Each of us has innate desire to understand the purpose of our existence. As Hermann Hesse illustrates in his novel Siddhartha, the journey to wisdom may be difficult. Organized religion helps many to find meaning in life but it does not substitute careful introspection. An important message of Siddhartha is that to achieve enlightenment one must unite the experiences of mind, body, and spirit.
In the first part of the book, Siddhartha is consumed by his thirst for knowledge. He joined the samanas and listened to the teachings of the Buddha in attempt to discern the true way to Nirvana. Though he perfected the arts of meditation and self-denial, he realized that no teachings could show him the way to inner peace. While with the ascetics only a third of his quest was accomplished. Siddhartha said, "You have learned nothing through teachings, and so I think, O Illustrious One, that nobody finds salvation through teachings" (27). His experiences with the samanas and Gotama were essential to his inner journey because they teach him that he cannot be taught, however this knowledge alone would not deliver him to enlightenment. Siddhartha had taken the first step in his quest but without the discovery of the body and spirit, his knowledge was useless in attaining Nirvana.
The second part of the book describes Siddhartha's indulgences of the body. The narrator stated, "How many long years he had spent without any lofty goal, without any thirst, without any exaltation, content with small pleasures yet never really satisfied" (67). Though at the time he did not realize it, Siddhartha had to experience the lowliness of a material...
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...is wound was healing, his pain was dispersing; his Self had merged into unity" (111). He now understood that all things are in harmony, heading towards the same goal and he therefore knew he had no reason to mourn over his son. Siddhartha had then completed his search for inner direction and attained Nirvana through experiences of the mind, body, and spirit.
When the experiences of mind, body, and spirit are united inner direction is found and meaning is given to life. Herman Hesse documents specifically the Buddhist inner journey but this path is applicable to all faiths. He implies that we must all acknowledge the unity of everything and understand how we belong to it. Our inner journey is very personal but our goals to achieve complete love and compassion are one and the same.
Hesse, Herman. Siddhartha. Dover Publications, 1998.
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