WITH THE CHILDLIKE PEOPLE
Siddhartha went to Kamaswami the merchant, he was directed into a rich
house, servants led him between precious carpets into a chamber, where
he awaited the master of the house.
Kamaswami entered, a swiftly, smoothly moving man with very gray hair,
with very intelligent, cautious eyes, with a greedy mouth. Politely,
the host and the guest greeted one another.
"I have been told," the merchant began, "that you were a Brahman, a
learned man, but that you seek to be in the service of a merchant.
Might you have become destitute, Brahman, so that you seek to serve?"
"No," said Siddhartha, "I have not become destitute and have never been
destitute. You should know that I'm coming from the Samanas, with
whom I have lived for a long time."
"If you're coming from the Samanas, how could you be anything but
destitute? Aren't the Samanas entirely without possessions?"
"I am without possessions," said Siddhartha, "if this is what you mean.
Surely, I am without possessions. But I am so voluntarily, and
therefore I am not destitute."
"But what are you planning to live of, being without possessions?"
"I haven't thought of this yet, sir. For more than three years, I have
been without possessions, and have never thought about of what I should
"So you've lived of the possessions of others."
"Presumable this is how it is. After all, a merchant also lives of
what other people own."
"Well said. But he wouldn't take anything from another person for
nothing; he would give his merchandise in return."
"So it seems to be indeed. Everyone takes, everyone gives, such is
"But if you don't mind me asking: being without possessions, what would
you like to give?"
"Everyone gives what he has. The warrior gives strength, the merchant
gives merchandise, the teacher teachings, the farmer rice, the fisher
"Yes indeed. And what is it now what you've got to give? What is it
that you've learned, what you're able to do?"
"I can think. I can wait. I can fast."
"I believe, that's everything!"
"And what's the use of that? For example, the fasting-- what is it
"It is very good, sir. When a person has nothing to eat, fasting is the
smartest thing he could do. When, for example, Siddhartha hadn't
learned to fast, he would have to accept any kind of service before this
day is up, whether it may be with you or wherever, because hunger would
force him to do so. But like this, Siddhartha can wait calmly, he knows
no impatience, he knows no emergency, for a long time he can allow
hunger to besiege him and can laugh about it. This, sir, is what
fasting is good for."
"You're right, Samana. Wait for a moment."
Kamaswami left the room and returned with a scroll, which he handed to
his guest while asking: "Can you read this?"
Siddhartha looked at the scroll, on which a sales-contract had been
written down, and began to read out its contents.
"Excellent," said Kamaswami. "And would you write something for me on
this piece of paper?"
He handed him a piece of paper and a pen, and Siddhartha wrote and
returned the paper.
Kamaswami read: "Writing is good, thinking is better. Being smart is
good, being patient is better."
"It is excellent how you're able to write," the merchant praised him.
"Many a thing we will still have to discuss with one another. For
today, I'm asking you to be my guest and to live in this house."
Siddhartha thanked and accepted, and lived in the dealers house from now
on. Clothes were brought to him, and shoes, and every day, a servant
prepared a bath for him. Twice a day, a plentiful meal was served, but
Siddhartha only ate once a day, and ate neither meat nor did he drink
wine. Kamaswami told him about his trade, showed him the merchandise
and storage-rooms, showed him calculations. Siddhartha got to know
many new things, he heard a lot and spoke little. And thinking of
Kamala's words, he was never subservient to the merchant, forced him
to treat him as an equal, yes even more than an equal. Kamaswami
conducted his business with care and often with passion, but Siddhartha
looked upon all of this as if it was a game, the rules of which he
tried hard to learn precisely, but the contents of which did not touch
He was not in Kamaswami's house for long, when he already took part in
his landlords business. But daily, at the hour appointed by her, he
visited beautiful Kamala, wearing pretty clothes, fine shoes, and soon
he brought her gifts as well. Much he learned from her red, smart
mouth. Much he learned from her tender, supple hand. Him, who was,
regarding love, still a boy and had a tendency to plunge blindly and
insatiably into lust like into a bottomless pit, him she taught,
thoroughly starting with the basics, about that school of thought which
teaches that pleasure cannot be be taken without giving pleasure, and
that every gesture, every caress, every touch, every look, every spot
of the body, however small it was, had its secret, which would bring
happiness to those who know about it and unleash it. She taught him,
that lovers must not part from one another after celebrating love,
without one admiring the other, without being just as defeated as they
have been victorious, so that with none of them should start feeling
fed up or bored and get that evil feeling of having abused or having
been abused. Wonderful hours he spent with the beautiful and smart
artist, became her student, her lover, her friend. Here with Kamala
was the worth and purpose of his present life, nit with the business
The merchant passed to duties of writing important letters and contracts
on to him and got into the habit of discussing all important affairs
with him. He soon saw that Siddhartha knew little about rice and wool,
shipping and trade, but that he acted in a fortunate manner, and that
Siddhartha surpassed him, the merchant, in calmness and equanimity, and
in the art of listening and deeply understanding previously unknown
people. "This Brahman," he said to a friend, "is no proper merchant and
will never be one, there is never any passion in his soul when he
conducts our business. But he has that mysterious quality of those
people to whom success comes all by itself, whether this may be a good
star of his birth, magic, or something he has learned among Samanas.
