Siddhartha had one single goal – to become empty, to become empty of thirst, desire, dreams, pleasure and sorrow – to let the Self die. No longer to be Self, to experience the peace of an emptied heart, to experience pure thought – that was his goal. When all the Self was conquered and dead, when all passions and desires were silent, then the last must awaken, the innermost of Being that is no longer Self – the great secret (14) Siddhartha, according to his actions, was constantly in search for knowledge, regardless of what kind, or what he had to do to obtain it. In the book titled Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse, this is shown to us by Siddhartha’s leaving home to join the Samanas, and all the actions leading to his residence alongside the river.
Leaving his loving family and home where all loved him, shows us that Siddhartha not only knows what he wants but will do anything to attain it. As described on pages 10 through 12, Siddhartha did not leave his father’s chambers until he had gotten his way, until his father had submitted to Siddhartha’s wishes and agreed to let him leave home to join the Samanas. This stubbornness, this patience with people and situations is also a large part of Siddhartha’s character. It enables him to out wait anyone or anything, which teaches him how to do without and also helps him through his time with the Samanas. “Siddhartha learned a great deal from the Samanas he learned many ways of losing the Self” (15). Despite the new knowledge he acquired, Siddhartha realized that it was only ” . . . a temporary palliative against the pain and folly of life” (17). And with this, his next decision was to leave the Samanas and go in search of the Buddha in order to learn perhaps something he did not already know. Through this we learn that Siddhartha, having learned all that is possible in one place, moves to another in search for more wisdom in search for the secret of how to obtain inner peace, how to find the Self. This action also shows his change by showing us that Siddhartha no longer has the patience to stick to certain routines as he did when he was at home in his youth. Finding the Buddha in a garden, Siddhartha and Govinda spend an evening and afternoon in the ” . . . Jetavana grove” listening to the teachings of the Buddha. Although what he has to say is all important and thought to be flawless by all, Siddhartha finds that the Buddha’s ” . . . doctrine of rising above the world, of salvation, has a small gap. And through this small break, the eternal and single world law which the Buddha preaches breaks down again” (32-3). This realization that teachings are not flawless shows that Siddhartha has started thinking on his own. He no longer practices routines of cleansing or chants verses in order to obtain a moment of inner peace. Once again, Siddhartha renews his journey, leaving Govinda and the Illustrious One behind, believing that no one finds salvation through teachings. Siddhartha was a deep thinker. He had found a flaw with the flawless teachings of the Buddha. He had realized that he would never attain inner peace through others teachings, but that he alone had to seek it. And this is what he did, stopping next for a lesson in love from the beautiful courtesan, Kamala. Because of this experience, he shed his Samana robes and became a merchant. He gambled and acquired riches all for the love of a beautiful woman. As the years passed, Siddhartha’s soul became corrupted with characteristics of ordinary people. He relied on luxury now, when before he could have fasted or begged for his food. His goals were lost and forgotten until a dream one night awakened him and ” . . . overwhelmed him with a feeling of great sadness” (82). Siddhartha, realizing he had lost his path, now decided it was time to get back on it. This stubbornness, as mentioned before, now helps him carry out his newly found goal., also making his parting from Kamala a lighter burden.
His soul had been corrupted. His goals had been lost. Now Siddhartha had to start his search anew, but the beginnings of the ability to love another person were now implanted in his heart. As he reached the river, Siddhartha was overwhelmed with a feeling ” . . . of desire to let himself go and be submerged in the water. The chilly emptiness in the water reflected the terrible emptiness of his soul” (88). Siddhartha was in a terrible state. After years of riches and luxury, he had cast it all aside in order to find a place for spiritual renewal. In this quest for the inner Self, Siddhartha had now reached this place: the river. “He sank down at the foot of the cocoanut tree, overcome by fatigue. Murmuring Om, he laid his head on the tree roots and sank into a deep sleep” (90).
After awakening, Siddhartha chose to stay with the ferryman Vasudeva, who had been a great listener. From this ferryman he learned how to listen to the river and how to interpret what it was saying. Siddhartha had thrown away his previous life of wealth for the life of a ferryman, a life of poverty. But Siddhartha knew that from the river his enlightenment would come. His prediction was correct. When Govinda returned from a pilgrimage, he stopped by the river and waited for the ferryman to carry him across. He had recognized the peace on Siddhartha’s face, the peace of one who had found the secret. And indeed Siddhartha had.
Through his quest for the inner Self in Hesse’s novel, Siddhartha had given up many things, made many sacrifices in order to further his knowledge. He was always moving along, never stopping in one place permanently. His quest was never ending until the river had taught him what he needed to know. Hesse, in a way, shows us that only through sacrifice will someone gain what he is looking for. He shows us that life is not given to one on a platter, but needs to be looked for in order to be found. Siddhartha, through his departure from home and the Samanas, his realization that not even the Buddha was perfect in his teachings, his abandonment of Kamala, and finally through his decision to stay and learn from Vasudeva, shows us that he had spent his whole life in search of something that was missing, his peace. In the end, Siddhartha finds his inner Self, he finds his peace.