Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Reading Blog Siddhartha: Part 4 - The Son, Om, & Govinda

Respond to the text personally: 

In "The Son", Siddhartha tries to win over his son: Siddhartha Jr. He does this kindly and generously, without striking or chastising his son. Siddhartha recognizes that Siddhartha Jr. has been spoiled by his mother.  I have never raised an already-spoiled child, but I believe it must have felt like raising a puppy.

Recently, my dad bought my siblings and I a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy. She (our puppy is a female) is already nearly 6 months old. I try to get emotionally close to her but sometimes I end up scaring her. This just increases the emotional gap between us. On the other hand, Cumbia, our she-dog, loves my dad. Nonetheless, it is my dad the one who most chastises her. He is the one who strikes her when she pees or poos where she shouldn't, but she still loves him the most. Siddhartha tried to get close to his son by being nice and gentle with him, but by not punishing him for bad deeds, Siddhartha Jr. ended up farther away. 

Although my puppy hasn't (and hopefully won't) ran away, she was forced to come into our home. She was taken out of her home. She was forced to abandon the green grasses, the open spaces, her siblings, and all her other dog friends. Likewise, in Siddhartha, Siddhartha Jr. runs away because he was taken to the hut out of necessity and not out of desire. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Reading Blog Siddhartha: Part 3 - Samsara, By the River, & The Ferryman

1. By how many years is Kamala older than Siddhartha? (page 65)
2. Why has Siddhartha strayed so much from his path? Wasn't this straying supposed to be momentarily and not last a couple of years?
3. What does Siddhartha's straying mean to Buddhism? If this whom they follow, why is are these events emphasized?
4. Why did the golden bird bring Siddhartha back to his path? What is its importance?
5. Is Govinda Siddhartha's anchor? Is he the one who keeps him on his path, but also keeps him from achieving nirvana?
6. If samsara means the cycle of death and rebirth to which life in the material world is bound (Google Definitions), why does Siddhartha descirbe is as a game, "which can only be played once, twice, or at most ten times"? (page 68)
7. Why is Kamala´s golden bird so important? (again on page 69)
8. According to Wolfram Alpha (, Siddhartha attained enlightenment at age 35 while meditating under a pipal tree for 49 days. Why does the book then say that he was only 40 years old when he left the town? Why has he not achieved enlightenment yet? (page 65)

By the River
1. Why does Siddhartha have suicidal thoughts? Is suicide not badly viewed in Buddhism?
2. What is a cocoanut tree? Is it a typo, and was it supposed to be coconut? (page 71)
3. Was Om really heard by Siddhartha? (page 72) Or did his desperate soul fool his mind?
4. Does Govinda's appearance (page 74) mean Siddhartha's return to his path?
5. Has Govinda really been reaching enlightenment since he did not cry or weep when he saw Siddhartha?
6. What do the yellow robes mean? Is yellow an important color in Buddhism?
7. Has Siddhartha's self really died or does he merely think it? (page 80)
8. Is Siddhartha still able to hypnotize other people after he "killed Siddhartha the priest and Siddhartha the Samana" (page 81)?

The Ferryman
1. How is it that people as wise as Govinda and as humble as Vasudeva (boater) judge people by their clothes?
2. Are listening skills emphasized as great virtues in other cultures? (page 85)
3. Is the river considered a deity in Hinduism? Is it a spirit?
4. What other thing will Siddhartha learn from the river? (page 86)
5. Is the secret knowledge that Siddhartha will learn from the river the secret that there is no such thing as time? (page 87)
6. Why is Kamala's funeral pyre built on the same hill Vasudeva's wife's pyre was built? Who cares if they died in the same bed?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Reading Blog Siddhartha: Part 2 - Awakening, Kamala, & Amongst the People

Connect text to film: Karate Kid

During the chapter Kamala, Kamala asks Siddhartha what skills he knows. He answers: "I can think, I can wait, I can fast." (page 46). He mentions afterwards that he can write poetry, but this feels secondary compared to the first statement. These skills, although they are apparently lame, are what made Siddhartha successful. He waited for Kamala to love him and help him; he fasted so that Kamala would give him delicious food, and he thought before he did any of this, making sure his plan would work. These skills were not only useful with Kamala, but also, later on, with the merchant as well. In The Karate Kid (1984) is about a kid who is taught karate by a handyman. Mr. Miyagi, the handyman, teaches karate in a different style, so Daniel believes that the skills he is being taught are not karate related and, thus, useless. Yet, lame, as they might be, they made Daniel the karate champion.

I completely connect this part of the story with the film The Karate Kid (1984). In the movie, Daniel is supposedly being taught karate by Mr. Miyagi, a handyman. Daniel believes that Mr. Miyagi decided to make him redecorate and clean his house and cars. He starts by making Daniel wax his cars, then sand his floor, paint his house AND even paint his fence! He thinks that he’s been been tricked into acting as a temporary manservant for Mr. Miyagi. Just as Kamala believed that Siddhartha's skills were useless, Daniel believes his "karate" skills are useless. Finally, when Daniel confronts Miyagi with the issue he finds out that Mr. Miyagi wasn't redecorating, he was teaching Daniel-san karate (Okinawa style!). Well, he might have killed 2 birds with one stone since his house was improved by Daniel, but, at least, he taught him karate.

Anyways, in both works some apparently useless skills become useful, and both have a happy ending (at least for now in Siddhartha). So, although thinking, waiting, fasting, waxing, sanding, and painting may apparently not be connected to karate or  usefulness, don't underestimate the power of the Buddha. (Or the handyman/sensei from Okinawa).

Reading Blog Siddharta: Part 1 - The Brahmin's Son, With the Samanas, & Gotama

Visual Vocabulary:
ablutions: The act of washing oneself. (usually for ceremonial reasons)

Om: A mystic syllable, considered the most sacred mantra.

banyan: An Indian fig tree whose branches produce aerial roots that later become accessory trunks. A mature tree may cover several acres in this manner
A banyan fig tree.

Atman: 1. The spiritual life principle of the universe, esp. when regarded as inherent in the real self of the individual.    2. A person's soul.

A person's soul and their self.
Self: one's oneness and ego. One's desires and possessions.

Ego is the essence of the self.
Nirvana: 1. A transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self, and the subject is released from the effects of karma and samsara. It represents the final goal of Buddhism.       2. Liberation of the soul from the effects of karma and from bodily existence

The Eightfold Path, or the process to achieve Nirvana.