Family in Siddhartha

“Your soul is the whole world” (Hesse 7). While the value of a soul is something that cannot be understated, the belief that it is the whole world does not leave room for many other people. In Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha the titular character spends his life searching for answers from the world, only to discover that the answers were inside him the entire time. By the time Siddhartha reaches this conclusion however, he has abandoned everyone who has ever loved him, and he has done so in what he calls the justifiable name of the soul. Siddhartha finds his happiness, his peace of body, mind, and soul, but at an expense that is hardly his alone. He abandons his parents in favor of the Samanas; he abandons the Samanas and his best friend Govinda in favor of city life; he abandons city life and the relationships he has forged in it in favor of the unknown, only to find what he considers to be his place in the world, a life as a ferryman. Siddhartha throws his family away whenever he becomes struck by a bout of restlessness, and in doing so, he makes family seem irrelevant, unimportant and ultimately unnecessary. Siddhartha is immensely selfish, and does not deserve the contentment he finds living as a ferryman; rather, he deserves to eternally suffer the agony of abandonment he has impressed upon his mother and father, his friend Govinda, but most especially his child and the woman that gave birth to him.

In his first act of desertion, Siddhartha leaves behind his mother and father in order to find the way to fulfillment through the ascetic Samanas. With this departure from his idyllic village life, he sets a precedent he will continue to follow throughout his life. While leaving his parents is not incomprehensible, for he truly believes there is something more to the world than the ritualistic mantras and meditation of the Brahmins, it is the fact that it was done in vain that makes it awful to behold. ‘“When someone seeks…then it easily happens that his eyes see only the thing that he seeks, and he is able to find nothing, to take in nothing because he always thinks only about the thing he is seeking, because he has one goal, because he is obsessed with his goal”’ (140). Siddhartha only sees his own desire of answers, regarding his soul and the world in its entirety, but he never stops to actually see what he does as a result. He wants to see the world, to learn from it, to get what he wants from it, but as a Samana he learns only to be disgusted by it. This is what he leaves his family for: to become bitter, and to empty himself of any actual self, for this is what he and his fellow Samanas believe to be the path to “enlightenment”. As he feels himself learn to loath the same world he asks for the utmost of privileges from, to grant him wisdom and understanding, he recognizes that ultimately, he has accomplished little. Still, Siddhartha never stops to think that he might have been wrong, that maybe abandoning his mother and father was not the way to enlightenment. Siddhartha fails to grasp the unequivocal value of a family that loves him unrestrainedly, as he fails to fully appraise the value of the same kind of love from his friend Govinda. Govinda, who also leaves behind his home and family, his whole life, out of loyalty to Siddhartha, is also left behind by the once again absconding ungrateful narcissist. In an act that seems to just come naturally to him, Siddhartha leaves Govinda behind when he chooses to follow the Buddha, the so-called “illustrious one”, because he finds what he considers to be a flaw in Buddha’s preaching, proving both Siddhartha’s unrivaled arrogance and his inability to return the love and devotion that his friend bestows upon him unreservedly.

While Siddhartha’s wasting of the love given to him by Govinda and his parents is in its own right a tragedy, it is not nearly as revolting as his absolute annihilation of the love given to him by Kamala, but especially the love his son, his only child, his namesake, is never given the right to feel for him. Shockingly, disgustingly, Siddhartha later has the awe-inspiring audacity to say to Govinda that ‘“It seems to me…that love is the most important thing in the world”’ (147). Siddhartha finds his peace with nature, with the river, with the world he initially felt such repugnance for, but ultimately, this cannot possibly matter a single iota when it comes only from the deliberate, repeated forsaking of those that love and sacrifice for him. Siddhartha’s happiness comes at the expense of his child, and this is inexcusable. A parent is supposed to love his or her child more than anything and everything in the world combined, but Siddhartha loves nothing and no one more than he loves himself, however confounding such may be. Siddhartha never gives his son, the young Siddhartha, any reason to trust him; rather, he gives him every reason to doubt him. He is never there for him or Kamala, and all the blame for Kamala’s death and young Siddhartha’s callous sense of entitlement traces back to Siddhartha. It is his abandonment of Kamala that causes her to be in the woods when she is bitten by the venomous snake, as it his abandonment that leaves his son to be raised without any sort of acknowledgement or understanding of a world where everything is not provided upon any given whim of desire.

