A Listening Prayer for the Traveler

This prayer is an excerpt from the chapter The Ferryman in Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha:

Then, as the sun was about to go down, they settled at a tree trunk on the bank, and Siddhartha told the ferryman about his background, about his life, and how today, in that hour of despair, he had seen it pass before his eyes. He talked until deep into the night.

Vasudeva listened very attentively. Listening, he absorbed everything, origin and childhood, all the learning, all the seeking, all joy, all woe. One of the ferryman’s greatest virtues was that he knew how to listen like few other people. Without a word from Vasudeva, the speaker felt that the ferryman took in his words, silent, open, waiting, missing none, impatient for none, neither praising nor blaming, but only listening. Siddhartha felt what happiness it is to unburden himself to such a listener, to sink his own life into this listener’s heart, his own  seeking, his own suffering.

But toward the end of Siddhartha’s story, when he spoke about the tree by the river and about his deep despair, about the sacred om, and of how after his long slumber he had felt such deep love for the river, the ferryman listened twice as hard, utterly and thoroughly devoted, with eyes closed.