Refusal to be King

Assignment: Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse – Penguin Classics (December 31, 2002)

Movie Based on Hesse’s Siddhartha

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJq05Pk8nSU]

The Life of the Buddha (BBC Documentary)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Heho8bXXLi4]

The Buddha – PBS Documentary

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHr7h7hJX70]

15 thoughts on “February 19

  1. Siddhartha explores a much more complex, and three dimensional character, as he struggles from beneath the clutches of societal expectations, and a want for something greater. This story depicts the search for a sense of enlightenment that exists not in the realms of comfort and the idyllic village he is accustomed to, but through the suffering and struggle that in turn leads to growth. Siddhartha’s infatuation or love affair with the courtesan Kamala represents his real immerse into an unsheltered and more realistic world. Through meeting Kamala, Siddhartha learns the value of work, yet simultaneously learns human tendency to become engulfed in a world of fleeting pleasures, and materialistic value.
    Siddhartha, in a sense, becomes a rite of passage, through Siddhartha’s exploration of a new world that was untouched by his imagination. Siddhartha is a much more relatable and accessible character, because of his naivety and longing to learn. Although the story is plot driven, the characters are much more three dimensional because they are flawed. The reader finds beauty in their flaw, because their ability to grow from an imperfect place.

  2. What struck me most about Siddartha was the pursuit of the self above all, forgoing conventional values and standards to gain something new and ideal for oneself. Given, Siddartha had higher clairvoyance than most, but the message still rings true, as it does in past readings. The self is a curious pursuit, and looking at Siddartha as a king or queen he is literally leading people to God through lessons he enacts. In past readings kings or queens act selflessly for the betterment of the whole or to prove/demonstrate something, such as in the Ramayana when Rama accepted his banishment without a word of argument. Siddartha’s journey could be considered selfish, but accepts that a true path to God is through the self, and to fully know and understand the self in its context with the world. The self becomes the root from which a person can grow into the world, and to do good, and must therefore be incorruptible. To me that seems like the ultimate pursuit…perhaps a bit solipsistic or even narcissistic but extremely important regardless. The self is the mirror through which we see the world, and if we work hard at developing that mirror, polishing it, and gaining clarity, it becomes a glass that does not alter the world. In terms of leaders, this is a quality that is invaluable. In a modern context, the television series Battlestar Galactica plays with the idea of what it takes to be a leader, and the pressure of responsibility. When the first mate takes command when the commander is shot and therefore unconscious, the series demonstrates how ones personal flaws become their downfall when pressure is applied. The self must be indomitable for the collected power invested in a leader to be applied correctly.

  3. Siddhartha was yet again another enjoyable read that went over the life and journey of a young man yearning for (more) knowledge in order to reach a state of enlightenment. One of the places I felt that he differed from the rest of the kings/queens that we have discussed is that throughout this illuminated journey of his, Siddhartha even when he seems to “drop the ball”…for example when he meets Kamala, gives into temptation, makes money, gambles, drinks and etc…all these things that he never did…as the reader, I did not feel as though he was losing his way at any moment. It just all seemed to be part of the bigger plan, of learning, and to ultimately reach that desired state of enlightenment. Perhaps this is the case because, the book is about Siddhartha and his journey and the self, and he always explains the reasoning/rationalizes why exactly he is doing certain things, even when they go against everything that he had done so far,..but it’s done in a way that makes Siddhartha feel apart from the world, an exception to the rule/ law of the land. Siddhartha also, always comes to his own conclusions when he is doing something that he shouldn’t be doing, acknowledges it and rationalizes what the purpose was.

  4. It was interesting to see how Siddhartha acted in the world of adults. At such a young age he was very enlightened. Much so, many believed he would follow in his fathers footsteps. Because of this he believed that if he followed the teachings and lessons he would achieve happiness. To keep to everyone’s perspective, he attends the event with his dear friend, though secretly he didn’t enjoy it. It almost seemed that due to his ‘enlightenment’ at such a young age that he almost placed himself above the others, or to say saw outside the box. With that created a small conflict within Siddhartha.

