The first chapter of Siddhartha is set in a Brahmin household located in the serene and peaceful atmosphere of an Indian village, but it is an India of an ancient era. In the next chapter, the scene shifts to the forest where the Samaras lead an ascetic life of self-denial. The third chapter takes Siddhartha to the town and the garden of Jetavana and the teachings of the holy Buddha. In the fourth chapter, Siddhartha leaves the forest enters a large town of merchants, children and a well-known courtesan and her lovely pleasure garden. Upon leaving the town Siddhartha returns to the river.Order now
The remainder of the novel centers on this river in the woods. Siddhartha is the handsome and learned son of a Brahmin who has studied the Hindu scriptures thoroughly and often enters into discussions with elders. Siddhartha displays qualities of self-discipline and self-reliance. But he is discontented and restless and questions all that have been taught to him and wonders whether the sacrifices prescribed in the religious teachings really can bring happiness and peace within oneself. This is what compels him to leave his family and home.
Siddhartha feels himself superior to the child-people, the ordinary folk around him; humility is not part of his character. He is even so arrogant and self-assured that he argues with the Buddha himself about the logic of his teachings. As it turns out, Siddhartha is not superior to ordinary people in at least one respect. Although he enters the world of business and sensual pleasure as a game, he becomes trapped in it like the people he looked down upon. He finally experience love as an old man. Yet it is through love and its pain, that he at last achieves wisdom.
Siddhartha goes through drastic changes in his quest to discover himself. He starts off as an intelligent but impudent young man who openly seeks to attain Nirvana; As a Samana, he practices the art of self-denial, but finds no peace. He enters Samsara, the world of material things, but true happiness escapes him. Eventually he rejects both the world of the spirit and the world of the senses, and goes to live with the ferryman, Vasudeva. Beside the river, Siddhartha experiences Nirvana, where the unity of life allows everything to co-exist.
In the last stage of his life, when he is old and nearing death, Siddhartha comes to the understanding that time is illusory, for life flows on in continuity, the present become eternity. Govinda Siddhartha”s boyhood friend and companion is also a seeker of wisdom, but he is content to learn from teachers and remain a follower. Govinda leaves Siddhartha to become a Buddhist monk. Their paths will cross several times during their lives. Kamala is a worldly woman who will accept Siddhartha only when he comes well dressed and bringing gifts.
She plays an important role in the novel, characterized by her breathtaking physical beauty, her love of material possession, and her lovemaking skills. On a deeper level, she too is a seeker. She admits that she is unable to feel love, and she observes this same in Siddhartha. She undertakes her final journey to pay Buddha honor on his deathbed and at the end gives her pleasure garden to the monks. Vasudeva is a kindly ferryman who lives in solitude and has discovered his inner self by communing with the river. The ferryman turns out to be Siddhartha”s teacher who, simply by listening, points the way to wisdom.
He is a great thinker and learns about life the through his communion with the river. Through his actions rather than words he reveals to Siddhartha the secrets of life, teaching him not only how to listen but how to love. When he is dying he leaves Siddhartha simply disappearing into the woods. Siddhartha”s story is a quest for the great truth for heavenly salvation. He sets out to find the bliss of perfect understanding and unity with the creator. He tries time and again but still abandons the religious ways that are offered to him. He then experiences the world of pleasure and the senses.
This leads him away from his religious teachings and into a world of excess, greed, sloth and contempt for his own life. He is so sickened that he finally abandons his wealth, possessions, and Kamala and leaves the city. Though he contemplates taking his own life he discovers that he has had an awakening. Siddhartha finds Vasudeva, the gentle ferryman and he remains as his helper, living simply and learning what the river teaches. He recognizes it as no longer a boundary that divides. Now it represents the past, present, and future, and all aspects of how life flows together.
Siddhartha comes to understand that there is no conflict between the spiritual and the material worlds, that all human experience is to be and must embraced, and that the only difference between ordinary people and sages is that the sages understand this unity. This is the vision that Siddhartha at last sees in the river. Life must be experienced in whole, the good and the bad in order to understanding and achieve complete knowledge in life. Hiding within ones religious beliefs without the human experience of emotion, love, hate, envy, and loss does not make a complete experience, only a portion of what God intended for us to be.