Chapter 1: The Brahmin’s Son
Why was Siddhartha unhappy?
Siddhartha was unhappy because he had begun to feel that the love of his father, mother, and friend were not enough. His father and teachers had already taught him most of what they knew, but he still wanted to learn a lot more. He had begun to doubt the usefulness of the sacrifices offered to the different gods, and he was unsure how these prayers and rituals related to the Self, the Atman. He wanted to attain the Atman in consciousness in life and every action. He wanted to radiate peace and live in bliss, which he was still not able to do. Plus, he could not understand why a blameless person like his father had to wash away sins. He felt there was something missing from all that he had been taught thus far.
2. What kind of world did Siddhartha live in?
Siddhartha was a Brahmin’s son, which meant that he was a part of the privileged class. He seemed to have everything - good looks, great intellect, and prestige. He was being groomed to be a priest like his father so his world revolved around prayers, rituals, meditation, and contemplation. It seemed like an ideal life for those times.
3. Why does Siddhartha’s father give in to his request to join the Samanas?
Siddhartha’s father gives in to him because he realizes that this is no ordinary request. Despite all the training for priesthood, Siddhartha wanted to leave everything and become an ascetic. By staying in one spot for the entire night, Siddhartha had shown his father that this was no whim of a young boy. This strong will to leave was rooted in a deep dissatisfaction with his present life.
Chapter 2: With the Samanas
1. Why was Siddhartha dissatisfied with the teachings of the Samanas?
He was dissatisfied because though he learnt a great deal in a short time span, he was still no closer to the “secret”. Though he practiced many austerities and meditation, he was no better than the ordinary people who took to alcohol as a form of escapism. Like them, he too always returned to the same “self” and to the same life. Neither he, nor even the oldest Samana, had been able to attain enlightenment.
2. Why was Gotama loved by some people and scorned by others?
People revered the Buddha because they believed he had conquered the sorrows of the world and the cycle of rebirth. He was known to possess great knowledge and claimed to remember his past lives. He had attained Nirvana and could perform wonders. Others scorned him because they thought he was an unlearned fraud who indulged in high living and scorned sacrifices.
3. Why did Siddhartha agree to hear the teachings of the Buddha?
Though Siddhartha repeatedly stated that he had become distrustful of teaching and learning, he agreed to go hear the Buddha because he was no longer interested in the teachings of the Samanas. He suspected he had already learnt everything there was to learn, but the Buddha’s teachings were said to be “new.”
Chapter 3: Gotama
1. How did Siddhartha recognize Gotama?
He recognized the Buddha immediately because he radiated peace and light. He was neither happy nor sad. Gotama had an inward smile. His entire body spoke of completeness. He had a peaceful demeanor and there was a stillness of his form in which there was no searching, no imitation, and no effort. His every limb reflected peace.
2. Why does Siddhartha not follow the Buddha?
Siddhartha fears that if he follows the Buddha he would do so only superficially. He knows that Gotama’s teachings are the best, but he wants to “leave all doctrines and all teachers” (Hesse 34) and reach his goal or die. He also feels that the Buddha’s teachings can only show him the path, but not give him the experience of his goal.
3. Which quote from the Buddha is a foreshadowing of things to come?
His quote, “You are clever, O Samana...” (Hesse 35) is a foreshadowing of things to come. All through Siddhartha has used his incredible thinking and words to meet his goals. But that cleverness will soon become his undoing. Siddhartha feels he’s superior to others due to this background. He possesses none of the humility and peace of the Buddha. He will soon find himself in a downward spiral.
Chapter 4: Awakening
1. What realization strikes Siddhartha when he leaves the Buddha?
He realizes that the one thing he knows nothing about is himself. Thus far, he has been too afraid of himself to see his whole self. He has been running away from himself, trying to destroy himself to find the Atman. Now, he must become his own student and get to know himself.
2. How does Siddhartha now feel about the world?
He feels that he is truly seeing it for the first time. All this while, he was trying to shut it out. Now, he notices the colors of nature without contempt. Instead of looking for the underlying unity of all things, he is able to appreciate the diversity in the appearances and the underlying divinity in all things.
