Siddhartha Study Guide Review
First Noble Truth: Exis xistence is suffering. “The Son of the Brahman”
1. Define Brahmanism. In which activities related to Hinduism does Siddhartha engage while living at home with his father? Brahmanism is a religion of castes. There are five main castes: Brahmans, nobility, merchants, servants, and untouchables. Siddhartha is a Brahman because his father is a Brahman priest, and castes are hereditary. He practices Hinduism by bathing at sacred places and learning Hindu prayers. Siddhartha also practices absolutions, offers sacrifices to the Gods, and studies the verses in the holy book, the Upanishads.
2. What does the name Siddhartha mean? Why is Siddhartha popular with his father, mother, and friend Govinda? Siddhartha means “He who attains his goal.” Siddhartha’s father is happy with his son because Siddhartha is intelligent, and he is growing into a great, learned man. His mother is proud of him because of his handsome appearance. Govinda loves everything about Siddhartha: his appearance, his intelligence, and his strong will.
3. Hesse is considered by many German critics to be one of the finest poets of his day. Find an example of this poetic style utilizing rhyming or repetitive phrases in the descriptions of Siddhartha’s lack of joy in his life. Example: “Dreams and restless thoughts came flowing to him out of the river’s water, twinkled to him from the stars of the night, melted out of the sunbeams.” (page 14)
4. Define ascetics. Who are the Samanas, and why does Siddhartha join their group? Ascetics are people who live a life of contemplation and rigorous self-denial for religious purposes. The Samanas fast, wear only loincloths, and live in the forest. Siddhartha decides to join them to find his path to the heavenly world.
5. How does Siddhartha convince his father to give him permission to leave home and join the Samanas? Siddhartha remains standing in the same place all night, waiting for his father to give him permission to leave home. His father finally decides to let him go because “the father realized that Siddhartha had already gone from him and his household, that he had already left him.” (page 18)
6. Support the following statement: Siddhartha’s father has not found true bliss as a Brahman following the precepts of Hinduism. Siddhartha’s father tells him, “If you have found blessedness in the woods, then come and teach me how to be blessed.” (page 19) This statement indicates that Siddhartha’s father has not yet reached bliss.
7. What does the name Govinda mean? Why does Govinda “paled like the peel of a dry banana” when he learns about Siddhartha’s determination to leave home and join the Samanas? Govinda means “keeper of cows,” and this is interpreted as meaning that he has a religious calling. Govinda believes that his destiny is to follow Siddhartha. Since Siddhartha is leaving home, Govinda must also leave. He turns pale at the thought of leaving all he has ever known to lead a life of denial with the samanas.
8. Support the following statement: Siddhartha has learned the first of the Noble Truths: Existence is suffering. Example: Siddhartha is a Brahman, the most privileged of the castes. He has all the luxuries of life but is still miserable. He knows that everyone suffers, no matter how many comforts are available. Suffering is part of existence.
Second Noble Truth: Suffering arises from desire. “With the Samanas”
1. Why does Siddhartha fast, abstain from sex, and withdraw completely from anything that provides him comfort? He wants to become, “empty of thirst, of wishing, of dreams – empty of all joy and pain. He wanted to die to his self … (page 21) He wants to experience pure thought and learn the secret of the path to bliss.
2. How does Siddhartha learn to “escape from this cycle to the place where casuality ended and an eternity free of sorrow began”? (page 22) He learns to become a heron and knows how it feels to be a bird. He also becomes a dead jackal to learn about death, decay, and becoming part of the dust in the atmosphere again. He learns to experience the cycle of life.
3. List two ways Siddhartha learns to lose the Self while studying with the Samanas. Support the following statement: Hesse is drawing from his real life experiences when he describes Siddhartha’s life as a samana. He learns self-denial through pain and meditation. Hesse’s parents raised him in a very strict Lutheran household, where they prohibited dancing, sports, or any activities of this nature. Siddhartha’s life with the Samanas also rejects all of the comforts and pleasures of life.
