Siddhartha, a discontented Hindu who seeks true salvation, embarks on an extraordinary journey to reach true nirvana. Siddhartha’s life starts in a small village where he is admired and esteemed. He was also born into a particularly wealthy family with high religious status. Despite being able to receive everything he wants, he still feels religiously incomplete as a Hindu. As illustrated in the book, Siddhartha’s thoughts, beliefs, and actions are very similar to those of a modern Hindu. Throughout the book, he demonstrates the knowledge and application of some of the most important Hindu concepts, including the following: Nirvana, Samsara, and Karma. Similarly, through Siddhartha’s experiences like crossing the river, living in a wealthy family, and learning from higher-level teachers, he demonstrated what it means to be a true Hindu.
To begin with, there are three main concepts in Hinduism which include Nirvana, Samsara, and Karma. Firstly, Nirvana means that a person is in a place of perfect peace and happiness, like heaven. In both Hinduism and Buddhism, Nirvana is the highest state that someone can reach. A good example of when Sidhartha demonstrated achieving Nirvana is when he said, “During deep meditation, it is possible to dispel time, to see simultaneously all the past, present, and future… I learned through my body and soul that I needed to sin, that I needed lust, that I had to strive for property and experience nausea and the depth of despair to learn not to resist them, to learn to love the world…” (Hesse 144). This means that he was so focused, that he was able to reflect on the things he had done without worrying about anything, including pleasures, desires, and perfection. A strong example of how a modern Hindu would attain Nirvana is through surviving without an electronic device for a long time. This shows true devotion and the ability to overcome suffering and desire.
Secondly, Samsara is the cycle of life and death, which includes rebirth. Siddhartha demonstrates the mastery of the concept of Samsara, as he learns from Kamaswami. A time when Siddhartha reflects on Samsara is at the end of each day, “… whenever he saw his face reflected in the mirror on the wall of his bedroom, grown older and uglier… he fled again, fled to a new game of chance, fled in confusion to passion… He wrote himself out in this senseless cycle, became old and sick.”(Hesse 80).
In simple terms, Siddhartha thought that work was pointless and led to confusion, but after talking to Kamaswami he realized that it is an important concept in life, as it could determine Siddhartha’s future. In today’s world, a basic concept that is taught in books such as the Bhagavad Ghita and other religious texts is that the way you act can reflect your future life form. For example, if you harm people and do not positively help the world, you could turn from a human to an ant, as ants are considered to be of a lower class. On the other hand, if you work hard and positively impact people, then you can reach heaven without having to be reborn again into the world.
Lastly, Karma is the cause and effect relationship that Hindus believe in. This means that everything you do in your life has an equal and opposite reaction. “Frightened and weeping, the boy had attended his mother’s burial; frightened and gloomy he had led to Siddhartha greeting him as his son and making him welcome in Vasudeva’s hut.”(Hesse 117). The quote shows how Siddhartha’s son was scared of him and as a result his son, “… remained unfriendly and sulky, when he proved arrogant and defiant, when he would do no work, when he showed no respect to the old people and robbed Vasudeva’s fruit trees…”(Hesse 118). This shows how a negative start resulted in a negative outcome, also known as Karma. In Hindu culture today, the concept of Karma is profoundly relied upon. It is a way to warn everyone that whatever a person does can affect potentially affect their life whether it is instantaneous or long term.
Equally as important, are the actions, experiences, and activities of Siddhartha. One of the significantly important experiences that Sidhartha had was crossing the river. By crossing the river, he learned that the journey to enlightenment was going to be treacherous, but at the same time, he also realized that the journey was just like the river’s shape; wavy and dangerous. One of the main lessons he drew from this was that when a person that is wiser than them is giving them a useful lesson, like a sage, they should listen to it carefully because they will never know when they might need it. In Hinduism, a sage is regarded as someone who has a long history of being part of the temple, which is frequently a man in their fifties or older. Another meaningful experience was living a wealthy life with everything that Siddhartha would want. He spent a while with Kamala as he tried to satisfy all his pleasures before he reaching Nirvana.
This experience had increased his knowledge in both luxury class life and the idea of having everything that he could want. A final activity that he was part of was joining the Samanas, which had a tremendous impact on the way Siddhartha thought and acted. All of the people part of all Siddhartha’s experiences that Siddhartha went through run parallel to a someone in the Hindu or Buddhist world, or as Robert Bennett said, “…many of the characters are named after either Hindu or Buddhist gods; Siddhartha is the personal name of the Buddha, Vasudeva is one of the names of Krishna, and Kamala’s name is derived from Kama, the Hindu god of erotic love.”(1). As a result of having parallel characters, the book Siddhartha becomes even more realistic and relatable.
On the other hand, Siddhartha did not fully embrace the religion of Hinduism, as he had left since it did not lead him to Enlightenment. However, in modern Hinduism, Hindus that are truly devoted isolate themselves from the rest of the world, to reflect on their life through different mediums including meditation, music, and even prayers. Even though Siddhartha did not fully embrace Hinduism, “…Indian critics have generally praised its sensitive understanding of their religious traditions.” (Bennett 1). This reveals that even though Siddhartha did not truly embrace Hinduism, he still demonstrated a general knowledge of it.
In conclusion, Siddhartha’s thoughts, beliefs, and actions are very similar to those of a modern Hindu. All of the people in the book depicted either a Buddhist or Hindu god making it even more realistic. More importantly, since Sidirtha was able to apply the concepts he had learned during the time he was a Hindu, he was able to be the best Buddhist that he could be. As a Hindu myself, I see that it is important to strive for the best and not stop until you feel satisfied, just as Siddhartha did not stop until he reached Nirvana.