Therefore, it is Siddhartha’s own fault that his son leaves him, as he himself left his own parents. This, finally, brings about the pain that he has so long been deserving of, but Siddhartha quickly unburdens himself of the guilt and shame, the torment of abandonment, because he believes it to be in his best interest, when in actuality, the only thing in his best interest is for him to finally, however belatedly, realize exactly what it is he has done and to repent, to beg forgiveness from his son. ‘“Not in his speech or thought do I regard him as a great man, but in his deeds and life”’ (148). Siddhartha’s life and the deeds that define it do not point to greatness. His selfishness kills the mother of his child, and it steals in the most egregious manner his son’s absolute right, not privilege, to his father. This is unforgivable. At no point in his life, throughout all his searching and wandering, his fasting and meditating, or any of his supposed “awakenings” does Siddhartha realize the unparalleled value of a loving family.

Siddhartha consistently exchanges his family and the love it offers, the very emotion he considers to be “the most important thing in the world” for himself and his own narcissistic tendencies. Ironically, he blunders in this too. He fails to accurately appraise the value of the self because he sees himself and his soul as the most important thing when the most important thing is family, when the most important thing truly is love, but not love of the self. ‘“You show the world as a complete, unbroken chain, an eternal chain, linked together by cause and effect”’ (32), says Siddhartha to Buddha, the so-called “illustrious one.” Siddhartha says he understands what this means, but he is unable to realize that he is the cause of the effect of so much devastation. Ultimately, Siddhartha finds his peace and happiness as a ferryman, but he does not deserve to. The only thing he is deserving of is the understanding of what it means to abandon someone, and to realize that is what he has done time and time again, most horrifically to his own child, if according to biology alone.

Self-Discovery and Its Discontents: Siddhartha’s Journey

Hermann Hesse’s novel Siddhartha attempts to tell the story of one man’s journey to enlightenment. Siddhartha, a young Brahmin, leaves his comfortable home and family in order to learn more about himself. Throughout his journey, he overcomes many obstacles, meets many people, and has many experiences that contribute to his becoming the individual he wants to be. At the end, Siddhartha thinks that he has found himself, but really he has lost so many parts of himself during this process. Despite the many unrealistic things Siddhartha does, his commitment to finding himself and bettering himself, in his mind, is praiseworthy. He is repeatedly in situations in which he feels like giving up because he has not reached his goal yet, but then again he never does. Unfortunately, the ways in which Siddhartha attempts to find himself are unreasonable and cause him to lose beneficial qualities that he possessed before his journey. If this is a story about finding yourself, it is in many ways problematic.

In order to find himself, Siddhartha made it his goal to eliminate all contact with reality and to purge every desire for people, things, and even basic needs such as food, shelter, and sleep. He became aware of a group, the samanas, that had similar beliefs and goals to his, so he decided to join them. To join the samanas, Siddhartha was required to give away all of his clothes, to fast for extremely long periods, and, when not fasting, to eat only once a day. Siddhartha deprived himself of everything “through pain, through the voluntary suffering and overcoming of pain, of hunger, of thirst, of fatigue” (15) in the hope of feeling enlightened. By depriving himself of all essentials, Siddhartha aims to empty himself of all human qualities; in his mind, doing so will allow him to find his true self.

Throughout his journey to attain enlightenment, Siddhartha loses many human relationships that were very important to him prior to leaving, such as his bonds with family and friends. Human relationships help to shape you as a person and the people with whom you have relationships influence how you live. In order to reach enlightenment, one should not have to give up loving and caring for others. Enlightenment, as a higher form of consciousness and humanism, should not require anyone to drop everything and everyone that is integral to his or her life. Siddhartha was fully aware that by leaving the Brahmins he was also leaving his family and friends. These relationships are a key aspect of who a person is, but, ironically, Siddhartha sacrifices these parts of himself to find other parts of himself that he finds more meaningful. When Govinda and Siddhartha go their separate ways, Govinda “embrace[s] the friend of his youth one last time” (30), but Siddhartha does not seem sad or have any regret about leaving his best friend behind. In some respects, Siddhartha’s lack of need for people is inhuman and rather disturbing. He believes he can achieve enlightenment on his own, without any help from family and friends. He drops all of his significant relationships in order to go his own way.

