The Perfect One Smiled – Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

A man from Hikkim, Spiti

A man from Hikkim, Spiti Valley

Govinda no longer saw the face of his friend Siddhartha.  Instead he saw other faces, many faces, a long series, a continuous stream of faces – hundreds, thousands, which all came and disappeared and yet all seemed to be there at the same time, which all continually changed and renewed themselves and which were yet all Siddhartha.  He saw the face of a fish, of a carp, with tremendous painfully opened mouth, a dying fish with dimmed eyes.   He saw the face of a newly born child, red and full of wrinkles, ready to cry.  He saw the face of a murderer, saw him plunge a knife into the body of a man; at the same moment he saw this criminal kneeling down, bound, and his head cut off by an executioner.  He saw the naked bodies of men and women in the postures and transports of passionate love.  He saw corpses stretched out, still, cold, empty.  He saw the heads of animals, boars, crocodiles, elephants, oxen, birds.  He saw Krishna and Agni.  He saw all these forms and faces in a thousand relationships to each other, all helping each other, loving, hating and destroying each other and becoming newly born.  Each one was mortal, a passionate, painful example of all that is transitory.  Yet none of them died, they only changed, were always reborn, continually had a new face; only time stood between one face and another.  And all these forms and faces rested, flowed and reproduced, swam past and merged into each other, and over them all there was continually something thin, unreal and yet existing, stretched across like thin glass or ice, like transparent skin, shell, form or mask of water – and this mask was Siddhartha’s smiling face which Govinda touched with his lips at that moment.  And Govinda saw that this mask-like smile, this smile of unity over the flowing forms, this smile of simultaneousness over the thousands of births and deaths – this smile of Siddhartha – was exactly the same as the calm, delicate, impenetrable, perhaps gracious, perhaps mocking, wise, thousand-fold smile of Gotama, the Buddha, as he had perceived it with awe a hundred times.  It was in such a manner, Govinda knew, that the Perfect One smiled.

Golden Buddha of Langcha, Spiti

Golden Buddha overlooking the Himalayas, Spiti Valley

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5 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Mama Wolf said,

    I have also read that section many times. What a beautiful way to express the un-expressable….

    Keep expressing, sunshine….xxxx

  2. 2

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  3. 4

    ybertaud9 said,

    In Lak’ech ❤

  4. 5

    midsummer said,

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