Siddhartha Chapter 9 Summary

Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby
In the ninth chapter of ''Siddhartha'', our protagonist realizes that the path to enlightenment may be flowing right beside him. In addition, he meets up with an old flame.

Story So Far

The life of Siddhartha has changed a great deal over the course of the book. When we first meet him, he is the son of a Brahmin priest, assigned to find enlightenment through meditation and prayer. None of that works for Siddhartha, so he and his best friend, Govinda, leave home to join the Samanas, who reject all earthy pleasure in search of true meaning. That too fails the pair, who eventually meet the Buddha. Here the two part ways, with Govinda becoming a disciple while Siddhartha determines that he must find his own way. Twenty years later, that own way has meant learning the art of love from Kamala and excelling at the art of business with Kamaswami. But both experiences have left him unfulfilled. As we start Chapter 9, Siddhartha is by a river he visited once before.

A New Friend

Siddhartha has come out of his sleep by the river realizing that he wants to remain near the water and learn from it. He finds the ferryman and asks for transport across the river, but despite his rich clothes, he has nothing to offer for the ride. The old man finds this hard to believe, but takes him anyway, starting to recognize Siddhartha. The ferryman introduces himself as Vasudeva and the two resolve that Siddhartha will stay and learn the ways of the river as a ferryman. For someone seeking enlightenment, Siddhartha seems to have found the perfect companion: ''Without him having spoken a word, the speaker sensed how Vasudeva let his words enter his mind, quiet, open, waiting, how he did not lose a single one, awaited not a single one with impatience, did not add his praise or rebuke, was just listening.'' From here on, Siddhartha joins Vasudeva on the river.

Growing with the River

For quite some time, the two men work and live together, growing so close that many think they are brothers. Vasudeva confirms that Siddhartha has already figured out something important about the river, that it is important to ''strive downwards, to sink, to seek depth.'' Vasudeva states that here is Siddhartha, who, with no material need to find enlightenment, continues to dig for it. He has even gone from the extreme of being a high priest to becoming the apprentice to a ferryman. Vasudeva hints to Siddhartha that there is something else to be learned from the river, but that he cannot teach it. Instead, Siddhartha must learn it on his own. Through working on and living by the river, Siddhartha does learn this other lesson. He comes to understand that the river is everywhere at once, which teaches him that everything is connected, including the past, present, and future.

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