Siddhartha Summary

Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby
While some may think that Siddhartha has a great life, the fact that he can't find enlightenment drives him to travel around for decades until he finds it in an unlikely place.


Have you ever found yourself thinking that just one more thing would make you happy? Perhaps it's the latest phone, a new car, or a new job? Maybe it is a stack of money or your dream house? In fact, maybe it's only a desire to have someone's attention. In any event, you're pegging your happiness or fulfillment on something else. In Siddhartha, that idea is put under deep scrutiny. The title character tries to find Enlightenment through a variety of different paths before eventually realizing that the simple way may be the best.

Finding His Own Way

The story begins with an introduction to Siddhartha. In many ways, Siddhartha has a pretty good life. He is a member of the Brahmin caste, which means that it is essentially his job to perform rituals. In short, he is supposed to feel pretty fulfilled about it all. However, in reality, Siddhartha doesn't feel all that great about what he does. It all just lacks meaning. As such, when a group of traveling mystics stops by, Siddhartha and his best friend Govinda join them.

For Love and Money

The mystics are actually part of a group called the Samanas, who reject all physical satisfaction in favor of spiritual fulfillment. This sounds pretty good to Siddhartha, so he follows them around. However, he soon finds that it isn't all he thought it would be, so he turns to Buddhism. Once again, Siddhartha finds issue, so he ends up stepping back from the spiritual side of things. He meets a beautiful woman named Kamala, a courtesan who offers to teach him all about love if he can prove his material worth. With that type of motivation, Siddhartha soon does well as a businessman, making an immense fortune in the process.

Ending the Rat Race

However, all of that money does little to really fulfill Siddhartha. He starts to think of life as just a rat race, and while he's ahead now, he always has to keep trying to keep from falling behind. One day, he walks away from Kamala and his business, seeking to find meaning elsewhere. A meeting on a riverbank with his old friend Govinda makes Siddhartha further question his life. Has it all been a waste?

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