Siddhartha Chapter 11 Summary

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In 'Om', which is chapter 11 of 'Siddhartha' by Hermann Hess, Siddhartha continues to mourn his son, who has run away. However, his pain leads to the enlightenment he has been seeking.

Siddhartha's Search for Enlightenment

Think about the most difficult time you have ever had. What did you learn from the experience? At this point in the story, Siddhartha has spent his life wandering from place to place in search of enlightenment. As the son of a Brahman, he learns of rituals and holy teachings; as a Samana, he learns about sacrifice; from Gotama the Buddha, he learns that enlightenment comes from within rather than from a teacher; from Kamala, the courtesan, he learns about pleasures of the flesh; and from Kamaswami, he learns about trade. After Siddhartha leaves the city to live in a hut and learn from the enlightened ferryman, Vasudeva, Siddhartha learns that he has a son with Kamala, as Kamala is bitten by a snake and dies. Siddhartha loves his son, but his son is unable to find happiness living in a hut with Siddartha and Vasudeva as he is used to wealth. Siddhartha's son runs away from the hut and returns to his mother's home to live with her servants, which breaks Siddhartha's heart. Let's find out what happens to Siddartha in 'Om', which is the eleventh chapter of Siddartha by Herman Hess.

Wisdom is the Ability to Learn from Each Moment

Before he had a son, Siddhartha used to look down on the 'childlike people' with the possessive kind of love, but now, he understands. As Siddhartha mourns his son's leaving, he begins to think differently about the people that he ferries across the river. When he watches the people with children, he can't help but enviously think, 'So many, so many thousands possess this sweetest of good fortunes--why don't I? Even bad people, even thieves and robbers have children and love them, and are being loved by them, all except for me.' It occurs to Siddhartha that, rather than some men being superior to others, each is superior in the things that are necessary to him.

Siddhartha's thoughts surrounding his sadness '… slowly ripened in Siddhartha the realisation, the knowledge, what wisdom actually was, what the goal of his long search was. It was nothing but a readiness of the soul, an ability, a secret art, to think every moment, while living his life, the thought of oneness, to be able to feel and inhale the oneness.' Still, Siddhartha does not rejoice in his new knowledge. He still misses his son.

Life is Cyclical

What is Siddhartha missing? One day, Siddhartha's sadness overwhelms him to the point that he considers going into the city to look for his son. Siddhartha stops when he thinks he hears the river laughing at him. He bends over the water to listen and sees his father's reflection staring back at him. Siddhartha remembers '…a long time ago, as a young man, had forced his father to let him go to the penitents, how he had bed his farewell to him, how he had gone and had never come back.' It occurs to Siddhartha for the first time that his father likely mourned when Siddhartha left home to become a Samana. His father once felt the same way that Siddhartha feels about his son. Reminded of the cyclical nature of life, Siddhartha can't wait to before take the ferry back home to tell Vasudeva what he has learned.

Siddhartha is Enlightened

When he gets back home to Vasudeva, all of Siddhartha's thoughts and feelings pour out of him. Vasudeva listens with such compassion that he seems to change before Siddhartha's eyes. 'He felt, that he was now seeing old Vasudeva as the people see the gods, and that this could not last; in his heart, he started bidding his farewell to Vasudeva.'

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