    With the conflict slowly growing, the Samanas only further his reasoning to leaving his town. Because their way of reaching enlightenment was different from what was taught to Siddhartha, it played key to what he believed he was missing in life. Throwing away the need for material desire, the Samanas thought they could reach the level of enlightenment. The small differences that Siddhartha’s teachings and the Samanas’ teachings allowed Siddhartha to adjust rather quickly to their ways. After throwing away all that is needed for one to “live”, he still has the same feeling of dissatisfaction towards the Samanas’ ways, while his friend holds other. While repeating the same cycle again he sets out on a new quest to find his new life. No finding the answer he sought from the proclaimed teachers of enlightenment, he chose to go against the so called teachings.

    Through his life he had followed the teachers that taught those they way into enlightenment. But to his dismay was unable to see that achieved and unable to believe that they were right. Thus concluding him to take his own route and teach himself. Experiencing the hardships of life in the meanings of the material world, he was able o finally understand what enlightenment was. For he finally found the answer. Everything in life fell in to a cycle that kept it repeating, making life and taking it. It wasn’t always pure, as evil is needed to balance out the good. It was all needed to understand the ways of ‘life’ in Siddhartha’s eyes. Something such as that was not able to be taught by anyone. It was more than verbally telling someone how to achieve enlightenment. One must experience all that life has to offer in order to understand it.

  5. It is much more satisfying to read a story about a potential king seeking to exist within a more enlightened plane of existence than to read about a god incarnate who is already pretty much perfect, moving through life with little to no purpose outside of fulfilling his Dharma and rescuing his girlfriend. Basically, Siddhartha is infinitely more relatable than Rama, as Rama was more of a god than a human being. I really do appreciate this story as it provides the protagonist with many possible escapes and easy ways out, and at one point he does seek one of these paths out when he becomes a merchant in the city. Everybody has their high and low points, and thats not something that is really all that evident in the Ramayana, the perfect being that Rama appears to be.

    It really was a surprisingly grounded story. You would think most of these old school religious stories would end with the protagonist finding the all knowing all seeing buddhist holy man and sticking with him until they learn enlightenment, but in this story he learns enlightenment from the very humble low caste ferry man. I mean this is a kind of cliched plot that is explored in many stories, but I feel its more of a modern cliche used in martial arts movies rather than something used in a story that apparently takes place six centuries before the birth of christ. I guess it makes sense though, considering those who follow and carry out their Dharma within their caste in Hinduism are considered to be the ultimate good, even when you are something as low caste as a ferry man.

  6. Siddhartha, the story of a man who, at a young age sets out to achieve enlightenment and gain spiritual illumination, is an originally German text from the early twentieth century, meant to take place in ancient India, around the time of the Buddha. Obtaining wealth, love, and an array of life lessons, it is not until he abandons all his material possessions, and begins a far more simple life on the river as a ferryman. Alongside Vasudeva, who earlier in the text allowed Siddhartha to cross the river when he was unable to pay, peacefully assuring him he knew he’d pay him back in some way when they met again. Although lacking the wealth or education other characters in the text may have, Vasudeva is one of the texts wisest characters, relating to Siddhartha when he is faced with struggles, saying the river can offer many voices of wisdom to any who wish to hear them. Later, after Siddhartha is left to attempt to raise his son after the mother, Kamala’s death, the boy proves to be disinclined to Siddhartha, and eventually runs away. Although Siddhartha desperately wishes to set off in search of his son, his friend Vasudeva reminds him how he too set off on his own at a young age, and urges him to let his son find his own path as well. The two then turn to the river, where Siddhartha has the realization the time is nothing more than an illusion, and that all of our feelings and experiences, regardless of the intensity, are ultimately part of one unified whole, connecting all things forever in nature. Vasudeva then sets out into the woods, claiming his role is complete, leaving Siddhartha peacefully fulfilled with his moment of illumination and alone.

  7. In Siddhartha, Hermann Hesse tells the story of a man on the quest for spiritual enlightenment. More than a tale of refusal, I considered it to be a tale of creation, the making of a kind of king. Through his toils, he learns that traditional methods of learning and scholastics cannot supplant experience.

