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Siddhartha’s Spiritual Journey in The Novel by Hermann Hesse

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The story Siddhartha follows the journey of Siddhartha and his various travels, each of which impacted him in different ways but were still equally important in achieving his goal of nirvana. Each of his journeys taught him something new and distinct and explored the importance of each of the different aspects of life. His spirituality varies just like the very definition of the word, and although this is the key theme of the story, at times it is lost to both the reader and Siddhartha himself.

When we are first introduced to Siddhartha, he is in his childhood home, surrounded by nature, by the riverside in a town full of love. Siddhartha is immediately set apart from the rest of the people with whom he lives and is shown to be somewhat superior in terms of spirituality and ability, he was a quick learner and an attractive young man whom every girl wanted to be with. He would often meditate and participate in tribal rituals with the Brahmin elders, yet he still felt like something was missing which forced him to leave the almost perfect utopia. Although he desired to leave, he did not dismiss the love and care that his family had provided for him and did not want to leave without his father’s blessing and when he asked his father the answer he received was passive but not the one he wanted but he could feel that his father was not fully convinced and at this point was when his character developed for the first time. His entire life he was a sheep and saw himself as weak because of this, but after a conversation with his father he felt the need to prove himself to his father and therefore stood in protest for hours. This form of protest showed the utter respect he had for his father as he knew his father was looking out for him and therefore knew he would have to prove himself: which he did.

When he moves on to join the Samana with Govinda he learns to separate the mind from the body, yet he keeps returning to consciousness in a full cycle. The main goal of the Samana was to silence “all passions and desires” and they did this by fasting for days and giving up all possessions they owned as they believed that the mind and soul must be separated from the body. Although this seemed logical to him at first, he soon learned that one cannot live in extreme deprivation and be whole, just as the great Buddha did on his journey of enlightenment, and just like all Abrahamic religions preach. He then moved on from the Samanas yet when he did, he did not wish to leave on bad terms and taught the elder what he learned by hypnotizing him. This showed that he had already learned more about spirituality in the way the Samanas saw it than the people who had been practicing their whole lives. The fact that he did not wish to leave on bad terms also revealed that in his heart he was a good person, mostly due to his parents and initial roots. When he moved on to learn about the Buddha, although he was initially skeptical, he kept an open mind and when he met the Buddha, despite his skepticism he felt more connected to the Buddha than anyone else. The fact that he was able to identify the Buddha in a group of identical monks showed how spirituality is not just felt by yourself but people around you, when he disagreed with the Buddha, it was clear that it was due to his ego as seen in the phrase, “That is what Gotama teaches, nothing else.’ This shows his self-absorption at the moment. . When he moves on from this group, now without his shadow.

The next person he encounters is the ferryman, the one who had the largest impact on Siddhartha. The ferryman had managed to achieve nirvana without going on the same journey Siddhartha did, just by listening to the rivers voice. Although this may not make sense to many people, it did to me. Water is a calming element and at rivers or beaches is where I feel most at peace, although still far from achieving any form of nirvana it is where I most comfortably channel my thoughts, floating on the surface of the salt water, far from the stress and problems of the material world and this is the same way the ferryman felt. The ferryman was far from the influence of society and therefore was truly at peace, which presented the idea that society clouds one’s judgment and takes them far from enlightenment, an idea that is explored in depth later.

As he moves on from the ferryman and reaches the town, he tries to learn about the body and love, in belief that his goal can be achieved through love and when he met kamala he believed that his goal could be achieved however, kamala is portrayed to be a symbol of lust and clouds his judgment which he does not learn until he feels himself lose control with worldly possessions. As he begins to gamble, he gains more and more possessions and although he did not care about the money, he became obsessed with winning just the way he won over Kamala, thus feeding his ego and “like moisture entering the dying tree trunk…so did the world and inertia creep into Siddhartha’s soul” clouding his purity and all the work he did to remove the impurity is undone and his soul is portrayed to be poisoned by society and wealth. Although in modern society this isn’t always true, I have personally seen the less fortunate help others without questioning those in distress because that is what they were taught by Islam, however more fortunate people become obsessed with money and then go to extreme lengths to get more showing one of the seven deadly sins in action: greed, which I have seen in my own family.

As the story progresses, he then meets Govinda when he reaches his rock bottom, which shows the cyclical process of the story and life. Govinda did not recognize the remainder of the man he formerly knew as his friend yet still helps him, not out of pity but out of goodness, showing how it is not just the act of doing something good that is important but the source from where it stems. Siddhartha was once again isolated from society and that is when he began to find himself, again with the ferryman, learning their ways and the wisdom of the river, slowly restoring the man he once was. When he reached his rock bottom was when he lost his ego because that was what was holding him back and once he no longer had it anchoring him to the ground was when he could achieve his goal. Years later, he meets Kamala again yet this time she had a child, Siddhartha’s child. The same way Siddhartha left his father, he face the same problem with his son when his son leaves, but this time full of hatred, “I hate you; you are not my father even if you have been my mother’s lover a dozen times!’ Siddhartha’s son was poisoned by society and wealth the same way Siddhartha once was. When his son left him it once again showed a full cycle which is referenced to throughout the book, in order to show everyone’s connection.

When his son left, he learnt to overcome the grief and when he is once again faced with Govinda, he is unrecognizable to his friend again but this time due to the transformed person he had become in a better way. And once again he presented himself as the same person (to Govinda’s astonishment). In the final moments of the story, he achieved enlightenment and passed the same enlightenment onto his beloved friend because he realized that nothing can be achieved in extremes, everything must be in a perfect balance. Each part of his journey taught him something new, each society and culture he came across he felt himself become consumed by it and then had to awaken himself, each situation presenting itself like a perfect cycle. Each culture he came across taught him something new and he used each of these lessons to achieve nirvana. Even though everything around him kept changing, the only constant was the word “om” which acted as a reminder of who he was and who he was trying to be, holding a similar significance that the phrase “la ill a ha ilallah” holds for me. He found that the only way to achieve nirvana was to let go of his goal of achieving nirvana and achieve the perfect balance.

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Siddhartha’s Spiritual Journey In The Novel By Hermann Hesse. (2021, May 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 29, 2022, from
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