I have been reading (actually listening to) the book Siddharta by Hermen Hesse. I did like this book as I know that when I listen to something for a couple of hours continuously, it has captured my attention.
Briefly, this book talks about a young boy who vows to understand the meaning of life (aka attaining enlightenment) and quits social living to become an ascetic. However, after a few years have passed by and he is in his thirties or so, he realizes that he has not attained the goal he had set out to achieve.
During this time he comes to the conclusion that “teachings ” even from the great masters do not appeal to him. He meets the Buddha and tells the “Venerable One” that his teachings have a “gap” or a logical error. He further tells him that even though the Buddha can teach all he wants within the limitations of language, he can never explain how it would have felt when he expreienced Nirvana. Having said such things to the Buddha, Siddharta quits being an ascetic.
He comes back to the “social” world and initially has reservations about having sex (with women!). The desire continues to surge in him and he learns the art of love making from a Courtesan (an euphemism for a high-end prostitute?). This woman (kamala in the book) teaches him all that she can and finally proclaims that he is the best in the business!
Oh! by the way, he is also the best in the town in another form of business, I mean the real one now, selling and buying stuff such as mechandise (!!).
After he has spent a good ten years or so in lustful living he finally obtains the badge of honour – usually given to men who have all the three vices, mukka, chukka and ? (Please replace the question mark for me as I dont know anything appropriately rhyming in gult).
As with some men, after obtaining the badge of honour, he is disgusted with his “lowly” life. How did an ascetic end up like this? Ofcourse, this is not all happy times for Siddharta as he contemplates suicide. Right at that moment he has a “flash” and becomes unconsious.
When he gets up, he is unknowingly more happy. He understands that he always had a false sense of (intellectual) superiority over everyone else and this has led him to take the path of the vices (and the obtain the badge of honour). Ultimately, he is happy at the end of Chapter 8. Still three more chapters to go.
What I could gather from the book till now is that there is no substitute for experiences in life. The goal of eliminating the ego might be reached by deep contemplation but it could more easily be attained by “living” life (by this I mean to live in an emotionally connected way with others) and slowly pushing ego out of the system.
The only great danger might be that, one forgets that the purpose of life is the elimination of ego. Once this is forgotten, the real reason for living has been lost.
PS: BTW, I forgot to mention that Siddharta gets Kamala pregnant, so there might still be some story left 🙂