Part One: Siddhartha
The Brahmins Son
Siddhartha, the son of a Brahmin (a Hindu Priest), and his best friend, Govinda, have grown up learning the ways of the Brahmins. Everyone in their village loves Siddhartha. But although he brings joy to everyone's life, Siddhartha feels little joy himself. He is troubled by restless dreams and begins to wonder if he has learned all that his father and the other Brahmins can teach him. As Hesse says, "...they had already poured the sum total of their knowledge into his waiting vessel; and the vessel was not full, his intellect was not satisfied, his soul was not at peace, his heart was not still" (5).
Siddhartha is dissatisfied with the Brahmans because despite their knowledge, the Brahmins are seekers still, performing the same exercises again and again in order to reach their goalNirvana: the peace of oneness with Atman the Divine withinwithout ever finding it. But if Atman is within, then oneness with it must proceed by focusing on the world within. As Siddhartha says, "One must find the source within one's Self, one must possess it. Everythig else was seekinga detour, error" (7). It is Siddhartha's search for this new path that leads him to the ascetic Samanas.
When Siddhartha announces his intention to join the Samanas, his father becomes very upset and forbids Siddhartha's departure. In respectful defiance, Siddhartha does not move. His frustrated father leaves him, gazing out of his window periodically to see if Siddhartha has left. The obstinate youth, though, remains motionless. Night passes. In the morning, Siddhartha's father returns to his intransigent son and realizes that while Siddhartha's body remains is present, his mind had already departed. Siddhartha's father acquiesces to his son's wishes and allows him to leave, reminded him that he is welcome back should he find disillusionment with the Samanas. Govinda joins Siddhartha as they disappear into the forest in search of the Samanas.
With the Samanas
As Samanas, Siddhartha and Govinda relinquish all their possessions and dedicate themselves to meditation, fasting, and other methods of mortification. As a result of this, the normal human world becomes anathema to Siddhartha. It is all illusory and destined to decay, leaving those who treasure it in great pain. With the Samanas, "Siddhartha had one goal - to become empty, to become empty of thirst, desire, dreams, pleasure, and sorrowto let the Self die" (14). His path to self-negation was through physical pain, pain he endured until he no longer felt it as pain. When pain is gone, the Self fades into oblivion and peace is attained. But while pain became a memory for Siddhartha, peace did not come.
After having been with the Samanas for some time, Siddhartha expresses concern that he is no closer to his goal than he was before joining the Samanas. Govinda replies that while they have grown in spirit, they still have much to learn. In response, Siddhartha derisively comparesthe Samanas' life to that of a drunkard, a series of temporary respites from the pains of existence. Ultimately, Siddhartha reasons, one cannot really learn anything from teachers or the doctrines they espouse. As Siddhartha tells Govinda, "There is, my friend, only a knowledgethat is everywhere, that is Ataman, that is in me and you and every creature, and I am beginning to believe that this knowledge has no worse enemy than the man of knowledge, than learning" (19). Siddhartha is unsettled by the implications of his thoughts but feels certain that the Samanas have nothing for to teach him. For this reason, Siddhartha declares that he will leave the Samanas soon.
Three years after joining the Samanas, Siddhartha and Govinda hear intriguing rumors of a great man, Goatama, the Buddha, who, having attained enlightenment, teaches others the way to peace. Govinda is immediately entranced by this tale and tells Siddhartha of his intent to seek out Goatama. Siddhartha, surprised by Govinda's uncharacteristic initiative, wishes his friend well. Govinda, though, wishes Siddhartha to seek the Buddha with him. Siddhartha expresses his doubt that anything new can be learned from this man, but surrenders to Govinda's enthusiasm and agrees to go. The leaders of the Samanas scolds Siddhartha and Govinda for their departure. Siddhartha then demonstrates his mastery of the Samana ways by hypnotizing the old master.
Siddhartha and Govinda travel to Savathi, where they discover that the Buddha is staying in Jetavana, in the garden of Anathapindika. Arriving in Jetavana, Siddhartha recognizes Goatama immediately despite his nondescript dress: "he wore his gown and walked along exactly like the other monks, but his face and his step...spoke of peace, spoke of completeness,...an unfading light, an invulnerable peace."(28). And while Siddhartha is not terribly interested in what the Buddha has to say, he is completely taken with the Buddha's demeanor.
