“Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse Essay

Alex Millard Mr. Ammer English II Honors September 26, 2012 Siddhartha The important decisions one makes throughout a lifetime; those decisions that strive towards a coveted goal, possess purpose. In Herman Hesse’s book, Siddhartha, the main character named Siddhartha embarks on a life journey striving for enlightenment. Throughout Siddhartha’s life journey, the three most predominant events are the excitement of meeting the Buddha that quickly fades into a realization of great contribution to his search, his enchanting encounters with Kamala, and his time spent with the river and Vasudeva who ultimately reveal the path to enlightenment.

The character Gotama, also known as the Buddha or the Illustrious One, is what entices Siddhartha to leave the Samanas and what opens Siddhartha’s eyes to a truth about his self-searching journey. For many years now Siddhartha’s life was that of an ascetic Samana; a beggar, wandering through town after town, rejecting the senses and emotions of the meaningless lies of the world. Following the path of self-denial through pain, Sidhartha excels greatly in his new spiritual way of life and even surpasses his once teachers, and yet… He still thirsts for knowledge, for more.

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Siddhartha realizes that if he intends on following the Samana way his entire life, he’ll never reach enlightenment, never move forward. Boredom takes over his ritualistic life. Rumors that emerge talking of a man who has reached enlightenment, reignites a spark in Siddhartha that once burned for the Samana life. The excitement of the news of Buddha is enough to convince Siddhartha to depart from the Samanas and seek this miraculous enlightened man.

Upon arriving at Gotama’s camp of followers, Siddhartha happens upon Gotama himself in the grove. Siddhartha expresses his admiration of the enlightened man along with his concerns of becoming a follower, “You have learned nothing through teachings, and so I think, O Illustrious One, that nobody finds salvation through teachings. To nobody, O Illustrious One, can you communicate in words and teachings what happened to you in the hour of your enlightenment. (Hesse 34). A huge realization smacks Siddhartha into a whole new state of being. Teachers and teachings will in no way aid his quest for enlightenment, all he needs to guide is himself. Finally achieving his first milestone towards the salvation he so covets, Siddhartha now takes on a task of great unfamiliarity to him. Marking the end of his journey through the spiritual world, Siddhartha now treads into the unknown lands of the material world.

The material world changes Siddhartha in many ways and teaches him lessons that, in the spiritual world, would never have as much impact and or intent. A significant character in Siddhartha’s new life is Kamala. The beautiful courtesan agrees to “teach” Siddhartha the ways of love and romance with the requirement that he makes himself more presentable, rich, and that of someone belonging to a higher society. Eager to learn Siddhartha changes his clothes, becomes apprentice to Kamaswami the merchant, and makes a name and a life for himself.

As always Siddhartha excels and the plagues and characteristics of the rich consume him, “ […] gradually his face assumed the expressions which are so often found among the rich people—the expressions of discontent, of sickliness, of displeasure, of idleness, of lovelessness. Slowly the soul sickness of the rich crept over him. ” (Hesse 78). Siddhartha gambles, snickers at those less fortunate than he, dines excessively and richly, loses himself in the dangerous and enticing game of libations, and cares for money as he once did for enlightenment.