Siddhartha Essay: Hindu and Buddhist Thought

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Hindu and Buddhist Thought in Siddhartha

Siddhartha, set in India, is subtitled an "Indic Poetic Work," and it clearly owes much to Indian religions. But the question of the exact nature of Hesse's debt to various aspects of Indian religion and philosophy in Siddhartha is quite complicated and deserves detailed discussion. This essay will discuss the elements of Hindu and Buddhist thought present in Siddhartha and make distinctions between them.

"Siddhartha is one of the names of the historical Gotama" (Noss 213), the life of Hesse's character, Siddhartha resembles that of his historical counterpart to some extent. Siddhartha is by no means a fictional life of Buddha, but it does contain numerous references to
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The interior disciplines constitute the final three steps: right efforts, right mindfulness, and right contemplation. By this means, the follower of Buddha can arrive at Nirvana.

One critic, Leroy R. Shaw, has pointed out that Siddhartha is divided into two parts of four and eight chapters, and proceeds from this insight to interpret the work as an illustration of Buddha's Truths and Path; in the first chapter Siddhartha learns the existence of suffering, in the fifth (which corresponds to the first step of the Path) he begins his journey along the correct path, etc. Shaw, then, comes to the conclusion that at the end "the difference between Siddhartha and Gotama, which had seemed so vast to the seeker at his meeting with the sage, becomes non-existent." This is certainly true in one respect; both Gotama and Siddhartha have arrived at a final condition of Harmony (although the nature of the Harmony differs considerably). But Siddhartha's way was clearly not that of Buddha. The division of four and eight seems nevertheless to allude to the Truths and the Path, since a more natural division of the novel, considering its structure, would be into three sections of four chapters each.

Other aspects of Buddha's teachings are also of interest. Buddha was rather logical, scientific, and rational in his approach. He did not speak of supernatural phenomena or an afterlife, and he dismissed the possibility of miracles. Buddha taught self-reliance. He had little
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