The two men hear Gotama's sermon, after which Govinda announces his intention to join in Goatama's discipleship. Siddhartha commends Govinda for his decision, but says that he will not join up. Govinda asks Siddhartha what fault he finds in the Buddha's program that makes him resist pledging his allegiance. Siddhartha says that he finds no fault; he just does not want to join. The next day Govinda takes his monk's robe and bids Siddhartha a sad farewell.
As Siddhartha is leaving, he runs into Goatama in the woods and questions the Buddha about his teachings. Siddhartha compliments the theoretical coherence of Gotama's worldview, the ultimate unity of creation and the incessant chain of causes and effects, but remarks that Goatama's doctrine of salvation, the transcendence of causation, calls into question the consistency of his position. Goatama responds by saying that he goal of his teaching is not "to explain the world to those who are thirsty for knowledge. It's goal is quite different; its goal is salvation from suffering. That is what Goatama teaches, nothing else" (33). Siddhartha, afraid that he has offended the Buddha, reiterates his confidence in the Buddha's holiness, but expresses his doubt that any teaching can ever provide the learner with the experience of Nirvana. And while Gotama's path may be appropriate for some, Siddhartha says that he must take his own path, lest self-deception overtake him and he admit to Nirvana before having actually attained it. The Buddha admonishes Siddhartha to beware his own cleverness then wishes him well on his path.
As Siddhartha leaves the Buddha, he realizes that a change has overcome him: he has outgrown the desire for teachers. From teachers he had sought to discover the mystery of his Self. As Siddhartha says, "Truly, nothing in the world has occupied my thoughts as much as the Self, this riddle, that I live, that I am one and am separated and different from everybody else, that I am Siddhartha" (38). But in seeking this Self, Siddhartha has only succeeded in fleeing from it. He was so consumed in annihilating this Self that he had lost sight of it completely. The path to self-knowledgeand with it a knowledge of everything: Atman and Brahman are onecannot proceed by listening to the voice of others. Instead, as Siddhartha puts it, "I will learn from myself, be my own pupil; I will learn from myself the secret of Siddhartha" (39).
This awakening leads to a change in Siddhartha's perception of the world. Whereas he formerly reviled the world as a painful illusion, a distraction from a submerged, unitary reality, he now sees that the value in the world of the senses. Unlike the Brahmins and Samanas who ignored the wondrous diversity of shapes and colors around them, seeking to reduce everything to the common denominator of Braham, Siddhartha became convinced that truth was in the plurality rather than the commonality of nature. As he says, "meaning and reality were not hidden somewhere behind things, they were in them, in all of them" (40).
This realization set Siddhartha apart from all of his previous associations. He was no longer a Brahmin or a Samansa, and he had resisted following his friend Govinda into the Buddha's discipleship. While this consciousness of solitude was frightening, it was also exhilarating; untethered from these communities and languages of thought, Siddhartha was more himself than ever. Enlivened by this new feeling of authenticity, Siddhartha "bean to walk quickly and impatiently, no longer homewards, no longer to his father, no longer looking backwards" (42).
Part One: Siddhartha
The Brahmins Son
One of the most difficult hindrances in approaching this novel in a sophisticated manner is its use of Indian religious/philosophical concepts. Unfortunately, Hesse does not always do a good job explaining these concepts, and so Siddhartha's conflicts, which may be intelligible on an intuitive level, defy complete comprehension. Many of these concepts are invoked in this first chapter, and so I will take the opportunity here to explicate some of the most significant of these. It should be said, though, that this is not an authoritative elaboration of these concepts. As within any vibrant religious or philosophical tradition, there is a diversity of opinions on even central issues. The picture presented here is meant only to provide the reader with enough background to appreciate the context in which Siddhartha's life is lived.
