In the book Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, the main character Siddhartha begins his quest for enlightenment finding that the only way for it to be taught is a personal journey endured by himself. Siddhartha finds himself on a difficult quest to enlightenment; a coming to awareness and realization of the truth after being ignorant and unaware of it (“Siddhartha Glossary”). This journey takes Siddhartha several years and several failed attempts to obtain his own personal enlightenment. Through his long journey, he was able to connect to the river and come to the end of his journey through himself. Siddhartha’s first attempt in his exploration to enlightenment is the investigation of a more religious path. Siddhartha went along his journey in an attempt to accept the way to enlightenment by religious means. As he went along becoming more educated on the higher powers, he began to believe the restrictions were simply too much and the beliefs didn’t correspond with his beliefs. Even through pressures from his own father, he knew he must find it within himself. Siddhartha believes this as a young man and he speaks that one must find his own way to enlightenment. After determining the religious text was not going to lead him to enlightenment, he concluded that he would have to find enlightenment elsewhere. Siddhartha chose to leave his own family and life and continue on in a new way.Siddhartha’s next step was one by himself, as an individual. He left his life of wealth and became a Samana; wandering ascetics in search of purity and a clean soul (“Siddhartha Glossary”). While a Samana, Siddhartha chose to fast for days without food or water. Siddhartha began to feel that he was living a helpless life without a reason. Siddhartha questioned to Govinda, a disciple of Buddha and his best friend, what the idea of meditation and fasting even meant. He began to recognize that the ways of the Samanas would not bring him to is goal. They were taking away his individual quest and turning him away from his path to enlightenment. This is when Siddhartha realized that he needed to make a change. Siddhartha, after the many failed attempts and times of hopelessness, comes to the realization that he needs to find another way to seek enlightenment. He heard numerous times about the Buddha’s teachings and the great ways that the Buddha has helped others. In hearing this, Siddhartha goes to the Buddha–the Sanskrit word means “awakened” (to the truth), “enlightened one” (“Siddhartha Glossary”), in hopes to gain insight that would encourage his quest towards enlightenment. Buddha, otherwise known as Gotama, teaches the Eightfold Path to his many followers as the way to achieve true enlightenment (“Siddhartha Character List”).The words that the Buddha spoke became worthless words to him as the day grew on. He said, “The teachings of the enlightened Buddha contain much, it teaches many to live righteously, to avoid evil. But there is one thing which these so clear, these so venerable teachings do not contain: they do not contain the mystery of what the exalted one has experienced for himself, he alone among hundreds of thousands. This is what I have thought and realized, when I have heard the teachings. This is why I am continuing my travels—not to seek other, better teachings, for I know there are none, but to depart from all teachings and all teachers and to reach my goal by myself or to die.” (Hesse 31). This quote explains how Siddhartha cannot gain more knowledge from the Buddha because words are useless to Siddhartha. He must experience this journey for himself. After learning and speaking with the Buddha, Siddhartha recognizes that he must attain enlightenment through actions, not words. “Neither Yoga-Veda shall teach me any more, nor Atharva-Veda, nor the ascetics, nor any kind of teachings. I want to learn from myself, want to be my student, want to get to know myself, the secret of Siddhartha.”(Hesse 36). Siddhartha says this explaining he cannot be encouraged by anyone’s teachings because it is only through himself that he will find true enlightenment. Siddhartha leaves the Buddha and his teachings behind and travels only to find the river as he has seen so many times before. A frightening emptiness was reflected back at him by the water, answering to the terrible emptiness in his soul. (Hesse 89). At this point in Siddhartha’s life, he is dissatisfied and unsuccessful with everyone else’s teachings. As he reaches the river, he feels helpless and alone but the longer he stays by the river, the river seems to prove different to him. The river proved to be a place he could go where there was no teaching to be heard, but instead merely a place to listen. The river held no judgment and never told of how to obtain enlightenment, but instead, it taught Siddhartha that all he had to do to obtain enlightenment is to listen. The river brings him towards enlightenment and brings him peace and prosperity.”But the new Siddhartha felt a deep love for this rushing water, and decided for himself, not to leave it very soon.” (Hesse 97). Siddhartha’s attempt to commit suicide in the river because of the emptiness inside of him ended in the his awakening by the river. Siddhartha realized that the river created a new life for him. He began to see the simplicity of the river as a way of life and became enlightened to gain the desire for a more simple life. His life seemed to be full of suffering as he struggled to find enlightenment through others, but as independence came upon him, he was fully awakened. Time and life keep flowing on just as the river does, and his final realization is one of only independence and ends Siddhartha’s quest to obtaining enlightenment.
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