3. Why does Siddhartha feel alone?
He feels alone because he no longer belongs to anyone or anything. He was no longer considered a Brahmin or an ascetic. He has no friends and he cannot return home either. Most of all, he does not share anyone’s beliefs like Govinda and he has no one to share his life with. He feels that no one is as alone as he is.
Chapter 5: Kamala
1. What did Siddhartha feel was necessary to reach his goal?
He feels that the only thing needed is to listen to voice of his own heart. He no longer wants to despise or overrate either thought or the senses. He assumes that Gotama, too, must have heeded “the voice” when he took rest under the tree and when he decided not to practice any rituals.
2. How did Siddhartha change himself to win Kamala’s friendship and support?
Siddhartha realized almost immediately that he would have to shave his beard and clean his hair. Kamala’s servants has looked at him with such disdain that these were addressed first. Then, Kamala insists he have fine clothes, shoes, and plenty of money to buy presents for her. He must change himself from a completely spiritually oriented person to a worldly man.
3. How does Siddhartha intend to reach his goal?
The only skills of any interest to the ordinary people are Siddhartha’s ability to read and write, which Kamala feels would be enough for him to reach his goal of making a livelihood. He, however, feels that his ability to wait, to think, and to fast will help him reach all his goals. He also does not allow anything to enter his mind that opposes his goal. This concentrated focus is often mistaken by ordinary people to be magic.
Chapter 6: Amongst the People
1. How was Siddhartha’s way of doing business different from Kamaswami’s?
Siddhartha was never absorbed in the business like the merchant was. He never feared failure or worried about loss. He treated the business like a game. Therefore, he was never angry or hurried and he treated everyone the same. He gave money freely and even let people cheat him.
2. What did Siddhartha think of the people he met?
He felt he was different from them. He thought he was superior to them because they lived in a childish or an animal-like way. He could not understand why they worried about unimportant matters. He found it ironical that even the beggars were not as poor as the Samanas. Still, he loved and despised the way the people conducted their lives.
3. How were Siddhartha and Kamala similar?
They were both similar because they both had stillness in them and a sanctuary within that they could retreat into. They were both always themselves at all times. They did not pretend to be something different from what they actually were. Most of all, they both thought they could not love anybody. They were not like the ordinary people.
Chapter 7: Samsara
1. How had Siddhartha changed?
The main difference was that Siddhartha’s senses had been awakened and “the voice”, which was soft, had now grown silent. He had started eating meat, drinking wine, and gambling. His feeling of superiority had diminished and he acted like the ordinary people. He had become lazy, forgetful, and anxious. He slept on a soft bed and had gotten attached to his possessions.
2. Why did Siddhartha envy the ordinary people?
He envied them because they had a sense of self-importance in their lives. He could not feel pleasure or sorrow as deeply as them. He also envied their continued power to love and the happiness they got from it. The ordinary people were always in love with themselves, their children, honor, money, and with their hopes and plans.
3. What was the symbolism between the songbird and Siddhartha?
The songbird was a symbol for Siddhartha’s soul. Like the bird, Siddhartha too was caged in a golden world of riches. Lavish and grand as his life was, it was nonetheless no different than a golden cage. All the trappings of extravagant lifestyle were nothing more than a gilded cage. And for all its appearances, he was never going to be a truly free man until he escaped from the golden cage. His true joy, like the songbird, was outside.
Chapter 8: By the River
1. How did Siddhartha feel when he wandered into the forest?
Siddhartha was miserable and disgusted with himself. He believed he had drawn nausea and death to himself. He felt dirty because of all the sins he had committed. Physically, he was tired and hungry and had a strong urge to end his life.
2. Why did Siddhartha suddenly feel better?
Siddhartha started to feel better after he awoke from the “Om” permeated sleep. He was now able to love everything and he had a joyous love towards all. He thought he had felt so sick because he had been unable to feel love. Most of all, he was delighted that the songbird in his heart was alive and he was determined to follow its bidding.