Although Buddhist inventions become more significant as the book progresses, Siddhartha, and Buddhism generally, take Hinduism as their starting point. Hinduism is at its core a pantheistic religion in that it holds that, despite appearances, the Divine, Brahman, is ultimately indistinguishable from its creation. The world is not just suffused with the Divine, it is actually is the Divine. This is as true of human beings as it is of every other aspect of Nature. The aspect of the Divine which resides in humans is called Atman; it is not that this Atman is an incomplete piece of Brahman, and that if one were to take the sum of the Divine in all things one would constitute the whole of Brahman. Brahman is indivisible, and so Atman is just the name we apply to Brahman in ourselves.
The phenomenal world which we daily experience is called Maya. Ultimately, this world is an illusion, an elaborate costume which covers the essence of Absolute Reality, Brahman, which, unnoticed, animates everything. Importantly, our subjective selves, our egos, are Maya as well. For reasons unknown to us, our Atman enters the cycle of birth and rebirth, Samsara, advancing through a series of lives, from unconsciousness, to consciousness, to self-consciousness. Self-consciousness results in the development of the ego, but it does not terminate there. As we are not really our ego but are Atman-Brahman, we are not fully self-conscious until we identify ourselves with our true natures. It is this realization which liberates us from the cycle of rebirth, a liberation, Mukti, which dissolves our individuality and reunites us the totality of being from which we sprang.
Siddhartha is the son of a Brahmin, a Hindu priest. According to the Hindic concept of Karma, our condition in our present life is the direct result of our actions in our previous lives. Being born a Brahmin means that one's soul, jiva, is nearing the end of its journey of self-consciousness, its journey to itself. As a Brahmin, Siddhartha's role in life is to work single-mindedly on achieving Nirvana, oneness with Brahman. It is this quest which we watch Siddhartha follow throughout the novel.
We are told that Siddhartha is exceptionally skilled in the Brahmin's art. He knows how to meditate on the mantra, Om, the most sacred, and recognizes the Atman within himself. He has, we are told, learned all that the Brahmins can teach, yet he still feels unsatisfied, the peace of Nirvana still alludes him. Moreover, he has never seen nor heard of any Brahmin who has reached Nirvana. If Nirvana is oneness with Brahman and Brahman is Atman, then the path to the Nirvana must proceed inward; all other paths, all other activities, including the path of the Brahmin must be distractions. It is for this reason that Siddhartha joins the Samanas, hoping that their focus on self-purification will better direct him to Atman and to Nirvana.
This brings out two important thematic issues to consider when reading the novel. First, the relationship between the actual practice of Hinduism and the beliefs and attitudes espoused by Hesse's Siddhartha. Hinduism, in theory at least, is an extraordinarily tolerant religion, asserting that that are many different ways one can approach the Divine. Which way appeals to each person depends on the person; no path is ultimately better than another. There is a definite sense in which Siddhartha's denunciation of Brahminism appears more than merely an acknowledgment that it doesn't quite work for himself. By noting that he has known no Brahmin who has achieved Nirvana, Siddhartha seems to be saying that Brahminism will not lead to Nirvana. Such universal claims may fit the tenor of Hesse's universal exhortation to self-awarenessSiddhartha is supposed to be an Indian Everymanbut they do not represent the perspective of Hinduism.
Second, there is a tension between two of Siddhartha's pursuits, discovering what is true of the world and finding a life of absolute peace. It seems at this point that Siddhartha is conflating these two: that which is true will bring peace. This is underscored by the fact that Siddhartha's lack of peace is regularly explicated in terms of his being "thirsty for knowledge" (4). Perhaps knowledge will not bring peace. Perhaps peace does not rely on knowledge. These concerns are taken up at greater length later in the novel.
It is also important to see how the life of Siddhartha is meant to parallel the life of the Buddha, referred to in the novel only by his last name, Goatama. (Siddhartha is also the Buddha's first name). Though the Buddha was born a prince and not a Brahmin, he was also possessed of things which make an earthly life easier, including precocious intelligence and a fine physical form. (Hesse tells us, "Love stirred in the hearts of the young Brahmins' daughters when Siddhartha walked through the streets of the town, with his lofty brow, his king-like eyes and his slim figure" (4)). Despite these traits, both men dedicated themselves to a religious/philosophical life. Drawing such parallelism between Siddhartha and the Buddha is a way of foreshadowing the general direction of Siddhartha's path. A full scale comparison between the two men is not necessary to understand the novel, but one should be aware of the intentional similarities. (For those who wish to know more, a good resource on the life of the Buddha is Paul Carus' The Gospel of the Buddha).
