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by Hermann Hesse

Siddhartha Chapter 9 Summary

  • Siddhartha observes the river and realizes that every movement of the water is new.
  • He is painfully hungry and finds the ferryman he met years before. The man’s name is Vasudeva.
  • Siddhartha asks for a ride across the river. He has no money to offer the ferryman, but asks if Vasudeva will accept his fine clothes. The ferryman is confused, but agrees.
  • Siddhartha asks if can move in with Vasudeva and learn about the river as the ferryman’s apprentice.
  • Vasudeva graciously invites Siddhartha to stay in his home and offers him a meal.
  • Siddhartha eats a simple plate of bread and mango and recounts his life to Vasudeva. He is astounded by the Ferryman’s profound ability to listen.
  • Vasudeva remarks that he cannot teach, but that he can help Siddhartha to learn from the river—to learn how to be devout and to listen.
  • Vasudeva rarely speaks, but the men work hard together and focus on listening to the river.
  • It says to them, "Come in for a dip!"
  • More accurately, the river teaches the two men about life.
  • For instance, one day Siddhartha realizes that the river exists only in the present: it is everywhere at once, upstream, downstream, at the sea, and at the source. Life is the same way. Siddhartha realizes that his existence as a boy and his existence as an old man are not separate. Everything has its existence in the present.
  • In the voice of the river Siddhartha hears the holy word "Om" being repeated over and over again.
  • Vasudeva and Siddhartha live joyously on the river, listening to its stories and finding silent companionship in one another. Travelers begin mistaking the two for brothers.
  • One day Siddhartha learns from traveling monks that Gotama Buddha is gravely ill and will die.
  • Meanwhile, Kamala has joined the followers of the Buddha and is making a pilgrimage to see the holy man. She rests on the riverbank with her son, who is tired and wants to eat. While resting, Kamala is bitten by a snake.
  • Vasudeva hears her scream and brings her home.
  • Siddhartha immediately recognizes Kamala (she’s still gorgeous).
  • He also realizes that the boy is his son.
  • They clean her wound but she is badly poisoned. Siddhartha calms his crying son.
  • When she regains consciousness, Kamala recognizes Siddhartha but sees how profoundly he has changed.
  • She dies before she is able to tell Siddhartha that finding him was as good as it would have been to find Gotama Buddha.
  • Siddhartha sits with Kamala for a long time after she dies. Later he sits awake and listens to the river. While he suffers, the river offers him a sense of unity. Siddhartha becomes peaceful.
  • In the morning, Vasudeva helps him construct a funeral pyre.

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