Siddhartha Essays: Achieving Enlightenment at the River

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Achieving Enlightenment at the River in Siddhartha

In Siddhartha's quest for enlightenment, Herman Hesse makes the river the final focal point of the novel. Siddhartha is set on his journey to the river by listening to his inner voice and questioning authority. The river comes to represent the ideas through which Siddhartha reaches enlightenment. The essential concepts of time and how it relates to life are discovered by Siddhartha through listening to the river. He comes to realize that his previous conclusion is correct, wisdom cannot be taught. When he reaches nirvana, he also sees how spiritualism and materialism both have a place in the cycle of life. Acting as Siddhartha's inspiration to his ultimate goal, the river
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With Vasudeva, Siddhartha begins spiritually as a child. By destroying his old Self, Siddhartha is no longer hindered by "too much knowledge...too much doing and striving." (99) Thus, as a child Siddhartha begins to hear the river, and learn from it. In his education, the concept of time repeatedly arises. The river is seen as always flowing and changing, just as the world does. Siddhartha comes to understand that life is transitory, a cycle that is eternally repeating. Looking at the river, it is made of water, water from the rains. Before that, the water was in the clouds, the air, evaporated from the river. Travelling from sky to earth, brook to river, the river is always present. The only change is how it is reflected in the ephemeral life. The continual flow from one to another illustrates the principle of timelessness.

The Buddhist concept of timelessness is based on the wheel of life. Because of future reincarnation, Buddhists to not perceive time as a fixed linear progression and therefore time is irrelevant. The river signifies time in that "the river is everywhere at the same time...the present only exists for it...not the past...nor the future." (107) Time is the idea of passing events, just as the river comes to illustrate the same when Siddhartha sees his life has been a river of events. However, because a river is ever present and always in motion, time is also dynamic. Being perpetual, the river and time are symbolically the