Siddhartha and Gotama; Two men, One Path
“The Buddha said that it didn’t matter what a person’s status in the world was, or what their background or wealth or nationality might be. All were capable of enlightenment.” (Boeree) In Herman Hesse's Siddhartha, Hesse splits Siddhartha Gautama (the founder of Buddhism) into two major characters in his novel, Siddhartha and Gotama Buddha. Hesse develops these characters to mirror Siddhartha Gautama's journey to enlightenment and his life as a teacher to point out the irony in the authentic Buddha's teaching and to show the reader that enlightenment is not based solely on teachings or experience.
Siddhartha by Herman Hesse is a novel about the protagonist, Siddhartha, and his journey to enlightenment. In the beginning we are introduced to a “handsome Brahmin's son,” (1) and very early in the novel we are introduced to Siddhartha's best friend, Govinda. Hesse shows us Siddhartha's life as a Samana, his encounter with Gotama Buddha, his love interest with Kamala and his life in the Samsara way, his time with Vasudeva, and ultimately his enlightenment.
Over the course of the novel we see Siddhartha's journey from early adulthood to his enlightenment. This journey is a parallel to the life of Siddhartha Gautama up to his enlightenment. According to Dr. C. George Boeree, Siddhartha Gautama was born a prince into a wealthy Brahmin family and left to live life as an ascetic (Boeree ). He then figured the extreme practices were leading him no where so he left the life of an ascetic in search of a middle way and he reached enlightenment while meditating under a fig tree (Boeree ). I feel that these similarities are not simply coincidence. Hesse intentionally mirrors Siddhartha's life after the real Buddha's life and his path to enlightenment.
Siddhartha, Hesse writes, was “a prince among Brahmins,” (2) just as Siddhartha Gautama was. “Wandering ascetics (Samanas)”, passed through Siddhartha's town and...
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