The Search for Wisdom in Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse

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The novel, Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse focuses on a young man named Siddhartha and his lifelong pursuit to attain enlightenment. Throughout his endeavor, Siddhartha follows the way of rejection and doctrines from the Samanas and Gautama the Buddha, respectively. Soon enough, however, Siddhartha realizes that following the path of others is hopeless, and he starts to look within himself to gain wisdom and become enlightened. By looking at and listening to the river, Siddhartha begins to realize who he actually is through the visions and voices that appear from the river. This helps bring Siddhartha to the conclusion that gaining wisdom is completely different than gaining knowledge. Hesse suggests, via Siddhartha, that wisdom, unlike knowledge, cannot be passed on or taught. Siddhartha’s character serves to display how wisdom can only be found through the self. While the idea of attaining enlightenment can be taught, the method or path of attaining that enlightenment cannot be taught or passed along. For most of his life, Siddhartha tries to achieve enlightenment through the rejection of his desires, thus becoming a Samana. Soon enough, however, Siddhartha realizes that the path of the Samana is not the right one for him, and soon after he starts to study the doctrine of the Buddha. Yet Siddhartha soon starts to see flaws within the Buddha’s doctrine: It came to you as you were engaged in a search of your own, upon a path of your own; it came to you through thinking, through meditation, through knowledge, through enlightenment. Not through doctrine did it come to you. And this is my thought, O Sublime One: No one will ever attain redemption through doctrine! Never, O Venerable One, will you be able to convey in words and show and ... ... middle of paper ... ... While it seems as if Siddhartha’s early stages of following the teachings of others and immersing himself in material goods did not help Siddhartha on his quest, Siddhartha views these stages in a positive way. “I experienced by observing my own body and my own soul that I sorely needed sin, sorely needed concupiscence, needed greed, vanity… and to love it and be happy to belong to it.” (120). Siddhartha states how he needed sin, vanity, and all of these feelings to realize how corrupt his view of enlightenment was. Siddhartha understands, through viewing his own body and soul, that he needs to accept the world he lives in for what it is, and learn to love it. This flaw that Siddhartha has throughout much of the novel is crucial, as Hesse is able to display how wisdom can only be achieved by looking within the self, not through the words or doctrines of others.
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