12 February 2015
1. Why are we reading this book in this class?
This may be a trick question because the answer is in your syllabus. Because this is a History 100 course, this book provides us with the “sensitivity to their diverse cultural contexts and historical moments [and] various aesthetic and other value systems and the ways they are communicated across time and cultures” (Hay, syllabus). As our lectures transferred over from Hinduism to Buddhism, this book bridged over the two showing the similarities and differences, but more visually than logically (as we learn in the lectures). I read Herman Hesse’s autobiography on the Nobel Prize website, and he discovered Buddhism from being Lutheran as the Buddha discovered the religion from Hinduism. Though this book is in the perspective of Siddhartha, it gives students who may have little knowledge on the religion a perspective they can understand. S
2. Why did Siddhartha choose to leave his comfortable life behind?
Though his life had everything he needed, he had too much ‘thirst’ in his heart for knowledge. He knew he wanted to become a samana, and after he meditated for a day, he knew that was the path chosen for him. As a child, everyone in the town adored him, but “he did not give himself joy, he was no pleasure to himself” (Hesse, 2). As he grew, he realized how dissatisfied he was with his life. He even began to think about how his family and friend Govinda’s love will not sustain him anymore. While he was contemplating this, three samanas passed through town with the scent of “silent passion, destructive duty, [and] pitiless liberation from the self” (Hesse, 5). That night as he was meditating, he turned to his friend Govinda and decided at that second, that he is going to become a samana. His friend saw the passion and awakening in his eyes, and decided he would follow him. To prove to his father that this was his ‘destiny,’ he stood with his arms crossed for an entire night with blank eyes. After his father had seen his face, he knew his son “had already left him” (Hesse, 6). That morning, he and his loyal companion Govinda, left town.
3. Why did Siddhartha choose not to follow the Buddha? What, in contrast to the historical Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha), did he reject in doing so?
Before he even met the Buddha, he was not being fulfilled by the teachings of the samanas. He left them because of the rumor of The Sublime One being in a town not far off from them. To convince the samanas the two boys have to go and meet the Buddha, Siddhartha put the samana under a spell. He immediately saw the Buddha and fell in love with him, but had a problem with his doctrine. Before he left his friend Govinda, he asked The Sublime One to speak to him. He told him that in his teachings, he said the world is a perfect chain, “never and nowhere interrupted, an eternal chain fashioned out of causes and effects” (Hesse, 18). He then went on to ask that if everything is united, how could one ascend from the physical world if they are the physical world? He decided that it the Buddha went on to reach nirvana without instructions or a teacher that is how he must do it. He believed that the Guatama’s way of life would not suite him, thus rejecting religious order entirely. The only way he can reach enlightenment is through himself, and by himself. The Buddha found enlightenment through a sort of spiritual order, whereas Siddhartha believes he must learn by experience.
4. What roles do Kamala and Kamaswami play in Siddhartha’s life?
Before he met his wife and his business partner, he had a dream about suckling at a woman’s breast. After that, he decided to wander until stumbling upon a young woman. He was having a conversation with her, but she kept coaxing him into “climbing a tree” with her (Hesse, 28). He realized she was no more than an animal in heat, and his inner voice had told him no. Upon listening to this, he met