paper depicting a deceased body being taken to a burning ground. - Credit: British Museum
pyre is built, usually on the banks of a river, and the death body is placed on the pyre, which is then set alight. The remains from the cremation are usually submerged into the flowing water to complete the funeral rite. The destruction of the physical body through cremation (agnidagdhá) is believed to induce a feeling of detachment into the freshly disembodied soul and to enable its passage into the other realms. The Rig Veda contains a reference to the emerging practice of cremation, proving that this practice is as old as civilization.

Page 96. " Water will go to water, youth to youth "

"Men of my age flock together; we are birds of a feather, as the old proverb says; and at our meetings the tale of my acquaintance commonly is --I cannot eat, I cannot drink; the pleasures of youth and love are fled away: there was a good time once, but now that is gone, and life is no longer life." - Plato in the Republic.

It is human nature to develop interpersonal relationships (and attraction) based on similarities, such as demographics, physical appearance, attitudes, interpersonal style, social and cultural background, personality, interests and activities preferences, and communication and social skills. Theodore Newcomb (1961) conducted a study on college roommates and observed that students with similar family backgrounds, academic achievements, attitudes, values, and political views became friends.

Page 97. " gentleness is stronger than severity "
Gentleness (1861), by Jean Marcellin (1821-1884). West façade of the Cour Carrée in the Louvre palace, Paris.
Creative Commons AttributionGentleness (1861), by Jean Marcellin (1821-1884). West façade of the Cour Carrée in the Louvre palace, Paris. - Credit: Jastrow
Gentleness as a virtue and a trait is upheld by most religions, socio-educational and politico-legal systems.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."

- Galatians 5:22-23, the Holy Bible

There is usually a thin line between severity and gentleness in the context of handling subordinates, children and in some cases the non-conformists to the larger framework of society comprising of religion, politics, social and religious norms. When the tempering effect of gentleness is lost and it becomes conducive to rebellious behaviour or relentless disobedience, there is no other way than to resort to severity.  As Pierre Corneille says, "Severity is allowable where gentleness has no effect." 

Page 97. " water is stronger than rock "


The Colorado Plateau is an example of how rivers can cut rocks and create landscapes. Water dissolves minerals and carries them in suspended form. Water can also physically transport rock and mineral fragments as small as sand grains and as large as boulders, especially in the Alpine regions with steep gradients were the water quickly flows downhill.

Page 99. " he was madly in love, a fool because of love "
"Love is beyond reason. Love is not measurable in words. Love cannot be partial; it cannot have owners. Love is essentially beyond definition or concept." — Mabel Iam
It is scientifically proven that the emotion of love, causes the brain to release the same chemicals that cause addiction, and hence love makes a person act irrationally. The sensory, molecular, and biochemical processes involved in love, as well as mating, have led human’s to do some infamously foolish things. In the article Is Love Just a Chemical Cocktail? Larry Young, professor of Neuroscience at Emory University, attempts to define love in chemical terms. New research presented at the Society for Neuroscience meeting gives insight into the brain of someone experiencing love.
Page 100. " The copper and silver coins "
Punch Marked Silver Coin
Public DomainPunch Marked Silver Coin - Credit: World Imaging
Cast Copper Coin 1st century BCE
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeCast Copper Coin 1st century BCE - Credit: British Museum.

Early coins of India (400 B.C.—100 A.D.) were made of silver and copper, and bore animal and plant symbols on them. Cast Copper coins were used in Ancient India, around the 2nd Century B.C.

The first documented coinage is deemed to start with 'Punch Marked' coins issued between the 7th century BC and 1st century AD. These coins are called 'punch-marked' coins because of their manufacturing technique. Mostly made of silver, these bear symbols, each of which was punched on the coin with a separate punch. 

Issued initially by merchant Guilds and later by States, the coins represented a trade currency belonging to a period of intensive trade activity and urban development. They are broadly classified into two periods : the first period (attributed to the Janapadas or small local states) and the second period (attributed to the Imperial Mauryan period). The motifs found on these coins were mostly drawn from nature like the sun, various animal motifs, trees, hills etc. and some were geometrical symbols.