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Free Study Guide-Siddhartha by Herman Hesse-Free Book Notes Summary
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CHAPTER 4: Awakening


As Siddhartha leaves the grove, he accepts that he is different from everyone and that he is one and one alone. He feels sad that he knows less about himself than about anything else in the world. He is almost obsessed with the idea of self, wanting to discover it and conquer it. Suddenly Siddhartha, with an air of finality, decides that he will no longer devote his thoughts to Atman and the sorrows of the world. He will no longer study the Vedas, Yoga, asceticism, or any other teachings. Instead, he will be his own pupil and learn from himself the secret of Siddhartha. He looks around him and finds the world has changed. It seems more beautiful and mysterious; it is enchanting with beautiful wonders, rivers, woods and mountains. He no longer despises or dismisses the world as Maya or delusion as the Brahmins do. With this realization, Siddhartha feels that he is born again; he is ready to begin life afresh.

Siddhartha's identities as his father's son, as a Brahmin and as a religious man dissolve. He merely becomes Siddhartha. He feels sorry for Govinda who has joined a category by becoming a monk. The idea of belonging to a category makes Siddhartha shudder with despair; he feels thankful that he has escaped. He also feels more like himself than ever before.


This fourth chapter, the last one in Book I, highlights Siddhartha's awakening, which is a turning point for him. By the end of the chapter, it is clear that Siddhartha is no longer a young boy, but a man. He realizes that something has left him. The metaphor of the snake shedding its skin is appropriate here since Siddhartha is letting go of the many selves he has pursued; he has dissolved his categories of son, Brahmin, and Samana. What is left is pure Siddhartha.

Siddhartha's awakening is the realization that he has not been able to find himself because he has been afraid to really look for himself. He has been too busy seeking the Atman, an awareness of the nucleus of all things, including Life, the Divine, and the Absolute. Unfortunately, he has lost himself in the search. Another feature of his awakening is his decision not to escape but to find himself by being only Siddhartha. After his conversation with Gotama, he realizes that he needs to be his own pupil and learn from himself.

Another feature of his awakening is an intense awareness of the beauty of the world, which now seems real to him. It is no longer in Maya, under the veil of delusion. He decides not to return to his father, for he is neither an ascetic, nor a Brahmin, nor a priest. He does not wish to offer sacrifices, practice meditation, or study. All that is over now. As he sheds these different selves, he despairs that he has known so little of his true self in the past; at the same time he is excited to open himself up to new experiences and life.

It is significant to note that Siddhartha does not believe in negating life experiences. Instead, he affirms the need for a direct, living encounter with the world and the delightful experiences it offers. This awakening episode prefigures his entrance into the world of physical delights and material gains, which will not bring Siddhartha the inner peace he seeks.

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