Notes on Siddhartha Themes

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Siddhartha Topic Tracking: Self

Self 1: Siddhartha wishes to discover his innermost essence, Atman, which exists beneath his individual identity as Siddhartha. It is this essence of humanity that is in every person beneath their individual identities, and it is this that Siddhartha seeks to understand.

Self 2: The Samanas teach Siddhartha how to deny the desires of his body, thinking that by ignoring his body's needs by fasting, resisting cold weather and heat, and controlling his heartbeat, one denies the Self. They believe that the Self lives in the external body.

Self 3: Govinda has surrendered his Self, his individual identity, and chooses to listen to the desires and beliefs of Buddha. Rather than finding knowledge for himself, he clings to another's understanding of the world.

Self 4: Siddhartha is happy that he has been left alone, for Govinda has becomes Buddha's follower. He is no longer influenced by anyone and listens to his own thoughts, hearing the voice of the Self inside of him.

Self 5: Consumed at first with loneliness, Siddhartha begins to listen more to the voice within him. It drives him to continue walking, although he is uncertain of his destination. He becomes more in touch with the voice of his Self and obeys it rather than ignoring it as he had always done before. Siddhartha has rejected the teachings of others and begins to teach himself through personal experience for the first time.

Self 6: In a dream, Siddhartha is aroused by lusty desires for women. He is fearful of women due to his lack of experience but remains determined to explore these instinctual desires of his body by later asking Kamala to teach him about lovemaking. Siddhartha begins his journey to listen to the voice of his Self by experiencing the world.

Self 7: Siddhartha's Self complains that it is unhappy with his life, focused on satisfying the desires of his body. This reveals that his Self is not the same as his body because the two forces disagree. Siddhartha remains in Samsara because he enjoys lovemaking as well as his life as a merchant. His arrogance increases, and his Self is ignored again.

Self 8: Gambling, drinking, greed, and lust consume Siddhartha and overpower his Self, which had told him to leave Samsara. The voice is quiet and his selfishness increases, becoming as arrogant as Kamaswami himself.

Self 9: Siddhartha is suddenly struck by his own mortality and panics, thinking all to be lost. Kamala's dead songbird in his dream makes him believe that it is his Self that has been killed due to his own ignorance and pride. The shame consumes him, driving him into a deep depression.

Self 10: Siddhartha realizes the folly of committing suicide, for it would accomplish nothing. As a Samana he had denied his Self by abusing his body, and killing himself now would be equally ignorant. His Self still exists within, deeper than his body. It is only that he is ashamed of the sinful life he had led in Samsara, consumed by materialism and lust.

Self 11: After so many years, Siddhartha hears his Self speak to him again, and he is happy again. Fleeing Samasara, his Self is fascinated by the tranquility of the river, staring at his reflection in the water.

Self 12: The voice of Siddhartha's Self is filled with love for his runaway son, consuming the reason of his mind. For many years he could not understand how people could love, but now he feels it strongly for the first time. This is not the bodily lust he had experienced with Kamala, but instead it is pure love for the son he has created. However, love makes him selfish and controlling, and he refuses to allow Young Siddhartha to return to Samsara.

Self 13: Siddhartha's selfishness is finally destroyed when he realizes how petty his worries are, for they are feelings and hardships experienced by every other person in the world. Why is he so special, as to be pitied any more than them? After this understanding, he finally feels Om and understands it. His inner Self, Atman, becomes one with the life cycle and with all that exists in the world. It is all one flowing, recurring cycle, like the river.

Self 14: Govinda's Self had been surrendered many years earlier when he became Buddha's devout follower. Siddhartha has continued his own path, searching for knowledge through personal experience, suffering and progression. Because of his individual journey, Siddhartha reaches the same enlightenment that Buddha had achieved. Govinda, who had followed Buddha's teachings so attentively, is unchanged and undeveloped because he has followed another's teachings rather than discovering knowledge for himself. Siddhartha has become wise, while Govinda remains ignorant.

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