Ironically, Siddhartha loses his humanity while trying to find himself. Along with sacrificing his human relationships, Siddhartha also sacrifices emotional experiences to find enlightenment. Emotional experiences influence and shape people to become better, but Siddhartha leaves all of that behind when he leaves the Brahmins. When Kamala dies, he does not mourn, revealing his loss of emotion. Siddhartha’s excuse for not mourning is that he has now “become even richer and happier” (101). Siddhartha has lost every emotion so that even when his lover dies, he does not feel anything. Instead of grieving, he tries to achieve a state of unfeeling, which he believes is a step toward enlightenment. He forces himself to forget about his relationship with Kamala and how much it previously meant to him. Despite his awareness of how the world operates, he becomes little better than an inanimate object, a piece of wood, unaffected by normal human impulses.

Hesse’s novel thus cannot be considered an inspirational book about finding yourself. Siddhartha wants to eliminate his “human self,” becoming indifferent to his friends, his family, and his lover. Without basic needs, loving relationships, and emotions, one cannot be considered human. When Siddhartha does reach enlightenment, he is not even human anymore. Readers in search of finding enlightenment would be better off by balancing sacrifices, such as fasting and giving up clothes, and making sure to reflect. If Siddhartha had achieved a better balance between letting go and keeping human qualities, he would have had better results. Likewise, Siddhartha should have reflected to see how far he had come since being a Brahmin. Just as Huck Finn in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn needed to isolate himself and then reflect upon the problems with society, Siddhartha should have reflected more to find more clarity within his life. If he had done that in contexts other than his final river retreat, he might not have sacrificed all human qualities during his journey to enlightenment and would have secured loving relationships and emotions.

Enlightenment on the River

Hundreds of Buddhist monks try to attain Nirvana daily. They all follow the teachings of Gotama Buddha, but most fail to reach their goal and end up being reborn as new creatures. In Hermann Hesse’s book, Siddhartha, a young boy, Siddhartha, rejects the teachings of Gotama Buddha and follows his own path to enlightenment. His location of enlightenment, in a departure from the Buddha’s tree, is a river. In the book, Hesse uses the river as a key catalyst to lead Siddhartha to Nirvana. The river acts as an archetype for timelessness, as a transition between phases of life, and as a teacher.

The archetype of timelessness is one of the most obvious motifs that surrounds the river. The river shows timelessness for the first time when Siddhartha notices how it only has an illusion of movement. He sees “that the water continually flowed and flowed and yet it was always there; it was always the same and yet every moment it was new” (Hesse 83). He realizes that both the river and time move in a questionable fashion. Just as the river seems to be continuously moving but remains in one place, time also seems to be moving but remains in one place. The river shows its archetype of timelessness when Siddhartha is listening to its voices. While Siddhartha listens to the river, he hears the “song of a thousand voices,” but “when he did not listen to the sorrow or laughter, when he did not bind his soul to any one particular voice and absorb it in his Self, but heard them all, the whole, the unity; then the great song of a thousand voices consisted of one word: Om — perfection” (111). When Siddhartha focused on one aspect of the river, he did not feel anything. However, when he let all the opposites form together, he found perfection. When all the voices are separate, this phenomenon represents time, since there can only be one voice at a time, but when the voices combine, they exhibit timelessness. This realization of timelessness brings Siddhartha to enlightenment. Towards the end, we see that Siddhartha ingrained the idea of timelessness into himself when Govinda looks at Siddhartha and “no longer saw the face of his friend Siddhartha. Instead he saw other faces, many faces, a long series, a continuous stream of faces — hundreds, thousands, which all came and disappeared and yet all seemed to be there at the same time, which all continually changed and renewed themselves and which were yet all Siddhartha” (121). Siddhartha has become so full of timelessness that his past, present, and future all appear on his face at once. He has transcended time. This is one of the main ideas that eventually leads him to enlightenment. Overall, the use of the river to symbolize the archetype of timelessness is a key part of Siddhartha’s enlightenment process, even though he only learns this in his last stage of his life.

