Comparing The Journeys Of Hesse's Siddhartha And Gandhi

2065 words - 8 pages

     Siddhartha and Gandhi strove for different goals during their lives. Siddhartha's goal was very personal, while Gandhi's goal encompassed the world. This was shown by their spiritual development throughout their journeys. Siddhartha evolved from an inexperienced spiritual being to a man, returned to spirituality, and ended with nirvana. Gandhi traveled a much straighter path, originally being a worldly man merely seeking his correct place in life, when his spiritual development unexpectedly produced a great world leader; in Gandhi's own words, a politician trying to be a saint. Siddhartha and Gandhi's main goals were always different, but they traveled similar paths at times.

Siddhartha's goal was to find nirvana. He constantly sought this, in many different ways with many different teachers. He wanted to be at one with the higher being, to be at one with the higher Self, with Atman. "One must find the source within one's own Self, one must possess it...These were Siddhartha's thoughts; this was his thirst, his sorrow" (Hesse 8). Thus Siddhartha sought nirvana constantly, and this was his only care.

Siddhartha's path lead him through constant re-evaluations, keeping him focused on himself. He began as the son of a wealthy Brahmin, sheltered from the real world and any experience with it, but having the best education he could obtain. He began his life at home, as a thinker, possessing wisdom and thoughts he had yet to earn through experience.

Seeking nirvana, Siddhartha assessed his situation and came to the conclusion that he had learned all there was to learn from his home and his teachers there. So he found new teachers, the Samanas. Through their teachings, he could only find the higher self by killing his personal self. "When all the Self was conquered and dead, when all passions and desires were silent, then the last must awaken, the innermost of Being that is no longer Self-the great secret!" (Hesse 14). Siddhartha accordingly sought to lose himself, but only succeeded in returning to himself. At this point, Siddhartha, the self-centered thinker, re-evaluated his path to nirvana. He came to the conclusion that all teachings were useless, that he would have to find his own way to the state of higher being. He expressed this to the Samanas, and to the Illustrious One, Buddha, whose teachings his faithful shadow, Govinda, accepted. "To nobody, O Illustrious One, can you communicate in words and teachings what happened to you in your hour of enlightenment" (Hesse 34). At this point, Siddhartha rejected all doctrines and teachings, believing experience to be the only true teacher, and set off on his quest again.

Free of all thought and all connections but of those to himself, Siddhartha crossed a river, and entered the town. Here was where Siddhartha gained the experience he had never before had. He believed himself to have no teacher of doctrines or wisdom, but Kamala, the courtesan, and Kamaswami, the merchant,...

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