Essay Meaning of the River in Siddhartha
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Meaning of the River in Siddhartha
Siddhartha, in Herman Hesse's novel, Siddhartha, is a young, beautiful, and intelligent Brahmin, a member of the highest and most spiritual castes of the Hindu religion, and has studied the teachings and rituals of his religion with an insatiable thirst for knowledge. Inevitably, with his tremendous yearning for the truth and desire to discover the Atman within himself he leaves his birthplace to join the Samanas. With the Samanas he seeks to release himself from the cycle of life by extreme self-denial but leaves the Samanas after three years to go to Gotama Buddha. Siddhartha is impressed by the blissful man but decides to lead his own path. He sleeps in the ferryman's hut and…show more content…
It was not flesh and bone, it was not thought or consciousness. That was what the wise men taught. Where then was it?"(6). He is thinking of taking another path to the self because he believes that he learned as much as he can from the Brahmins. With the Samanas his lifestyle changes dramatically and " [he] had one single goal-to become empty, to become empty of thirst, desire, dreams, pleasure and sorrow- to let the Self die"(14). As a Samana, he wanted to let the Self die in order to reach the secret of pure being. The Samanas believed they could lose the Self through meditation, fasting, and holding of breath. In a relatively short time with the Samanas he is already on the path to becoming a great Samana. When he went through a village he his view of things was that " everything lied, stank of lies; they were all illusions of sense, happiness and beauty"(14). He called the people "child people" because their whole life was materialistic and they were always concerned with trivial matters. Govinda could see that Siddhartha would become an important Samana but Siddhartha became skeptical about this way of life. Siddhartha tells Govinda, " What I have learned so far from the Samanas, I could have learned more quickly and easily in every inn in a prostitute's quarter, amongst the carriers and dice players"(16). Govinda was appalled but Siddhartha explained that he said this because he believes that meditation, fasting and holding of
We have to admit—this book makes us want to go down the river on a raft. Possibly for the rest of our lives.
But it's not just because the river is tranquil, soothing, and the best place to chill beverages (a cooler fits perfectly in an inner-tube). It's because, after reading Siddhartha, we have a hard time not thinking of rivers as wellsprings of ancient wisdom about the fleeting passage of time. In a good way.
The river is a central symbol in Siddhartha, representing unity and the eternity of all things in the universe. At times of great transition in his life—such as when he leaves the Samanas and later when he abandons his wealth—Siddhartha returns to the river.
Eventually, as Siddhartha studies the river and comes to recognize it metaphorically for all that it represents about existence and time, he is able to attain enlightenment:
"You've heard it laugh," he said. "But you haven't heard everything. Let's listen, you'll hear more."
They listened. Softly sounded the river, singing in many voices. Siddhartha looked into the water, and images appeared to him in the moving water: his father appeared, lonely, mourning for his son; he himself appeared, lonely, he also being tied with the bondage of yearning to his distant son; his son appeared, lonely as well, the boy, greedily rushing along the burning course of his young wishes, each one heading for his goal, each one obsessed by the goal, each one suffering. The river sang with a voice of suffering, longingly it sang, longingly, it flowed towards its goal, lamentingly its voice sang.
"Do you hear?" Vasudeva's mute gaze asked. Siddhartha nodded.
"Listen better!" Vasudeva whispered. (11.12-15)
Note that the river doesn’t bestow enlightenment in and of itself—it helps direct the thoughts of someone who is ready to listen.