Siddhartha: A Spiritual Journey of Self-Discovery
Siddhartha, a publication by Hermann Hesse, is a novel that seeks to give answers to profound questions pertaining love, individuality, self, and friendship. The plot revolves around the life of Siddhartha and Govinda, sons of Bahraims, and their quest to understand Nirvana, or the way of life. Both characters have underlying desires to understand the way of life through divinity. Nevertheless, they differ in their ways and willingness to search for the truth. The path that Siddhartha follows is manifested in three principal stages namely asceticism, prosperity, reflection and evaluation of experiences which are the stages that enable him to attain his childhood goal of gaining absolute wisdom and enlightenment.
The publication takes a bibliographical theme which enhances a smooth transition of events during Siddhartha’s journey. It makes the publication enticing and extremely captivating to the audience. The novel starts with the departure of the persona from his home. Upon leaving it, Siddhartha makes several mistakes along the way. Nevertheless, he realizes them and yet again embarks on his path to Nirvana. The novel portrays an array of themes such as love, wisdom, spirituality, mortality, and dissatisfaction.
Among the numerous themes in the novel, the theme of spirituality is manifested throughout the text. It is seen from the time Siddhartha leaves his family, friends, and home in search of enlightenment until the end when he attains Nirvana. Siddhartha’s spiritual journey to Nirvana succumbs under worldly pleasures along the way. It is manifested by how the pleasures suck Siddhartha in deeper and deeper until he loses his focus. The magnitude of his belief in spirituality is manifested when he refuses to learn the ways of enlightenment from others. Instead, he wants to experience it by himself through personal experiences.
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Upon leaving his home, Siddhartha joins a group of Samana believing that he might attain Nirvana. The Samana is a group of wandering ascetics that in Siddhartha’ opinion attained enlightenment and divine. The Samana’s believes that self-actualization can only be attained by a life of self-deprivation, and wandering. Nevertheless, after a three year period, Siddhartha leaves them and instead opts to follow the teachings of Gotama. The role of Samana in the plot of the novel is to show that divinity alone cannot bring about self-actualization.
Asceticism in the life of Siddhartha marks his first stage to enlightenment. Asceticism is characterized by a state of self-mortification of all worldly pleasures. This is a search of contemplative ideologies about life as well as religious aspects. The protagonist, Siddhartha, denies himself material possessions in order to attain divinity.
This phenomenon can be compared with the life that monks or hermits lead in today’s society. Since he was born in a wealthy family, Siddhartha tries asceticism to attain enlightenment. He is the son of a prince, Rajah (Soccio 43). He latr finds out that he is not able to attain satisfaction through asceticism. He is frustrated after discovering that asceticism is merely a way to escape daily earthly tribulations for people.
Siddhartha abandons his position as a future Brahmin priest after he discovers that asceticism is a sheer waste of time. This scene plays a prominent role in the plot development of the novel Siddharta. It shows that absolute divinity cannot bring about any form of wisdom otherwise gained through experience. It brings about the realization that divinity cannot yield any form of wisdom alone without experiencing events themselves. Siddhartha realizes that it is possible to attain knowledge through teachings, but wisdom cannot be attained by mere communication.
The second phase in his journey to enlightenment is illustrated by Siddhartha’s change of lifestyles from asceticism to wealth and prosperity. He abandons the learned ascetics and decides to take pride in acquiring earthly possessions. During this phase, he encounters Kamala, a beautiful courtesan, who later educates him about the arts of love (Goode 70). Upon their marriage, Siddhartha accepts Kamala as a teacher in the world of wealth and prosperity. Siddhartha describes Kamala as a good teacher who aided him on his path to enlightenment. Due to her help, he sees everything that the world of possessions has to offer.
Kamala plays a prominent role in this scene. She takes up the educative role of enlightening Siddhartha about the pleasures of the world. Her relationship with Siddhartha can be characterized to be that of one of a teacher and a student (Hesse 41). She helps Siddhartha see that material possessions cannot help him attain self-actualization. Together with Kamala, they have a child who further binds them together. Nevertheless, at the end of this phase, their bond is not built on transcendent love, but is mutually beneficial as with the help of Siddhartha, Kamala seems to attain relative peace if not enlightenment.
After several years of living a materialistic life, Siddhartha evaluates his life characterized by money, sex, and possessions. He lives like a merchant based from two different decades, by learning about love from Kamala, and wealth from Kamaswami (BookCaps). Siddhartha again realizes that he has no meaningful thing in his life. He realizes that he is suffering from what is characterized as the soul sickness, which is supposedly attained by rich people. This realization drives him into making a decision to leave Kamala and all the wealth he amassed for her.
He realizes that in order to appreciate all things in life, a person must search for inner peace and wisdom. Earthly possessions, despite how extensive they can be, are not enough for a person to attain Nirvana. From this phase, he also learns that in order to attain inner peace, a person should not necessary look for Nirvana. Instead, he or she should be ready to learn various life teachings and appreciate all experience that comes along the way.
The third stage in Siddhartha’s life is marked by his encounter with Vasudeva, a ferryman, while wandering in the woods (Bailey & Hoffman 142). Vasudeva plays a key role in the Siddhartha’s quest at this stage, who is depicted as an intelligent man. He enhances the theme of wisdom in the plot Siddhartha becomes an apprentice to Vasudeva and also shares his life experiences with him. Siddhartha is fascinated on how another person can get so captivated by his narration through listening. After narrating his experiences, Siddhartha realizes that he attains self-calmness and relief. He marvels at the power of listening that Vasudeva has.
This phase marks the climax of the play. Through listening, Siddhartha learns about the interconnectedness of various life forms in the world. He achieves this after Vasudeva advises him to listen to the flow of water in the river (Hesse 111). He performs this with a still heart and an open soul. This is whereby a person listens without any opinions, desire, passion, or even judgments. With the help of Vasudeva, Siddhartha learns about the power of listening. This aspect is also the prime factor which makes him attain knowledge about the unity of different things in life. This is a remarkably significant phase in Siddhartha’s path to enlightenment.
The significance of this phase is that Siddhartha realizes that the path to happiness and wisdom can be blocked by personal factors. For example, a person can become too much focused on attaining wisdom and knowledge. At this stage, Siddhartha realizes that a finder can recollect all his life’s experiences. The recollection signifies that a person became a finder. When a person reaches this state, it is possible for him or her to attain Nirvana. This position makes Siddhartha attain a state of self-actualization. He attains the ways of the Buddha symbolized by the total wisdom and intelligent.
The final phase illustrates a true form of happiness and satisfaction that a person can obtain in this world. In this final stage, Siddhartha learns that all sins carry a form of grace within them. He is also able to learn that all forms of suckling have death forms within them. He also gets enlightened by the fact that small children can also be potentially old people. These phrases in the novel show that Siddhartha has already attained wisdom and divine peace in totality. In the end, despite his long journey to enlightenment, Siddhartha attains his childhood desires in his old age.
In conclusion, the novel is an enticing and fascinating read. It discusses the true source of happiness in totality according to Siddhartha. It brings the argument that true happiness cannot be attained from earthly possessions or asceticism. True happiness, divine peace, and wisdom are achieved when an individual listens to his inner personality. At the same time, a person should be able to evaluate and reflect on all his life experiences. This way, it is possible for a person to adjust and improve his life from past experiences.