Hermann Hesse
Contributed by Sharen Felty
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Siddhartha is done with teachers and teaching by the time he abandons the grove. He is determined to know and learn from, and to understand, himself. His feeling is that he is viewing the world, with all its magical and puzzling characteristics, for the first time. He recognizes that he is not enlightened and is in the middle of the world, but that he has the ability to awaken as he learns more about himself. Siddhartha experiences a sudden infusion of forceful certainty in his own capacity for self-realization. He now feels that he is truly a man. He knows that his own path to Nirvana cannot come from following the prescribed lifestyle of another. Rather, he feels certain that his own way to enlightenment must come from within himself. Knowing this, he recognizes that his new task will be to find out how he will find enlightenment. While he experiences an impulse to go home to his father, he recognizes that his home is now part of his past. He knows that he is entirely alone. He momentarily shudders at this thought.


In “Awakening,” Siddhartha entirely understands that it is through the here and now that discovery and enlightenment must come. Siddhartha suddenly perceives the beauty of the world. He realizes that meaning can be found everywhere. Siddhartha needs to discover who and what he is here in this world, in the middle of everything that exists. He refers to this discovery as a rebirth. It is just one of a number of rebirths that he will experience during his search. This rebirth indicates the death of what he once was, as well as lack of knowledge of what he will become. He is aware he cannot go back to his father because doing so would not bring him any more wisdom. He also knows that he has no knowledge of where he will end up. This moment in a way exists separately from the rest of time: Siddhartha briefly lacks a remembered past and has no idea of the future. It marks something more than a transition, however, as it offers the main character a glimpse of the totality of all individual moments in time. While he is barely able to recognize it, this supreme level of awareness lets him approach the unity he pursues.

“Awakening” is an encapsulation of the revelation Siddhartha has gained from the experiences he had in the preceding chapters: Enlightenment cannot be achieved through reliance on teachers or by pretending the world does not exist. This chapter indicates the conclusion of a phase of the main character’s quest. The next component of the quest must remove him from the spiritual world and plunge him entirely in the material one. It is here we see Siddhartha more fully contemplate the limitations and freedoms of the spiritual and material worlds he started to consider earlier on. As these thoughts conclude Part One, and since Siddhartha experiences a real moment of enlightenment in the middle of the chapter, we are led to believe that these considerations encourage Siddhartha’s better understanding of self. In “Awakening,” we see a gathering of the significance of the first few chapters and crystallization of it within Siddhartha’s mind. We see how they function as a catalyst allowing for revelation and pushing Siddhartha to enter the material world, which he is no longer able to ignore. His investigation of the material world is imminent. He will gain knowledge from this experience that will be just as integral to his quest as that he gained from the time spent with teachers and religion.

The way “Awakening” ends indicates that Siddhartha’s upcoming experiences in the material world is his continuation on a fruitful path to enlightenment. Siddhartha understands what he seeks and knows when he is moving towards his goal or is static in a stage of development. While he experiences brief despair about being entirely alone, he continues on his path with a sense of rejuvenation. All of the lessons he has learned remain clear in his mind, he perceives the beauty of the world, and he feels a sense of energy in moving forward. He feels confident that he will find the way by himself although he is not yet sure as to what exactly it will be. In the middle of the chapter, we see a memorable moment of lyricism. It appears to strengthen Siddhartha’s confidence. Hesse’s lyrical writing communicates to readers that the main character’s optimism is well-founded. It also indicates that the next steps he will take will help him more closely approach his goal.

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