4. What epithet is used to describe Govinda? What important characteristic about Govinda is Hesse helping the reader remember and understand with this epithet? He is called Govinda, the shadow. He wants the reader to know that Govinda is a follower of Siddhartha and that his destiny is tied to Siddhartha’s.
5. Support the following statement: From his time of living with the Samanas, Siddhartha learns that the path to bliss cannot be found through studying and learning from books or from the lessons of the old masters? Example: He does not think even the oldest Samanas will attain Nirvana. They are going in circles. Siddhartha believes that the inner knowledge of the self he seeks “has no more aggressive enemy than learning.” (page 25)
6. Why are the rumors about Gotama the Illustrious, the Buddha, attractive to Siddhartha? Gotama is rumored to have reached Nirvana and broken the cycle of births and rebirths. The existence of Gotama gives Siddhartha hope that he may yet learn how to reach Nirvana.
7. Define Nirvana. Support the following statement: Part way through this chapter, Govinda stops being Siddhartha’s follower and begins to follow his own path or destiny. Nirvana is nothingness, the escape from the cycle of births and rebirths. Example: Govinda convinces Siddhartha that they should go and hear the teaching of Gotama for themselves. Siddhartha agrees to go with Govinda, but he is doubtful that anyone can teach another way to Nirvana.
8. Why do you think Siddhartha hypnotizes the old Samana? Is he just being arrogant? Example: He wants to demonstrate that the Samanas have taught him to perform tricks, but not how to follow the path to Nirvana. It demonstrates Siddhartha’s great sense of self-confidence and lets the reader know that Siddhartha is capable of great things.
9. Support the following statement: Siddhartha has learned the second of the Noble Truths: Suffering arises from desire. Example: Siddhartha practices deprivation and pain because of his desire to learn the path to Nirvana. He suffers because he wants eliminate the self. Siddhartha suffers because of his desire for knowledge.
Third Noble Truth: Suffering ends when desire ends. “Gotama”
1. Briefly describe the Buddha. How does his appearance testify to the fact that he has reached total peace? The Buddha is dressed like the other monks in long, yellow robes. He shows peace in every aspect of his appearance. He looks like a man who is no longer seeking anything and is totally at peace.
2. Why do you think Siddhartha is happy for Govinda, but refuses to tell his friend why he does not join as one of Buddha’s followers? Siddhartha is happy that Govinda is following his own path. Siddhartha knows the way to Nirvana is different for all people and can be found only when people follow their own destinies.
3. What kind of salvation is the Buddha offering his followers through his teachings? Why does Siddhartha question the idea of salvation as part of the Buddha’s lessons? The Buddha is offering his followers salvation from suffering. Siddhartha believes the path to true peace is something that cannot be taught, but must be experienced by people on their own.
4. Many critics believe the Buddha breaks away from his peaceful serenity when he says to Siddhartha: “You are wise, oh Samana … You know how to talk wisely, my friend. Be wary of too much wisdom!” (page 35) Is Siddhartha able to pierce the Buddha’s peaceful countenance? The Buddha has not lost his serenity; he is simply trying to warn Siddhartha not to rely on cleverness to find Nirvana.
5. Support the following statement: Siddhartha has learned the third of the Noble Truths: Suffering ends when desire ends. Siddhartha sees that the Buddha has achieved the ideal state of bliss and peace Siddhartha seeks. The Buddha is no longer suffering; he seeks nothing.
Fourth Noble Truth: The way to end desire is to follow the Eight-Fold Path. “Awakening”
1. What epithet (nickname) does Hesse use for Siddhartha in this chapter? What part of himself does Siddhartha leave behind with his youth? Hesse refers to him as “the thinker”. He leaves behind the desire to have teachers.
2. After awakening, Siddhartha thinks he is like a newborn child and should return to his father. Why does he not go home? He is no longer “an ascetic, … no longer a priest, … no longer a Brahmin.” (page 39) He knows that he must be himself, not someone’s son. He must begin anew, completely alone.
