Siddhartha Questions and Answers
by Hermann Hesse

Siddhartha book cover
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How are the Samanas described in Siddhartha?

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Tim Mbiti eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Siddhartha, son of a Brahman, is unable to find peace and harmony and embarks on a journey that he believes will help him learn and achieve his goals. He leaves his father’s home to join the Samanas in order to experience their ways and learn from them. According to the book, Samanas are portrayed as ascetics wandering through nature. They are known to be individuals seeking peace and harmony through self-denial and meditation. They deny themselves everything considered superficial such as beauty, happiness and sensuality. Samanas practice their belief in order to get rid of the self, which they believe is an illusion. It is only by getting rid of the self that one is able to achieve peace because by destroying the self one destroys the illusion. It is this illusion that keeps people from pure thought and peace according to Samanas.

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The Samanas are a part of Siddhartha's early life.  Actually, Siddhartha began life as a Brahman, but felt unfulfilled and, therefore, decided to seek enlightenment.  Along with a friend, Siddhartha leaves home and joins a group of severe wanderers called the Samanas who are known to many as "wandering ascetics." 

The life with the Samanas is described as a life of complete self-denial.  They dislike everything sensual.  As a result, Siddhartha tries to get rid of his desires, but he is unable to and remains dissatisfied.  The Samanas are described as being interested in both yoga and asceticism; however, those two things seem to be leading Siddhartha away from his own truth. 

Wisdom cannot be imparted. Wisdom that a wise man attempts to impart always sounds like foolishness to someone else ... Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. One can find it, live it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate and teach it.

Through this experience, Siddhartha decides that the Samanas are looking for enlightenment just as much as he is.  As a result, it is Siddhartha's decision to JOIN the Samanas, but it is also his own decision to LEAVE the Samanas after three years and listen to the teachings of Buddha.

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mkcapen1 | Student

In the book Siddhartha the Samanas are like the priests who devote their lives to pain and suffering in order to reach Nirvana, a state of perfect peace and tranquility.  They wear loin cloths and a cloak that is not festive.  They fast often so they can experience hunger and learn to control their body.  They are thin and look like they have starved themselves.

The Samanas deny themselves the luxuries of the flesh to include any thing of pleasure such as food or comforts.  They are a type of monk from the area in which Siddhartha lived.  They dwell in the forest away from risk of sin and commune with nature.