In Siddhartha, what lessons do the Samanas teach Siddhartha?

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shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha is about a young man who, growing up as privileged person, feels a discontent with the lifestyle of his family and with his potential future. Although he could live the life of the upper class if he wished, he decides to go off with his friend Govinda in search of meaning. This search will take him down several roads and on several philosophical journeys.

Early in the story he joins a group called the Samanas. Samanas are Buddhists who are learning how to live according to the Buddhist philosophy. Their philosophy, at least as it is presented in the novel, requires its adherents give up most worldly pursuits and desires. The novel describes Siddhartha’s learning this way:

Instructed by the oldest of the Samanas, Siddhartha practised self-denial, practised meditation, according to new Samana rules.

While that doesn’t sound particularly exciting, Hesse does give some vivid examples of what Siddhartha did during this process:

 A dead jackal was lying on the sandy bank, and Siddhartha's soul slipped inside the body, was the dead jackal, lay on the banks, got bloated, stank, decayed, was dismembered by hyaenas, was skinned by vultures, turned into a skeleton, turned to dust, was blown across the fields. And Siddhartha's soul returned, had died, had decayed, was scattered as dust, had tasted the gloomy intoxication of the cycle, awaited in new thirst like a hunter in the gap, where he could escape from the cycle, where the end of the causes, where an eternity without suffering began.

Though Siddhartha stayed with the Samanas for several years and became very accomplished and even met Gotama, the perfected one, he still felt something missing and decided to leave the Samanas and head off on his own.

thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While Siddhartha was among the samanas, he learnt the ascetic way of life, whereby he was able to achieve a higher level of self discipline and abstinence from worldly pleasures. He gave away his clothes and dressed in the loin clothes like the samanas. He was then exposed to extreme whether both hot and cold seasons and he suffered the pain due to these conditions but he persevered until he overcame the harsh situation. He developed the ability to perform deep meditation where he was able to detach himself from both senses and memories. However his goal was to achieve Nirvana but he believed the samanas would not offer him much help on his ultimate quest. On informing the eldest samana of his departure he performed a feat that he acquired from the samanas and he was able to hypnotize the elder samana successfully.

mkcapen1 | Student

The Samanas, at first, teach Siddhartha to reject other things in life for the temperance of his body.  He is able to sit back and learn that he has the ability to mentally endure starvation to gain control of his mental intellect.  Siddhartha learns patience and that if he searches for innner peace he will have it.  They teach him to abandon the need to own things and that materialism does not bring happiness.

Siddhartha later comes to question their teachings and leaves the sect because he sees that the eldest of the Samanas has not ever found the total enlightenment which he has sought.  Through Siddhartha's journey he experiences many different things.  Finally, he comes full circle and realizes that he spent too much time searching so hard to find that which was his to have all along.  The teachings of the Samanas have shown him that to be satisfied is the inner peace.

aura4 | Student

Samanas taught Siddhartha  how through meditation he can take his mind to feel the essence of nature,death and life and embrace its originality.

Siddhartha , however, felt that despite being able to meditate well,he would always come back to same thoughts about life again and again and he started feeling restless as he was after he listened to the Brahman preachings in his village.

Siddhartha a could not see himself getting any answers to his questions so he decided to leave Samanas to search for Buddha.

They don't really teach him anything but he learns that he cannot learn from them and chooses to move on.