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Essays On The River In Siddhartha

Siddhartha Essay: The Symbols Of The Smile And The River In Siddhartha

The Symbols of the Smile and the River in Siddhartha


    An important symbol in Siddhartha is the smile. Each of the three characters in the story who attain a final state of complete serenity is characterized by a beautiful smile which reflects their peaceful, harmonious state. In each case this smile is a completely natural phenomenon; it cannot be created at will by people who have not attained the prerequisite state of harmony with life.

The first character who is described as possessing this smile is Gotama, the Buddha. When Siddhartha first sees him, he recognizes him immediately, largely on account of this mysterious smile. Gotama is imperturbable and he retains his smile - and his equanimity - even when Siddhartha engages in debate with him. As Gotama turns to leave, it is his smile which most deeply impresses Siddhartha, for in it the peace and saintliness of the Buddha is epitomized. The narrator comments that Siddhartha was to remember this smile for the rest of his life.

Vesudeva also possesses the mystical smile of peace and harmony. A man of very few words, the ferryman often allows his smile to speak for him, and it is a more effective agent of expression than any words could possibly have been. Like the Buddha, Vasudeva is satisfied that he is at peace with the world, and with existence.

Siddhartha does not possess this radiant smile at first. He sees it in Gotama and Vasudeva and recognizes its significance, but is too engrossed in physical things to be able to smile serenely himself. First, with the Samanas, he concentrates on mastering his bodily needs. Then, through Kamala and Kamaswami, he learns to enjoy sensual pleasures and soon masters this aspect of life. Finally his love of his son and then his sense of pain over losing the boy keep him from attaining serenity. Only when the ferryman takes his final leave, and Siddhartha gazes into his face and listens to the message of the river, does he finally acquire a radiant smile like that of his friend, signifying his own attainment of a state of Unity.

The smile, like the river, suggests perfection and unity, and it is Siddhartha's smile that makes such a strong impression on Govinda at the close of the story. Just as Siddhartha perceived unity and perfection by listening to and gazing into the river, Govinda comes to feel at least an intimation of the Unity of all things by looking into Siddhartha's face and experiencing a genuine emotional response to the saintless revealed in his smile.

The smile and one aspect of the much more complicated river are closely related. Each suggests unity and harmony, and each is associated with Siddhartha at key junctures in his life. Although Gotama possesses the smile, the absence of the river as a significant factor in his life suggests that the smile is symbolic of one aspect of existence, whereas the river must also signify the World of the Mother, a world with which the Buddha has...

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Essay on River in Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

753 Words4 Pages

River in "Siddhartha" by Herman Hesse

The river is a source of knowledge. It symbolises a teacher, a guru, one who knows and is aware of this knowledge and who imparts it to those who seek knowledge from it. In Herman Hesse’s novella Siddhartha, the protagonist Siddhartha is deeply mystified by the secrets and puzzles of the river. He seeks to unravel and them and gain knowledge from the river in order to achieve his goal of attaining nirvana, enlightenment. He is helped in his course by a ferryman Vasudeva, who has lived all his life close to the river, transporting people from one side to the other. He too has learnt a lot from the river. He helps Siddhartha in understanding the river and at instances, clarifies his doubt.…show more content…

Siddhartha recounts his life to him which
Vasudeva listens with intense concentration and attention. Vasudeva tells him “The river has taught……..the other thing too”. Vasudeva, being quite experienced about the river, tells Siddhartha that he will definitely learn much from the river. He says that Siddhartha had already learnt one thing about the river that it is good to seek, to go into depth and this was very good. Vasudeva says “The river knows everything” on pg 170. The river is a universal source of knowledge and it would impart knowledge to Siddhartha since he whished to seek knowledge from it. It would also teach him how to attain nirvana, that which he was so eager to attain.

In the end, after searching so much for nirvana, after living through so much, Siddhartha attains salvation in front of the river. Vasudeva helps him to listen deeply to the river after Siddhartha tells him everything, all that he felt, all his wounds, all his sins. Hesse says
“His wound was healing……..belonging to the unity of all things” on pg
199. Here, Hesse says that Siddhartha had finally attained nirvana, he had attained his goal, and he had merged his Self into everything.
Siddhartha had become a very simple soul, a soul that was everything and not just one thing. Siddhartha’s final step in attaining enlightenment was listening to the river. This shows that the river was the

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