The river is also very important to Siddhartha’s transition between phases of life, which allows him to have experiences that help lead him to enlightenment. The first phase change is when Siddhartha switches from a life of spirituality to one of sensations. He reflects on the first time he crossed the river, when he “reached the long river in the wood, the same river across which a ferryman had once taken him when he was a still a young man and had come from Gotama’s town” (71). He was coming from Gotama Buddha’s “town,” which was a spiritual place, and he was heading off to start a new life in the city, one of physical pleasure. This was his first change in life phases, from spiritual to physical. Later, when he is returning from the city, he reaches the river and contemplates suicide. The river then makes him fall asleep and purifies him with the word Om. When he wakes up from his slumber, “The past now seemed to him to be covered by a veil, extremely remote, very unimportant. He only knew that his previous life…was finished” (73). He has awakened as a new person. This is his second change in life phases, from a life of physical pleasure, to a life of spiritual awakening. Both of these phases were necessary for Siddhartha to experience to reach enlightenment. Towards the end he returns to his previous phase in life when he tells Govinda, “I learned through my body and soul that it was necessary for me to sin, that I needed lust, that I had to strive for property and experience nausea and the depth of despair in order to learn to resist them, in order to learn to love the world, and no longer compare it with some kind of desired imaginary world, some imaginary vision of perfection, but to leave it as it is, to love it and be glad to belong to it” (116). Although in theory his time in the city may have been a waste of time, in reality, he needed the experience to reach enlightenment. And although he could have experienced the life in the city on his own, if the river had not purified him, he would have committed suicide. The river leads Siddhartha to enlightenment by letting Siddhartha fill himself with sin and then purifying him afterwards.

Yet the river’s most important role in the book is its activity as Siddhartha’s teacher, the main reason he reaches enlightenment. After the river purifies Siddhartha, he accepts it as his guide. He recounts that “It seemed to him as if the river had something special to tell him, something which he did not know, something which still awaited him. Siddhartha had wanted to drown himself in this river; the old, tired, despairing Siddhartha was today drowned in it. The new Siddhartha felt a deep love for this flowing water and decided that he would not leave it again so quickly” (81). With this, he accepts his last teacher, the river. He feels that it has wisdom that it can teach him, something no other teacher was able to do. This is very special since his whole life Siddhartha had avoided teachers. He never felt that they could teach him something new. However, in the end, Siddhartha does learn from the river. “The river has taught me to listen; you will learn from it, too. The river knows everything; one can learn everything from it. You have already learned from the river that it is good to strive downwards, to sink, seek depths…You have also learned this from the river. You will learn other things, too” (86), Vasudeva tells Siddhartha after he takes him as an apprentice. As the book continues this statement holds true. Siddhartha learns how to listen, wait, and remain taciturn. Altogether, these teachings allow him to reach Nirvana. As Siddhartha is talking to Govinda, Siddhartha tells him, “There was a man at this ferry who was my predecessor and teacher. He was a holy man who for many years believed in the river and nothing else. He noticed that the river’s voice spoke to him. He learned from it; it educated and taught him. The river seemed like a god to him and for many years he did not know that every wind, every cloud, every bird, every beetle is equally divine and knows and can teach just as well as the esteemed river. But when this holy man went off into the woods, he knew everything; he knew more than you and I, without teachers, without books, just because he believed in the river” (118). Vasudeva believes in the river to the extent that he can learn all the wisdom of life from it. Siddhartha learns how to do this as well, and just as the river helps Vasudeva reach enlightenment, so to it helps Siddhartha reach enlightenment of his own. Siddhartha later says, “I know I am at one with Gotama” (119), meaning that just as Gotama had reached enlightenment, so to he, Siddhartha, had also reached it. The wisdom the river gives over to Siddhartha is the key to his enlightenment.

For Hesse’s protagonist, the river plays an extremely large role in the quest for enlightenment. The river embodies the archetype of timelessness, the transition between life phases, and the role of a teacher. Altogether, one can learn many lessons from Siddhartha’s story. Perhaps following a very popular belief system may not be the best way to reach enlightenment. It may be best to listen to a river, instead of even the great Gotama Buddha.

Works Cited:

Hesse, Hermann. Siddhartha. Trans. Hilda Rosner. New York: New Directions, 1951.

The Different Paths

The Different Paths

In the novels The Guide, by R.K Narayan, The Harp of Burma, by Michio Takeyama, and Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse, all of the main characters encounter issues regarding their identities. In The Guide, Raju tries to find his identity by abandoning his old identity in search of a new one. In The Harp of Burma, Mishuzima also abandons his old identity to find a new one, though he does it because of his new beliefs. In Siddhartha, Siddhartha finds his identity through experiences in his life. Whilst Raju, Mishuzima, and Siddhartha struggle with exploring their identity, Raju and Mishuzima try to find theirs by rejecting their old identity, and Siddhartha uses numerous experiences in his life to find his. The way that Siddhartha goes about finding his identity discloses the most about identity because he can learn from every experience he has. Every experience that Siddhartha has faced that he finds doesn’t get him closer to finding his identity he rules out and moves on, like crossing off a list.