    Like many traditional tales of kings and queens, Siddhartha’s story is of epic proportions. He suffers, he is distracted, he delights in himself and he triumphs over his ultimate goal. It is this path that makes a “hero”. As far as Siddhartha’s path, the most difficult obstacle to overcome was love. While reading this book I kept on thinking how relatively easy it was to renounce possessions, when compared to those you love. Siddhartha did not face this particular problem until very late in his life, and represented the ultimate hurdle.

    I also couldn’t stop thinking about my own king. His early instructors did not bother teaching him music notation; they found no sense in it. Although this created a great mistrust for formal training and education, this led him to the path of immortalization through music. He eventually learned how to read and write music, but his preferred method was always humming or playing the notes to his musicians. Even though his “path” was not the traditional one, and it frustrated the hell out of him for many years, it was the one that led to his goal.

  8. Most people are power-hungry maniacs, and if they aren’t, chances are that if the receive power, the will become something of the sort.

    When Siddhartha asks to leave the palace, he wants to become a monk and travel around and learn what life is really about. He wants to live a simple life, one that he can’t possibly live in an extravagant Palace. It is unusual that one does not want power, usually people are cutting at each other’s throats to gain more power. Siddhartha ventures out into the world with his friend to guide him. He eventually goes off on his own, and marries, and has a child. and then he ventures off again.

    The novel was a bit strange. Usually I think of monks as people who lose all emotion, and only think about their monk things… But the protagonist of this story, is imperfect. He goes off and marries. He succumbs to the beauty of a woman. Perhaps I am wrongly interoperating how he is “Supposed” to be. But there is no doubt that Siddhartha is going against the grain when he leaves the palace in search of self conquest.

    I found it interesting how Siddhartha described his exercises as a samana. Siddhartha talks about how he is not a drunk, but compares the numbness that he seeks in enlightenment, to the escape a drunk man.
    As a non-spiritual person myself, I find it hard to relate to these kinds of texts about wanting to find “enlightenment” or some person’s spiritual journey. But because Siddhartha’s way of meditation and spirituality is also quite psychological, it was easier for me to relate.

  9. It’s amazing to really see someone refusing to become a king and decides to lead a simple life. That’s a hard idea to grasp. Never the less, Siddhartha choose this life. First, he joined with the Samanas and was able to rejected desires that he once had such as, clothing, sex and property. I believe that doing so he lost a part of himself. He lost his youth.

    How could you reject all the pleasures of life? Of course, he leaves the Samanas and tries to pursue a different path, which includes the desires of the world, but the damage is already done. During all that time that he was with the Samanas, Siddhartha lost his childhood. Then, we get to his life as a common man or his path to the world of love. Siddhartha meets a woman named Kamala, hoping she would teach him about love. Kamala does this and also encourages him to go on the path of a merchant. I found this interesting because Siddhartha gets a clear idea and understands how people that are in a class lower than him are living.

    I’ve read this book twice now. I think I’ve learned more from it now then I did the first time read it. Which is a good thing because you have to be young enough and mature enough to understand the themes of the book. What I’ve learned now from Siddhartha is this: we choose our own path. Life doesn’t show you what you should be doing. You need to find what path is right for you and follow it.

  10. Demi Elisson
    The story of Siddhartha is that of a young Brahmin who seeks the meaning of life. He is young, handsome and has the potential of becoming a prince among his caste members, but he feels as if his elders have not achieved enlightenment. This makes him unhappy, with the idea that he will have nothing to look forward to. Even though he loves his father and respects those in his village, he must set out on a journey by himself to find the meaning of life.
    The syllable “Om”, which Siddhatha meditates on represents perfection and unity. It symbolizes the holy power that gives life to everything around us. While Siddhartha understands what “Om” means, he feels as if he has not yet come in contact with it. He them embarks on a quest to seek his spiritual goal by joining the Samanas. They are a group of mendicant priests who believe enlightenment will be reached through acetism (a rejection of the body and physical desire). Though the Samana way of life has enhanced his spirit, he doubts that this way will provide him the spiritual nirvana he seeks. He then continues on his journey alone. He finds wealth, a lover, but realizes that this is not what he had set out for in the beginning. When he retriets the river, he makes the decision to kill himself but if saved by the meaning of Om. With this he discovers that time Is meaningless.

