Siddhartha Questions and Answers
by Hermann Hesse

Siddhartha book cover
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In Siddhartha, what is the lesson in the chapter "Amongst the People"?

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This chapter comes in the section of the novel where Siddhartha has rejected religion on his quest for Enlightenment and now makes a deliberate choice to explore the senses and a life of sensuality on his quest to find himself. Taking up business, he finds that he is very successful, but only because he treats it like a game. Although he is intent on what he does, this distance between his business and himself allows him to have the perspective necessary to do well and to be successful. With Kamala, he is initiated into the art of lovemaking, and finds that he does this very well too. However, crucially, Siddhartha learns that no matter how successful he is in his business and his lovemaking, his self is not engaged and he still has not found what he is looking for. Note what he says about his business:

Like a player who plays with his ball, he played with his business, with the people around him, watched them, derived amusement from them; but with his heart, with his real nature, he was not there. His real self wandered elsewhere, far away, wandered on and on invisibly and had nothing to do with his life.

Siddhartha learns therefore ultimately how unsatisfying indulging the flesh and materialism is. Even though it brings him material success and pleasure, he recognises that this does nothing for his true, inner self, and he sees that he still needs to voyage further on his quest towards spiritual Enlightenment.

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