He always seems to be merely playing with out business-affairs, they
never fully become a part of him, they never rule over him, he is never
afraid of failure, he is never upset by a loss."
The friend advised the merchant: "Give him from the business he
conducts for you a third of the profits, but let him also be liable for
the same amount of the losses, when there is a loss. Then, he'll become
Kamaswami followed the advice. But Siddhartha cared little about this.
When he made a profit, he accepted it with equanimity; when he made
losses, he laughed and said: "Well, look at this, so this one turned
It seemed indeed, as if he did not care about the business. At one
time, he travelled to a village to buy a large harvest of rice there.
But when he got there, the rice had already been sold to another
merchant. Nevertheless, Siddhartha stayed for several days in that
village, treated the farmers for a drink, gave copper-coins to their
children, joined in the celebration of a wedding, and returned extremely
satisfied from his trip. Kamaswami held against him that he had not
turned back right away, that he had wasted time and money. Siddhartha
answered: "Stop scolding, dear friend! Nothing was ever achieved by
scolding. If a loss has occurred, let me bear that loss. I am very
satisfied with this trip. I have gotten to know many kinds of people,
a Brahman has become my friend, children have sat on my knees, farmers
have shown me their fields, nobody knew that I was a merchant."
"That's all very nice," exclaimed Kamaswami indignantly, "but in fact,
you are a merchant after all, one ought to think! Or might you have
only travelled for your amusement?"
"Surely," Siddhartha laughed, "surely I have travelled for my amusement.
For what else? I have gotten to know people and places, I have received
kindness and trust, I have found friendship. Look, my dear, if I had
been Kamaswami, I would have travelled back, being annoyed and in a
hurry, as soon as I had seen that my purchase had been rendered
impossible, and time and money would indeed have been lost. But like
this, I've had a few good days, I've learned, had joy, I've neither
harmed myself nor others by annoyance and hastiness. And if I'll ever
return there again, perhaps to buy an upcoming harvest, of for whatever
purpose it might be, friendly people will receive me in a friendly and
happy manner, and I will praise myself for not showing any hurry and
displeasure at that time. So, leave it as it is, my friend, and don't
harm yourself by scolding! If the day will come, when you will see:
this Siddhartha is harming me, then speak a word and Siddhartha will go
on his own path. But until then, let's be satisfied with one another."
Futile were also the merchant's attempts, to convince Siddhartha that he
should eat his bread. Siddhartha ate his own bread, or rather they both
ate other people's bread, all people's bread. Siddhartha never listened
to Kamaswami's worries and Kamaswami had many worries. Whether there
was a business-deal going on which was in danger of failing, or whether
a shipment of merchandise seemed to have been lost, or a debtor seemed
to be unable to pay, Kamaswami could never convince his partner that it
would be useful to utter a few words of worry or anger, to have wrinkles
on the forehead, to sleep badly. When, one day, Kamaswami held against
him that he had learned everything he knew from him, he replied: "Would
you please not kid me with such jokes! What I've learned from you is
how much a basket of fish costs and how much interests may be charged on
loaned money. These are your areas of expertise. I haven't learned to
think from you, my dear Kamaswami, you ought to be the one seeking to
lean from me."
Indeed his soul was not with the trade. The business was good enough
to provide him with the money for Kamala, and it earned him much more
than he needed. Besides from this, Siddhartha's interest and curiosity
was only concerned with the people, whose businesses, crafts, worries,
pleasures, and acts of foolishness used to be as alien and distant to
him as the moon. However easily he succeeded in talking to all of them,
in living with all of them, in learning from all of them, he was still
aware that there was something which separated him from them and this
separating factor was him being a Samana. He saw mankind going trough
life in a childlike or animallike manner, which he loved and also
despised at the same time. He saw them toiling, saw them suffering,
and becoming gray for the sake of things which seemed to him to entirely
unworthy of this price, for money, for little pleasures, for being
slightly honoured, he saw them scolding and insulting each other, he
saw them complaining about pain at which a Samana would only smile, and
suffering because of deprivations which a Samana would not feel.
