How did Siddhartha find himself, as said by Hermann Hesse

Here’s how:

  • As a kid he is very rich (son of a king), very beautiful, very bright, adored by all.
  • He has a huge thirst for knowledge. He feels he is has many questions and no one around him knows the answers to those questions.
  • So he leaves for the forest to become a samana.
  • Becoming a samana basically means getting rid of all senses all bodily needs. So a samana should not feel the need to eat or breathe, should not have any feelings of love or pain etc. The idea is that once you strip yourself of everything you find your true self.
  • So he does all that for years and he gets pretty good at every thing. But he is still not satisfied. In fact he thinks that he has not moved closer to finding himself or the “path of the paths” one bit since he started all this. He compares his ability to suspend all his senses to that of a drunk man. He even questions that all these samanas who are practicing for years will ever find themselves.
  • He comes to a strange conclusion. He says that there is no such thing as learning. That there is only one knowledge which is within all of us and that knowledge has no other worser enemy than the desire to know it. (Didn’t get this part. Was he talking about intuition? But do we intuitively know everything?)
  • Then he heard about Gotama Buddha and although he had lost all hope from teachers and teachings he decided to visit him just to get away from the samanas.
  • Now he visits Buddha, he gets impressed by his personality, he realises that he is truly the awakened one. He attends a day long session and listens to his teachings. He liked everything Buddha said (not in the book) but he does not become his disciple.
  • He later talks to Buddha and tells him why he decided to not join him. He says that your teaching are fine and they may lead to a better life, a life of salvation, but they don’t tell how you know all this. They do not contain the mystery of what Buddha experienced for himself. And that he says is the problem. He feels Buddha could never have reached where he is based on someone’s teachings and he wants to reach where Buddha is so he will continue his pilgrimage.
  • Buddha listens to all this and says “You talk wisely, my friend. Be aware of too much wisdom!”. A typical Bollywood dialog of a non-hero character.
  • So he moves on. Remember what is it that he wants to learn? He wants to learn about himself. He says “I think about this mystery of me being alive, of me being one and being separated and isolated from all others. There is nothing in this world I know less about than about me”
  • So now he doubts the basic of his approach to reach self. He thinks that renouncing all the feelings etc that he did to become a samana was wrong. That way he was running away from himself. If you want the meaning of a sentence you can’t remove the words. So he changes his approach, calls it a rebirth and declares himself as his teacher.
  • Ok so now he starts to accept the world around him. All his senses return and the book turns into erotic fiction. He has pride, he wants stuff and he wants sex.
  • He talks about how he sets a goal and lets the goal attract him, just like a stone when thrown into a sea, naturally takes the shortest path to the bottom, Siddhartha lets himself loose and does not let any thought that opposes his goals enter his mind.
  • He starts working for a merchant, does pretty good work. Thinking, waiting, fasting were his skills
  • He spends some years there, mixes with people and becomes one with them. He still feels he is better than others around him but he is affected with the same things like greed, worry, possessions etc.
  • One day he looks back at what has happened and feels disgusted. He feels that he has not learnt anything new that the voice that woke inside him at the moment of his awakening had died. He looked back and asked himself if this was what he left his home, his friend, his samana and Buddha for? So he gets up and leaves again.
  • He feels good after leaving. He feels that he had to pollute himself to get rid of his ego. He had to kill Siddhartha the wise to become a child again, to start learning again. He feels happy.
  • He starts staying with a ferryman. Wants to learn from the river.
  • He realised that he, after all his knowledge, was no better than the normal “childlike” people except for one thing. Which is his knowledge of oneness of the universe, the conscious thought of oneness of life.
  • Now it is not until the last chapter that you start to understand what this oneness is and what all this search for self has lead.
  • Following are the lessons from the last chapter:
    • Don’t search for things, find things. When you search for something you stop finding things, you ignore whats already in front of you. You become blind.
    • Wisdom cannot be taught you have to learn and experience it yourself in your own way. So that way the book exonerates itself.
    • A corollary from above is that learn from things around you, not from words.
    • The opposite of truth is just as true and time is not real. Basically everyone is everything at the same instant. We traditionally think in terms of transformations, I am now a boy who is learning, I will become a learned man one day etc. He says thats not how it is, you are a boy and at the same time you are a learned man as well, at the same time you are a fish, you are God, you are a thief etc. The world will not become perfect, it is already perfect. Tough one to get your head around.
    • So basically he says that his “search for self”, his disdain for the world as something he has to renounce were all wrong. He is one with everything, he can find himself in everything around him. Hence he must accept and love the world around him.
    • So he sees whatever exists, whatever happens, as good. “Everything only requires my consent, only my willingness to be good for me, to do nothing but act for my benefit, to be unable to ever harm me”
How did Siddhartha find himself, as said by Hermann Hesse

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