In terms of actual writing, Hesse's language is remarkably simple. Take the first sentence for example: "In the shade of the house, in the sunshine on the river bank by the boats, in the shade of the sallow wood and the fig tree, Siddhartha, the handsome Brahmin's son, grew up with his friend Govinda" (3). The sentence structure is uncomplicated, just a string of descriptions linked list-like by commas. The descriptions too are straightforward, using common images, which, while simple, conjure clear and potent mental pictures, words like shade,' sunshine,' and river.' This style contrasts powerfully with the complex, abstract concepts which Hesse attempts to convey. This combination, though, helps give a religious tone to the writing, highlighted by the repeated allusions to Hindu holy books, notably the Upanishads and the Rig Veda. This is underscored by the commandment-like punctuation and syntax of the novel, setting certain statements apart from the writing with a colon. For example, "In the evening, after the hour of contemplation, Siddhartha said to Govinda: Tomorrow morning, by friend, Siddhartha is going to join the Samansas. He is going to become a Samansa" (9). The use of the third person in self-referential utterancesironic in a novel which is ostensibly about self-awareness also provides an objectivity to the novelistic voice which makes it seem more religious, almost allegorical or parable-like.
This allegorical quality is further developed by the novel's use of somewhat hyperbolic though picturesque images to depict ordinary events like the passage of time: "The Brahmin was silent so long that the stars passed across the small window and changed their design before the silence in the room was finally broken" (10). In addition, the rather flat characterization of the protagonists heightens the impersonal symbolism of Siddhartha's journey; it is as if we are given just enough of Siddhartha's personality to identify with his quest, but not enough to fill him out as a realistic character. Indeed, even those circumstances in which Siddhartha seems to be distracted from his goal, circumstances in which he seems the most human, are transformed into educational experiences, necessary for his eventual enlightenment. Hesse's use of narrative repetition, as with Siddhartha's father's repeatedly checking on his obstinate son throughout the night, also lends the novel an allegorical air, an air which, while providing rich and interesting details, also raises the story above the local and announces an intention to provide a lesson valuable to all readers.
With the Samanas
Siddhartha's time with the Samanas marks the first leg of his spiritual quest. As an ascetic, Siddhartha sheds all of his possessions and practices mortification of the flesh in the service of his "one goalto become empty, to become empty of thirst, desire, pleasure, and sorrowto let the Self die" (14). This brings out an interesting paradox in Siddhartha's journey. He leaves the Brahmins because he does not believe that their path will lead him to himself, to Atman. Yet with the Samansas, Siddhartha wants "no longer to be Self, to experience the peace of an emptied heart" (14). How are these two goals reconcilable? The answer relies on the particular conception of selfhood Siddhartha employs.
The Self can be divided into two basic components, the ego and the Atman. The ego is the consciousness which differentiates an individual from all other things. The Atman, as we have seen, is the consciousness which unites an individual with all other things. Ego is Maya and diversity is an illusion; underlying all individuation in form is a great unity, Brahman. Becoming empty of thirst, desires, pleasure, and sorrow means not identifying oneself with the ego, the seat of thirst, desires, pleasure, and sorrow. Instead of ego, one identifies oneself with Atman and so loses the differentiation which ego provides. This is what Hesse means when he says that "when all the Self was conquered and dead, when all passions and desires were silent, then the last must awaken, the innermost of Being which is no longer Self" (14).
The effect this desire to be rid of Self has on Siddhartha is very interesting. We are told that Siddhartha saw the various aspects of ordinary human life as "not worth a passing glance,....[E]verything lied, stank of lies; they were illusions of sense, happiness, and beauty. All were doomed to decay. The world tasted bitter. Life was pain" (14). This is a curious thing to say since not all ordinary lifeSiddhartha includes lovers making love and mothers soothing their children as aspects of ordinary lifeis filled with pain. What is the source of such a pessimistic generalization? It seems to be the fact of ephemerality, the fact that all pleasures which rely on external things, including other people, will ultimately end. Does this simple realization of finitude merit that attitude encompassed in the declaration that "Life was pain."? In other words, is denying the reality of the ephemeral world and the ego that participates in it the best way to preclude the pain?
