Siddhartha: Wisdom & Knowledge Quotes

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  • 0:00 Siddhartha
  • 0:35 A Thirst for Knowledge
  • 1:49 Wisdom Is Learned, Not Taught
  • 3:15 The Value of Knowledge
  • 4:26 Final Wisdom
  • 5:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amanda Wiesner-Groff

Amanda has created and taught English/ESL curricula worldwide, has an M.Ed, and is the current ESOL Coordinator for the Saint Louis Public School District.

A thirst for knowledge and wisdom can change a man's life path many times over, as evidenced in 'Siddhartha'. In this lesson, we will go over wisdom and knowledge quotes and discuss their importance to the theme of the novel.


Siddhartha was originally written in German by Hermann Hesse in 1922. The novel focuses on the spiritual life journey of Siddhartha, a Brahmin boy, who constantly thirsts for knowledge, yet feels it cannot be gained from those who teach him. While taking on different life paths during his quest for enlightenment, Siddhartha continually finds new levels of wisdom, which he believes must be experienced, not taught. Let's take a look at some quotes from the novel to get a better understanding of Siddhartha's insights during this quest for knowledge and wisdom.

A Thirst for Knowledge

Throughout the novel, Siddhartha speaks of his thirst for knowledge, but also the concern that he will never be able to quench that thirst. 'He had begun to sense that his venerable father and his other teachers, that the wise Brahmins had already imparted to him the bulk and the best of their knowledge. . . his mind was not contented' (p. 5).

After traveling and becoming a samana, a person who practices severe self-discipline for religious reasons, Siddhartha begins questioning the ability to reach nirvana, or obtain the amount of wisdom he desires. He becomes increasingly frustrated with learning and decides to leave the samanas with his companion, Govinda.

When the friends learn Buddha Gautama will be traveling along their path, they decide to hear him speak. While Govinda is eager to learn from the enlightened one's teachings, Siddhartha remains skeptical: 'I am willing to listen to these teachings--though in my heart I believe that we've already tasted the best fruit of these teachings' (p. 21).

It is at this time Siddhartha starts making a great shift on his path to enlightenment. He learns from the teachings of the Buddha, but not in the way his friend expected. This brings us to a discussion on knowledge versus wisdom.

Wisdom Is Learned, Not Taught

After listening to Buddha's teachings, Govinda leaves to gives himself to the fellowship of Gautama's disciples. Siddhartha asks to speak with Buddha Gautama, to express his thoughts on how the Buddha obtained his wisdom: 'It came to you from your own seeking, on your own path, through thinking, through meditation, through knowledge, through illumination. It did not come through a teaching' (p. 32).

Siddhartha is explaining that wisdom comes from experience, not from listening to the teachings of others' experiences. One must learn on their own, learn from themselves, and this is exactly what he does. 'I shall no longer be instructed by the Yoga Veda or the Aharva Veda, or the ascetics, or any other doctrine whatsoever. I shall learn from myself, be a pupil of myself; I shall get to know myself, the mystery of Siddhartha' (p. 36).

At the end of the novel, after Siddhartha has finally reached enlightenment, he is able to share his perception of knowledge versus wisdom with Govinda: 'Wisdom is not communicable. The wisdom which a wise man tries to communicate always sounds foolish. . . Knowledge can be conveyed, but not wisdom. It can be found, it can be lived, it is possible to be carried by it, miracles can be performed with it, but it cannot be expressed in words and taught' (p. 123-124).

The Value of Knowledge

Siddhartha begins anew after his time with Govinda, and his talk with Buddha. He spends years taking on a new role, 'losing himself in pleasure and power, in women and money, had had to become a merchant, a dicer, a drinker, a grasper, until the priest and the samana inside him were dead' (p. 88).

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