Although how Raju goes about finding his identity seems successful, there are multiple flaws about it and are issues about how committed he is. Siddhartha’s way is more successful than Raju’s, and the author shows us the Siddhartha does in fact understand his identity when Siddhartha reaches enlightenment. Siddhartha’s quest is to understand himself and the world around him, while Raju only switches his identity because he was ashamed and wanted to forget about who he used to be. For the majority of the book, Raju fakes being a “holy man” and is just there to get by. As stated in The Guide, “I am no saint. Velan uttered many sounds of protest. Raju felt sorry to be shattering his faith; but it was the only way in which he could hope to escape the ordeal” (Narayan, 87). Raju admits that everything he has done since “becoming” a holy man was fake, and he was just a regular person. Everything that Raju told them he never really took the time to think thoughtfully on it. He never focused about finding his identity until the end of the book when he is prepared to sacrifice himself for the people of the town. It took him a crisis to change the way he viewed things. An external force made him have to focus on himself and what he could do to help the people he now cared about. Raju’s commitment to finding out who he was only came at the very end and it wasn’t entirely on his own. The drought that was ravaging through his town made him. Siddhartha on the other hand, finds his identity through his own will, but is aided throughout the way by people who he meets on his journey. As stated before, Siddhartha’s goal in life is to find out who he really is, to be able to understand the self and the world, and to get past his ego. “”And Govinda saw that this mask-like smile, this smile of unity over the flowing forms, this smile of simultaneousness over the thousands of births and deaths-this smile of Siddhartha-was exactly the same as the calm, delicate, impenetrable, perhaps gracious, perhaps mocking, wise, thousand-fold smile of Gotama, the Buddha, as he perceived it with awe a hundred times” (Hesse, 131). The author shows us that Siddhartha has in fact reached enlightenment, he has found his identity and understood the self. That was Siddhartha’s goal in the end, to reach enlightenment and understand the self. Siddhartha’s way got him to his identity, but Raju didn’t get as close as Siddhartha to finding his.

Mishuzima tries to find his identity in a similar way to Raju, but Mishuzima takes his seriously. However, Siddhartha’s way still got him closer to his identity than Mishuzima. After being caught and taken as a prisoner of war in Burma, he was sent to try and get the remaining Japanese soldiers to surrender. As it turns out, Mishuzima witnessed a large amount of dead Japanese soldiers unburied just lying there, and he couldn’t just walk past them. At this point in the book, Mishuzima forgets and throws out his old identity to become a monk in Burma. Mishuzima left everything and everyone he knew behind to pursue his newfound identity as a holy man and to find who he is. “As I look back on what happened, I feel keenly that we have been too unthinking. We have forgotten to meditate deeply on the meaning of life” (Takeyama, 98). Mishuzima realized in becoming a monk and learning from the time in war that getting to know your identity is the most important thing you can do. Mishuzima shows full commitment to his new identity, but hasn’t still fully found his. He’s only managed to hide his old one. In contrast, Siddhartha’s way still proves to be better than Mishuzima’s as Siddhartha finds his identity, but Mishuzima just switches identities.

Although the paths that each character take seem different in many ways, they’re all actually alike in one large way. This alikeness is shown in where they turn to achieve this goal of understanding the meaning of their identities. Mishuzima, Siddhartha and Raju all turn to a religion to find the meaning. All of them in one way or another use a process that involves a religious position. For example, Mishuzima became a Burmese Monk when he rejected his old identity. Siddhartha left his incredibly high standards of life to follow his religion, to embrace the religion fully. Finally, Raju after being released from prison becomes a sort of a soothsayer, which ends up crowning his as “Swami”, which usually refers to a high religious position and as someone the town can depend on.

Throughout the three novels, identity is an important factor. Although Raju and Mishuzima take similar approaches to figuring out their identity, Siddhartha takes an entirely different path to find his identity. Raju and Mishuzima’s ways get them close to finding their identity, but in the end Siddhartha’s path ultimately enables him to find his identity, making it the superior path to Raju and Mishuzima’s.

