Chapter 3: "Gotama" Notes from Siddhartha

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Siddhartha Chapter 3: "Gotama"

When Siddhartha and Govinda arrive in Savathi, they learn from a woman who gives these two Samanas food that the Buddha is in the Jetavana grove that was given to him by Anathapindika. That night they arrive and sleep, awakened at dawn by the bustling activity around them from the Buddha's followers who wear yellow monk robes. There are also newcomers like themselves who have arrived to hear his teachings. Everything around them in the grove is lush garden and trees. Finally the Buddha emerges and joins his followers as they go out to beg in the town's streets in order to buy their one meal for the day. Buddha's appearance is different from those around him, however, for he radiates a certain inner glow that Siddhartha admires greatly. Although he is doubtful of what this man's words can teach him, the Gotama himself remains an impressive person to look at.

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Finally Govinda and his companion hear the Buddha's words about finding salvation from suffering in life, his four main points, and the interconnectedness of the life cycle. Many people who listen are excited, and when night arrives, they join Buddha's followers. Without waiting to hear Siddhartha's advice, Govinda decides to become a disciple and remain with him in the Jetavana grove. He urges Siddhartha to join so that he might "put an end to the suffering," repeating Buddha's words. Yet Siddhartha is doubtful of new teachings and considers Govinda's choice to be premature. Learning is a "detour" away from knowledge he already possesses within him. Nothing in the outside world knows him better than he already knows himself. He does not seek to end suffering, but instead desires to recognize Atman, the essence of what everything is. He searches for the meaning of life.

But Siddhartha is pleased that Govinda has chosen for himself rather than remaining his shadow and sends a blessing to his friend. He reminds him that "You have renounced home and parents, you have renounced your own will, you have renounced friendship. That is what the teachings preach, that is the will of the Illustrious One. That is what you wished for yourself. Tomorrow, Govinda, I will leave you" Chapter 3, pg. 25. Rather than being independent, Govinda has merely surrendered his individual thoughts and identity and is now just another follower of Buddha. Govinda's opinions shall not mean anything, for he must accept what he is taught by the Buddha and practice it. Siddhartha chooses to continue on his journey because he is independent and wants to choose his own path rather than being told what to do by somebody else. Govinda is now Buddha's shadow instead of following behind Siddhartha. Nothing has really changed for him at all.

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Before leaving the Jetavana grove, Siddhartha speaks with the Buddha about why he has decided not to stay. The teachings make sense to him; however, there is one thing that the Buddha cannot explain, and it is this essence, this Atman, that Siddhartha seeks to understand. The teachings portray the world as a recurring chain of events, without any of the gods taught by the Brahmins, which can be understood logically by cause and effect. But they do not address what he wants to know. The Buddha replies simply that "The teaching which you have heard...is not my opinion, and its goal is not to explain the world to those who are thirsty for knowledge. Its goal is quite different; its goal is salvation from the suffering. That is what Gotama teaches, nothing else" Chapter 3, pg. 27. Govinda remains behind, for he has chosen simply to end suffering. But Siddhartha's journey continues since he wants to understand the meaning of life and the world. Like the Samanas, Buddha's followers escape from reality without really connecting to it as they lose themselves in meditation. They study Buddha's knowledge instead of discovering their own.

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Siddhartha realizes that the Buddha has learned to recognize Atman, although this realization is not something that can be conveyed in words. It must be learned only for oneself. Siddhartha asks the Buddha who taught him what he has learned and how he came to be so enlightened; of course, the Buddha had no teacher but himself, and his knowledge came through meditating and experiencing the world. The moment of his enlightenment cannot be explained in words but can only be experienced firsthand. This is the knowledge that Siddhartha wishes to have. The Buddha sends his blessing and hopes that Siddhartha has chosen wisely by refusing to escape from suffering and by choosing his own path. He warns Siddhartha about "the life of the world and desires" although the Samana is firm in his decision to leave, wishing to achieve such a state of perfection as the Buddha has reached.

As Siddhartha sleeps that night before leaving, he recalls the Illustrious One's face and how at peace it was, thinking "I, also, would like to look and smile, sit and walk like that, so free, so worthy, so restrained, so candid, so childlike and mysterious. A man only looks and walks like that when he has conquered his Self. I also will conquer my Self...No other teachings will attract me, since this man's teachings have not done so" Chapter 3, pg. 29. Rather than worshipping the Buddha like Govinda, Siddhartha only sees the Buddha as an example of what he may potentially become later in life. Siddhartha remains restless and separated from those around him, yet he rejoices that he can now do whatever he wants without anyone else to judge him. Siddhartha has become free from any influences, including his father the Brahmin, the Samanas, the Buddha, and now even his friend Govinda. He now has only "Siddhartha, myself," vowing to never follow any teachings again.

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