Kamala
Feraco
Search for Human Potential
17 October 2011
Siddhartha
 “Kamala” begins with Siddhartha
heading for the river, marveling
at the sight of the very things
which had always lain within his
vision yet never been seen for
what they were
 He resolves to see the beauty in
things, and to gain experience for
himself
 Now that he has forsaken teachings,
it’s the only kind of educator he can
tolerate
Siddhartha
 “Both thought and senses were fine things,
behind both of them lay hidden the last
meaning; it was worthwhile listening to them
both, to play with both, neither to despise
nor overrate either of them, but to listen
intently to both voices. He would only strive
after whatever the inward voice commanded
him, not tarry anywhere but where the voice
advised him…To obey no other external
command, only the voice, to be prepared –
that was good, that was necessary. Nothing
else was necessary.”
 Be careful! To follow the inner voice is
good…as long as your inner voice doesn’t
betray you
 Siddhartha’s has been good to him
Siddhartha
 Notice he controls himself when he
meets the River Girl
 If Kamala symbolizes desire and
passion, she does so while mixed with
intelligence
 The River Girl, on the other hand,
represents wanton lust – unfocused
fire that’s only enjoyable in the here
and now, the ultimate form of
suffering-causing desire
 One cannot live as children do and
hope to reach enlightenment; one
cannot follow one’s impulses blindly
and not be blinded by them
Siddhartha
 Notice he controls himself when he
meets the River Girl
 If Kamala symbolizes desire and
passion, she does so while mixed with
intelligence
 The River Girl, on the other hand,
represents wanton lust – unfocused
fire that’s only enjoyable in the here
and now, the ultimate form of
suffering-causing desire
 One cannot live as children do and
hope to reach enlightenment; one
cannot follow one’s impulses blindly
and not be blinded by them
Siddhartha
 Thus Siddhartha sizes up the
River Girl and quickly casts her
aside, choosing to pursue Kamala
(the adult version of desire and
passion: controlled, thoughtful,
studied, and technical) instead
 He can resist desire, but decides
to become its student instead
 Whether this is ultimately a mistake
is something you should consider
while writing your essay!
Siddhartha
 Kamala isn’t a prostitute – really,
there’s nothing in Western
culture that’s analogous to the
powerful, respected role she
plays here – but she represents a
central problem: the conflation of
desire with love
 Desire is one of love’s
components, but it’s not an
adequate substitute
 Kamala herself bears this out, as
she forms an emotional bond with
Siddhartha (albeit one that’s
insufficiently reciprocated)
Siddhartha
 Kamala’s also noteworthy
because she essentially goes toeto-toe with Siddhartha in their
initial conversation
 Few others hold themselves as
Siddhartha’s equal, and this
piques his interest
 Soon, he’s switching around his
identity – his hair, his clothes, etc.
– and she’s intrigued not just by
his single-mindedness, but by his
ability to read and write
(marketable skills in the town)
Siddhartha
 Success is within Siddhartha’s grasp,
as shown by the kiss Kamala gives him
 Now he just needs to take it, and he
tells her he intends to in his “stone
through the water” speech; he’s
essentially made his own luck thus far
because he knows how to “think, wait,
and fast”
 These are, of course, the three skills
he’ll forget by the time he reaches
middle age (the “Samsara” chapter)
Siddhartha
 The kiss Kamala gives transmits
pleasure, but not love; it’s an
incomplete thing
 As Kamala says, her kiss is “the
reason [she is] not lacking in clothes,
shoes, bangles, and other pretty
things”: she’s mastered one aspect of
the material world, and in return
she’s been granted access to the rest
of it
 It’s the immaterial world that poses
the challenge – a challenge that
Kamala ultimately proves she isn’t
ready to handle
Siddhartha
 Right now, Siddhartha just
needs to master the material
world to win her heart – and for
that, he’ll have Kamaswami
 “Soon I will be a merchant and
have money and all those things
which you value…May my glance
always please you, may good
fortune always come to me from
you!”
Siddhartha
 The Govinda dream – one of the
odder parts of the text – marks
the way everything Siddhartha
has ever known has already
subtly begun changing
 He’s no longer as opposed to the
sensory world (maya! desire!) as
he once was
 Note, however, that he’s still in
control – he’s a long way from
losing himself in these things
Siddhartha
 Here, as elsewhere, there’s a
rudimentary recognition of the
interconnectedness of everything – “it
tasted of woman and man, of sun and
forest, of animal and flower, of every
fruit, of every pleasure”
 As for why it’s Govinda in the dream
(besides the fact that he’s the most
powerful figure in Siddhartha’s life),
there’s a foreshadowing justification
 Siddhartha will “nurse” Govinda’s
quest for enlightenment someday, just
as Govinda will midwife his rebirth in
“By the River”
Siddhartha
 Another important character,
Vasudeva, first appears here as
well, although he’s four chapters
away from receiving a name
 He hints that one can learn
everything by studying the river,
and tells Siddhartha that
“everything comes back. You, too,
will come back.”
 Will we?
Siddhartha
 Siddhartha fundamentally misjudges
Vasudeva when he compares him to
Govinda, and in turn all of the others:
“All are subservient, all wish to be my
friend, to obey and to think little.
People are children.”
 It’s one of the most egregious
misreads he could have possibly made,
and it conveniently indicates just how
little Siddhartha really understands at
this point of his life…which is fine.
 Progress awaits!