Siddhartha Summary

Siddhartha Summary
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Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse is a novel that tells the story of a boy named Siddhartha. He hails from a respected Brahmin family. He is well-liked in the community and enjoys a near-ideal friendship with Govinda. However, he is secretly unhappy about his existence. His father has already passed on all his wisdom, and there is nothing more to offer. This text provides a synopsis of the story.

Here Is the Plot Overview of the Story

One, day, some Samanas, who are ascetics were wandering through town. They were starved and nearly naked, begging for food. They believe in attaining enlightenment through asceticism. Their ideologies significantly differ from that of the Brahmins. Siddhartha believes it might provide him with the enlightenment he desires. Both Siddhartha and Govinda join this group despite Siddhartha’s father’s discontentment.

Siddhartha finds it easy to adjust to the new ways followed by Samanas due to his patience and discipline. He learns how to dissociate himself from life’s traditional trappings, and therefore loses his desire for material possessions, sexuality, clothing except for the basic human needs. He aims to attain enlightenment through the elimination of self. He manages to renounce worldly pleasures successfully.

Soon, Siddhartha develops the physical characteristics of the Samanas. Govinda also praises the spiritual and moral improvements they have made since joining the Samanas. However, Siddhartha is dissatisfied since the new path does not fulfill his vision. It is at this moment that both Siddhartha and Govinda get word of Gotama the Buddha, a man who has reached full spiritual fulfillment. Siddhartha and Govinda then leave the Samanas behind to seek this man.

Upon finding Gotama’s camp, they are taken in and instructed in the ideology of the Eightfold Path and the four main points as well as other Buddhism aspects. Govinda seems convinced, but Siddhartha questions how an individual can embrace the concept of the unity of all things. It is then that Siddhartha realizes Buddhism cannot provide all answers and abandons Govinda in search of a deeper meaning of life.

Siddhartha decides to abandon all forms of spirituality and try to seek meaning through bodily pleasures and the material world. While wandering, he meets a ferryman who assists him cross a river and arrives at a city. There, he meets Kamala, a beautiful courtesan who catches his eyes. Kamala convinces him to become a merchant and helps him find an occupation with a merchant called Kamaswami. He learns trading skills and becomes lovers with Kamala.

For some time, Siddhartha seems contented with his new life. He has now gained the ability to distance himself from bodily and material concerns. He eventually becomes a successful businessman. Nevertheless, extreme wealth makes him indulge in drinking, sex, and gambling. Eventually, all these material possessions and the ostentatious lifestyle prove too much for him. He, therefore, develops a sense of self-hatred, anxiety, and slips deeper into the habit of gambling. At moments when he feels most disillusioned, he experiences dreams that the rare songbird owned by Kamala is dead in its cage. He has a clear understanding that the material world is consuming him without gaining any enlightenment for which he has been seeking his entire life. One night, he decides to leave everything behind and leaves without giving notice to either Kamala, his lover or Kamaswami.

Siddhartha starts wandering around until he arrives at a river. He is contemplating drowning himself, but suddenly meets his old friend Govinda, who has now become a Buddhist monk. Govinda inquires about his life, and Siddhartha explains that he desires to be something new. Govinda then proceeds with his journey leaving Siddhartha wondering.

Siddhartha then looks for the ferryman who brought him to the city. His name is Vasudeva, and upon finding him, Siddhartha inquires where he finds his inner peace. Vasudeva claims that he attained his peace by studying the river for many years.  It is then that Siddhartha decides to live with Vasudeva and learn from the river.

One day, Siddhartha meets Kamala, who is now mother to his son. Kamala and the son were going for a pilgrimage, but she gets bitten by a snake and dies. Siddhartha is now the caregiver of his son. However, one morning, his son escapes back to the city after stealing both his and Vasudeva’s money. He tries to pursue him but despairs. It is then that he studies the river even more and attains true enlightenment on the interconnected cycles of life.

In the end, Govinda returns to the river, and that is when Siddhartha enlightens him by asking Govinda to kiss his forehead.