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In the novel Siddhartha, Herman Hesse used other characters to let Siddhartha grow both intellectually and spiritually. During the course of his journey, Siddhartha encountered many people and experienced different ways of living and thinking about life. Each person taught him something about himself and the world around him.
Siddhartha’s childhood friend, Govinda, educated him about the importance of choosing a path in his own life. Govinda had always been a step behind Siddhartha, following every decision he made. The one time he stepped out on his own, to accept the Buddha, he was merely following the path of thousands of others. Siddhartha saw this and he learned that he had to listen to himself even if he wound up making a wrong decision. Meeting with Govinda at the end of the novel reinforced his thought that one had to have experience in order to attain Nirvana -- not someone else’s knowledge. After following Gotama for years Govinda still hadn’t reached peace although Siddhartha had. Siddhartha had done things many would consider wrong and immoral and yet he reached something that many others wanted so desperately because he had experience.
The beautiful courtesan, Kamala, taught Siddhartha the importance of love along with the pleasures of it. While in the town of Samsara, he was introduced to a life of luxuries by her. She taught him how to please a woman and how to keep her satisfied. He also learned how to gamble and the art of running a business from her friends. Although Siddhartha felt moments of joy, nothing fulfilled the longing in his soul. Over the years, one of the more important lessons he gained from Kamala was that he could have this life of pleasurable things and yet still yearn for a deeper meaning in his heart.
Vasudeva, the ferryboat captain, was the most important person in Siddhartha’s life. If he hadn’t allowed Siddhartha to live with him and share the beauty of the river, Siddhartha may have never reached Nirvana. Sitting with his pupil by the water and forcing him to listen and look into the depths led Siddhartha to his place of peacefulness.
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