Nature: A Metaphor for Self

Throughout literature, nature imagery is used to depict a deeper meaning, and often insight into the protagonist’s thoughts and inner self. Nature imagery in the novel Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse reflects the evolution of Siddhartha’s self throughout his allegorical journey. Images of contained nature in the novel represent a contained and limited Siddhartha, while in contrast, images of unfettered nature represent a more free-spirited and open Siddhartha. It is only in uncontained nature that Siddhartha finds he can focus on himself and set aside limitations. Surrounded by nature in its most natural state, Siddhartha can put aside all limitations that result from living in a society and cultivate a more mindful, focused, state of calm and contentment.

The nature described at the beginning of the story represents how Siddhartha was limited in his Brahmin lifestyle. When Siddhartha was a Brahmin, he lived in a well-groomed palace, and this represents how he felt limited. Siddhartha had everything he could have ever wanted- power, wealth, and luxury. He was loved by everyone in his kingdom, including his family. Yet he felt limited by the opportunities offered to him in this life, specifically his inability to find the answers he was looking for. He wanted answers to complex questions that no one, not even the wisest men in the kingdom, had answers to. He felt trapped, and the kind of nature that surrounds him in this lifestyle is a representation of this trapped feeling. The word shade comes up many times when describing this setting of his life. Shade represents being sheltered and protected. Siddhartha was hidden and sheltered from the world in which he yearned to live in, a world where he could find the answers he was looking for. The setting is described: “In the shade of the house, in the sunlight on the riverbank where the boats were moored, in the shade of the sal wood and the shade of the fig tree, Siddhartha grew up, the Brahmin’s handsome son,” (3). In this description of nature, Hesse implies that although Siddhartha may have grown up as the Brahmin’s son with wealth and power, he was sheltered and limited. He was not content with this lifestyle. Siddhartha says to Govinda, “Come under the banyan tree with me; let us practice samadhi” (7). When Siddhartha says this, it is to show that he is used to this lifestyle, and is comfortable with the shade of the tree and the sheltering of his life. But although he is comfortable, he is not satisfied. So, Siddhartha chooses to leave this lifestyle in search of a life with meaning and answers. But first, he must go with the permission of his family. Siddhartha refuses to leave without permission from his father, and he waits outside his father’s window all night “in the moonlight, in the starlight, in the darkness” (10). Hesse uses nature’s natural light to represent where Siddhartha stands in his journey. He is transitioning from one lifestyle to another. He knows he is not content with the Brahmin lifestyle, and that he must leave it. But he is partially in the dark of where he will go. The Samana lifestyle and his yearning for answers are his starlight and moonlight; guiding forces, moving him in the right direction. The use of natural imagery in this section of the story represents where Siddhartha is in this step of his allegorical journey. He is partially in the dark when it comes to answers, but he knows he must make a change in order to find what he is looking for.

Unlike the nature imagery represented in Siddhartha’s Brahmin lifestyle, after Siddhartha is awakened for the first time he notices every aspect of nature in all its beauty, and this represents an unfettered Siddhartha. This imagery represents how Siddhartha does not need wealth, power, or even teachers in order to find enlightenment. He just needs to look within himself. After his awakening, Siddhartha begins a new journey to discover himself. He suddenly begins to notice every serene aspect of nature. The descriptions of raw nature represent a raw, free, and genuine Siddhartha. When Siddhartha is walking in the forest, Hesse writes in vivid description, “He saw trees, stars, animals, clouds, rainbows, cliffs, herbs and flowers, stream and river, the flash of dew in the morning bushes, distant high mountains blue and pale; birds were singing, so were bees, and wind blew silvery through the rice paddies” (41). Hesse paints a vibrant picture of the state of mind that Siddhartha is living in at that moment. Nature is one of the simplest pleasures of life, and Siddhartha found that, “nothing else was necessary,” (43). Siddhartha now understands that he does not need teachers or strict rules to live by in order to live contently. Siddhartha realizes that his old lifestyles as a Brahmin and a Samana masked the true beauty of the world. Siddhartha was so busy searching for answers within others that he didn’t realize he could find the answers within the most natural parts of the world. Siddhartha realizes, “All these things had always been there, and yet he had not seen them; he had not been present” (42). It is here that Siddhartha realizes that he does not need teachers or other people to give him the answers he islooking for. Nature is used to represent the fact that he can find answers within the simple things in life.

