Siddhartha: Kamala Quotes

Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby
Kamala is one of the most important characters in ''Siddhartha''. In this lesson, we examine a number of her most memorable quotations throughout the book.

Boy Meets Girl

It's just your classic story of boy-meets-girl. You know the old rom-com formula: a boy meets the courtesan and asks if she would teach him everything she knows, in the genuine hope that it will lead him to enlightenment. In the end, one dies and the other has to let their son go. What - that's not your idea of a standard rom-com?

While Siddhartha may not feature a kiss between lovers at the end, it still does manage to work in a number of the major emotions found in romance.

Who is Kamala?

Kamala is one of the primary characters in Siddhartha. In many ways, she is the absolute opposite of Siddhartha himself. Kamala is focused on worldly affairs, whereas Siddhartha keeps to himself and is focused on Enlightenment. Enlightenment is the awakening of an individual into an understanding of truth.

Kamala is a rich courtesan in the town that Siddhartha stumbles upon when he decides that it is time to learn the ways of the world. We know that Siddhartha is taken by her, even if he does have an ulterior motive, when he explains that he is talking to her 'to thank you for being so beautiful. And if it doesn't displease you, Kamala, I would like to ask you to be my friend and teacher, for I know nothing yet of that art which you have mastered in the highest degree.' For someone who is used to flattery, but not used to being called a teacher, this is something out of the ordinary for Kamala.

Initial Reaction to Siddhartha

When Kamala first meets Siddhartha, she is clearly taken aback. He unironically states that he wants to study her art, as she is clearly a master. In Siddhartha's mind, it only makes sense to learn from the best. However, Kamala is, thankfully for Siddhartha, amused. She laughs loudly, responding that 'Never before this has happened to me, my friend, that a shramana came to me from the forest and wanted to become my student!' A shramana is a member of a group of people who have given up physical pleasures.

For Siddhartha, this is already a teaching moment, and he points out that he is already learning from her. However, the most profound thing comes thereafter, when Kamala tells Siddhartha that 'love can be obtained by begging, buying, receiving it as a gift, finding it in the street, but it cannot be stolen.'

Growing in the Relationship

As the story progresses, Siddhartha and Kamala grow closer. We get the idea that Kamala may be starting to flirt with the idea of viewing Siddhartha as more than just a paying customer. She suggests that she would love to bear his child, but there is just one problem: ''And yet, my dear, you've remained a shramana, and yet you do not love me, you love nobody. Isn't it so?''

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