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Wednesday, 17 April 2013


“….Arriving again at the river he had crossed, Siddhartha stares into the water, ashamed of what he has become. He feels lost, since there is nowhere left to go. He had lived amongst the people, became a lover and a merchant, yet this path was a dead end. What shall he do now? Clutching a tree at the water's edge he decides that the only solution is to drown himself, thus putting an end to his misery. The songbird of his dream returns to memory, and he thinks the bird is his inner essence that has died. He had been pure before in his youth, but had come to live a life contradicting that, a life filled with sin and excess. All values seem to be lost, and Siddhartha realizes how arrogant he has been. All along he had ridiculed everyone else, but he has become one of them himself. Considering himself to be a failure, the old man prepares to fall down beneath the water, pausing to see his reflection staring up from the river's surface...” Chapter 8 p.76

There are many novels based on sojourners’ story lines but Siddhartha written by Hermann Hesse is a bit different. Siddhartha takes a journey in search of spiritual knowledge but the story takes a heroic nature as he moves from one level to the next. As he sets on his initial journal, many think he is just an adventurer because they think he was moving based on his passion for nature exploits but the narration of his life is a true testimony that he was a true seeker of the faith he professed. Siddhartha at the river was engulfed by a cloud of despairation; having made numerous exploits and travelled far, there seemed to be little left to learn and yet a lot of time had been wasted. He reckoned that there was nothing worth celebrating in the emptiness that filled his universe. Before he made his first journey Siddhartha was filled with hope of learning and succeeding, but at this point he was his hope seemed to have left him and thus the idea of committing suicide could easily creep into his mind. Its true life can seem like all vanity especially if one sticks to his/her objectives but fails to leap the desired fruits. Looking back at what he’d left behind, a normal life with his love and family, and trying to compare with his emptiness solitude had a way of taking over but little did he know that this was the beginning of another chapter.
Siddhartha, as a young person had lived amongst the Brahmins and was already acquainted to their traditions and rituals. However, he wanted to be different and wanted to learn more than his local society could provide because he believed he believed his wide perception about life should have also reflected on his wide knowledge on life, so he journeyed. But never had he perceived life as a one wide rollercoaster where you could come down to one hard reality, life is difficult. Momentarily, he was standing with a grip on a tree and looking down a river with his reflection clear on the water and birds were singing beautiful melodies. Normally, riversides provide serene opportunities for cooling down life’s hassles but for one person that had seen it all, this was not the case. Having left a natural life where he could cherish a standard life with a beautiful wife and bore children the aging Siddhartha did not have much to celebrate.
The journey taken by Siddhartha was numerously portrayed as having been aided supernaturally. Never again in journey had he been lacking and even what follows his difficult moments was enough to drive him for many more miles. The narration of this famous journey and the miraculous means used to overcome hurdles that present themselves on his way, is a true testimony of his faith. Adventurous journeys that are perceived to have been guided by supernatural powers serves to educate and even convince other about the existence of such powers as the protagonists might be professing.
The thoughts of suicide precede a greater revelation that would give Siddhartha another reason to progress with his Brahmin lifestyle. A nap he had below that tree gave him an opportunity to reflect on the benefits of committing suicide, he discovered that destroying his self would never help him or anyone neither could atman he had been following for the better part of his life. Siddhartha had failed in many ways, when compared to regular lifestyles but having been following the Brahmin mean that he was no longer a normal dweller like his father and other teachers of Brahmin were, he was different and his success could not be measured with the same parameters. The thought that crept into his mind, that he had come to an end, was a significant sign of mental exhaustion. Siddhartha need to rest and reflect on his life’s achievement before making another move in his journey, if he’d tried to move on, he might have lost his religious focus which might have been a great blow to the gospel he professed.
The episode branded “By the River” was an important stage in the journey of Siddhartha.  His subsequent change of heart and general perception about his journey went a long way even in encouraging his fellow crusader Govinda. Although, we draw many lessons from his teachings as Brahmin and also his journey as a religious faithful, we also learn valuable lessons from his patient gestures especially by the riverside when he was about to through in his towel in desperation.

Hesse, H. (1922). Siddhartha. London, UK: Picador.

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