This question again raises a concern about a theme discussed previously, the relationship between the search for truth and the truth for peace. Put in these terms, the question becomes, do we posit a reality beyond the ego only to escape the pains of finitude, or do we deny the ego because we know that there is a reality beyond it which more truthfully represents our nature? This issues comes to a head in the next chapter when Siddhartha speaks to the Buddha. At the present, though, it is unclear where Siddhartha's answer would be.
Another important question is why the path of Samanas does not allow Siddhartha to reach his goal. We are told that "he slipped out of his Self in a thousand different forms. He was animal, carcass, stone, wood, water, and each time he reawakened" (15). Why? The answer seems to be that he has been relying on the teachings of others to guide him. As with the Brahmins, Siddhartha knows of no Samana who has actually attained Nirvana. Where Govinda pleads that they still have much to learn from their teachers, Siddhartha repudiates teaching altogether. Siddhartha hypothesizes that the path to the Self must be self-directed; Atman directs itself to itself.
It is in the midst of this disillusionment with teachers that The Buddha appears on the scene. His arrival is the sort of turn of events which might seem a cheap contrivance in a regular novel, but in a allegorical work such as this, its occurrence in an instance of the novel's moral structure. Just when Siddhartha loses faith in instruction because none of his instructors have actually achieved the goal towards which they direct others, an instructor who has achieved the goal appears. Thus, Siddhartha and Govinda's departure to meet the Buddha seems preordained, an appropriate seeming for an allegory. Also preordained is Govinda's conflicts with Siddhartha, the former in favor of orthodoxy and learning from others while the latter favors the iconoclasm of self-teaching. It is, after all, Govinda who suggests the trip to see the Buddha. This trait of Govinda's makes Siddhartha's comments about Govinda's independence ironic.
The above conflict is an instance of the constant juxtaposition between Siddhartha and Govinda in the novel. The latter is a foil to the former, allowing Hesse to highlight the unique qualities of Siddhartha by contrasting him with Govinda. As these two friends begin the novel at approximately the same point in their spiritual journey, their later differences help emphasize just how Siddhartha has come. This significance of this juxtaposition to the novel generally is demonstrated by Govinda's reappearance in the novel whenever Siddhartha ends one phase of his life to begin another. Also, it might be said that juxtaposition characterizes the form of the novel more generally as at any moment in the novel Siddhartha is defined by his battle between two opposing forces, i.e. sense and thought, Maya and Brahman, pain and peace, etc. It is his position between these poles which designates Siddhartha's progress down his path to enlightenment.
And as we are supposed to identify Siddhartha with the Buddha, there is also interesting foreshadowing of Siddhartha's own path in the early descriptions of the Buddha. We are told that "this alleged Buddha had formerly been an ascetic and had lived in the woods, [and] had then turned to high living and the pleasures of the world" (21). This is, of course, what Siddhartha does in Part II.
Siddhartha's hyponosis of the old Samana master at the end of the chapter highlights his superiority over his teachers, forcing us to conclude that if Siddhartha cannot reach Nirvana by the Samana path, it is impossible for anyone to do so. This episode allows Hesse to close off this aspect of Siddhartha's past; he truly has no more to learn from this type of life. Again, a hyperbolic, almost inhuman happening which becomes appropriate in the context of a allegory.
The unique nature of the Buddha is brought out right at the beginning of the chapter. We are told that the Buddha is resting at his favorite abode, a grove given to him by a rich merchant, a great devotee. Such an association with worldly things would surely have been avoided by the ascetic Samanas. As the Buddha is superior to the Samanashe has reached Nirvana while they have notthe fact that the Buddha is not uncomfortable with worldly trappings means that the Samanas were wrong in believing that renouncing the world is the only path to salvation. This again foreshadows Siddhartha's turning to a worldly life in Part II.