Like the nature imagery in Siddhartha’s Brahmin lifestyle, tamed nature in the city represents a contained and limited Siddhartha. In this case, Siddhartha is limited by the world of the child people, specifically wealth. He feels that the child people’s obsession with wealth and materialism traps him, and stunts his spiritual growth. As Siddhartha reaches the city after leaving the forest: “Just outside the city, near a lovely fenced-in grove, the wanderer encountered a small company of maids” (46). Just as the shade described in the setting of the Brahmin lifestyle represents shelter and protection, the “fenced-in grove” represents a protected and limited Siddhartha. There were no fenced-in groves in the forest, where Siddhartha felt the most free. This description is an immediate representation that Siddhartha will feel limited in the city. After years in the city, Siddhartha begins to realize this. Siddhartha’s soul is compared to a piece of nature when Hesse writes, “Slowly, as moisture seeps into the dying tree trunk, slowly filling it up and making it rot, worldliness and lethargy had crept into Siddhartha’s soul, filling it slowly, making it heavy, making it weary, putting it to sleep,” (65). The world of the child people contaminates Siddhartha’s soul, and hinders Siddhartha’s understanding of himself. This comparison between Siddhartha and a dying tree represents a difficult part of his journey to finding himself, as he feels as if his soul is being suffocated by the world around him. Later, Siddhartha has a dream about a rare songbird that Kamala keeps in a golden cage. Siddhartha dreamed that: “the bird, which always used to sing at dawn, had fallen silent…the little bird lay dead and still on the bottom [of the cage.] He took it out…and then tossed it aside, into the street, and at the same moment he was seized with fear and horror and his head hurt, as if with this dead bird he had thrust aside everything that had worth and value. (70)

The bird clearly symbolizes Siddhartha. Siddhartha used to be happy and content with his life as he wandered through the forest, observing nature. He even used to be happy living in the world of the child people. But just as the bird is trapped in the golden cage, Siddhartha is trapped within the wealth and the luxury of the world he inhabits. The dream is a message to Siddhartha, telling him that if he does not escape the wealth of this world soon, his soul will die just as the songbird did. The bird is a force of nature in its most free and unfettered state, so nature is used again to represent which stage of his journey Siddhartha is in.

Similarly to the unfettered nature Siddhartha observes after his first awakening, the river in the novel represents a free, constantly-flowing, and content Siddhartha. When Siddhartha is by the river, he is calm and in touch with his inner self. Every aspect of the river- the sound, the smell, and the feeling- help Siddhartha to be mindful and content. The river is the force of nature that Siddhartha finally chooses to live near after many ups and downs on his allegorical journey. Siddhartha moved between contained and unfettered nature, and he finally chooses to live by free nature, the river. Siddhartha is very similar to the river, and he observes the similarities: “He saw that the water flowed and flowed, it was constantly flowing” (86). Just as the river is constantly flowing and moving from place to place, so is Siddhartha. After Siddhartha speaks to the Buddha, he realizes that “no one will ever attain redemption through doctrine” (30). Siddhartha finds that the only way to reach the goals of his allegorical journey is to find the answers for himself. The river proves to be a significant source of wisdom for Siddhartha. Throughout the story Siddhartha learns to find answers within himself, and he can relate to the river because he can find the similarities between the river and himself. Siddhartha describes his relationship to the river: “Never had a body of water so pleased him, never had he perceived the voice and the allegory of the moving water so powerfully and beautifully. It seemed to him that the river had something special to say to him, something he did not yet know, something still awaiting him” (84). The river represents a stage of Siddhartha’s journey where he feels enlightened and awake. This use of natural imagery reflects Siddhartha’s stage in his journey, and represents a more spiritually free and content Siddhartha.

Natural imagery in the novel Siddhartha gives the reader insight into the stages of Siddhartha’s allegorical journey. Raw, unfettered nature, such as the vivid natureimagery after Siddhartha’s awakening and the river at the end of the novel, represents a genuine and content Siddhartha. When Siddhartha is in this stage of his journey, he is content and in touch with his inner self. In contrast, contained and altered nature in the novel represents a limited and restricted Siddhartha when it comes to his connection with his inner self. Limited nature is shown with imagery in the description of Siddhartha’s Brahmin lifestyle and with Kamala’s caged bird. The message of natural healing in Siddhartha corresponds to modern life, too. It has been a commonplace pre and post-modern period that people can find more healing and happiness in more natural places such as the country rather than cities. Nature in its most natural form has proven to have a more positive affect on people overall, and this idea is clearly represented in the novel Siddhartha.