  11. Siddhartha is a story of the variance of life experience, it delves into the true meaning of existence on this earth and entertains the questions surrounding a complete existence. Siddhartha travels throughout India in a quest to find true enlightenment, along the way he finds himself migrating from one following to another in hopes of achieving true self achievement and wholeness. As he varies from different followings to the next, all of which demand different aspects of the human condition, he eventually realizes the true meaning of his existence. Each and every following he has become a part of, from the samanas to the followers of Gotama, he sees that all of these individuals are sort of chasing the all mighty realization of enlightenment or Nirvana. The sacrifices and even the indulgences made by Siddhartha throughout his journey on earth are all pivotal points in his search for enlightenment. He varied from a rich boy to a stripped and barren young man and even a holy follower of Buddha and then a wealthy and some what arrogant merchant and then eventually he reached his true path as a ferryman. All of these different paths and professions never dealt Siddhartha what he was looking for until the end as he became the apprentice ferryman, he was given nothing but time to reflect on his existence and his exhausting search for enlightenment. It was this reflection that served him his true desire, a cumulative and varying lifestyle involving both humble and indulgent lifestyles is what it took to reach his final path towards Nirvana.Every example heard by Siddhartha of elder men not yet reaching their enlightenment was profoundly due to the fact that they had not yet fulfilled both a righteous and indulgent lifestyle. It took an entire life’s wandering of intense contemplation and doubt to finally be seated at the end result.

  12. I read Siddhartha once but it was such a while ago it was like reading it for the first time. It about a Prince who wanted more out of his life than all the freedoms he has through his status. He decides that he will leave behind his royal status to become a Samana and achieve spiritual enlightenment. To descend from such lifestyle to one where there is only simplicity and meditation takes true willpower because it is difficult as it does sound and much more difficult than one perceives. It’s also tempting return to all the pleasures when you’ve grown so attached to them. But I feel like Buddhism is actually a cynical way of viewing life. While it teaches one that all suffering is caused by having desires, it also teaches one to turn their back on the world. I would think to be “enlightened” would be a desire as well because one “wants” to end suffering. I think that Buddhism teaches that one must be a hollow shell at times, because you achieve enlightenment when you don’t acknowledge your own identity.
    I believe that many of the kings and queens we’ve looked at so far were all striving for something, always wanting something. It’s not a bad thing to have ambitions but for characters such as Oedipus, the striving for the goal spiraled out of control. To not strive for anything is pessimistic yet rewarding. This can be applied to modern-day life as well. We will always want something, and even if we get it, we will want more since the grass is always greener on the other side. Society has adapted the thought that comfort is happiness. On the notion of identity, kings and queens can leave their mark on world and history intentionally or not. For some, leaving some trace behind is more important, because of the fear of being forgotten. To be forgotten invalidates existence and identity.
    Siddhartha is a different kind of king who not through heroism, not through worldly matters, and not through tragedy, achieved something that seems so simple not many others can, setting him apart from others.

    I also couldn’t help but think of this small comic:

  13. Much like The Ramayana, Siddhartha by Herman Heese tells the story of a man and his journey to find his own personal enlightenment. They are both similar in plot structure. such as both stories starting off where a number of circumstances leads the protagonist to embark on a long quest to fulfill their goals while making a number of different encounters and interractions on the way. As for the protagonists in each story, they also follow by valuable Buddhist beliefs such as meditation and recognizing the spirituality of nature (which is a central theme in Siddhartha).

