Siddhartha is a novel that is authored by Hermann Hesse. The novel portrays the spiritual journey of Siddhartha, which occurred during the time of Buddha. Siddhartha only sees the extremes when he commences the journey, extreme pleasure, or extreme restraint. He disputes whether extreme pleasure is the way to put to an end his suffering. However, when he tries the extreme restraint, he becomes so thin due to starvation that his mind does not function properly. Thus, Siddhartha embarks on finding his Middle Way of life. The Middle Way is the key to life that was emphasized by Buddha.
Aged 29 years, Siddhartha discovers the pain caused by illness, the sorrows caused by death, and the degradation that results from old age in the lives of ordinary people. Siddhartha wonders whether all human beings are eternally bound to the sickness, pain, and age. These issues cause Siddhartha to dedicate his life to seeking the cause and cure of human suffering. Therefore, Siddhartha abandons his home and family. Together with Govinda his companion, Siddhartha travels broadly in search of enlightenment. Initially, Siddhartha tries to follow the path of asceticism. He lives an extremely worldly life as a trader with his lover before embarking on asceticism again as he tries to achieve his goal in life. However, he realizes that self-mortification does not result to greater understanding of the human life and, he abandons the practice. One day after a lengthy meditation, Siddhartha receives enlightening on the true meaning of life. Siddhartha spends the rest of his life preaching his revealed enlightening.
In the novel, Hesse shows that experience is the best way of approaching understanding reality and attaining enlightenment. Siddhartha’s journey in search of enlightenment proves that enlightenment is not achieved through pedagogic, and methods that are dependent on the human mind. Additionally, enlightenment is not attained through indulging in worldly pleasures and the resulting pain of samsara. Understanding of the human life and enlightenment are attained through the totality of these experiences. Initially, Siddhartha adopts a life pattern of questioning the Hindu authority. While living with the samanas, Siddhartha tries to understand their teachings. However, he is unsatisfied and concludes that he will not attain bliss through asceticism. The two leave the forest to listen to the teachings of the illustrious Buddha. Gotama’s teachings enable Siddhartha realize that he will not attain enlightenment through listening to the teaching but from following a path that he must plan. Once again, Siddhartha embarks on exploring life in the material world. Over the ensuing 20 years, he is deeply entangled with the samsara. Siddhartha forgets his past teachings and commences his journey afresh. However, Siddhartha is disgusted with his life again and leaves to discover the river.
In Siddhartha’s pursuit of enlightenment, Jesse makes the river the ultimate focal point in the novel. The river plays a significant role in the novel; it acts as Siddhartha’s inspiration in attaining his ultimate goal of enlightenment. Through listening to his inner voice, and questioning the authority of Buddhism, Siddhartha is directed to the river where he discovers the concept of time. The river characterizes the ideas through which Siddhartha attains enlightenment. Siddhartha discerns the notion of time and its relation with life by listening to the river.
The Buddhism notion of timelessness is founded on the wheel of life. Buddhists perceive time as a flexible progression due to the belief in reincarnation. Thus, time is irrelevant. The river denotes timelessness since the river is found everywhere at any time; neither the past nor the future exist for the river, only the present. Time represents the notion of passing events. Similarly, the river represents a similar notion when Siddhartha perceives his life as a river of events. However, since the river is always present and in motion, time is a dynamic occurrence. The river and time are both continuous and symbolically similar; thus, the world of activities is timeless. The concept of timelessness is critical to the Buddhists understanding of life since time is useless factor due to reincarnation.
The theme of the father and son is found at the start and the end of the novel. At the very start of the novel, Siddhartha leaves his father in order to look for peace. He feels that he cannot find peace as a Brahmin. Siddhartha loves his father, an orthodox Brahmin; however, he understands that he cannot depend on his father’s wisdom to discover the truth. Siddhartha embarks on a journey to seek his own truth. The theme of the father and son is portrayed again through Siddhartha and his son. Siddhartha had a son with a courtesan; he takes care of his son after the mother dies. However, Siddhartha’s son is not fond of staying at the river; thus, he runs away from his father. This causes Siddhartha the same anguish he had caused his father years ago. Hesse uses the theme of the father and son to demonstrate the pursuit of the individual spirit that is possessed by all. The pursuit of this spirit acts to portray the unstable relationships that characterize the majority of families. Neither Siddhartha nor his son is concerned with the plight of their father; both are concerned with their own happiness and interests. The losses suffered by Siddhartha and Brahmin are critical to Siddhartha’s ultimate goal of attaining nirvana. The pain and anguish suffered are critical experiences in attaining nirvana.
Govinda is one of the main characters in the novel. He is depicted as Siddhartha’s childhood friend, a confidant, and a religious follower. Thus, Govinda depicts a characteristic of Siddhartha shadow. Govinda is depicted as a follower of Siddhartha through his journey of self-discovery. He venerates the youthful Siddhartha, similar to any person who is exposed to Brahmin’s son. Govinda subjugates his own aspirations to support Siddhartha. In the novel, Govinda is only portrayed in relation to Siddhartha. Thus, he offers additional evidence that that Hesse wanted Govinda to symbolize an aspect of Siddhartha’s personality. Additionally, Govinda is used to depict the fact that enlightenment can be achieved through different paths. Govinda relies on the teachings of others to guide him on the right path; this is a completely different path from the one used by Siddhartha. However, they both attain enlightenment. The similarities between Siddhartha and Govinda show that determination, patience, and persistence are critical in attaining spiritual awakening.