3. What does Siddhartha realize gives him a, “profound feeling of awakening from his long dreams …” (page 38) What epithet does Hesse use for Siddhartha after this understanding? He realizes that he will no longer study other teachings but will learn from himself. Hesse refers to him as, “Siddhartha, the awoken one.” (page 39)
4. Why does Siddhartha abandon the Brahman precept that the beauty of nature is an illusion? He thinks reality and meaning are in all things, an illusions hidden from his view. He comes to recognize the beauty in nature.
5. How does the last line in this chapter support the last Noble Truth: The way to end desire is to follow the Eight-Fold Path? He is no longer a part of his past. He has broken with his Brahman origins, he has chosen not to be a follower of Buddha, and he is ready to follow his own path to Nirvana.
Part Two The Eight-Fold Path The first Eight-Fold Path is Right Belief. “Kamala”
1. Support the following statement with a quotation from the book: After his awakening, Siddhartha becomes reborn, is childlike, and appreciates the beauty of the natural world with childlike wonder. “It was lovely and beautiful to walk through the world like this, childlike and ful y awake, open to what is near and without mistrust.” (page 45)
2. How does Siddhartha plan to emulate (copy) Gotama’s way of finding enlightenment? He plans to experience life in both the world of thoughts and the world of the senses.
3. What generalization about life can be found in the conversation between the ferryman and Siddhartha? What prediction does the ferryman make that foreshadows a future relationship between himself and Siddhartha? The river teaches the ferryman that nothing is gone forever and everything returns. The ferryman does not expect payment from Siddhartha because Siddhartha will repay him at another time.
4. What do you think Siddhartha means when he says, “All I meet on my path are like Govinda”? (page 47) They are all like Govinda, they are all followers open to life and learning.
5. Support the following statement: Siddhartha listens to his inner voice, which tells him to explore his sexuality, and then guides him to that goal. When Siddhartha feels sexual desire for the woman by the brook, his inner voice tells him no and guides him to Kamala.
6. What does the name Kamala mean? What does Kamala want Siddhartha to accomplish before she accepts him as a pupil? How does Siddhartha respond to her requirements? Kamala means lotus blossom, which is symbolic of physical love. Siddhartha must get money and fine clothes in order to be acceptable to Kamala. Siddhartha is unconcerned with her demands because the things she wants are much easier to obtain than the lessons he has learned as a samana.
7. What is inferred, but not actually stated, in the following quotation? “But tell me, beautiful Kamala, do you not have any fear of the samana from the forest who has come here to learn love? … he’s strong, the Samana, and he fears nothing. He could force you, beautiful girl. He could abduct you. He could hurt you.” (page 57) Siddhartha has demonstrated his powers of hypnosis when he previously hypnotized the ancient samana. The passage implies that he can hypnotize Kamala to get what he wants.
8. List the three accomplishments Siddhartha gains from his time as a samana. What advice does Kamala give Siddhartha in his relationship with the merchant Kamaswami? He learns to think, wait, and fast. Kamala tells him to be friendly to Kamaswami and also to be his equal.
9. The first goal of the Eight-Fold Path defined by Buddha is “right belief.” What do you think is the “right belief” Siddhartha pursues in this chapter? Siddhartha must listen to his inner voice while seeking experiences in life.
Part Two The Eight-Fold Path The second part of the Eight- Fold Path is Right Resolve. “With the Child-People”
1. What does the name Kamaswami mean? Give a generalization about life based on Siddhartha’s answer to the merchant’s statement that the merchant does not really live on the possessions of others but gives goods in exchange. Kamaswami means master of the material world. Siddhartha means that in life there is both give and take.
2. State another generalization about life based on the following conversation between Siddhartha and the merchant Kamaswami: He handed him a piece of paper and a pen, and Siddhartha wrote and returned the paper. Kamaswami read: “Writing is good, thinking is better. Intelligence is good, but patience is better.” (page 56) It is better to learn to think and have patience than it is to be clever and learn to write.
