Meaning of the River in Siddhartha

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Meaning of the River in Siddhartha

Siddhartha, in Herman Hesse's novel, Siddhartha, is a young, beautiful, and intelligent Brahmin, a member of the highest and most spiritual castes of the Hindu religion, and has studied the teachings and rituals of his religion with an insatiable thirst for knowledge. Inevitably, with his tremendous yearning for the truth and desire to discover the Atman within himself he leaves his birthplace to join the Samanas. With the Samanas he seeks to release himself from the cycle of life by extreme self-denial but leaves the Samanas after three years to go to Gotama Buddha. Siddhartha is impressed by the blissful man but decides to lead his own path. He sleeps in the ferryman's hut and crosses the river where he encounters Kamala, a beautiful courtesan, who teaches him how to love. He is disgusted with himself and leaves the materialistic life and he comes to the river again. He goes to Vasudeva, the ferryman he met the first time crossing the river. They become great friends and both listen and learn from the river. He sees Kamala again but unfortunately, she dies and leaves little Siddhartha with the ferrymen. He now experience for the first time in his life true love. His son runs away and Siddhartha follows him but he realizes he cannot bring him back. He learns from the river that time does not exist, everything is united, and the way to peace is through love. Siddhartha undergoes an archetypal quest to achieve spiritual transcendence. During his journey, he both embraces and rejects asceticism and materialism only to ultimately achieve philosophical wisdom "by the river".

When Siddhartha is ...

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...n, and all of the enjoyments and lavishes. He becomes entrapped in Samsara, the physical world, characterized by repeated cycles of birth, but finally breaks out of it after twenty years and returns to the river. At the river he joins the simple life of Vasudeva, according to Carl Yung would be considered the wise old man archetype, and for the next twenty years he listens and learns from the river. The river is no longer the divider between the material and spiritual worlds but now it symbolizes a unity in which past, present, and future, all people and their experiences, all features of life flow together. Siddhartha comes to realize that there is no conflict between the spiritual and the material, that all human occurrences are to be accepted, and that the only difference between the ordinary people and the sages is that the sages understand this unity.
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