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Govinda in Siddhartha

Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby
In the novel ''Siddhartha,'' Govinda is not only Siddhartha's oldest friend, but he represents how different paths to Enlightenment exist. Also, he proves that sometimes all you need is a little help from your friends.

Who is Govinda?

Do you have a friend who you are very close to, yet is somehow completely different from you? Maybe you're the life of the party and they are a bit of a wallflower, or perhaps they are super smart and your interests lie elsewhere. Yet somehow, the two of you are best friends, and you cannot imagine any of your disagreements getting in the way of your friendship. That's the sort of relationship that Siddhartha has with Govinda in Siddhartha. Despite the fact that the two characters are completely different, and often spend long stretches of time apart, they come back to each other as if they had never spent any time away from one another.

Govinda's Biography

In Siddhartha, Govinda is Siddhartha's oldest friend. We meet Govinda in the village of Siddhartha's birth. The story follows both of their attempts to find enlightenment. Initially, the two leave a life of great comfort, working as Brahmin and trying to find enlightenment through rituals. They become Samanas, who focus on self-depravation and the denial of material comforts as the path to enlightenment. Finally, Govinda and Siddhartha meet the Buddha, whose disciples follow his teachings, known as the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, to reach enlightenment. To put it more bluntly, the goal never changes, only the method of getting there.

However, the two split after meeting with the Buddha. Govinda becomes a disciple of the Buddha, while Siddhartha goes his own way. They meet briefly in the middle of the work, in which Govinda, still a disciple of Buddha, watches over the sleeping Siddhartha. After that, they meet at the end of the book. Here, Govinda has heard of a wise ferryman and wants to see if he can offer him Enlightenment. He finds his old friend Siddhartha, who confirms that Enlightenment cannot be taught.

Now imagine Govinda's mindset. Here he has looked his entire life for a way to find Enlightenment, and his best friend has it, yet he doesn't. Govinda asks Siddhartha if there is any way that he could hope to learn even a little bit about Enlightenment from him, even if just a phrase or a world. Instead, Siddhartha asks Govinda to kiss his forehead.

You get the idea that Govinda is doing so with 'even a certain contempt' at the attitude that Siddhartha took with him, but then, he is overcome with feelings of love. He sees thousands of faces, each 'one helping the other, loving it, hating it, destroying it, giving re-birth to it, each one was a will to die, a passionately painful confession of transitoriness, and yet none of them died, each one only transformed, was always re-born,' but all interconnected. With that, Govinda becomes Enlightened.

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