Buddhism in "Siddhartha"

Term Paper, 2008
5 Pages, Grade: 90.0


Buddhism in Siddhartha

Kalu Rinpoche once said “We live in illusion and the appearance of things. There is a reality. We are that reality. When you understand this, you see that you are nothing, and being nothing, you are everything. That is all.” This quote represents Buddhism; Kalu Rinpoche says that everything we witness and see is only an illusion. Everything we hold onto is not real, it’s suffering in disguise. He than says that we are the reality, what he means is, one is able to end suffering by realizing it and facing it. When one understands this they know the way to enlightenment. Many of what he is saying and the concepts of Buddhism are related with the novel “Siddhartha”. Each part of the book represents one of the Four Noble Truths. It is portrayed by Siddhartha’s journey in search for enlightenment. Each new challenge he faces is a representation of the ways to end suffering and the path that leads to Nirvana.

In the chapter “With the Samanas”, Siddhartha abandons the life of a Brahman to join the samanas, hoping to find a way to end suffering and find liberation from the self. After joining the samanas he realizes that the world is filled with lies and illusions. The world was bitter. He than had one goal and that was “to become empty, empty of thirst, empty of wishes, empty of dreams, empty of joy and sorrow” (Hesse, 7). Achieving emptiness would help abolish suffering and rid a person of unwanted desires. In Buddhism emptying oneself of all desires will allow us to see the truth and reach nirvana, a realization of no-self (Sach, 37). Siddhartha learnes many things from the samanas, such as “take many paths away from self. He took the path of liberation from self through pain, through voluntary suffering…” (Hesse, 8). Taking many paths away from the self gives Siddhartha a new perspective; he realized that people were stuck in a cycle of existence, being reborn over and over again. It is conclude that rising above the cycle of rebirth would set you free (Sach, 7). In Buddhism to abolish suffering you would have to end your desires. Desires bound us to an endless cycle, keeping us far from Nirvana. Being with the samanas has taught Siddhartha ways to briefly escape from the self and to empty out the mind of desires.

In the following chapter “Gotama”, Siddhartha believes that to reach nirvana one would have to experience things for themselves instead of being shown or read about it. Siddhartha tells the Buddha that the doctrine “does not contain the secret of what the Sublime One himself experienced” (Hesse, 19). To successfully reach nirvana, Siddhartha concludes that a person can’t do it without actually experiencing the sensations that lead up to the enlightenment. Buddhists experience degrees of awakening for themselves, with the most important of Buddhist awakening is enlightenment (Gach, 18). Siddhartha has a heated discussion about his ideas with Gotama. He said. “You have found deliverance from death. It has become yours through your own quest, on your own path…It did not become yours through teachings!!” (Hesse, 19) According to Siddhartha, teachings are not capable to help anyone attain enlightenment; one must experience it for themselves. Buddhism manifests itself through personal realization- through the practice of its principles (Sach, 3). Experiences are the most important to achieving enlightenment.

The chapter titled "Samsara" describes how Siddhartha understands that he is stuck in a game or a cycle of life set to continue forever. He realizes this and comes to the conclusion that he must escape. Siddhartha conceives that his soul “the wheel of asceticism, the wheel of thought, the wheel of discernment, had kept on turning for sometime, and was still turning, but turning slowly and hesitantly” (Hesse, 41). Being with the child-people and living in such a pointless life style for so long, Siddhartha finally figures out it was time to stop playing this game. In Buddhism, Buddhist constantly strove to escape this repeating pattern of life and death (Sach, 7). After wondering in his garden he sits under a mango tree and a thought comes to him “that he has been living his life in a worthless way, worthless and pointless; nothing alive, nothing in the least way valuable or worth keeping, had remained in his hand” (Hesse, 44). Trying to hold on to materialistic objects bound us to an inevitable cycle of life and death. Realizing our greed frees us from craving stuff needlessly with out an actual satisfaction; it frees us to discover the true satisfaction of compassion and generosity (Gach 84). To end the cycle of life, one must let go of all things that bound them to this world.

