Chapter 2: "With the Samanas" Notes from Siddhartha

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Siddhartha Chapter 2: "With the Samanas"

The two young men catch up to the Samanas by nightfall and are accepted into their group. Siddhartha gives up everything he had before as the Brahmin's son, including his clothes, his home and his daily habits. He begs for food and wears only a loincloth and a cloak, shunning the townspeople and becoming a wretched figure with unkempt hair and long fingernails. Everything that surrounds him seems to be merely an illusion, including the people and the places he visits. The secret he has sought is within, and he needs to learn merely to recognize it. Everything in the world outside of the Self is false. The only truth for Siddhartha is Atman. By shutting himself off from society, he wishes to destroy all attachment to anything, hoping that "When all the Self was conquered and dead, when all passions and desires were silent, then the last must awaken, the innermost of Being that is no longer Self - the great secret!" Chapter 2, pg. 11.

In this way he begins to separate his mind and spirit from bodily sensation by not eating for long periods of time, resisting the sun's heat or the cold rain and controlling his heartbeat and breathing. He soon learns how to control the sensations in his body by using his mind. With Govinda still following behind him as his quiet shadow, Siddhartha hopes that by destroying his connection to everything in the outside world he may recognize more of what is inside of himself. As time passes, he learns from the elder Samanas how to extend his mind into nature and into death and back into life again by connecting to the natural world while meditating. Denying his Self and forgetting his own memory, Siddhartha learns to understand and embrace the life cycle in the natural world that surrounds him. In many ways, the Samanas live in self-exile, cut off from the rest of society in favor of the forest and nature.

Topic Tracking: Nature 3

After living this way for awhile, Siddhartha begins to grow restless again, just as he had after hearing the teachings of the Brahmins in the village where he had grown up. He realizes that, despite the many times he meditates and forgets his Self, he is always forced to return to it, unchanged and as it had been before, when his meditation ends. He cannot escape from his individual identity as Siddhartha or forget his memories forever, for they always return to him. The Samana explains this to his faithful companion, Govinda. He disdainfully equates forgetting himself while meditating to the same escapism that is practiced by drunkards, gamblers, and those who are lustful with prostitutes. They, too, must always return to reality after the dice game is lost or the alcoholic haze fades. Govinda replies that the drunkard does not progress when he escapes from himself, yet he and Siddhartha do learn and get closer to the answers that they seek. He thinks the Samanas' way of life makes them move forward rather than stagnate.

Topic Tracking: Teacher 3
Topic Tracking: Self 2

Siddhartha does not see himself as getting any closer to answers than "a child in the womb," and begins a barrage of questions similar to those he had asked himself about the Vedas before leaving the Brahmins about the hypocrisy that he finds amongst the Samanas. He states plainly that the Samanas shall always be seeking and merely escaping reality without understanding it, until they die. Govinda becomes upset, declaring that life would mean nothing if there was nothing to seek, for Siddhartha believes that seeking knowledge is a "detour" away from recognizing the essence of what life really means and understanding Atman. Govinda recites a lyric line from the Upanishads for encouragement; although "Siddhartha was silent. He dwelt long on the words which Govinda had uttered. Yes, he thought, standing with a bowed head, what remains from all that is holy to us? What remains? What is preserved? And he shook his head" Chapter 2, pg. 16. He has more questions, but there are no teachers to give him answers. The restlessness grows in his breast.

Finally these two Samanas hear mixed rumors about the teachings of an enlightened man called Buddha, also called names such as Gotama, Sakyamuni, or the Illustrious One. India is in a bad condition due to poverty and sickness, yet the beliefs of this man renew the people's faith and hope, although others think he is filled with hypocrisy and corruption. Govinda urges Siddhartha to go with him to hear the teachings of Buddha, despite the fact that the other Samanas in their group do not trust the Buddha's teachings. Siddhartha is surprised that his friend, usually so passive and obedient, has actually made a decision for himself. For the sake of getting away from the now-suffocating environment he finds amongst the Samanas, Siddhartha agrees to join Govinda on a journey to see the Buddha, warning that he has become distrustful of learning from teachers.

Before they depart Siddhartha tells the eldest Samana that he and Govinda are leaving to hear the teachings of Buddha, just as he had once told his father that he was leaving to become a Samana. The old man becomes angry that they wish to leave, yet now instead of waiting for a blessing to be given, as he did for the Brahmin, Siddhartha uses his learned mental abilities to hypnotize the Samana and force him to bless their journey. Govinda is stunned to see this, declaring that Siddhartha could have become a great Samana, just as he could have become a great Brahmin had he remained with his father. In spite of this great skill, Siddhartha does not see its value, for it does not calm his restlessness to understand Atman, or stop the thirst for knowledge that urges him to move onwards. The questions must be answered somehow but not by learning others' teachings. The knowledge is already inside of his Self. The two friends leave the forest and continue towards the town of Savathi to see the Gotama, Buddha.

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