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by Hermann Hesse

Siddhartha Chapter 12 Summary

  • Govinda is still traveling with the men in yellow robes. They look up to him now because he’s wise and old, but Govinda is still unsatisfied and seeks enlightenment.
  • Govinda hears about this wise ferryman and decides to go talk to him.
  • That ferryman is Siddhartha.
  • Govinda doesn’t realize this.
  • Siddhartha tells Govinda that because he is orienting himself toward a single goal, he is missing everything.
  • Okay we know that’s counter-intuitive. Siddhartha is arguing that because Govinda is focused so much on the search, he cannot find what he is searching for. Mull that over.
  • Siddhartha identifies himself to Govinda.
  • Govinda is startled.
  • The following morning, Govinda questions Siddhartha about whether he follows a doctrine. Siddhartha explains that although he has had many teachers, he follows no doctrine.
  • Siddhartha explains his belief that although knowledge can be communicated, wisdom cannot.
  • He argues that in every truth, the opposite is also true, that time is illusory, that suffering is necessary to learning, and that there is no division between the world and perfection.
  • Siddhartha uses a stone as an example for Govinda. The stone, because of its profound stone-like nature, is everything. And everything is enough.
  • Siddhartha does not dwell on ideas, and does not fight to understand reality.
  • Although Siddhartha’s words contradict Gotama Buddha’s, that doesn’t matter. Words are meaningless.
  • Huh? Govinda is confused. Before leaving, he asks Siddhartha for any final words of wisdom.
  • Siddhartha tells Govinda to kiss him on the forehead.
  • Govinda kisses his friend’s forehead and suddenly sees a continuous, unending stream of faces and people and images of painful and joyous things all shifting into one another.
  • After kissing Siddhartha, he is unsure if a single second or eternity has passed.
  • Govinda identifies Siddhartha’s smiling, radiant face as that of the Buddha and bows down in veneration.

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