3. State a generalization about love found in the following passage: “He was, regarding love, still a boy and had a tendency to plunge blindly and insatiably into lust like a bottomless pit; she taught him, starting with the basics, about that school of thought which teaches that pleasure cannot be taken without giving pleasure, and that every gesture, every caress, every touch, every look, every area of the body, however small it was, had a secret which would bring happiness to those who know about it and unleash it.” (page 57) A person must give pleasure in order to receive pleasure in return.
4. Support the following statement: Siddhartha is a good businessman, even though he seems to be only playing at business. Siddhartha is successful as a businessman because of his ability to listen and because he can make a good impression on people. Siddhartha, however, does not really care about business. He is not upset by failure or a business loss.
5. How are Siddhartha, Kamala, and Gotama alike? They all have an inner sanctuary where they can go to be themselves.
6. What prediction about the future does Kamala make? What does Siddhartha mean when he says that Kamala is like him and cannot feel love? Kamala says that she will have Siddhartha’s baby when she is older. Siddhartha sees them as being too aware of the mechanics of love and life to be able to experience the uncontrolled emotions of love.
7. The second goal of the Eight-Fold Path defined by Buddha is “right resolve.” What do you think is the “right resolve” Siddhartha pursues in this chapter? Siddhartha resolves to participate in the experiences of life available to him, but not to lose the sanctuary of his inner self.
Part Two The Eight-Fold Path The third Eight-Fold Path is Right Speech. “Samsara”
1. Why does Siddhartha envy ordinary people? He envies them because they live their lives with a sense of importance, have a depth to their pleasures and sorrows, and are able to feel the power of love.
2. What is the “sloth [that] had entered Siddhartha’s soul”? (page 64) What is the cause of this sickness? He no longer hears his inner voice because of his accumulation of material possessions.
3. How is Siddhartha’s attempt to show his contempt for riches also an example of irony? Siddhartha gambles for very high stakes, squandering money in order to show how unimportant it is to him. Ironically, he comes to enjoy the anxiety created by gambling, and he needs to continue to make money so he can continue to gamble.
4. Support the idea that the songbird in the golden cage Siddhartha dreams about is a symbol for Siddhartha’s soul. The bird is in a golden cage, just as Siddhartha is living the life of a rich man.
5. Samsara is the Hindu word for the idea that the world is constantly repeating itself. What is Siddhartha saying about reincarnation in the following passage? “Weren’t they playing a game that had no end? Was it necessary to live for this? No, it was not necessary! The name of this game was Sansara, a game for children, which was enjoyable to play perhaps once, twice, or ten times – but again and again for ever and ever? Siddhartha then knew that the game was over and that he could not longer play it. He felt shivers run over his body inside him something had died.” (page 68) Siddhartha wants to end the cycle of constant rebirths by reaching Nirvana. The children he refers to are all of the people who live for their senses and for material things.
6. What does Kamala do when she learns of Siddhartha’s disappearance? She releases the songbird from its cage, which is symbolic of releasing Siddhartha from the material world of the senses. Then, she closes up her house and retires as a courtesan.
7. If you substitute “song” for the word “speech” in the third of the Eight-Fold Path to end desire, what does Siddhartha learn in this chapter that helps him progress toward his goal? Siddhartha learns to let his inner voice guide him to his goal, unhampered by material possessions.
Part Two The Eight-Fold Path The fourth Eight-Fold Path is Right Conduct. “By the River”
1. Define “om”. How does the word “om” save Siddhartha’s life? Om is the word said before and after Braham say their prayers. It means “perfection”. The word “om” saves his life because it reminds Siddhartha that killing himself would be foolish. He can’t find peace by destroying his body because he will simply be reborn and start all over again.
2. How does the sleep by the river help Siddhartha? He awakens refreshed and reborn. He is ready to begin his search for true enlightenment again.
3. What do you think is the significance of Govinda’s re-emergence in Siddhartha’s life at this point in the story? Siddhartha is leaving the world of materialism and returning to the world of meditation. This world includes Govinda.