The Perfect Smile and its Significance in Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha

Symbolism is used commonly as a tool to express theme in Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha. The novel details the titular character’s search for enlightenment through experience and wisdom. It is when Siddhartha sees the smile of the Buddha that he recognizes enlightenment in someone for the first time. The smile becomes a motif of the book, seen again and again. This symbol of inner peace, wisdom, and happiness reflects Hesse’s theme of enlightenment and Siddhartha’s progress towards enlightenment.

The smile seen in Siddhartha’s journey reflects the inner peace of its wearer. Siddartha does not leave his home until his restlessness grows unbearable; when “his soul [is] not at peace” (Hesse 5). His hunger for inner peace does not stop with the Samanas, so he moves on again. When Siddhartha sees the Buddha for the first time, he is able to pick him out of the crowd by the fact that “his peaceful countenance [is] neither happy nor sad. He [seems] to be smiling gently inwardly” (Hesse 27). Siddhartha feels an outpouring of love for the Buddha, because the Buddha has the inner peace that Siddhartha has been seeking. Although Siddhartha cannot learn from the Buddha’s words, he takes note in the peaceful acceptance the Buddha displays in his smile. Later in the novel, when the majority of Siddhartha’s journey is over, his friend Kamala asks him, “‘Have you found peace?’” (Hesse 113). He answers simply with a smile. The idea of this smile continues with Siddhartha on his journey because to be able to smile in a truly peaceful, gentle, and accepting way is to be enlightened.

While Siddhartha’s journey towards enlightenment is one for peace, it is also centered around the idea of wisdom, symbolized by the perfect smile. Siddhartha learns quickly that “knowledge has no worse enemy than the man of knowledge, than learning”(Hesse 19). What he means by this statement is that true knowledge, the spiritual kind of knowledge, cannot be passed down by learning. This belief is why, when Siddhartha meets the Buddha, he describes the Buddha as having a “secret smile” (Hesse 27). The Buddha cannot pass enlightenment down to his followers; he cannot truly describe the feeling of enlightenment or the progress to that goal. Still, his smile is a symbol reflecting the fact that he has unlocked this wisdom. Siddhartha later finds that wisdom can only be found through experience.

When his oldest companion Govinda returns to him, he sees that Siddhartha is enlightened and asks Siddhartha if there is any doctrine or belief which he holds. Siddhartha tries in vain to express the meaning of enlightenment in words, but it simply cannot be done. When Govinda kisses him on the forehead, however, he has a vision. Govinda sees many forms and visions “and over all of them there [is]… Siddhartha’s smiling face… this smile of unity over all forms… this smile [is] exactly the same as the… wise, thousand-fold smile of Gotama, the Buddha” (Hesse 151). It is this smile that is directly reflective of the knowledge and wisdom that Siddhartha has unlocked in his travels. Through seeing this smile, Govinda is able to open the door to his own enlightenment. In modern vocabulary and literature, a smile marks happiness. Happiness is exactly what Siddhartha lacks during his journey, displaying the fact that he is not yet enlightened. Throughout the novel , the reader can notice that it is happiness and lack of happiness that moves the story forward. Siddhartha in the exposition seemingly has everything, and yet “Siddhartha himself [is] not happy”(Hesse 5). This unhappiness and distress, caused by the lack of enlightenment, is what sparks the beginning of his journey. Finding happiness and love is what ends it. Towards the middle of his journey, when Siddhartha is emotionally trapped in riches, he enters a deep depression. This depression and disappointment in himself causes him to leave the town, and he finds the river. Here he meets Vasudeva, the man who will eventually lead him to enlightenment and happiness. From Vasudeva, a smiling ferryman, he learns how to listen, and “this discovery [makes] him very happy” (Hesse 107). When Vasudeva leaves him, they are both smiling, happy, and enlightened.

The ideas of peace, wisdom, and happiness are all reflected in a smile. The smile, described as perfect, secret, and wise, truly illustrates the theme of enlightenment in Siddhartha’s life. Siddhartha’s journey is one of multiple goals ultimately leading up to enlightenment. His path is illuminated through several ideas, displayed through the use of symbols. These symbols and what they represent can be applied to other stories and even to daily life.