Chapter 6: "Amongst the People" Notes from Siddhartha

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Siddhartha Chapter 6: "Amongst the People"

The wealthy merchant Kamaswami is an older man with graying hair and a large house. He tests Siddhartha's cleverness by asking many questions and listening to his answers, wondering about his need for possessions. Siddhartha is very clever, recalling his Samana skills of "thinking, waiting, and fasting." He twists the man's words back on him, declaring that just as a Samana lives on the possessions of others, so too does the merchant. He states that life is about giving and taking in return, an exchange of goods and services. Despite Kamaswami's attempts to intimidate Siddhartha, his arrogance remains unyielding and firm. Because of his cleverness and wit, as well as a good writing sample, Siddhartha is hired to assist the merchant in his business and makes many new friends. He is given clothes, food and a home, as well as a portion of the profits Kamaswami earns through business dealings. With this goal attained, he is fit to become Kamala's student in the art of lovemaking and visits her regularly.

Kamawami loves his work and the process of buying and selling goods, yet Siddhartha's interest in this life is merely to be with Kamala and learn. The merchant life is a game to him, and he lacks any genuine interest. It serves its higher purpose to provide him with the money he needs. Kamala teaches him well. Siddhartha learns "that one cannot have pleasure without giving it...She taught him that lovers should not separate from each other after making love without admiring each other, without being conquered as well as conquering, so that no feeling of satiation or desolation arises nor the horrid feeling of misusing or having been misused" Chapter 6, pg. 54. With this woman, Siddhartha even allows himself to be conquered since he remains only a child of learning when it comes to love. It is a time of revelation for him. He abandons the spiritual path he had trodden before; he exchanges the search for Atman and the invocations of Om in meditation for the experience of physical pleasures.

Time passes and Siddhartha grows older. He and Kamswami have recurring differences about the merchant business, and on one occasion the patron becomes angry that Siddhartha had remained in a village for several days, socializing and making new friends, even though he had not found any business there. Kamaswami sees it as a waste since it was a visit serving Siddhartha's personal pleasure and did not make a monetary profit. Siddhartha is calm, reminding him that in the future if he should venture there to do business, the people shall receive him well and future business may develop since he left a good impression. The old man is silent, for Siddhartha says simply that he shall leave if Kamaswami is displeased with his service. Mercantilism is merely a game for him, anyway, and he lacks passion to earn profit, unlike Kamaswami. Although the two disagree often, the rich old merchant admires Siddhartha's ability to befriend so many different people, a skill that he himself lacks. Siddhartha declares that he, unlike Kamaswami, knows how to think and use his mind. More time passes in this way.

As he had been before with the Brahmin, the Samanas, and the Buddha, so too does he become increasingly bored with the life to which he has grown accustomed. No matter how much wealth he gains, how many people he meets, or how many times he makes love to Kamala, he still feels separate from their world. He still does not feel as if he belongs with them, as the inner voice of his Self begins to complain. Yet he does not change how he acts towards everyone and keeps his restlessness hidden. Siddhartha is fascinated by these people: "Siddhartha's sympathy and curiosity lay only with the people, whose work, troubles, pleasures, and follies were more unknown and remote from him than the moon. Although he found it so easy to speak to everyone, to live with everyone, to learn from everyone...there was something which separated him from them...[because] he had been a Samana" Chapter 6, pg. 57. His past continues to influence him, despite all attempts to forget it and move forward. Siddhartha does not belong with the Samanas, nor does he belong with these people. He remains secretly lost and wandering, no matter how hard he tries to belong to a community of people. He is still alone.

Topic Tracking: Self 7
Topic Tracking: Teacher 8

Kamala remains the closest thing to an equal that he finds amongst these people, closer than even Govinda had been. She recognizes how much Siddhartha's past as a Samana and his skills of "thinking, waiting, and fasting" have influenced his outlook on the world. The young merchant still recalls the Buddha to her with admiration. Kamala knows little about the Buddha and listens to Siddhartha intently. He now calls the Buddha's followers "falling leaves," tossed about by the wind without any free will of their own. They all consent to the will of the Buddha, rather than becoming enlightened themselves. Siddhartha is away from nature and away from meditation, a member of the town now, but he remains a seeker. Although he had sworn to abandon his past and disdains it, it continues to influence his thoughts. He does not realize the extent of this until he has moved on to new things. It is only after he is no longer a Samana that the Samana teachings become important in his memory.

Kamala admires Siddhartha and sees him to be her equal in many ways. She predicts that she will become pregnant one day and have his child, even as Siddhartha grows increasingly tired of this existence. Siddhartha claims that he cannot love her and she cannot love him, for love is merely a game to them. He declares that "people like us cannot love. Ordinary people can - that is their secret." Siddhartha wants to love, but he does not know how to do it even though the simplest people in town around him do it. This frustrates Siddhartha, and his feelings of isolation increase. He does not understand love, nor can he imagine how Kamala could love him, since she has only taught him how to play games. Everything in the town just seems like a game to him. Rather than leaving because of his restlessness, Siddhartha stays in the town and more years pass by.

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