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Synopsis of Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha

Uploaded by Gotskillz on Jul 04, 2004

The story of Siddhartha takes place in India at the same time Gautama Buddha, also known as Prince Siddhartha, walked the earth, in the sixth and fifth centuries BC. The names of the two are not the only parallels. Gautama was the son of a Nepalese king, Siddhartha the son of a well-to-do Brahmin. Gautama and Siddhartha both left their fathers' homes as seekers, starting as ascetics but eventually finding enlightenment by neither seeking nor following.

In Hindu philosophy, Brahman (with an a) is the supreme world soul or spirit. Atman is the individual soul. The goal is to merge the individual soul with the supreme soul. Actually, the goal is to understand that Atman is already Brahman. This is called enlightenment or Nirvana.

The caste system, whether purposely designed so or merely appropriated after the fact, serves as a help for the Hindu, to shorten his path through the cosmic cycle of life and rebirth. The caste into which one is born should be embraced. It will provide the proper life experiences to burn off karma and not accumulate any more. Once all of one's karma is gone, one is enlightened and merges with Brahman. The four castes, in descending order, are Brahmin (with an i: priests and intellectuals), Kshatriya (warriors), Vaisya (artisans and agriculturalists), Sudra (unskilled laborers). Pariahs (untouchables) belonged to no caste.

The Samana

Siddhartha was his Brahmin father's pride and joy. He thirsted for knowledge, easily conversed with learned men, practiced contemplation and meditation (he pronounced the sacred Om), read the Vedas; in all he did he excelled. But something was missing. One day three wandering Samanas, monks, came through Siddhartha's town. After the evening's meditation, Siddhartha went to his father and asked his permission to follow the Samanas. His father absolutely refused. Siddhartha did not disobey, he had never disobeyed his father, but neither did he relent. He continued to stand on the spot where he made his request and wait for his father's consent. His father went to bed but slept fitfully. He got up several times during the night and still Siddhartha stood and waited. Finally, before the sun broke, his father gave him what he desired. On wobbly legs Siddhartha kissed his mother, bowed to his father and walked out of his house, never to return. As he stepped outside he saw another figure in the twilight. It was his friend Govinda. Siddhartha's life goal...

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Uploaded by:   Gotskillz

Date:   07/04/2004

Category:   Literature

Length:   15 pages (3,436 words)

Views:   6458

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