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Siddhartha and Hinduism/Buddhism

Mar 23, 2001 1171 Words
Alyssa Landon
Religion 105
Paper #1
3/8/01

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse discusses the many paths of teaching that relate to Hinduism that Siddhartha followed on his journey through life and how each path helped him realize what he wanted with his life. Siddhartha follows many teachings or paths in which to reach his spiritual destination, which at the beginning was to reach Nirvana.

The four stages of life choices, which favor both renunciation and world upholding, are 1) student 2) householder 3) forest hermit and 4) wandering ascetic (Ghose, 1/18/01). In the book, Siddhartha participated in each of these lifestyles for a significant amount of time. Unlike his father, Siddhartha did not want to be a Brahmin. He thought his calling was to be a samana, which is very similar, if not an interchangeable term for wandering ascetic. Siddhartha and his beloved friend Govinda were at heart destined to be samanas. Siddhartha bid farewell to his family renouncing material wealth and sensual pleasure as in two of the four aims of life. They wander into the woods to concentrate and try to reach the heightened sensation that is to come with being closer to realizing Nirvana. During his journey with the samanas, he learned to follow many paths that took him away from his self-centered ego. By following and voluntarily suffering through, and eventually overcoming things such as pain, hunger, thirst and fatigue, he was getting closer to what the samanas thought was pure and good. Although he would leave his ego, behind when enduring those scenarios he always came back to his ego, what he and Govinda were working for had only been a lesson in the many teachings and sets of goals they must accomplish to reach the ultimate goal they wanted; redemption (Hesse 14-17).

Their journey as samanas and students in the stages of life leads them to questioning the path that they were following, where these teaching helping them were they leading them on the right path? "There is, I believe, no such thing as what we call ‘learning.' O my friend, only one knowledge: it is everywhere, it is Atman, it is in me and in you and in every being. And I am starting to believe that this knowledge has no worse enemy than the wish to know, than learning (Hesse 18)." Siddhartha and Govinda spend three years, as samanas in which Siddhartha's soul feels not fulfilled. After these three years, a man they refer to as Gautama, the Sublime one, the Buddha. Govinda chooses to follow the teaching of Gautama. Siddhartha parted from Govinda to leave behind the childhood memories and with that decision, he felt at peace, he had renounced friendship too. He was no longer going to leave himself behind and begin his day with the thinking of Atman. Atman is the subject of knowledge (Smart 203). His identity was plain and simple, Siddhartha, the awakened one, not his father's son and not a Brahmin. (Hesse 38).

Siddhartha never fully reached the definition of a householder by raising a family but held a position that would be deemed householder by our society today. Siddhartha found his way into the village after leaving Govinda and saw Kamala who propositioned herself to him and his sensual pleasure that he had suppressed for years while following the samanas was awakened. Siddhartha for many years was Kamala's lover and helped him to become a rich merchant and have all the personal wealth he had taught himself not to want for most of his life. His ego was the focus of his life. He followed the teachings of greed and personal prosperity, everything he once disbelieved that was right for him. After years of pleasure and learning that, he was not amazed and entertained by the simple pleasures that gave him such joy many years before. He found those simple pleasures distasteful and he realized why being a merchant was not his choice of life choice. As he chooses to leave Kamala and that life behind, he doesn't realize that he has fulfilled a quota of being a householder. At the time he leaves, Kamala is pregnant with Siddhartha's son.

Siddhartha once again he renounces the traditional teaching of society and goes off to find his way with the instincts that he possesses. "Full of disgust and distress, he had even wanted to throw it away. But he had come to his senses by a river, under a coconut tree, with the sacred word Om on his lips, whereupon he had fallen asleep. And now he had awakened and was looking at the world as a new man (Hesse 79-80)." Om the sacred word of the Brahmin, with the word brings peace and serenity. He never thought his father's teaching of the Brahma would be the relief he would resort to. The feeling of Om was heard and felt by him after reaching such a point of despair that suicide was contemplated. He had to experience the worst to experience grace and to bring the thoughts of Atman and Brahmin back to him. He was again a new and awakened person learning from his past mistakes.

Siddhartha tries to learn the way of the ferryman Vesudeva and the river. The river has a language all it's own which sings to Siddhartha and enlightens him in ways that he has never been to before. Vesudeva pointed him in the direction of the river so Siddhartha could learn its message all on his own. Siddhartha finds the true teaching that makes him truly happy which is ironically to follow the life of a Brahmin, the one thing he didn't want to be in his youth. Vesudeva waited for Siddhartha to realize the revolutionary thought that everything in the world was together as one. The wholeness and the oneness of the river communicated him to show him serenity and understanding. The river also provoked a thought that gave him the understanding that of why as a child he had to leave the teachings of the teachers "wisdom cannot be communicated. Wisdom that a wise man tries to communicate always sounds foolish. Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. We can find it, we can live it, we can be carried by it, we can work wonders with it, but we cannot utter it or teach it (Hesse 123-4)."

Siddhartha's followed many paths in his life. Each of his paths led him to another lesson or teaching that furthered his quest for his spiritual destination. He experienced all aspects of life, from rich to poor, lonely to companionship, stranger to lover and from guest to friend. By going through those path changes, his emotions and mind were put to the test and succeeded. The paths and four different types of living made his spiritual journey a successful one and that is why he reached the highest of ‘wholeness and oneness' feeling he did.

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