Once both men acquire the art of listening, what happens in their relationship with other people? What varyin reactions do these people express after their contacts with the two men?

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After having heard of Siddhartha's woe, Vasuveda leads Siddhartha back to the river, imploring him to listen deeply. At first Siddhartha hears only the voices of sorrow, but these voices are soon joined by voices of joy, and at last all the voices are subsumed under the great sound of "Om." Realizing the unity of these voices, Siddhartha's pain fades away and "his Self had merged into unity" (136). He has at last found salvation. Recognizing his friend's achievement, Vasuveda departs into the woods to die, thereby joining the unity he had helped Siddhartha find at last.


I believe this is the section you're looking for; please let me know if I've looked at this in the wrong context.


It is in this chapter that Siddhartha finally attains Nirvana. The way in which he does this suggests a subtle inversion of the path Siddhartha had hitherto followed. Siddhartha discovers that he is not as different from other people as he had once imagined. As Hesse says, "He did not understand or share their thoughts and views, but he shared with them life's urges and desires," most importantly, the desire to love and be love (130). Ironically, it was the frustration of this desire that made him so aware of its power. In other words, Siddhartha learned to identify with other people through identifying with their suffering. By suffering, he was able to include himself in the unity of human beings. This is subtly different than the traditional Hindu/Buddhist view which urges us to expand the scope of our identification as a means to avoid suffering. Suffering stems from too narrow a focus on personal desires and can be abolished only by expanding our consciousness past the point of desire; to be unified with everything, to find peace, means no longer identifying yourself with suffering.

Rather than following this logic, Siddhartha's path to unification and peace proceeds by recognizing that he is the kind of being that suffers, that he is the kind of being that experiences joys. All of these various aspects of him are part of the great unity of nature. Being one with everything means identifying with everything rather than not identifying with anything and subsequently identifying with nothing. This becomes the answer to Siddhartha's unanswered question as to whether the consciousness of unity has great value. The answer is a resounding yes, but this consciousness must come from a life of concrete experience and not an abstract awareness of metaphysical objectivity. It arises from within life and not outside of it.

This is why Siddhartha realizes that wisdom is "a preparation of the soul, a capacity, a secret art of thinking, feeling and breathing thoughts of unity at every moment of life" (131). Wisdom is engagement with life rather than withdrawal. It is a way of living, of accepting and appreciating all aspects of life as valid and important. The river laughed at Siddhartha because he still rebelled against his suffering. He did not yet accept suffering as part of the unity of life. This, then, is what Vasuveda showed him at the river. The torrents of pain and suffering were everywhere in the river, but with them were the babbling streamlets of simple joy and cascades of personal fulfillment. A single-minded focus on either pain or joy ignores the totality that became "the great song of a thousand voices [that] consisted of one word: Om‹perfection" (136).

This is a very complex proposal, as one might expect any prescription for salvation to be. Accordingly, there are any number of possible responses. In any case, it is hard to know what to make of this chapter in which a talking river leads Siddhartha to Nirvana and Vasuveda enters forest enshrouded in a dazzling light in order to go "into the unity of all things" (137). This episode seems to belong to realm of the mythic perhaps more than any other. If this is so, though, what lessons are we supposed to take from it? In particular, how are we supposed to interpret the central notion of unification. Obviously, Siddhartha's consciousness remains in some sense separate; he is still a locus of thoughts and intentions. These are questions which Siddhartha proposes to address in the final chapter.