Then he happened to meet Gotama, the exalted one, and when he greeted
him with respect and the Buddha’s glance was so full of kindness and
calm, the young man summoned his courage and asked the venerable one for
the permission to talk to him. Silently the exalted one nodded his
Quoth Siddhartha: “Yesterday, oh exalted one, I had been privileged to
hear your wondrous teachings. Together with my friend, I had come from
afar, to hear your teachings. And now my friend is going to stay with
your people, he has taken his refuge with you. But I will again start
on my pilgrimage.”
“As you please,” the venerable one spoke politely.
“Too bold is my speech,” Siddhartha continued, “but I do not want to
leave the exalted one without having honestly told him my thoughts.
Does it please the venerable one to listen to me for one moment longer?”
Silently, the Buddha nodded his approval.
Quoth Siddhartha: “One thing, oh most venerable one, I have admired in
your teachings most of all. Everything in your teachings is perfectly
clear, is proven; you are presenting the world as a perfect chain, a
chain which is never and nowhere broken, an eternal chain the links of
which are causes and effects. Never before, this has been seen so
clearly; never before, this has been presented so irrefutably; truly,
the heart of every Brahman has to beat stronger with love, once he has
seen the world through your teachings perfectly connected, without gaps,
clear as a crystal, not depending on chance, not depending on gods.
Whether it may be good or bad, whether living according to it would be
suffering or joy, I do not wish to discuss, possibly this is not
essential–but the uniformity of the world, that everything which
happens is connected, that the great and the small things are all
encompassed by the same forces of time, by the same law of causes, of
coming into being and of dying, this is what shines brightly out of your
exalted teachings, oh perfected one. But according to your very own
teachings, this unity and necessary sequence of all things is
nevertheless broken in one place, through a small gap, this world of
unity is invaded by something alien, something new, something which had
not been there before, and which cannot be demonstrated and cannot be
proven: these are your teachings of overcoming the world, of salvation.
But with this small gap, with this small breach, the entire eternal and
uniform law of the world is breaking apart again and becomes void.
Please forgive me for expressing this objection.”
Quietly, Gotama had listened to him, unmoved. Now he spoke, the
perfected one, with his kind, with his polite and clear voice: “You’ve
heard the teachings, oh son of a Brahman, and good for you that you’ve
thought about it thus deeply. You’ve found a gap in it, an error. You
should think about this further. But be warned, oh seeker of knowledge,
of the thicket of opinions and of arguing about words. There is nothing
to opinions, they may be beautiful or ugly, smart or foolish, everyone
can support them or discard them. But the teachings, you’ve heard from
me, are no opinion, and their goal is not to explain the world to those
who seek knowledge. They have a different goal; their goal is salvation
from suffering. This is what Gotama teaches, nothing else.”
“I wish that you, oh exalted one, would not be angry with me,” said the
young man. “I have not spoken to you like this to argue with you, to
argue about words. You are truly right, there is little to opinions.
But let me say this one more thing: I have not doubted in you for a
single moment. I have not doubted for a single moment that you are
Buddha, that you have reached the goal, the highest goal towards which
so many thousands of Brahmans and sons of Brahmans are on their way.
You have found salvation from death. It has come to you in the course
of your own search, on your own path, through thoughts, through
meditation, through realizations, through enlightenment. It has not
come to you by means of teachings! And–thus is my thought, oh exalted
one,–nobody will obtain salvation by means of teachings! You will not
be able to convey and say to anybody, oh venerable one, in words and
through teachings what has happened to you in the hour of enlightenment!
The teachings of the enlightened Buddha contain much, it teaches many to
live righteously, to avoid evil. But there is one thing which these so
clear, these so venerable teachings do not contain: they do not contain
the mystery of what the exalted one has experienced for himself, he
alone among hundreds of thousands. This is what I have thought and
realized, when I have heard the teachings. This is why I am continuing
my travels–not to seek other, better teachings, for I know there are
none, but to depart from all teachings and all teachers and to reach my
goal by myself or to die. But often, I’ll think of this day, oh exalted
one, and of this hour, when my eyes beheld a holy man.”
The Buddha’s eyes quietly looked to the ground; quietly, in perfect
equanimity his inscrutable face was smiling.
“I wish,” the venerable one spoke slowly, “that your thoughts shall not
be in error, that you shall reach the goal! But tell me: Have you seen
the multitude of my Samanas, my many brothers, who have taken refuge in
the teachings? And do you believe, oh stranger, oh Samana, do you
believe that it would be better for them all the abandon the teachings
and to return into the life the world and of desires?”
“Far is such a thought from my mind,” exclaimed Siddhartha. “I wish
that they shall all stay with the teachings, that they shall reach their
goal! It is not my place to judge another person’s life. Only for
myself, for myself alone, I must decide, I must chose, I must refuse.
Salvation from the self is what we Samanas search for, oh exalted one.
If I merely were one of your disciples, oh venerable one, I’d fear that
it might happen to me that only seemingly, only deceptively my self
would be calm and be redeemed, but that in truth it would live on and
grow, for then I had replaced my self with the teachings, my duty to
follow you, my love for you, and the community of the monks!”
With half of a smile, with an unwavering openness and kindness,
Gotama looked into the stranger’s eyes and bid him to leave with a
hardly noticeable gesture.
“You are wise, oh Samana.”, the venerable one spoke.
“You know how to talk wisely, my friend. Be aware of too much wisdom!”
The Buddha turned away, and his glance and half of a smile remained
forever etched in Siddhartha’s memory.