Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse is the story of a young Brahmin who ventures off in the world to find the meaning of life. His journey begins as a young Brahmin who excelled in life but felt he was missing something and ends as a wise man that has found peace within him. Throughout the book, Hesse allows the reader to connect with Siddhartha and watch as he grows through his experiences, and people with whom he comes in contact. During his journey, Siddhartha, makes many choices which leads to path of life which is marked by self-discovery and independence. Siddhartha grows as a person through three main occurrences: his meeting with Buddha, his attempted suicide, and his time spent with his son, as they all contribute to his finding of himself.
Siddhartha’s meeting with Gotama, the Buddha, is the first experience that contributes to his path of self-discovery. After several years of living the ascetic life of a Samana, Siddhartha decides to seek out Gotama, “The Illustrious One,” as a teacher or mentor in his journey to find his inner self. After their meeting, however, Siddhartha becomes more convinced that the Buddha’s teachings only apply to the Buddha himself, because it is what the Buddha has learned on his own path to nirvana, and Siddharthas path may differ. Siddhartha is convinced that he must find his path himself if he wishes to find nirvana. He understands that the Buddha had a remarkable experience, but it is a personal one. Siddhartha realizes that he must live his own life and make his own choices in order to learn from them.
The second experience that puts Siddhartha on a path to himself is his attempted suicide. When leaving Gotama, Siddhartha deserts his life as an ascetic and decides to explore his worldly needs and lives the life of a lover, merchant, and gambler. As a student he is taught the art of love by Kamala and the game of riches by Kamaswami. Siddhartha who was an ascetic becomes self centered, greedy, and no longer can “think, fast, and write”, which were his key traits. His time in the village is marked by a moral demise that is not what he wishes to seek. Siddhartha who was an ascetic and was insulted and sickened by material possessions now tastes the life of riches and is swimming in sin and has played the game of Samsara. His time spent in the village is leading him closer to the discovery of himself. His growth is evident in his leaving the village after becoming disgusted with the life that he has lived in the village. At this point he attempts suicide, Siddhartha has experienced both the lives of the rich man and the poor ascetic, and was capable of choosing which path suits him best.
The final experience in Siddhartha’s journey to himself was the discovery of his son, Little Siddhartha. After Kamala’s death, Siddhartha is left to raise the son he never knew that he had. Raising Little Siddhartha was not easy for him. Unlike his father, Little Siddhartha was ignorant and spoilt. Siddhartha was unable to communicate with the boy, and would do anything to make his son content. The unappreciative son, however, unable to acknowledge Siddhartha’s sacrifice for him ventured out by his self just as his father had when he was a young man. After a period of remorse Siddhartha came to the realization that the pain he felt was caused by the love for his son. This pain, however, is the final step in his path to himself. By learning to love, something, which he told Kamala that he would never be able to do, Siddharthas has completed his journey. By learning to love and learning to let go, Siddhartha places the final piece in the puzzle of self-discovery.
In conclusion, Siddhartha’s nirvana can be traced to events that allowed him to seek out his individuality. His meeting with Buddha led him to see that an individual makes his/her own experiences; his experience in the village allowed him to unlock the person, whom he had never explored; and the time with his son gave him the opportunity to experience love. Siddhartha’s journey was determined by the choices that he made himself. Part of his self-discovery was made by good choices, while suffering the consequences of others.