Siddhartha's immediate recognition of the Buddha highlights Siddhartha's uniqueness, especially in contrast to Govinda, whom we are told recognizes the Buddha only when he is pointed out. The initial descriptions of the Buddha are important in understanding the concept of Nirvana, the goal for which Siddhartha strives. Hesse tells us that the Buddha's "peaceful countenance was neither happy nor sad," so the experience of Nirvana cannot be reduced to an emotions such as happiness (28). Rather than happy, the Buddha is content, peaceful and complete, lacking nothing: "Every finger of his hand spoke of peace, spoke of completeness, sought nothing, imitated nothing, reflected a continuos quiet, an fading light, an invulnerable peace" (28). Siddhartha's preternatural perception of all of this in the Buddha's manner speaks to the importance of this interaction between the Buddha and Siddhartha and helps explain Siddhartha's enchantment with the Buddha. "Never had Siddhartha esteemed a man so much, never had he loved a man so much" (28). It is important to recognize that this esteem and love is offered without ever hearing the Buddha speak. In fact, "[Siddhartha] was not very curious about the teachings" (28). This shift in focus from words and teachings to experiencing particular states of consciousness is very significant and sets the stage for the next stage in Siddhartha's quest.
The Buddha's actual sermon is an abbreviated allusion to Buddhism's Four Noble Truths. As Hesse puts it, "Life was pain, the world was full of suffering, but the path to the release of suffering had been found. There was salvation for those who went the way of the Buddha" (29). (It does not seem coincidental that the book is separated into two parts, part I with 4 chapters and part II with 8 chapters: there are Four Noble Truths to Buddhism and the Buddha's path to salvation is called the Eightfold path). This focus on suffering and the attainment of peace as the abolition of suffering is very important to the novel. This is central to Siddhartha's discussion with the Buddha, which forms the start of the climax of part I of the book.
There are two thematic concerns at the heart of Siddhartha and the Buddha's discussion, both of which we have discussed previously. The first relies on the relationship between seeking truth and seeking peace. To express the same point another way, the question is one of metaphysics or ethics, a question of reality, truth, and knowledge or how one should live one's life. Siddhartha tells the Buddha that his view of the universe as cause and effect, his metaphysics, is unimpeachable, but it seems to break down at a crucial point, the point at which we are able to escape from this causal chain, the point of salvation. The Buddha responds that the goal of his teaching is "not to explain the world to those who are thirsty for knowledge. Its goal is quite different; its goal is salvation from suffering. That is what Goatama teaches, nothing else" (33).
This means that the Buddha is privileging ethics over metaphysics. Finding peace from suffering is what matters, not discovering the true nature of ourselves or of the universe. This comports with the Buddhist doctrine of AnAtman, or no-soul, which denies the Hindu duality between the absolute reality of Brahman and the false reality of Maya. Given that the pain from which Siddhartha has tried to escape is specifically the pain of metaphysical ignorance, it is odd that he does not respond to the Buddha here. We will return to this question later, as it seems to be one of the unresolved issues in the novel.
Siddhartha then expresses doubt that the Buddha's teaching can ever bring someone to Nirvana. As Siddhartha says, "The teachings of the enlightened Buddha embrace much, they teach muchhow to live righteously, how to avoid evil. But there is one thing that this clear, worthy instruction does not contain; it does not contain the secret of what the Illustrious One himself experiencedhe alone among hundreds of thousands" (34). This secret, the experience of Nirvana, can only be reached by oneself. This, of course, seems true. Buddhism only tells you how to approach the goal because the nature of the goal is such that it can only be known first-personally achieved; it is a state of consciousness. For example, the fact that I cannot make you intoxicated by telling you what being intoxicated feels like does not mean that I cannot tell you how to become intoxicated yourself. Given this, Siddhartha's comments seem off the mark.
