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by Hermann Hesse

Siddhartha Chapter 2 Summary

  • Govinda and Siddhartha find some Samanas and join them in their Who Can Go the Longest Without Eating contest.
  • Siddhartha gives away his clothes, begins fasting for long periods, and eats only once a day when he’s not fasting.
  • Through self-torture, Siddhartha aims to completely empty himself in order to identify with the world around him.
  • He engages in a number of Feats of Strength (not to be attempted at home): standing in the burning sun without water, standing in the freezing rain without an umbrella, standing in a thorny bush without… well, just standing in a thorny bush. Essentially, he stands until he loses feeling and escapes himself.
  • Siddhartha likes losing himself, but he always finds himself again. The self-denial of the Samanas isn’t enough to enlighten him.
  • Siddhartha asks Govinda (remember him?) if they’re making any progress.
  • Govinda says they’re making lots of progress.
  • Siddhartha doesn’t think so. If the point of all the Feats of Strength is to lose himself, he argues, he could just as easily lose himself in prostitutes and drinking. He tells Govinda that he will leave the Samanas.
  • Siddhartha and Govinda have spent three years with the Samanas. They learn of a man named Gotama Buddha who has achieved enlightenment. Everyone is gossiping about him.
  • Govinda thinks they should hear the Buddha’s teachings. Siddhartha and Govinda nag each other for a while and then decide to leave the Samanas.
  • Siddhartha informs the oldest Samana of their decision. The old man gets angry, but Siddhartha hypnotizes him with a powerful glance. The old Samana politely permits them to leave.
  • Govinda is impressed. Siddhartha has learned a lot from the Samanas. Govinda argues that Siddhartha could have learned to walk on water if he had continued with the Feats of Strength.

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