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11. Love is not an element in Hinduism, and Buddhism teaches that love and ties of affection and desire are the cause of suffering in life and must be abandoned in order to end suffering and achieve Nirvana. Of the major religions, only Christianity emphasizes love-the love of God, God's love of His people, and love between mankind. Siddhartha's discovery of love is a Christian element in an Indian hero's quest for wisdom. Siddhartha reconciles love with Buddhism by deciding that the Buddha devoted his life to teaching and helping people because he loved them.
12. The setting of Siddhartha is an imaginary India modeled on
a fairy tale landscape. Its classic elements are the palace of the prince's
father, the dangerous forest, the grove of the magician, then the pleasure
garden of the siren and the city of wealth and worldly diversions. Symbolically,
these can be interpreted further. The palace, the house of the hero's
father, represents the established forms and traditions against which
the hero rebels. The forest is the scene of Samana ordeals that the hero
must overcome. The magician, or sage, in the grove is the Buddha pointing
out a different-possibly false-path. Kamala, the siren in the garden,
and the city world of business and pleasure are the sensual and materialistic
temptations that the hero must undergo as part of his quest for wisdom.
Hermann Hesse was familiar with the classic fairy tales assembled by the
brothers Grimm and others of the German Romantic Era, and Hesse wrote
a number of fairy tales of his own.
13. The river first occurs in the novel as a physical and symbolic boundary between the spiritual world of Hindu ritual, Samana asceticism, and Buddhist teaching, on one side, and the arts of love and the wealth and pleasures of the city on the other. It is incidentally a dividing line between Siddhartha's youth and young manhood, and on his return it again divides his middle years from his old age. When he comes to share Vasudeva's life as a ferryman, the river takes on a new role: it becomes Siddhartha's teacher. He learns to listen to the river and to take the steps toward wisdom that he hears in its voice and sees in the visions it inspires. The river teaches by example. Its waters are constantly new and yet it remains the same, an illustration of how the opposites, change and permanence, can both be true. It flows steadily from past to future and yet it is always present, an example of the illusory nature of time. When Siddhartha hears voices and sees images in the river, he is hearing and seeing reflections of his own inner processes of thought and feeling as he strives toward the peace of understanding.
14. Siddhartha has been compared to The Pilgrims Progress, a seventeenth-century religious allegory telling the story of a man named Christian's journey through life, through perilous places such as the Slough of Despond and the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Siddhartha is the story of a similar journey. The characters' Indian names have clearly allegorical meanings. Kamala, the name of the beautiful courtesan, means sensual love. Kamaswami, Siddhartha's rich merchant employer, translates as master of the material world. The wise ferryman Vasudeva is "he in whom all things abide and who abides in all things."
Siddhartha's friend and follower, Govinda, is a "keeper of cows," and as cows are sacred in Hinduism, this suggests a religious person, although one of humble rank. Siddhartha himself is "he who is on the right road" or, alternatively, "he who attains his goal." The forest where Siddhartha practices asceticism with the Samanas, the grove where he meets the Buddha and rejects Buddhism, and the city where he experiences worldly success and sensual pleasures are comparable to the dangerous or seductive places through which Christian in The Pilgrim's Progress passes. In contrast to Christian's goal of salvation and reaching heaven, however, is Siddhartha's goal of understanding and peace. He achieves this at the river, which flows between the spiritual and material worlds and embraces the experience of both.