Siddharta's Journey to Self Enlightenment

Siddharta's Journey to Self Enlightenment

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Siddhartha is a novel about the ultimate quest every man must take in life. The protagonist Siddhartha is on a quest of the self. The ultimate question, why are we here? He is on a quest to lose one self and find Nirvana. Which religion or way of living is the most divine? He is also on a quest to achieve enlightenment. The author of this novel is Hermann Hesse. He was born in the German Empire in the year of 1877. He wrote Siddhartha in 1922. It has similarities to many other works of the same time period and from the same region. Just like other novels of the same time the themes are clear. Which are issues of religion, morality, and love. In the end we learn it is just the circular cycle of life. The book takes place in India and has many Hindu and Buddhist practices in it. It is said that Hesse wrote many of his books all while trying to cure his “life sickness”. In this analysis I will give a summary of the story, give my analysis of the story, and compare it to other literary works of the same period and location.
Siddhartha is the son of a Hindu priest. His Father is a Brahmin and as a young Brahmin, Siddhartha's role in life is to work only on reaching enlightenment or Nirvana as they call it. This quest for Nirvana is one that we will follow Siddhartha on throughout this novel. It is similar to From Deep Woods to Civilization where the main character, an Indian is raised to be at peace with his surroundings and nature. “After arriving at a reverent sense of the pervading presence of the Spirit and Giver of Life, and a deep consciousness of the brotherhood of man, the first thing for me to accomplish was to adapt myself perfectly to natural things—in other words, to harmonize myself with nature (Eastman).” It seems that the journey of a young Brahmin and a young Native American were indeed quite the same. Siddhartha is very talented young Brahmin. He is better other students at all things. He knows how to meditate. He could say the sacred Om, and do his sacrificial prayers as required. Siddhartha is still not happy with the way of life he was living as a Brahmin. Not only that but he never met anyone else who had achieved Nirvana.

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Siddhartha knew that he had to go on a quest to find the Self. Anything else of this world must be a distraction. Things like money and possessions. That is why Siddhartha decided to join the Samanas who renounce all worldly possessions. Now we see a struggle between two themes of the novel, they are truth and peace. How are they intertwined? Must Siddhartha find the truth of the world to seek the peace or enlightenment that he seeks?
Siddhartha's time with the Samanas is the first leg of his spiritual journey. As a Samanas, Siddhartha sheds all of his possessions and begins fasting and standing still in one area for long periods of time. He says that he must do this to let his self die. Here arises a catch-22 in Siddhartha’s quest. He left the Brahmins because he did not think that they could lead him to his goal of finding his Self and Nirvana, Peace, and Enlightenment. On the other hand with the Samanas he wants to lose his Self, to be nothing, at one with everything. How can he achieve both of these things? It is like Ibsen’s A Doll House, when after finding out that his wife betrayed him and borrowed money and committed a crime he is also torn between two things. What he knows is right and the woman he loves. He makes his choice as we see here, “Don’t worry about anything, Nora; only open your heart to me, and I will be both will and conscience to you (Ibsen)” The effect this desire to be rid of Self has on Siddhartha is very strange. Siddhartha said that the various aspects of ordinary human life were "not worth a passing glance, "Everything lied, stank of lies; they were illusions of sense, happiness, and beauty. All were doomed to decay. The world tasted bitter. Life was pain"(Hesse) These dark and gloomy passages from the novel remind me of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Notes from the Underground. For example, “I will explain; the enjoyment was from too intense consciousness of one’s own degradation; it was from feeling oneself that one had reached the last barrier, that it was horrible, but that it could not be otherwise; that there was no escape for you; that you never could become a different man (Dostoyevsky).” Siddhartha came to a sort of a realization one day and asked, “Was life pain?” Here again we come across the themes of truth and peace. This issue comes to a head in the next chapter when Siddhartha speaks to the Buddha. Finally after Siddhartha had learned all the knowledge he could from the Samanas he went out of the forest to follow some holy man, a revered Buddha.

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