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What is the lesson in the fourth chapter of Herman Hesse's Siddhartha, titled "The...

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megan-westerf... | Salutatorian

Posted September 10, 2012 at 12:02 AM via web

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What is the lesson in the fourth chapter of Herman Hesse's Siddhartha, titled "The Awakening"?

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tmcquade | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted September 11, 2012 at 4:51 AM (Answer #1)

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The fourth chapter of Siddhartha begins just as Siddhartha has left behind the greatest teacher he has ever met, the Buddha, as well as his devoted friend, Govinda, and set out on a path to an uncertain future.  He is, for the first time, completely alone, and while this initially makes him a bit fearful, he soon sees his solitude as a great gift.  In his aloneness, Siddhartha makes some important decisions and has some important realizations which help to chart his future course.

First and foremost, Siddhartha decides that he will no longer seek out teachers to help him attain Nirvana; instead, he will rely only upon himself.  As he walks, he asks himself:

"But what is this, what you have sought to learn from teachings and from teachers, and what they, who have taught you much, were still unable to teach you?... It was the self, the purpose and essence of which I sought to learn. It was the self, I wanted to free myself from, which I sought to overcome. But I was not able to overcome it, could only deceive it, could only flee from it, only hide from it."

As a Samana, Siddhartha had spent a lot of time fleeing from himself, only to eventually realize that he could have achieved similar temporary "escapes" by simply getting drunk.  In Gotama, he finally saw someone who had actually attained Enlightenment - but he still saw a "hole" in Gotama's teachings and decided he needed to follow his own path.

Now, having to rely completely on himself for ths first time, Siddhartha reaches another important realization:   

"That I know nothing about myself, that Siddhartha has remained thus alien and unknown to me, stems from one cause, a single cause: I was afraid of myself, I was fleeing from myself! I searched Atman, I searched Brahman, I was willing to to dissect my self and peel off all of its layers, to find the core of all peels in its unknown interior, the Atman, life, the divine part, the ultimate part. But I have lost myself in the process."

This realization leads to the "awakening" that the chapter's title foreshadows.  As Siddhartha walks along, he observes the world around him - the same physical world he had previously been taught to see as an "illusion" - and he sees its beauty for the first time:

Beautiful was the world, colorful was the world, strange and mysterious was the world! Here was blue, here was yellow, here was green, the sky and the river flowed, the forest and the mountains were rigid, all of it was beautiful, all of it was mysterious and magical, and in its midst was he, Siddhartha, the awakening one, on the path to himself. 

Now, seeing its beauty, Siddhartha decides he wants to experience the world in all its fulness - and this is just what he sets out to do in Part II.

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