3. How did Siddhartha reflect back on his life in town?
He felt that as a child he had been warned that the pleasures of the world were not good, but now he had experienced this truth for himself and understood it completely. He thought that his years as Brahmin and as a Samana had made him arrogant. This arrogance had kept him from reaching progress in his spiritual pursuits. Losing himself in worldly pursuits was the only way to kill the priest and ascetic within him. Now he could be like a child again - full of trust, happiness, and without fear.
Chapter 9: The Ferryman
1. Why was the river so special for Siddhartha?
The voice in his heart told Siddhartha to “Love this river, stay by it, learn from it” (Hesse 101). He felt that whoever understood the river and its secrets would eventually learn a great many more secrets. He learnt the art of listening from the river and Vasudeva told him he would learn the “other thing” from the river as well.
2. What did Siddhartha learn from the river?
He learnt to listen with a waiting and open soul. He also learnt that there is no such thing as time. His life was like a river and that the past, present, and future all occurred simultaneously. He heard the many different voices that the river contained and together these voices pronounced the word Om.
3. Why did Siddhartha not feel the need to see the dying Buddha?
Siddhartha had sensed for a long time that he was not separated from Gotama even though he was not able to accept his teachings. He felt that every true seeker of the divine had to carve his own path. Yet, they were all connected once they were enlightened.
Chapter 10: The Son
1. How did Siddhartha’s son behave when he lived with him?
Young Siddhartha was sad and frightened at first then slowly became angry and defiant. He could not accept his fate and his new surroundings. Even after many months, he remained unfriendly, sulky, and arrogant. He showed no respect for the elderly and was not above stealing.
2. What did Vasudeva feel was best for young Siddhartha?
Vasudeva felt that Siddhartha was trying to chain down his son with love. Siddhartha’s goodness and patience only made matters more difficult for his son. He thought it would be best to take the child into town so he could be with other young children and back to the life he was accustomed to. He reasoned that young Siddhartha had not run away from that life and this life-style that he so despised was being thrust upon him.
3. How did Siddhartha feel about love?
In the past, he had felt that he was different from the ordinary people because he had never felt love or the foolishness that accompanies it. But now, he had become a fool in his son’s love. Though he suffered because of it, he also felt renewed and enriched by it.
Chapter 11: Om
1. How did Siddhartha now relate to the travelers on his ferry?
Now, they no longer seemed alien to him. He thought of them as his brethren. He saw them as lovable and even worthy of respect despite their trivial desires and needs. He admired the strong love that the parents had for their children. He thought that in some ways, these regular people were even superior to the thinkers.
2. What did Siddhartha realize when he looked at his reflection in the river?
He saw that he now resembled his father. He could see the similarities between his situation and the situation he had placed his own father in. He had left his father and now his son had left him. His father had suffered just as he was suffering. His father had died without ever seeing his son again; perhaps the same would be his fate.
3. How does Siddhartha finally get peace and happiness?
He finds peace and happiness when he gets the “serenity of knowledge” and sees the underlying “unity of all things” (Hesse 136). He is now in harmony with all of life and he surrenders himself to the stream of life.
Chapter 12: Govinda
1. Who did Siddhartha say were his teachers?
Siddhartha says that he has had unusual teachers. He says he has learnt something from many different people including Kamala, Kamaswami, a dice player, Vasudeva, Govinda, and, of course, the river.
2. How does Siddhartha explain the illusion of life?
Siddhartha explains that everyone, be it a saint or a sinner, is on a path to salvation. It is just a matter of time before each one becomes enlightened like the Buddha. Time, however, is not real. Therefore, in every sinner there already exists the Buddha. Even objects like a stone eventually turn to soil, which is then absorbed by plants or animals, and they, too, will eventually merge with the infinite.
3. What realization does Govinda get when he kisses Siddhartha?
Govinda experiences the ultimate unity and cycle of life. He sees eternal life and the merging of one form into others. He notices Siddhartha’s smile and demeanor, which is similar to Gotama’s. Then he realizes the holiness inherent in Siddhartha. None of Siddhartha’s words could explain his teachings as well as this experience.