In the next chapter, “By the River” Siddhartha goes through a transformation that reflects the third rule of the Four Noble Truth. Living with the child-people causes Siddhartha to lose sight of what he is really after. He wanders back to the river and reminisce on the many years that past which leads to an epiphany “worldly pleasures and wealth are not good things…I knew it for a long time, but only now have I experienced it” (Hesse, 53). After so many years with the child-people he became one of them and was trapped until now. He starts to understand what he has been doing wrong. In Buddhism, recognizing the delusion that happiness exist outside of oneself, one is free to turn within and discover innate capacity for unconditional happiness (Gach, 83). Wealth and pleasure does not bring true happiness, instead it brings needless pain. Another thing Siddhartha realizes is that “he too, would grow old; he, too, would have to die sometime; Siddhartha was mortal, every created thing was mortal” (Hesse, 54). Getting sick and being old is an inevitable burden that everyone must face, recognizing this can help one reach nirvana and end suffering. Underneath our craving and grasping lies our ignorance. We cannot end sickness or old age, but we can stop setting our selves up for a fall (Gach, 83). Not facing the truth can only lead to grief.

In the chapter titled “Ferryman” Siddhartha lives by the river and is taught many things that relate to Buddhist teachings. Living alongside the river, Siddhartha occasionally learns something new and tells Vasudeuva. He asked him “Have you, too, learned that secret from the river: that there is no such thing as time.” (Hesse, 57) With more new knowledge Siddhartha attains, he gains a step closer to reaching Nirvana. Siddhartha is starting to develop more of a right understanding on things. Right understanding means to see things as they are and not as we would see them through our own experience, with out own personal bias (Sach, 44). One day Kamala, Siddhartha’s past lover shows up with a son. She is bitten by a snake and died soon after that. Siddhartha experiences sorrow but he goes outside and sits by the river. The river teaches him “the concept of oneness” (Hesse, 62). Realizing that all things are as one would get him one step closer to Nirvana. Buddhist believes in the unity of all things, so they sought to become one with all creation (Gach, 18). Being one with everything and having right understanding brings one closer to enlightenment.

In the next chapter titled, “Om” Siddhartha understands the concept of oneness. While Siddhartha talks with Vasudeuva about his troubles and grief, he notices that Vasudeuva listens more strongly than before. He notices how Vasudeuva is able to perceive and absorb everything that is told to him. Siddhartha starts to see him as a god because, Vasudeuva had reach enlightenment. After Siddhartha’s long rant, Vasudeuva brings him to a seat by the river bank and tells him to listen to the river, to teach him about oneness. Siddhartha listens attentively, and hears many voices. When he tries to listen harder, images of people he knew comes up and dissolves into one. Siddhartha finally gets it, “It was nothing but a preparedness of the soul, a capability, a secret art of conceiving the idea of oneness at every moment, in the midst of life’s activities: the ability to feel and absorb oneness” (Hesse, 70). In Buddhism, oneness is the key to enlightenment. Knowing and figuring out that everything is one, gets one much closer to nirvana. It helps one understand that there is no difference in things, everything and everyone is one. If one has an enlightened mind, then one has realized that all things are as one (Sach, 7). Siddhartha listens longer and hears different kinds of voices in the river. He figures that all these voices are interwoven and connected, that all these voices belong to the world, and that all of this was the music of life. Siddhartha then tries to listen even more attentively to the river and realizes that all the voices together make one single word, Om. After realizing this, Siddhartha stops struggling with his destiny. He becomes enlightened, “On his face there blossomed the serenity of a knowledge that was no longer opposed by his will, a knowledge that knew perfection that was in accord with the river of events, with the current of life, full of sympathy, full of shared, full of shared pleasure yielding to the current, part of the oneness” (Hesse, 73). When one attains enlightenment one feels great happiness and no worries. Once a Buddhist achieves an enlighten mind, it becomes part of the nature of the Buddhist to be compassionate and practice loving-kindness to everyone and everything (Sach, 8). When listening patiently to your surroundings one is capable to find a peace of mind.


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Buddhism in "Siddhartha"
The University of Texas at Austin
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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buddhism, siddhartha
Quote paper
Kenny Chan (Author), 2008, Buddhism in "Siddhartha", Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/276723


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