Literature Study GuidesSiddharthaPart 1 Awakening Summary

Siddhartha | Study Guide

Hermann Hesse

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Siddhartha | Part 1, Awakening | Summary

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Summary

Siddhartha leaves the Jetavana grove, feeling he has "also left his former life behind him" like a snake sheds its skin. He is a man now, and no longer has his youthful yearning for teachers. He reflects that no one can teach him the mystery of his Self, a topic he still doesn't understand: "about nothing in the world do I know less than about myself, about Siddhartha." He realizes his former practices to destroy the Self have prevented him from knowing or understanding it. "I was afraid of myself," he admits, and with this, he experiences "a strong feeling of awakening," a knowing that he should "no longer try to escape from Siddhartha." Instead, he will learn the secret of himself, from himself. An epiphany dawns as he looks about him "as if seeing the world for the first time."

The world is now full of meaning—not meaningless as he had formerly believed—and each being or object is an intentional work of "divine art." He now sees that "the appearances of the world," or daily life, are both important and real, not an illusion.

Siddhartha resolves to start a new life. He had thought of returning to his father, but realizes, "I am no longer what I was ... What then shall I do at home with my father?" Study, meditation, and sacrifice no longer call to him, and "now he was only Siddhartha, the awakened." He shivers, feeling "nobody was so alone as he." He feels no sense of belonging to any group of people, and wonders where he belongs, who he should be with. Despair washes over him, "the last shudder of his awakening, the last pains of birth," and he walks on, away from the past and into the future.

Analysis

Reflecting the cyclical nature of life, Siddhartha transitions from becoming a Samana to striking out on his own. At each stage of his path, Siddhartha leaves behind outgrown actions or philosophies in order to make room for the new and unknown. Each step of the way, he accumulates life experiences that will ultimately lead to enlightenment. This cycle of shedding old ways must happen many times for him to grow, just as a snake sheds its old skin, which no longer fits. This time Siddhartha recognizes a major life milestone: he has become a man and is no longer a youth.

Siddhartha's awakening this time leads to a reversal of his former belief that the world has no meaning and is simply an illusion. Now he finds meaning and importance in everything, and it is a wonder to him. His new understanding, that each being or object is a work of "divine art," begins to approach enlightenment. Much later in life, Siddhartha will recognize that all worldly things are important and necessary—even the ills of the world—as they form the whole of existence, unified. His new appreciation of the mundane objects of the world is a step in that direction.

Now awakened to a new reality, Siddhartha finds it impossible to return to his former life with his father. He must start afresh. This realization is not easy, though, and it brings him to the first of several dark nights of the soul in his life. Siddhartha has previously defined himself by his associations with various groups of people. This created a sense of belonging and identity. However, when he strips away the labels of Brahmin's son and Samana, he no longer knows who he is: "Now he was only Siddhartha, the awakened." He feels adrift in life, unanchored, and this is a scary, uncomfortable place to be. It is a totally new experience. The essence of Siddhartha then takes over with decisive action, for this is how his true self operates. He walks away from his past, not looking back, in order to embrace whatever future may come.

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