Chapter 7: "Samsara" Notes from Siddhartha

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Siddhartha Chapter 7: "Samsara"

As time goes on, Siddhartha's Samana heart remains intact, in spite of the new sensations he has awakened in his body. He becomes very similar to Kamaswami, for he obtains enough wealth to buy his own house and a garden near the river, just like Kamala. He begins to share her love of money and luxury, too. Kamala remains his only real friend, in spite of his popularity amongst the townspeople. Eventually his Samana heart begins to fade away into memory, and Siddhartha forgets the old humble values of "thinking, waiting, and fasting." He eats excessively and begins to enjoy fine clothes and drinking wine. "Slowly, like moisture entering the dying tree trunk...so did the world and inertia creep into Siddhartha's soul; it slowly filled his soul, made it heavy, made it tired, sent it to sleep. But on the other hand his sense became more awakened, they learned a great deal, experienced a great deal" Chapter 7, pg. 61.

His mind is a rotting tree trunk, while his body's senses rage insatiably. The inner voice of Self Siddhartha had searched to obey for so long becomes confused with the satisfaction of bodily desires. This voice had made him observe the world around him for what it was, although he felt separated from it before crossing the river and coming to this town, Samsara. Now that he has become a part of the material world, he has forgotten how everything was when viewed through the eyes of the outsider he had been before. He cannot appreciate his evironment because he is a member of it; he now owns a garden and holds a job rather than being a visitor. Now others can observe and marvel at him. The quest for Atman is forgotten for now.

Topic Tracking: Nature 8

Like Kamala, Siddhartha is carried around in a chair by servants, and he gambles often. His arrogance is blind, like that of Kamaswami. Yet he still judges the people around him as weak and is oblivious to the fact that he is now one of them. He had long ago compared the meditative escapism of the Samanas to that experienced by drunkards, by lovers, and by gamblers. Now he has become all of these things and remains ignorant, for still "He envied them [for]...the sense of importance with which they lived their lives, the depth of their pleasure and sorrows, the anxious but sweet happiness of their continual power to love. These people were always in love with themselves, with their children" Chapter 7, pg. 62. Siddhartha loses focus and becomes consumed by materialism and all of the vices he had been taught to avoid in his youth. It is this same "world and desires" that he had been warned about by the Buddha, but he remains ignorant.

Topic Tracking: Self 8

The situation worsens. Ironically, as Siddhartha falls deeper into forgetfulness, it is Kamala who begins to awaken and one day asks about the Buddha while the two sit beneath a tree in her garden. She murmurs that she would like to become one of Gotama's followers, just like Govinda. Kamala had once mocked Siddhartha for his Samana beliefs, but now she has changed in the opposite direction of Siddhartha, becoming more spiritual as he becomes more materialistic. That night the two make love yet again, although this time Siddhartha notices wrinkles beginning to appear across her face and is surprised at how old she looks. He is struck suddenly out of the spell he has fallen into, realizing how much time has been spent here in Samsara, and remarks "how closely related passion was to death." The passion the two have shared together seems to have drained away the beauty of youth so quickly. Passion has made time pass so quickly that the two lovers have changed each other. Kamala becomes more like the spiritual Samana lost within Siddhartha, and Siddhartha becomes more like the old materialistic Kamala.

Topic Tracking: Teacher 9

Siddhartha then returns to his home, depressed, noticing his own wrinkles and flabby skin due to many years of poor eating and material excess. Restless, Siddhartha dreams that he is looking at the cage in which Kamala's rare songbird lives. Now, however, it is stiff and dead on the floor of the cage and he throws it out onto the road. He is filled with a sense of loss within himself, as if his own goodness and purity has died with the bird. After opening his eyes, Siddhartha is sad and begins to ask himself questions as he used to do so many years before, recalling the times when he had been happy and joyful in life. He feels so old and decrepit, as if he were already dead. Memories of his past before Samsara flood his mind. He remembers the excitement when debating with his father and the Brahmins, when he became a Samana, and when he spoke with the Buddha.

Topic Tracking: Self 9

Another awakening begins as his eyes open at last, filled with wisdom. He understands what he has become, how much like Kamaswami he is, and decides to retrace his footsteps back to where he had strayed from the path. Even Kamala is no longer necessary since he has learned all that he can from her about love. Laughing silently at the absurdity of what he has become and how misguided he was, Siddhartha pauses at his garden near the river, thinking about all of his possessions. The old restlessness fills him again, "He had finished with that. That also died in him. He rose, said farewell to the mango tree and the pleasure garden. As he had not had any food that day he felt extremely hungry, and thought of his house in town, of his room and bed, of the table with food. He smiled wearily, shook his head and said good-bye to these things" Chapter 7, pg. 68. After spending so many years to earn wealth, Siddhartha walks away from it all and returns to the river from which he had come.

After his disappearance, many in town including Kamaswami think that he was attacked by robbers. But Kamala knows that he has chosen to leave and why he has done so. Siddhartha remains a Samana within, no matter how much he may try to forget; it is a part of his personal experience, and he cannot escape it. Kamala rejoices in his conquering of her the last time they were together, just as she had so completely conquered him when they had first met so many years before. She releases her rare songbird to fly away forever into the sky because Siddhartha has left her. However, Kamala soon realizes that she has become pregnant with the child of Siddhartha, as she had once told him would happen. Siddhartha has left in order to recognize Atman and understand the meaning of life, but she shall still bear his son into the world.

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