At first I found Manali overwhelming so I sat quietly in an outside restaurant, ate an English breakfast and looked at the light coming through the pine trees. I was reading Hesse’s Siddhartha and was strangely moved by it.

Siddhartha, like the Buddha, first became an aesthete. He later seeks to join him as a follower, indeed his friend Govinda stays as a monk and pledges himself to Buddha. But what is interesting is that Siddhartha realises that however holy a man the Buddha is he must find his own way. He mustn’t rely on a teacher. He cannot just be a follower. The word Siddhartha, a compound of “siddha” and “artha” in Sanskrit means “the wealth of a fulfilled aim” and the protagonist’s journey of enlightenment attests to this.

I meditated a lot on this as I noticed the light through the pine trees at Manali. I too don’t just want to be a follower. Too many people grab and hold on to their first religious experience. Whilst it is unfair to label this as the easy option it is worth striving to lead through ones experiences and perhaps only then, one can enjoy the wealth of a fulfilled aim, as Siddhartha does. It came to me strongly that all religions are largely man made, embellishing the simple teachings of the founder.