    As for a brief summary of the story, a young Brahmin named Siddhartha lives in a village where his father is known as a wide religious leader who teaches others to find the path towards Nirvana. Despite his classy easy lifestyle, Siddhartha has doubts on his father’s teachings. After encountering a group of Samanas, he decides that finding the path to enlightenment is through rejection of body and physical desire rather than being a “sheep in a herd” by confining to traditional rituals without question. He sets out with the Samanas tribe along with his friend Govinda. Throughout his quest, he is quite nomadic for he immediately finds doubt in the teachings he is periodically acquainted with and then sets himself with new tasks that puts him one step closer to achieving his enlightenment. In the long run, his goal is achieved with the help of a ferryman named Vasudeva who tells him to look to the river for advice. When doing so, he encountered Om and learns that time is meaningless. He learns to accept the ample possibilities of the present rather than force his journey along specific paths. With this, he as finally achieved enlightenment, and takes on Vasudeva’s role as a ferryman.

    Siddhartha obtains his enlightenment through self conquest and meditation. He rejects teachings and ideas imposed onto him because he believes that no one can fully understand the spiritual process off reaching Nirvana and instruct it onto another. Although he receives insight from Vasudeva, he is not classified as a teacher. His purpose is to guide Siddharta on the right path toward enlightenment, just as he helps those cross the river to reach their final destination. When Siddhartha found what he was looking for, Vasudeva’s role was finished.

  14. Lichen
    With all the other previous kings and queens, they have strived to please society and were judged from society’s point of view. Just like the introduction mentions, Siddhartha really puts the focus on oneself. Siddhartha is striving for an ultimate peace and meaning to life that other kings and queens have also sought in their own way but perhaps failed. Marie Antoinette pursued fashion but at the cost of society, Oedipus comes close but cannot find forgiveness, and even Rama pursues only one goal; none of them achieved a complete peace of mind and understanding of the world like Siddhartha. Siddhartha has abandoned the ideas commonly attributed to kings and queens including wealth and influence, because that is extra baggage unnecessary to conquer one’s own life and ultimate peace and happiness. He is searching for Nirvana, which I believe each individual wants but get caught up in everyday life and have difficulty finding true satisfaction. Even with all the wealth and teachers provided to him as a prince, Siddhartha recognizes titles and knowledge are trivial, and feels something is missing. This empty feeling does not only apply to kings and queens but to everyone and Siddhartha never alienates himself as being an actual king, but rather a participant within society. Previous examples of kings and queens for the most part led a very dramatic life and were often tragic. The clothes, lineage, and talent that make a king or queen cause pride and distraction from finding peace. In today’s society, people are materialistic and social media for sharing makes it seem that the superficial elements are highly important. Comparison and an excess of advertising cause pressure for society to achieve a certain level of affluence and that causes unhappiness. There is constantly a goal, an expensive bag, a better job, a house and there is no end since media will always make something appear better so the individual always feels inadequate. Siddhartha experienced the life of luxury and trade, which corrupted him and he was able to take himself out of that cycle. He took himself out of that society where everyone looked to others for pleasure and joy and really started over from the beginning by reteaching his mind and body. With all the luxuries for one to enjoy, that can never lead to satisfaction or peace. Rather, by understanding and appreciating the simple aspects of everyday life, the acceptance of the self leads to happiness.

  15. Siddhartha refused to be a king once he discovered the simple life of a Samana. He longed for a different life then the one of inheriting his father’s throne. He longed for a life filled with emptiness from mediations. For himself, he put his power of the mind to good use and performed with mind over matter.

    There were trails in which he tested his own dedication and will to continue this new life, he wanted to feel no pain, no tiredness, no hunger or emotions. He looked for a blank exist for him to be empty would be to be full. He first performed some mediations through animals mainly dead ones and felt as what that creature which was lifeless felt.

    I find it fascinating that this prince didn’t want the easy lifestyle and expected more of himself as a person.In society, people tend to want to rise to the top of the classes and gain more power. This prince had power and yet he felt this wasn’t for him and became a wandering monk. What path would you choose in life? Would you chose the higher paying job or a job you feel is truly rewarding?

    Mediation takes complete concentration and mind over matter. If done properly perhaps another person can unlock a mysterious way of releasing one’s soul to different transformations.

    He went from having nothing to becoming a rich man . With his new possessions the more he slowly began to loathe it and gambled heavily.

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