Siddhartha Chapter 12 Summary

Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby
In the last chapter of 'Siddhartha', Siddhartha is able to help his oldest friend on the road to Enlightenment, even if Govinda doesn't immediately recognize it is Siddhartha that he speaks to.

The Rest of the Book

By the time you've made it to chapter 12 of Siddhartha, you've already made it through the vast majority of the book. It starts with Siddhartha, the son of a Brahmin priest, wanting to find his own way to Enlightenment. He tries a number of traditions but realizes that he'll have to create his own path. He decides to try to find Enlightenment through material desires, but realizes the lack of fulfillment in that. Ultimately, he finds a great deal of peace as a ferryman on a river, and even though he is shaken by a son that does not love him, ultimately Siddhartha is able to find peace and Enlightenment.

Govinda's Holyman

We are first introduced to Govinda early in the book. He is Siddhartha's childhood best friend and he too is looking for Enlightenment. However, both are old men by now, and Govinda has followed a number of teachers in hopes of finding Enlightenment. He hears that a ferryman has the secret, so he goes to meet him.

At first, Govinda does not recognize his old friend, but soon Siddhartha helps him remember. Siddhartha tells him that while he has always gone his own way, he has had a number of teachers: 'I have had many teachers since then. A beautiful courtesan has been my teacher for a long time, and a rich merchant was my teacher, and some gamblers with dice. Once, even a follower of Buddha, travelling on foot, has been my teacherā€¦', with the last being a reference back to Govinda. To back this up, Siddhartha then points out that 'Knowledge can be conveyed, but not wisdom'.

Finding Enlightenment

Despite that, Siddhartha takes to trying to teach his old friend by use of the river. He says that everything has two halves, and that trying to put labels on things can result in one of those halves being ignored. Siddhartha also points out that everything has the potential to become something else. He picks up a stone, then demonstrates how that the stone could become a human, a plant, or even just dirt. Through it all, we really see that everything that Siddhartha has seen in life has helped him shape his ideas and helped in guiding him towards Enlightenment.

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