Chapter 4: "Awakening" Notes from Siddhartha

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Siddhartha Chapter 4: "Awakening"

As Siddhartha leaves the Jetavana grove where Govinda has remained behind to become a disciple of the Buddha, he wonders what to do next. He did learn something new, however, during his brief stay there. The world is not the supernatural place of gods as had been taught by the Brahmins, the Vedas, and the Upanishads. Instead, it is a rational place of cause and effect. By using his mind now, Siddhartha begins to understand his feelings and rationalize them so that, after seeming merely to escape from the world into his feelings during meditation, now his feelings become thoughts and memories. They "become real and begin to mature." Rather than relying upon unseen spirits or the knowledge of others for understanding, he decides to rely increasingly upon himself. From the Buddha, Siddhartha has learned that he must become his own teacher.

Questions continue to plague Siddhartha as he walks, but he begins to reason and supply his own answers rather than hearing them from someone else. He realizes that he was looking for something tangible and definite in his quest to find Atman and Brahman within himself and to understand the meaning of life. He had foolishly thought that if he could destroy his Self and his individual identity as Siddhartha, erasing all memories of his own life, then Atman would be left and he could recognize it. But it is not that easy to do. Siddhartha gains confidence and decides to embrace his identity, not to deny it. This is his awakening, for Govinda is no longer at his side; he is truly left to his own thoughts, free of all influences. When he was a Samana he was exiled from society together with others; now he is in exile from everyone.

His eyes begin to open to the outside world as he begins to awaken inside. He sees colors around him in nature, in the flowers and the river, not as illusions, but instead as things of utmost beauty. The key to finding unity in everything is to embrace it all at once instead of denying it. Siddhartha realizes how blind he was before while searching: "I, who wished to read the book of the world and the book of my own nature, did presume to despise the letters and signs. I called the world of appearances, illusion. I called my eyes and tongue, chance. Now it is over; I have awakened. I have indeed awakened and have only been born today" Chapter 4, pg. 33. He casts aside all he had been taught by the Brahmin and understands everything again, with a new outlook. Yet it was necessary to have been taught as he was, in order to learn to reject it and gain this revelation. In that sense, it is good to have been lead astray, in order that he could find this new path.

Topic Tracking: Teacher 6
Topic Tracking: Nature 5

After rejecting everything he was before, Siddhartha feels very lonely and isolated. He remains thirsty for knowledge, but he is afraid of what there is now since everything he had known has been abandoned. He has nothing, and with nothing to direct him, he feels lost. There is no Govinda or any teaching to show him the way. There is only himself. The isolation bites into him deeply since he now belongs to no group. He is no longer a Samana or a Brahmin's son, nor does he have any family to take care of him. Everyone else around him - even Govinda, who had been so faithful and has become a follower of the Buddha - has a community to belong to or group identity. Siddhartha only has himself, with no community of people to embrace him. He wonders, "Whose life would he share? Whose language would he speak?" since the loneliness consumes him so deeply.

In the midst of such despair, something suddenly drives him forward with renewed determination, as he "stood alone like a star in the heavens...That was the last shudder of his awakening, the last pains of birth. Immediately he moved on again and began to walk quickly and impatiently, no longer homewards, no longer to his father, no longer looking backwards" Chapter 4, pg. 34. Siddhartha rejoices in this sudden freedom, realizing that he will never see his father again and that he is alone in the world. But he finds strength in his Self instead of ignoring it and continues eagerly ahead. His destination is uncertain, yet it only lies in front of him, since he has rejected all he has learned in his past. Siddhartha becomes a newborn child, ready to re-experience the world for what it is.

Topic Tracking: Self 5

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