Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Thoughts on Hermann Hesse - "Siddhartha"

Siddhartha is ninth novel by Hermann Hesse written in 1922. The novel is about the man called Siddhartha (the same name with Gotama Buddha, that's why it can be mistakenly thought that the book is about Buddha) who is raised in the family of Brahmin. He's raised up with his friend Govinda and later they decide to leave their houses and start a journey with Samans (ascetic people) in a search of enlightenment. But Siddhartha feels that during these years he's spending with Samans not much has changed and his expectation were not these.

They were in search of enlightenment, but found only meaningless poverty. In a conversation with his friend Govinda, Siddhartha says:
- "We're doing meditation and trying to be enlightened, but it lasts only some moment. We're still in the same place, same circle. What's the difference between us and drunkards? They spend their times drinking and having fun seeing something new. The same with us. It last some time for us to get off the earth in our mind and then we're here again. The same place and the same condition."

His friend Govinda understands him, but believes that they're doing it right and soon they'll find the meaning. However one day the rumours spring around them that someone called Siddhartha Gotama (Buddha) has found meaning of life (existence) after enlightening. As soon as Siddhartha and Govinda hear about this, they go to meet this person teaching people his faith. They come to the garden where Buddha teaches people to find themselves and to be enlightened. Govinda finds him ideal person, so do Siddhartha. However Siddhartha decides to not follow Buddha, but to follow his own heart in a way of finding his own way. So, he leaves his friends Govinda and goes ahead to find his own way. He meets Buddha when he leaves the garden and short conversation goes between them. Siddhartha explains to Buddha that his teaching are ideal, but still he wants to get this own goals and find his own way. Also, he says that no one can understand what Buddha feels just by hearing the teachings.

Siddhartha soon meets a woman called Kamala (Kama in Indian culture is a goddess of love) who soon becomes his "sensual mentor (teacher of love)" after she helps him to get acquainted with Kamaswami, a trader and merchant who gets interested in this young man Siddhartha for being "patient, thinking and fasting". Kamaswami takes him as his own assistant in trading. Although Siddhartha finds this business very funny and meaningless he does it to get Kamala and her teaching in love. Kamala explains to him the secrets of loving. During the time Siddhartha spends his days in a wealth and expensive luxury. One day Kamala tell Siddhartha that she would like to have a child from him someday. This day they have the most pleasureful night. Siddhartha gets tired of his own life in a luxury and spending money in games living in a complete meaninglessness. So he leaves his own barn and wants to make a suicide and climbs into the tree where he looks down to his reflection. (This moment reminded me of "Steppenwolf" where Harry Haller sees his many reflections in a mirror, from his childhood till his adult years). He remembers the times he had with his family many years ago, the time he spent with Samans and how got there. Now everything is finished and he's exhausted. He decided to fall from the tree and die in a river. But as soon as he falls (falling moment reminded me of "Klein und Wagner" by Hesse where the man decides to make a suicide in the sea, but the falling moment was enough to get to know everything. It was enough to fall to know that this is all the game. God just puts us here to watch us. You can swear him or love him, you can kill or be a peaceful, you can be strong or weak, just ride through the life. This is it.) into the lake he hears "Aum" (the spiritual Hindu and Buddhist phrase used during the meditation). He understands: it doesn't have a meaning now, it's time to continue to get to the goal. Nothing is finished yet. He gets out of the river and falls asleep. As he wakes up he sees Govinda watching him. He recognizes his friend and they have a short conversation about the events they had from the time they fell apart. Govinda still is a Buddha follower like his peers. Siddhartha crosses the river (once he had crossed this river when he left his friend Govinda in a search of his own way). He talks to Vasudeva, the ferryman who once helped Siddhartha to cross the river for free. Siddhartha explains to Vasudeva that he wants to work here with him. Vasudeva takes him as his assistant. Siddhartha shortly discovers that Vasudeva is a wise man, even though he has been a ferryman for all his years. Soon Siddhartha learns to listen to the river and day by day he discovers wisdom of existence. One day people say that Buddha is going to die soon, so many people go to visit him before he dies. Kamala who bears a child from Siddhartha after he left the barn gives her garden to Buddha followers and goes to visit Buddha. Her child - young Siddhartha doesn't care who is Buddha as he doesn't find any meaning to visit someone walking miles just because they say that Buddha is going to die soon. On their way to the river Kamala gets poisoned of a snake. Vasudeva hears the cries of a child and woman and helps the woman to get better and takes them to his house. Siddhartha sees the woman and soon he understands that it's Kamala whom he left years ago and the child is from him. Kamala dies. Young Siddhartha doesn't like the life of his father and doesn't love him at all. But Siddhartha tries to be patient and thinks that one day it's gonna be better. However nothing changes. Vasudeva advises Siddhartha to leave child back home to go to school and be with his own mates. Siddhartha understands him, but still he doesn't want to leave his child. One day young Siddhartha leaves the house and goes back to the city. Siddhartha and Vasudeva go to find him, but soon Siddhartha understands that it's already meaningless. He's also left his home and father. Now his own child leaves him. The circle of life. Everything is coming back. Everything is repeating. Like the river repeats its own movement. The waves.
One day Vasudeva and Siddhartha sit at the river and Vasudeva asks him if he hears anything. Siddhartha listens to the sound of river. To the laughter. To all the universe going round. The sansara. The circle of life going round and roung. And it has a phrase: "Aum". Like everything is joined together in the harmony of meditation and "Aum". Vasudeva leaves Siddhartha and goes to the forest forever to get to the eternity.
Siddhartha continues his life at the river and the people all over the country talk about the saint person who got enlightened and his name is Siddhartha. One day Govinda comes to meet this wise man. He sees his old friend. Govinda is the same man, just older, but still the follower of Buddha, still not enlightened and not found the meaning. Before to leave Siddartha, he asks him to say something that will set him free and to find the way out of Sansara (the circle of destiny). Siddhartha explains to his friend that everything we see in this life deserved love. "the stone I have in my hand is saint to me. I love the stone, because maybe one day it'll become a plant or an animal. I just don't love the words. Words doesn't have any meaning. That's why I never followed any theory. Words never explain any feeling or love. "Nirvana" is a word only. You can pass knowledge to someone, but you can never pass the wisdom to someone.Wisdom comes from experience. Never experiencing something you'll never understand it. "
Govinda says that Love is a lie. And if we're not real what to do with that? What if everything we see is just a vision and nothing anymore?
Siddhartha explains: "that's why I love everything in this world. If it's just a vision, then we're also nothing but a vision. So, we're the same with the things. With the nature. Let philosopher sink in their thoughts. But all I do is love."
In the last moment Govinda says: Buddha, we're old people now. Maybe we'll never meet again. Please tell me something that will enlighten my path!
Siddhartha says: "Come near and bend! Bend more! Now kiss my forehead!"
Govinda does the same and in the moment Siddhartha's face turns into the everything. His face is everything he had all his life. He sees a king, he sees a victim, he sees a mother, he sees a child, he sees a stone and he sees a man. Everything was going all around the face of Siddhartha. In a moment Govinda remembers all the things he loved until this time and everything he had appreciated. All the gods were turning on the face. Nothing more had a meaning, except a meaning itself. We're in a circle and it's gonna go all around. Nothing is gonna be the same now, because everything will still go around the circle. We're people going on the waves of a river. Never to get, but there's some place where we're going. 

That's it.
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