Hermann Hesse’s novel Siddhartha is about a young man named Siddhartha. He goes through many ups and downs in his search for spiritual entitlement, which is essential to his main goal, Nirvana. In this novel, three main passages, one at the beginning, middle, and end, improve Siddhartha’s journey. The first passage is from pg.35.
This passage is significant because it is at this time that Govinda and Siddhartha go their separate ways in their search for understanding life. This is the first time that Govinda chooses his direction, being an individual not in Siddhartha’s shadows. They begin with looking for the exact search for truth, peace of mind they believe is essential for having a content or sound relationship with the world.
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The truth which Siddhartha and Govinda are searching for is a universal understanding of life. Siddhartha and Govinda both desire to understand their lives through spirituality and look to do this by reaching Nirvana. They both start with the belief that finding Nirvana is possible. Even though Nirvana leads to a perfect relationship with the world and is an end goal that almost every person hopes to reach, Siddhartha and Govinda different in what they are willing to do in search of this truth. In Siddhartha’s case, when he becomes suspicious that one path may lead to a dead-end, he quickly changes his course.
He is willing to abandon the path of the Brahmins for the path of the Samanas, leave the Samanas for Gotama, and then make a sudden change from spiritual teachers to the material world with Kamala and Kamaswami. He does not surrender in his search and instead continues to follow whatever path becomes available if he has not yet reached Nirvana. Govinda is less flexible and open in his search for spiritual enlightenment. In his journey, he restricts himself to the spiritual and religious world and persists in his need for teachers.
Even though Siddhartha is willing to step away from religion and leave the teachings he has learned, Govinda is only willing to find the truth within the narrow religions Hinduism or Buddhism and is only willing to accept it if a respected teacher teaches it. As a result, Govinda cannot see the truth around him because he is limited by his belief that truth will appear in the way his teachers have taught him. This difference between Siddhartha’s merciless search and Govinda’s limited search is the reason why Govinda can attain enlightenment only through an act of on Siddhartha. In contrast, Siddhartha can find truth through his power.
The second passage is on page 99. I think this passage is the critical point of insignificance in Siddhartha’s journey for enlightenment because it is at this moment that he realizes that he will not look for truth and enlightenment through teachings. He realizes that he can only find what he is looking for through experience. He understands that teachers cannot reach enlightenment because it cannot be taught; enlightenment must come from within you.
Siddhartha begins looking for enlightenment by looking for external guidance from religions and extremes through Brahmins, Samanas, and Buddhists. When they fall short of bringing him the knowledge and guidance he needs, he leaves them for Kamala and Kamaswami for the material world and again uses an outside source in his search. Unfortunately, these sources also fall short of teaching him wisdom, and he knows he must now find wisdom on his own. This realization comes from within him. Siddhartha leaves the Brahmins, the Samanas, Gotama, and the material world because he feels personally displeased, not because a person or a religion tells him to go.
His eventual realization of Nirvana does not come from someone giving him the wisdom but instead finds the answer within himself. He finally looks inside himself to understand what is necessary for him to reach enlightenment. I found this very significant because it is only when you can make your own decisions and decide what is suitable for you as a person that you can start being at peace with yourself; because you understand the decisions you make are only your own, and if things go wrong or correct, the only person responsible for them is yourself.
A large part of being at peace with the world and experiencing Atman is being contented with who you are, and if you are not pleased with your choices and judgments, enlightenment is almost impossible. Many times people are so concerned with what others are telling them. The right thing to do is that they look past the necessities that they need for themselves. The third passage is on page 102. The river in Siddhartha represents life, time, and the path to enlightenment. As a representation of life, it provides knowledge without actually speaking words.
One significant piece of information about the river is how the water is always coming back repeatedly, but it is never the same. The molecules are different and constantly moving and changing, and the water picks up new objects along the way and then has it washed away. However, the water always returns in some way or another. In the same way, this can represent Siddhartha because his journey started by the river after he left Buddha and ended there as well once he became a ferryman. Although he came back changed and filled with knowledge and peace and was a new person, he was also in ways the same Siddhartha.
The river flowed constantly, just as life always does. Life is always changing and growing, and to stop a current of water is like stopping the foreseeable change of life. It’s not something that can be done. Siddhartha recognizes this and I believe this is part of the reason why he was so attached to the river. It teaches him that life is forever changing and growing. The river is so important to Siddhartha because every time he goes through his journey to enlightenment from one extreme to another, he always ends up at his river and it provides him with the chance to see inside himself for what he truly wants.