Recently I have finished reading a book called “Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse.
Why did I pick this book? Maybe I was expecting to gain some wisdom.
Yes. I did. Of course I did.
There are many pages in the book pouring down some ultimate truths. But my favourite line throughout the book is when Siddhartha, a young man seeking discovery of the self, said, “I CAN THINK. I CAN WAIT. I CAN FAST.”
The line might seem trivial. If we care enough to think about it, however, there is so much that we can learn from it. We humans are always seeking ‘something’ in our lives. And unfortunately, many times we don’t have the slightest idea what that ‘something’ is. We have longings for materials. We have more attachment for ‘things’ and not ‘people’. We seem to be trapped in a vicious circle of desires where fulfilment of one doesn’t guarantee happiness and contentment. As soon as we accomplish A we turn our attention to B without even taking a moment to celebrate the A. It is not wrong to have goals and ambitions. We must have something to ‘look forward to’ or else we’d be walking dead. At the same time, there is a fine line between being satisfied with what we have or accomplished and desiring for more. Whoever sees the line clearly learns to stay blissful.
When Siddhartha told he could think, wait and fast he did not mean that he could not do the other things. Of course he could. But he emphasised on three key qualities which are worthy enough to be pondered upon. No matter what facts we know. No matter how smart or intelligent we think we are. No matter how big or mediocre or small we think our dreams are. If we cannot harness our ability to think deeply and constructively, to have some patience and satisfaction in life and control our instant gratifications then everything will be in vain.
I CAN THINK
We all think. Thinking is an integral part of our lives. We are a lot because of our ability to think. Interestingly, mere thinking is not enough. What’s important is the quality of our thoughts that is manifesting our process of thinking. Like Sam Harris mentioned in his book “Waking UP- Searching for Spirituality without Religion”, “The problem is not thoughts themselves but the state of thinking without knowing that we are thinking.” We all have negative and positive thoughts. And that’s okay because it is a result of evolutionary processes happening since millions of years. At the same time we must not forget to develop how to think constructively whenever a negative/bad event takes place in our lives. Constructive thinking helps us gain a better perspective of the external world and guides us further to minimize friction with the external environment.
Majority of the people, nowadays, are not deep but shallow. They don’t bother getting much into the core of at least some things. And this is very unfortunate because superficiality in anything especially in thoughts will only alleviate the symptoms & not the problems of our lives. Therefore, deep thinking should be practiced by making sure we are not turning into chronic over-thinkers.
I CAN WAIT
Patience is the key. We have heard this innumerable times. Sadly, we don’t actually understand what patience is all about. At least that’s what I believe. People who are hard-working, tenacious, opportunists and most importantly patient can manage to accomplish what they are seeking. It is because they know how and when to wait. They know good things take time and no one ever gets anything without keeping some patience. Siddhartha knew this very well.
I CAN FAST
Many people are going to comprehend the last key quality/ability of Siddhartha in terms of modern concepts like intermittent fasting. While intermittent fasting is beneficial for our physical and mental health this is a completely different area of which I will be talking about in my future posts. What my analysis is that by fasting Siddhartha is referring to having control over ID which is the source of instant gratifications. We must learn and teach ourselves to never sacrifice future pleasures for short term ones. That does not mean to be constantly putting experiencing pleasures in the moment on hold for future which is not guaranteed. But we must know how to experience pain in the moment for a better future. From time to time we should experience what it’s like to be devoid of something for some time.
Reading Siddhartha and coming across such a powerful sentence can never run short of imparting wisdom. Life is not a destination and we should not expect to become wise at any one point in life. Rather it is a journey and becoming wise is a process and each day we can become better than the day before.