Monday, May 12, 2014


There is a large amount of spiritual and/or personal growth found in all sorts of literature. From Harry Potter to Lord of the Flies, characters find themselves in predicaments that cause them to change as a person. Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse is no exception. Like a tree, the main character, Siddhartha goes through multiple changes throughout his journey. He attempts to find peace and become enlightened in the book, going through many teachers. As Siddhartha learns different lessons, he changes as a person. His personality, ideals, and body itself all change fluidly throughout the book. The main character of the book, Siddhartha, also known as Siddhartha, changes through the book in mind, body, and soul.

Siddartha begins his journey as a bit of a spoiled brat. He picks up on things easily, learns quickly, and always gets what he wants. In fact, in the second chapter, when he meets Siddhartha Gautama, or, the Buddha, he feels no need to hear the doctrine of the Buddha because he believes he has already learned enough. “He felt no great curiosity to hear this doctrine. He did not think it would teach him anything new”(Hesse 25). He doesn’t believe he can learn anything new from Gautama and scoffs at the idea of having another teacher. Siddhartha’s friend, Govinda, however, goes along with the Buddha and decides to follow him. The Buddha even warns Siddhartha of his “cleverness” and alludes to how it could wind up being his downfall. “‘You are clever, O Samana,’ said the Venerable One. ‘You speak cleverly, my friend. Be on your guard against too much cleverness!’”(Hesse 31). Yet this is only the start of Siddhartha’s journey, and no matter how much he dislikes it, he still has much to learn.

Eventually, the young samana leaves and continues on his journey, this time to look for a different type of enlightenment. After he leaves the samanas, he begins to feel different and feels as though he has become a man. “He realized that something had left him, the way a snake’s old skin leaves it.”(Hesse 33). Siddhartha has already begun changing in his own way, he has grown as a person and his body is now different, covered in hair and much thinner than when he had started his journey. Siddhartha begins to show major spiritual changes soon after and can connect simple things to the spiritual meaning of it. “no longer the veil of Maya, no longer the meaningless random multiplicity of the world of appearances, contemptible to any deep thinker among Brahmins, any thinker who scoffed at multiplicity and sought oneness. Blue was blue, river was river, and even if the One, the Divine lay hidden in the blue and the river within Siddhartha, it was still the nature and intention of the Divine to be yellow here, blue here, sky over there, forest there, and here Siddhartha.”(Hesse 35). Siddhartha has begun to realize the true simpleness of the world and that is a rather big change from how he was acting in the beginning, how he thought enlightenment would be more difficult and confusing.

Soon after he has changed in these ways, he begins actively searching for a teacher. He goes back to the ferryman he had met on the way to a city and asks him to teach him. “‘Oh’ - Siddhartha sighed-’what I would like best would be to not continue on at all. What I would like best, ferryman, is if you were to give me an old loincloth to wear and keep me on as your assistant, or rather your apprentice, for I would first have to learn how to handle the boat’”(Hesse 87). He actually wishes to be taught by someone, and before he had been gung ho against even the idea of having to be taught by someone else. Siddhartha’s true change shows when he explains how he is different now. “‘It is,’ Siddhartha said. ‘And once I learned this I considered my life, and it too was a river, and the boy Siddhartha was separated from the man Siddhartha and the graybeard Siddhartha only by shadows, not by real things. Siddhartha’s previous lives were also not the past, and his death and his return to Brahman not the future. Nothing was, nothing will be; everything is, everything has being and presence.’”(Hesse 90). Siddhartha seems to have fully reached enlightenment, and is happy with how he turned out.

Changes can occur in many ways, the most commonly thought of way is in body. How a person changes on the outside. Yet a person does not truly change unless it is on the inside.

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