Siddhartha's Maturation as Marked by Key Experiences
Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse is the story of a young Indian noble who ventures off in the world to find an understanding of the meaning of life. His journey begins as a young Brahmin who yearned to unwind the complexities of his existence. He ends as an old sage who has found peace within himself and his surroundings. Throughout the book, Hesse allows the reader to trace Siddhartha's maturation process both through his experiences, and people with whom he comes in contact. During his journey, he makes a number of choices, "turns", that put him on a path of his maturation which is marked by self discovery and independence. Siddhartha's maturation is developed by three key events: his meeting with Buddha, his attempted suicide, and the arrival/departure of his son, as they all contribute to his self discovery and individuality.
Siddhartha's meeting with Gautama, the Buddha, is the first key experience that contributes to his maturation process. After several years of living the ascetic life of a Samana, Siddhartha decides to seek out Gautama, "The Illustrious One," as a possible source of assistance in his journey to find his inner self. After their meeting, however, Siddhartha becomes more convinced that the Buddha's methods satisfy his logical and tangible needs, but will not bring him any closer to realizing his spiritual and metaphysical needs. The theme of maturity presents itself in Siddhartha's conclusion that if he is to achieve an immaterial balance, it must be on his own. He understands that the Buddha had a remarkable experience, but it is a personal one. Siddhartha sees that his development process relies on his forging his own experiences, and his attainment of self realization can only be made by himself, regardless of what knowledge Gautama may impart to him.
The second experience that puts Siddhartha on a path to maturity is his attempted suicide. Preceding this incident, Siddhartha made a complete turnaround and decided to explore his worldly needs and lives the life of a lover, merchant, and gambler. As a student of lust under Kamala and money under Kamaswami, the protagonist becomes self centered, greedy, and no longer one who can "think, fast, and write." His time in the village is marked by a moral demise that is counter to the end which he seeks. This decline, however, is the seed from which another stage of his maturation is fertilized. The old saying, "without failure there is no progress," applies to Siddhartha in this instance. Had he not been a part of the world which stripped him of his morality, he would not have explored the gamut of human experiences- both secular and spiritual. In the village, Siddhartha has quantitatively increased the number and range of his experiences. His growth is also evident in his leaving the village after becoming disgusted with the life that he has lived in the village. At the point in which he attempts suicide, Siddhartha has realized the ways of both the secular and spiritual lifestyle, and was in a position to choose which path suited him.
The final experience in Siddhartha's maturation was the discovery of his son, Little Siddhartha. After Kamala's death, Siddhartha is left to raise the son he never knew that he had. Raising Little Siddhartha was not an easy task for the journeyman. Unlike his father, Little Siddhartha was rude, spoilt, and a pain to bear. Siddhartha, unable to communicate with the boy, graciously gave of himself so that his son would have as easy a time as possible. The unappreciative son, however, unable to acknowledge Siddhartha's sacrifice for him ran away, never to be seen again. After a period of deep anguish, Siddhartha came to the realization that the pain he felt was caused by the blind, heartfelt and unrequited love for his son. This pain, however, is the final step in his maturation process. By learning to love, something which he told Kamala that he would never be able to do, Siddhartha's physical and spiritual development become complete. By absorbing this love and learning to "let go," Siddhartha places the final piece in the puzzle of self realization and maturity.
In conclusion, Siddhartha's maturity can be traced to events that allowed him to seek out his individuality. His meeting with Buddha led him to see that an individual makes his/her own experiences; his experience in the village allowed him to unlock the person which he had never explored; and the time with his son gave him the opportunity to extend himself in love. As aforementioned, Siddhartha's journey was determined by the choices which he made. Part of his maturation was developed by reaping the benefits of some choices, and suffering the consequences of others. Looking at this, Hesse makes it clear that Siddhartha's journey for self realization is not unlike anyone else's.