The novel was published in 1922 when the author was 45 years old. He had already been a well-respected writer through his works Peter Camenzid (1904), Under he wheel (1906), Knulp (2015, and Demian (1919).
Siddharta (the protagonist in the novel) is Siddharta. He is a prominent son to Brahmins (priestly-caste of India), and he doesn’t find religion a way to satisfy the deepest part of his longing for truth. He is so desperate that he leaves his family home and goes against his father’s wishes. He does it with Govinda, his friend who supports him.
He joined a group called samanas to seek out more direct truths that were not influenced by empty formalisms. They lived in the mountains, away from any social conventions, and performed long meditations and sacrifices for the body. He does not find his truth by combining the samanas in the forest. He also understands that nullifying any part of this entire life, including his body, is an attempt to destroy his existence. He leaves the Samanas with his friend and embarks on a journey to find Buddha.
The two boys are impressed when they meet the historical Buddha. It is that man who has the ability to see beyond the seemingly contradictory aspects of life, and that gives them serenity. Govinda chooses to remain in the Shanga order of Buddha as a monk. Siddhartha understands what the Buddha taught, even though he was certain that he had achieved his goal. However, doctrines can only lead us to knowledge. Only the individual effort of every human being can lead to that ultimate goal. Doctrines are only a means to an end.
He returns to the city looking for his own path to perfection. He makes the choice to become a disciple Kamala, a beautiful courtesan who teaches him all about love. Kamaswami is the city’s richest merchant. He becomes his disciple. He spent twenty-years with them to learn from his own experiences that the pursuit of pleasure in living and extreme austerity he had experienced with the Samanas wouldn’t lead him to the Atma.
He leaves the city with his lover and his son, who were still in his womb when he left. He finally joins Vasudeva, a boatman he had met previously but who he didn’t know how to recognize as an instructor. The boatman will help him learn the language of the river they sail. This is a metaphor for life’s river, the meaning of it all. Siddhartha finally triumphs through his own efforts, his deep understanding of language of river of life, and the support of all his human friends, as well as the Atman, his golden star, who he had always encouraged.
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