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Character Analysis

Go, Go, Gotama

Gotama's role is kind of that of a future-Siddhartha: totally wise, totally peaceful, and (we can assume) totally didn't get that way just by playing by the rules.

Gotama Buddha's the first character we encounter in the novel who has achieved enlightenment. The Buddha radiates inner light, peacefulness, and grace. When questioned by Siddhartha, he smiles widely and responds calmly:

Quietly, Gotama had listened to him, unmoved. Now he spoke, the perfected one, with his kind, with his polite and clear voice: "You've heard the teachings, oh son of a Brahman, and good for you that you've thought about it thus deeply. You've found a gap in it, an error. You should think about this further. But be warned, oh seeker of knowledge, of the thicket of opinions and of arguing about words. There is nothing to opinions, they may be beautiful or ugly, smart or foolish, everyone can support them or discard them. But the teachings, you've heard from me, are no opinion, and their goal is not to explain the world to those who seek knowledge. They have a different goal; their goal is salvation from suffering. This is what Gotama teaches, nothing else." (3.36)

Although Siddhartha feels great love and respect for the Buddha, he know he's got to learn independently rather than from someone’s teachings. We never know how Gotama attained enlightenment, but since he agrees with Siddhartha that enlightenment is deeply personal and experiential, it’s safe to say that Gotama didn’t attain enlightenment through studying sacred teachings.

Gotama Timeline