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Meaning Of The River In Siddhartha

1291 words - 5 pages

Meaning of the River in Siddhartha


Siddhartha, in Herman Hesse's novel, Siddhartha, is a young, beautiful, and intelligent Brahmin, a member of the highest and most spiritual castes of the Hindu religion, and has studied the teachings and rituals of his religion with an insatiable thirst for knowledge. Inevitably, with his tremendous yearning for the truth and desire to discover the Atman within himself he leaves his birthplace to join the Samanas. With the Samanas he seeks to release himself from the cycle of life by extreme self-denial but leaves the Samanas after three years to go to Gotama Buddha. Siddhartha is impressed by the blissful man but decides to lead his own path. He sleeps in the ferryman's hut and crosses the river where he encounters Kamala, a beautiful courtesan, who teaches him how to love. He is disgusted with himself and leaves the materialistic life and he comes to the river again. He goes to Vasudeva, the ferryman he met the first time crossing the river. They become great friends and both listen and learn from the river. He sees Kamala again but unfortunately, she dies and leaves little Siddhartha with the ferrymen. He now experience for the first time in his life true love. His son runs away and Siddhartha follows him but he realizes he cannot bring him back. He learns from the river that time does not exist, everything is united, and the way to peace is through love.  Siddhartha undergoes an archetypal quest to achieve spiritual transcendence. During his journey, he both embraces and rejects asceticism and materialism only to ultimately achieve philosophical wisdom "by the river".


          When Siddhartha is still just a young Brahmin he begins to question his beliefs and he asks himself, " Where was this Self, this innermost? It was not flesh and bone, it was not thought or consciousness. That was what the wise men taught. Where then was it?"(6). He is thinking of taking another path to the self because he believes that he learned as much as he can from the Brahmins. With the Samanas his lifestyle changes dramatically and " [he] had one single goal-to become empty, to become empty of thirst, desire, dreams, pleasure and sorrow- to let the Self die"(14). As a Samana, he wanted to let the Self die in order to reach the secret of pure being. The Samanas believed they could lose the Self through meditation, fasting, and holding of breath. In a relatively short time with the Samanas he is already on the path to becoming a great Samana. When he went through a village he his view of things was that " everything lied, stank of lies; they were all illusions of sense, happiness and beauty"(14). He called the people "child people" because their whole life was materialistic and they were always concerned with trivial matters. Govinda could see that Siddhartha would become an important Samana but Siddhartha became...

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