Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse is about a man’s journey to find inner peace and happiness. Throughout the novel, Siddhartha had constantly taken risks that he believed would lead him to nirvana. He would take these risks even if it meant leaving his family, his best friend, and having to live as a poor man searching for himself. Siddhartha has many teachers during his journey. Although he had many teachers he believed that with or without them he would have learned what he needed to learn to attain nirvana.
Siddhartha was a young boy living in the wealthy part of India with his parents. His father, a rich and powerful priest taught him how to read people. At an early stage in his life, Siddhartha could understand people and could hold conversations with the best of even the elders. He was a very impressionable young fellow, and also was very handsome. Siddhartha was supposed to take after his father and be a Brahmin, He too was to become rich and powerful.
Siddhartha hears the preaching of many priests. By the time Siddhartha was a teenage boy, he had already made up his mind that he had learned everything he could learn from elders and his teacher. He developed this thirst for more knowledge, he seemed to be a “ vessel with their richness, and the vessel was not full, the spirit was not content, the soul was not calm, the heart was not satisfied.” PG11.
He was not happy and needed to find other ways that would help him find what he is looking for.
He needed to go out into the world to find out who he really is. Siddhartha told his father he wanted to go wandering, seeking knowledge, and he wanted to take no possessions with him. He wanted to become a Samana. His father disagreed with him, and Siddhartha threw a tantrum. He protested his father’s disagreement by standing by a window all night long. His father eventually gives into Siddhartha’s wishes and agrees to let him go. His father says to him “When you’ll have found blissfulness in the forest, then come back and teach me to be blissful. If you’ll find disappointment, then return and let us once again make offerings to the gods together”. Pg 18. So Siddhartha set out on his quest for knowledge, his friend Govinda accompanied him.
The first teacher that Siddhartha had was the Samanas. He joins the Samanas and thinks he would like their lifestyle. Siddhartha followed their path for a few years and learned much from them. On his journey with the Samanas, he learns many things from them like how to separate himself from want, and to divide spirit and body. Although he had learned much he came to a decision to leave the Samanas. Siddhartha was grateful for their teachings, but in the end, he believed he could have learned everything that they had taught him on his own.
Then he seeks happiness through material things and pleasures of the body. After this path fails to provide him with the peace for which he searches, he follows Buddha. He had accomplished the eightfold path and the four noble truths in a short time but soon realizes that Buddha’s teaching will not lead him to his goal. He goes on a new journey to see Buddha, leaving his friend with Buddha and himself ending up in a village called Samsara.
While on his journey to find enlightenment Siddhartha meets a beautiful girl named Kamala. After he meets her she decides to teach him everything she knows about making love. Siddhartha has some type of relationship with Kamala for a while. Siddhartha also becomes friends with Kamaswami who is a merchant. Siddhartha starts to work with Kamaswami and likes it at first, but once again he starts to lose himself. He began to change and became materialistic. This point in the story is when he is most like a regular person. “Then Siddhartha knew that the game was finished, that he could play no longer.” This quote from the book shows that Siddhartha realized he has changed and he wants to go back to his old ways, so he decides to leave Kamala and Kamaswami.
In Samsara he becomes further than he’s ever been from attaining Nirvana, but again in the end it’s for the best. He becomes like the “normal” people he has always seen himself better than. He gets depressed, takes on gambling, and becomes fond of the drink. His gambling driven by his hate of greed, and the desire to show his hatred causes him to earn more and more to repeat the vicious cycle. As much as this looks like the worst thing that could have happened, it is really the best. Siddhartha realizes the spiritual state he was seeking is lost by his “new” life. He goes to the river he once crossed, in hopes of drowning himself and the pain he feels being so far from his “Self”.
Crying from the death of Kamala, as Siddhartha realizes life has many meanings when Siddhartha continues down the road until he meets Vasudeva by the ferry again; the stage of transcendence begins. In the river, Siddhartha sees images come together, just as he hears voices come together. “He saw that the water continually flowed and flowed and yet it was always there, it was always the same and yet every moment it was new. ” More years passed and Siddhartha learned many more secrets from the river. Siddhartha and his son who ” left the river and headed back to the town ” where Siddhartha’s life began. Siddhartha’s “life goes around in a cycle ” when he realizes that he gained the wisdom from his journey that he can pass it on to his son. Siddhartha not only experienced the stage of the mind, the stage of the flesh, and the stage of transcendence, but he overcame them so well that he eventually achieved a great peace inside of him. Siddhartha lives with himself and life and is able to completely experience what the meaning of life really meant. Also, he experiences enlightenment by accomplishing his goals.
In the beginning, Siddhartha is having trouble finding peace and discovering the path to enlightenment. Siddhartha’s interactions with his family, the samanas, and the Buddha help Siddhartha to realize that enlightenment cannot be achieved with the guidance of a teacher. In the very beginning, Siddhartha’s father is the one who teaches Siddhartha about his culture and spirituality. Siddhartha is very young when he masters all his father’s teachings and realizes that, “his father was to be admired, quiet and noble were his manners, pure his life, wise his words, delicate and noble thoughts lived behind its brow—but even he, who knew so much, did he live in bliss?
The main theme in Siddhartha is reaching enlightenment without the guidance of a teacher or mentor. Siddhartha believes that he must learn from himself, and the guidance of another teacher will only distort his goals of reaching enlightenment. Siddhartha says that he must, “I want to learn from myself, want to be my student, want to get to know myself, the secret of Siddhartha.”pg.45 Siddhartha also shows even though one may have a goal in mind there are many paths. In this story, Siddhartha and his friend Govinda have the same goal, and the two friends end up taking separate paths. Hesse expresses that everyone has a journey in their life, such as the Brahmin has a journey to reach Nirvana, to become the “Illustrious One.”