When Siddhartha’s discontent had grown to an almost frenzy, the stars aligned in his favour and a group of Samanas (ascetics – people who practiced a ruthless form of self-denial and discipline) passed through his town while on a pilgrimage. Their clothes were tattered, their backs were bloody and when they walked by, you could distinctly tell them apart from any other person. Siddhartha was immediately drawn to them and decided that he would join them the very next morning. With his friend Govinda by his side, Siddhartha joined the Samanas and became one of them but not one with them.
He lived in the forest with them, eating only once a day and wearing nothing more than a loincloth. His goal, which mirrored that of the ascetics, was to empty himself of all thirst, all hunger, all wishing, all dreaming and all feeling. This he succeeded in doing. He stood in the sun for unspeakable periods of time and let it scorch him until he no longer felt any thirst or pain. He stood in the rain and let it wet and freeze him until he could no longer feel the cold. He accustomed himself to incredible levels of pain until the concept of it was no longer familiar to him. These, and other big (and perhaps unbelievable) feats, he was able to do for three years but they were not enough.
All knowledge lies asleep in your Soul, awaiting to be awakened
One day, while begging for alms in the villages as was their custom, Siddhartha confided in Govinda that he couldn’t help but feel that life was not meant to be lived in that way at all. He admitted that he felt that he could have learnt everything he had learnt from the Samanas in a much simpler way, one that did not involve rigorous infliction of suffering on one self. Once again, a fervent discontent began rising in his chest, much like he had felt three years earlier. He had a kind of epiphany, a realization that everything he had learned to do, the self-denial, was merely fleeing from the self, a short escape from pain and the pointlessness of life that was bound to return.
“It took me a long time and am not finished learning this yet, oh Govinda: that there is nothing to be learned! There is indeed no such thing, so I believe, as what we refer to as ‘learning’. There is, oh my friend, just one knowledge, this is everywhere, this is Atman, this is within me and within you and within every creature. And so I’m starting to believe that this knowledge has no worse enemy than the desire to know it, than learning.”
There is only one knowledge, that of God, which we carry within us in our souls. All knowledge of our universe, of space and the galaxies within, of our solar system, of dark matter, of plant, animal and human life, of the earth and of the seas, all this is the knowledge of God, of Source, of the Creator. We know that this is true because when we hear it, hard as it is to imagine, on some level deep within us, it resonates with a truth whose existence we are vaguely aware of. Thus, to put it simply, to know God is to know thyself, and to know thyself is to know God.0