4. State a generalization about life found in the following passage: “Today, however, you’ve met a pilgrim just like this wearing such shoes and such garments. Remember, my good man: the world of appearances is not external, and our garments, hairstyle, even our hair and bodies are anything but eternal.” (page 75) Physical appearance can change and, therefore, does not accurately reflect the person inside.
5. Why does Siddhartha believe he is “starting like a child again at the beginning”? (page 76) What does he think about becoming a child again when he is old enough to have gray hair? Siddhartha no longer possesses the ability to fast, wait, and think. He has also given up his material possessions. He is like a small child again without any of these abilities or possessions.
6. One of the characteristics of oral tradition is the repetition of stories and ideas to help the listener remember important details. Find an example of repetition in this chapter which supports the fact that the novel Siddhartha is written with the same techniques used in ancient storytelling. “As a boy, I concerned myself with gods and sacrifices. As a youth, I concerned myself with asceticism … as a young man, I followed the penitents. … Insight came to me wonderfully in the form of the great Buddha’s teachings … I went and learned the art of love with Kamala, [and] learned to trade with Kamaswami … (page 76)
7. List the reasons Siddhartha was unable to get rid of his Self when he was a Braman. Too much knowledge stopped him, and he was full of arrogance.
8. Speculate on the meaning of the river. What do you think it means for Siddhartha? Remember that he crosses the river as a young man to experience a life of the senses, leaving behind a life of meditation. The river is a symbol for the unity he craves between his spiritual and sensual sides.
9. What do you think is the “right conduct,” the fourth of the Eight Paths to end desire, that Siddhartha pursues in this chapter? Siddhartha learns that it is correct for him to experience both the sensual and the spiritual aspect of life. He is now ready to be reborn by the river.
Part Two The Eight-Fold Path The fifth Eight-Fold Path is Right Occupation. “The Ferryman”
1. What does Siddhartha’s inner voice tell him about the river? He is told to stay by the river and learn from it.
2. What does the name Vasudeva mean? Why is Vasudeva a good listener? It means, “One who abides in all things and in whom all things abide.” He listens intently, does not show impatience, does not offer his opinion, and seems totally absorbed in what the other person is saying.
3. What has Siddhartha already learned from the river? Find an example of foreshadowing in Vasudeva’s conversation with Siddhartha? Siddhartha has learned that it is good to strive to seek other depths. Vasudeva says Siddhartha will learn to listen to the river.
4. One of the major themes of this novel is that “there is no such thing as time”. Support the belief that Siddhartha comes to understand that life is a complete entity, like the river, and not a series of events broken up by time. Life is like a river, which is everywhere at once. Siddhartha’s life is the same way: everywhere at once. His life as a boy, a young man, and as an old man all run together.
5. What overall theme is stated in the following passage? “No, there were no teachings that a person who truly sought and wanted to find could accept. But the one who had already found could approve of any teachings, every path and goal …” There are many paths to reach a goal, and they are all equally valid.
6. What does Siddhartha gain by Kamala’s death? How does her death reinforce his belief that time does not exist? What does Kamala observe about Siddhartha before she dies? Siddhartha gains a son when Kamala dies. Her death reinforces the belief that time does not exist because he still thinks of her as the young woman he first kissed. Kamala wisely observes that Siddhartha has achieved his goal of inner peace.
7. Briefly describe Siddhartha’s son. He is an eleven year old boy who resembles Siddhartha. He is very spoiled and accustomed to a life of luxury.
Part Two The Eight-Fold Path The fifth Eight-Fold Path is Right Effort . “The Son”
1. What does Siddhartha experience for the first time after the arrival of his son? Siddhartha experiences love, but also pain, because the boy is not happy living with his father.
2. What does the following message from the river tell Siddhartha? Why does he not listen to the message? “Water wants to join water, youth wants to join youth …” It is not his son’s path, at his young age, to live by the river. The river has not called to Siddhartha’s son. He must go back to town to find his own life. Siddhartha does not listen because he loves the boy and does not want to give him up.
