“I knew it. You don’t force him, don’t beat him, don’t give him orders, because you know that ‘soft’ is stronger than ‘hard’, Water stronger than rocks, love stronger than force. Very good, I praise you. But aren’t you mistaken in thinking that you wouldn’t force him, wouldn’t punish him? Don’t you shackle him with your love? Don’t you make him feel inferior every day, and don’t you make it even harder on him with your kindness and patience? Don’t you force him, the arrogant and pampered boy, to live in a hut with two old banana-eaters, to whom even rice is a delicacy, whose thoughts can’t be his, whose hearts are old and quiet and beats in a different pace than his? Isn’t forced, isn’t he punished by all this?”
Troubled, Siddhartha looked to the ground. Quietly, he asked: “What do you think should I do?”
Quoth Vasudeva: “Bring him into the city, bring him into his mother’s house, there’ll still be servants around, give him to them. And when there aren’t any around any more, bring him to a teacher, not for the teachings’ sake, but so that he shall be among other boys, and among girls, and in the world which is his own. Have you never thought of this?”
“You’re seeing into my heart,” Siddhartha spoke sadly. “Often, I have thought of this. But look, how shall I put him, who had no tender heart anyhow, into this world? Won’t he become exuberant, won’t he lose himself to pleasure and power, won’t he repeat all of his father’s mistakes, won’t he perhaps get entirely lost in Sansara?”
Brightly, the ferryman’s smile lit up; softly, he touched Siddhartha’s arm and said: “Ask the river about it, my friend! Hear it laugh about it! Would you actually believe that you had committed your foolish acts in order to spare your son from committing them too? And could you in any way protect your son from Sansara? How could you? By means of teachings, prayer, admonition? My dear, have you entirely forgotten that story, that story containing so many lessons, that story about Siddhartha, a Brahman’s son, which you once told me here on this very spot? Who has kept the Samana Siddhartha safe from Sansara, from sin, from greed, from foolishness? Were his father’s religious devotion, his teachers warnings, his own knowledge, his own search able to keep him safe? Which father, which teacher had been able to protect him from living his life for himself, from soiling himself with life, from burdening himself with guilt, from drinking the bitter drink for himself, from finding his path for himself? Would you think, my dear, anybody might perhaps be spared from taking this path? That perhaps your little son would be spared, because you love him, because you would like to keep him from suffering and pain and disappointment? But even if you would die ten times for him, you would not be able to take the slightest part of his destiny upon yourself.”
Never before, Vasudeva had spoken so many words. Kindly, Siddhartha thanked him, went troubled into the hut, could not sleep for a long time. Vasudeva had told him nothing, he had not already thought and known for himself. But this was a knowledge he could not act upon, stronger than the knowledge was his love for the boy, stronger was his tenderness, his fear to lose him. Had he ever lost his heart so much to something, had he ever loved any person thus, thus blindly, thus sufferingly, thus unsuccessfully, and yet thus happily?
Siddhartha could not heed his friend’s advice, he could not give up the boy. He let the boy give him orders, he let him disregard him. He said nothing and waited; daily, he began the mute struggle of friendliness, the silent war of patience. Vasudeva also said nothing and waited, friendly, knowing, patient. They were both masters of patience.
At one time, when the boy’s face reminded him very much of Kamala, Siddhartha suddenly had to think of a line which Kamala a long time ago, in the days of their youth, had once said to him. “You cannot love,” she had said to him, and he had agreed with her and had compared himself with a star, while comparing the childlike people with falling leaves, and nevertheless he had also sensed an accusation in that line. Indeed, he had never been able to lose or devote himself completely to another person, to forget himself, to commit foolish acts for the love of another person; never he had been able to do this, and this was, as it had seemed to him at that time, the great distinction which set him apart from the childlike people. But now, since his son was here, now he, Siddhartha, had also become completely a childlike person, suffering for the sake of another person, loving another person, lost to a love, having become a fool on account of love. Now he too felt, late, once in his lifetime, this strongest and strangest of all passions, suffered from it, suffered miserably, and was nevertheless in bliss, was nevertheless renewed in one respect, enriched by one thing.
He did sense very well that this love, this blind love for his son, was a passion, something very human, that it was Sansara, a murky source, dark waters. Nevertheless, he felt at the same time, it was not worthless, it was necessary, came from the essence of his own being. This pleasure also had to be atoned for, this pain also had to be endured, these foolish acts also had to be committed.