Siddhartha's commentary is really a metaphysical rather than an ethical point. Siddhartha believes that the Self as Atman will guide us through some sort of inner voice. This is why he denies the value of teachers; they distract one from this inner guide. The Buddha does not believe in the Atman, at least not in the same way, and so seems to believe that people can be taught to approach Nirvana. It is Siddhartha's metaphysics, then, his view of what the Self really is, that makes him dissatisfied with Buddhism. This is what Siddhartha is getting at when he responds that "I must judge for myself. I must choose and reject" (35). While the Buddha's path may work for some, it does not work for himself. He must follow his inner voice. If this is true, though, why does Siddhartha respond to the Buddha that there is nothing wrong with other people following his teachings. Is it that their inner voice tells them different things than Siddhartha's? How could this be if the Atman is really Brahman, the unity of all things. If their voices are the same, either they are right in following Buddha's path or Siddhartha is right in rejecting it. This problem raises tensions which are more fully developed in the next chapter.
In this final chapter of part I, Siddhartha reviews all of his experiences up to that point and comes to conclusions that will shape his future. First, he concludes that he is done with teachers. This was clear from the previous chapter. He then asks what he intended to learn from the teachers and answers that he sought to know the nature of Self. The way he expresses this is very interesting. He says, "truly nothing in the world has occupied my thoughts as much as the Self, this riddle, that I live, that I am one and am separated and different from everyone else, that I am Siddhartha" (38). This provides an enlightening interpretation of Siddhartha's quest, because it is the first time he considers the Self as a solitary unity apart from the substratum of Atman to which the ego is attached. He has sought that which unites him with all things instead of that which marks him as distinct, as Siddhartha.
Siddhartha admits this in the next paragraph, saying that "the reason why I do not know anything about myself...is due to one thing, to one single thingthat I was afraid of myself, I was fleeing from myself. I was seeking Brahman, Atman,...the nucleus of all things....But by doing so, I lost myself on the way" (38). Yes, the view that the Self is Atman does commit one to identifying with a reality more expansive and objective than one's singular personality: that is precisely the point. That this seems as a shock to Siddhartha is surprising as his quest for the Self as Atman was made clear in the first chapter.
After this "awakening," Siddhartha commits himself to learning from himself and not search single-mindedly for Atman. While this seems a result of his previous experiences, a continuity with his previous behaviors, it is actually a radical shift, one which contrasts Siddhartha's path from any traditionally associated with Indian religion/philosophy. This concern with authenticity, being true to one's particularity, derives from a decidedly Western context, and it is in this direction that Siddhartha moves in this chapter. Moreover, it is not clear why Siddhartha makes this move. He has lost himself on the way, but it is not clear why this is bad. It was not an unexpected side-effect of his quest. It was the very heart of it. Hesse doesn't seem to make this any easier as he equivocates in his use of the term Self.' The only reason for change consistent with Siddhartha's past is that suggested by his conversation with the Buddha: his previous paths have not alleviated his suffering. This is a far cry from Siddhartha's present contention that he has failed because he has lost himself. Siddhartha's logic here seems obscure.
The effect of Siddhartha's contemplation is his denial of Hindu duality; he know longer believes that the world in which we commonly live is an illusion, Maya. As he says, "Meaning and reality were not hidden somewhere behind things, they were in them, in all of them" (40). Why he decides this, though, is not clear. All in all, it seems like a convenient way to conclude Siddhartha's life as a thinker, the first part of his tripartite quest. There seems to be no obvious connection between listening to one's inner voice and appreciating the diversity of the world. The voice is not necessarily any more part of the worldand therefore sympathetic to itthan the thought-centered Atman Siddhartha is now rejecting. In any case, Siddhartha agrees with the Buddha, and this transfiguration is meant to mirror the Buddha's awakening from under the Bodhi tree. But while the Buddha awakened to Nirvana, Siddhartha has not yet done this. Siddhartha is far from it. He is traveling another path, one brought out powerfully by the chapter's close. Somewhat surprisingly, the last two paragraphs of this chapter are a startling precursor to European Existentialism. Indeed, the sentence "At that moment, when the world around him melted away, when he stood alone like a star in the heavens, he was overwhelmed by a feeling of icy despair, but he was more firmly himself than ever," could have come from Kierkegaard or Sartre or Camus. This sense of harrowing solitude is against the deepest spiritual convictions of Indian thinkers and further underscores the extent to which Hesse is importing Western ideas into an Eastern context.