3. List three generalizations about life Vasudeva makes when he describes Siddhartha’s behavior toward his son. Gentleness is stronger than severity, water is stronger than rock, and love is stronger than force.
4. Support the following statement: Vasudeva knows that sons must learn from their own experiences, not from the experiences of their fathers. Vasudeva reminds Siddhartha about the story of (Siddhartha’s) own life and how his Brahman father could not protect him from sin. Siddhartha must, therefore, release his son and let him live his own life.
5. How does the presence of Siddhartha’s son help make Siddhartha “completely like ordinary people”? Why is his effort to keep his son with him not a worthless endeavor? Siddhartha finally experiences the full power of love. Foolishly resisting the wisdom of the river is part of this experience and, therefore, a valuable experience.
6. Why does Siddhartha continue to search for his son even after he realizes the boy is probably safe and does not need any help? Why does Siddhartha eventually return to the river? Siddhartha needs to see his son again even though he knows it is foolish to try and find his son. Vasudeva comes to walk him back to the river.
7. What do you think is the “right effort”, the sixth of the Eight Paths to end desire, that Siddhartha pursues in this chapter? It is right for Siddhartha to make the effort to teach his son the way to peace, even though he knows his son must find his own path.
Part Two The Eight-Fold Path The fifth Eight-Fold Path is Right Contemplation. “Om”
1. Support the following statement: After Siddhartha loses his son, he comes more sympathetic to ordinary people and their struggles in life. Siddhartha now understands that even wicked people have children and that they love them.
2. What overall theme for this story is stated in Siddhartha’s analysis of what separates the “wise man” from ordinary people? How are Hesse’s experiences in the sanitarium reflected in the lessons Siddhartha learns in this chapter? A wise man possesses the “consciousness of the unity of all life”. The overall theme is that all things in the world are part of a single unity.
3. Describe the change Siddhartha notices in Vasudeva when he confesses to the old man how painful it is to see fathers and their sons together. Siddhartha notices that Vasudeva is like “the river itself, God himself.”
4. How does Siddhartha know that “his self had merged into unity”? When he listens to the river, he hears all of the different voices as “a single word, and that was: Om, the perfection.”
5. What do you think is going to happen to Vasudeva when he goes into the woods for the last time? Vasudeva is going to die for the last time. He will not be reincarnated because he has reached Nirvana.
6. What do you think is the “right contemplation,” the seventh of the eight paths to end desire, that Siddhartha pursues in this chapter? Siddhartha learns to hear the sound of the Om, or perfection, in the voices of the river. He reaches the point where his Self is in unity with the world.
Part Two The Eight-Fold Path The fifth Eight-Fold Path is Right Ecstasy “Govinda”
1. What advice does Siddhartha offer Govinda about seeking? Siddhartha tells Govinda that he is seeking too much, and he is unable to be receptive because Govinda is focused on goals. He needs to be free and without goals.
2. Govinda asks Siddhartha for his thoughts or doctrine. What generalization about life does Siddhartha offer Govinda on the following topics? Wisdom: “Knowledge can be transferred, but not wisdom.” Truth: “The opposite of every truth is just as true.” Time: “Time is not real.”
3. One of the overall major themes of this story is stated in Siddhartha’s love for the stone. Support Siddhartha’s belief that “love seems to me to be the most important thing of all.” Siddhartha loves the stone because it is part of the unity of all things. To him, the “stone is a stone, and it is also an animal, a God, and Buddha.” The stone is part of everything, and everything is part of the stone. Siddhartha loves the stone and sees the value in everything, even in sinners.
4. The teaching of Gotama forbids his followers from binding themselves to earthly love. It is a doctrine of Christianity that God is loving. How does Siddhartha explain that his statement, love is the most important thing in the world, is not in contradiction to Gotama’s teaching? Siddhartha states that Gotama must know love since he devotes his life to teaching and helping people. He thinks Gotama’s deeds are more important than his words.