English 2 Honors
There are two parts to the main theme of this work. One part is that people can teach religious doctrine, but it may not lead one to find one's true inner "self". The other part is that knowledge can be taught, but wisdom comes from experience. The main character, Siddhartha, came to understand these things during his glorious journey to find spiritual enlightenment in the book Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse.
In order to find his "self", Siddhartha undertook a quest that was split into four main parts. These parts include: understanding, escape from "self", knowledge of "self", and wisdom, (enlightenment). The first part, understanding, involved him living with his father who was a brahmin. Siddhartha realized that he made everybody else happy but that he himself wasn't. He also got the feeling that he had already learned the best of what his teachers had to teach but it still wasn't enough. He still wasn't satisfied. One day he and his friend, Govinda, meditated by a banyan tree. Siddhartha recited the verse:
"Om is the bow, the arrow is the soul,
Brahman is the arrow's goal
At which one aims unflinchingly."(8)
It was after meditating with Govinda that he realized what he had to do. In an attempt to reach the arrow's goal, he would leave his father to join the Samanas who he thought had the secrets to finding the "self".
While with the Samanas Siddhartha learned many ways to escape the "self". He would do this through meditation, abandonment of the body, fasting, and the holding of breath. He abandoned his body through these ways many times but would still always come back to being Self and Siddhartha. He would come back to feel the torment of that life cycle. Siddhartha soon found out that he was, in fact, going in circles. He saw that he was not gaining any knowledge from temporary escape but he would come back and find everything as it was before. This caused him not to believe in the Samana's practices and eventually resulted in Siddhartha leaving the Samanas to find spiritual enlightenment elsewhere.
The third part in Siddhartha's quest was the knowledge of "self". This was after he had met and spoken to Gotama, the Illustrious Buddha. He spoke to him about his concerns for finding the "self". Siddhartha thought that if he were to just follow the teachings and not experience them for himself that he would deceive himself into believing that he was at peace when he actually wasn't. He decided to leave his friend and find his "self" the way Gotama had, through experience. It was afterwards when he was on his own when he had his spiritual awakening. He discovered that the reason he didn't know anything about himself was due to one thing--he was afraid of himself. From then on he saw the world differently. He would no longer destroy himself to find a secret behind it. He would learn for himself the secret of Siddhartha. He started anew and learned about things that had always been there but he had never paid attention to. This new beginning would lead him to a river where he would experience the last part of his quest.
The last part in Siddhartha's quest was wisdom (enlightenment). Siddhartha came to the river wanting above all to gain experience himself. He didn't know then the importance of the river. When he was there there was a ferryman who said, "Certainly. I have learned that from the river too; everthing comes back. You, too, Samana, will come back."(49) Siddhartha went in as a Samana seeking enlightenment and came back, like the ferryman said, as a rich man who felt that the life he had lived for many years was "tasted and drained to a degree of nausia."(87) While in the town he had found a wife and had a son but had become sickened by lust and greed. All he wanted to do was put an end to his painful life but right when he was about to he heard a sound that he had remembered from his childhood-- "Om". It was him remembering of the indestructibleness of life that marked another new beginning for Siddhartha. He now knew that time was irrelevant and that "the world of appearances is transitory."(93) Now he was making a new pilgrimige, this time in rich man's clothes. He came back to the river that he had crossed long ago and met the same ferryman that had been kind to him. During his stay with the ferryman he realized that the river was a symbol of spiritual transition; timelessness, and a teacher of the unity of all things. He had gained spiritual enlightenment.
The reasons for the trials and tribulations experienced during Siddhartha's glorious journey were to show that time was irrelevant and the world of appearances was transitory. In other words, he went through many changes in appearance and time didn't matter as long as he had achieved his goal.
Siddhartha had spent his whole life trying to gain spiritual enlightenment and at the end he finally achieved it. Like in the verse, Siddhartha used Om like a bow to direct his soul, the arrow, to spiritual enlightenment.
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