He was open to everything, these people brought his way. Welcome was
the merchant who offered him linen for sale, welcome was the debtor who
sought another loan, welcome was the beggar who told him for one hour
the story of his poverty and who was not half as poor as any given
Samana. He did not treat the rich foreign merchant any different than
the servant who shaved him and the street-vendor whom he let cheat him
out of some small change when buying bananas. When Kamaswami came to
him, to complain about his worries or to reproach him concerning his
business, he listened curiously and happily, was puzzled by him, tried
to understand him, consented that he was a little bit right, only as
much as he considered indispensable, and turned away from him, towards
the next person who would ask for him. And there were many who came to
him, many to do business with him, many to cheat him, many to draw some
secret out of him, many to appeal to his sympathy, many to get his
advice. He gave advice, he pitied, he made gifts, he let them cheat him
a bit, and this entire game and the passion with which all people played
this game occupied his thoughts just as much as the gods and Brahmans
used to occupy them.
At times he felt, deep in his chest, a dying, quiet voice, which
admonished him quietly, lamented quietly; he hardly perceived it. And
then, for an hour, he became aware of the strange life he was leading,
of him doing lots of things which were only a game, of, though being
happy and feeling joy at times, real life still passing him by and not
touching him. As a ball-player plays with his balls, he played with
his business-deals, with the people around him, watched them, found
amusement in them; with his heart, with the source of his being, he was
not with them. The source ran somewhere, far away from him, ran and
ran invisibly, had nothing to do with his life any more. And at several
times he suddenly became scared on account of such thoughts and wished
that he would also be gifted with the ability to participate in all of
this childlike-naive occupations of the daytime with passion and with
his heart, really to live, really to act, really to enjoy and to live
instead of just standing by as a spectator. But again and again, he
came back to beautiful Kamala, learned the art of love, practised the
cult of lust, in which more than in anything else giving and taking
becomes one, chatted with her, learned from her, gave her advice,
received advice. She understood him better than Govinda used to
understand him, she was more similar to him.
Once, he said to her: "You are like me, you are different from most
people. You are Kamala, nothing else, and inside of you, there is a
peace and refuge, to which you can go at every hour of the day and be
at home at yourself, as I can also do. Few people have this, and yet
all could have it."
"Not all people are smart," said Kamala.
"No," said Siddhartha, "that's not the reason why. Kamaswami is just as
smart as I, and still has no refuge in himself. Others have it, who are
small children with respect to their mind. Most people, Kamala, are
like a falling leaf, which is blown and is turning around through the
air, and wavers, and tumbles to the ground. But others, a few, are
like stars, they go on a fixed course, no wind reaches them, in
themselves they have their law and their course. Among all the learned
men and Samanas, of which I knew many, there was one of this kind, a
perfected one, I'll never be able to forget him. It is that Gotama,
the exalted one, who is spreading that teachings. Thousands of
followers are listening to his teachings every day, follow his
instructions every hour, but they are all falling leaves, not in
themselves they have teachings and a law."
Kamala looked at him with a smile. "Again, you're talking about him,"
she said, "again, you're having a Samana's thoughts."
Siddhartha said nothing, and they played the game of love, one of the
thirty or forty different games Kamala knew. Her body was flexible
like that of a jaguar and like the bow of a hunter; he who had learned
from her how to make love, was knowledgeable of many forms of lust, many
secrets. For a long time, she played with Siddhartha, enticed him,
rejected him, forced him, embraced him: enjoyed his masterful skills,
until he was defeated and rested exhausted by her side.
The courtesan bent over him, took a long look at his face, at his eyes,
which had grown tired.
"You are the best lover," she said thoughtfully, "I ever saw. You're
stronger than others, more supple, more willing. You've learned my art
well, Siddhartha. At some time, when I'll be older, I'd want to bear
your child. And yet, my dear, you've remained a Samana, and yet you
do not love me, you love nobody. Isn't it so?"
"It might very well be so," Siddhartha said tiredly. "I am like you.
You also do not love--how else could you practise love as a craft?
Perhaps, people of our kind can't love. The childlike people can;
that's their secret."
Siddhartha: Chapter V
- Siddhartha: Chapter VII