Siddhartha-the Shape of Time Essay

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For many Westerners, more specifically the driven citizens of the United States of America, time is viewed as a straight line. Our children realize this, consciously or not, early on. They make timelines in school, their classes switch on the hour, their intelligence is measured on a scale. We are born, we come of age during adolescence. We set a goal, we work to achieve success. Birth and death, childhood and adulthood are stages that occur only once. Life is black and white. Separate. The past is the past, the future is the future. Traveling on a straight line, we can only look forwards.

Eastern philosophy, on the other hand, might view time as a circle, a spiral, a figure eight. Time has no sharp
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It was this idea that Hesse built Siddhartha on. It was this idea that allowed Siddhartha to be reincarnated -- not in terms of physical life, but rather in terms of spirit.

Lao Tzu, credited with penning the Tao Te Ching, noted that "a good traveler has no fixed plans/and is not intent on arriving." Thus, he rejected the linear concept of time, as did Siddhartha as he made his journey.

The book opens with the title character's decision to leave his traditional Hindu community and upbringing to seek Atman through asceticism. Siddhartha and his friend, Govinda, adopt the life of the Samanas. Siddhartha thinks, waits, and fasts. He struggles to free himself from The Self: the materialistic, mortal part of him. But he is anxious to attain a state of bliss. As a young Brahmin, he was always the strongest, the cleverest, the fastest. He expects to find the most efficient way to Atman, just as he excelled in every other area of his life. The ascetic life disappoints him.

"Siddhartha replied: `How old, do you think, is our oldest Samana, our worthy teacher?'

Govinda said: `I think the eldest would be about sixty years old.'

And Siddhartha said: `He is sixty years old and has not attained Nirvana. He will be seventy and eighty years old, and you and I, we shall grow as old as he, and do exercises and fast

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