Study Guide

Siddhartha Love

By Hermann Hesse

Love

But more than all the others he was loved by Govinda, his friend, the son of a Brahman. He loved Siddhartha's eye and sweet voice, he loved his walk and the perfect decency of his movements, he loved everything Siddhartha did and said and what he loved most was his spirit, his transcendent, fiery thoughts, his ardent will, his high calling. (1.5)

Govinda is naturally attracted to Siddhartha’s spirituality.

Siddhartha had started to nurse discontent in himself, he had started to feel that the love of his father and the love of his mother, and also the love of his friend, Govinda, would not bring him joy for ever and ever, would not nurse him, feed him, satisfy him. (1.8)

Siddhartha suspects that love alone will not satisfy his longing.

"Yes," said the ferryman, "a very beautiful river, I love it more than anything. Often I have listened to it, often I have looked into its eyes, and always I have learned from it. Much can be learned from a river." (5.7)

True or false: Vasudeva loves the river for what it can teach him.

Siddhartha thanked and accepted, and lived in the dealers house from now on. Clothes were brought to him, and shoes, and every day, a servant prepared a bath for him. Twice a day, a plentiful meal was served, but Siddhartha only ate once a day, and ate neither meat nor did he drink wine. Kamaswami told him about his trade, showed him the merchandise and storage-rooms, showed him calculations. Siddhartha got to know many new things, he heard a lot and spoke little. And thinking of Kamala's words, he was never subservient to the merchant, forced him to treat him as an equal, yes even more than an equal. Kamaswami conducted his business with care and often with passion, but Siddhartha looked upon all of this as if it was a game, the rules of which he tried hard to learn precisely, but the contents of which did not touch his heart. (6.25)

Siddhartha feels no love for his job—this gives him an edge in his relations with Kamaswami.

"You are the best lover," she said thoughtfully, "I ever saw. You're stronger than others, more supple, more willing. You've learned my art well, Siddhartha. At some time, when I'll be older, I'd want to bear your child. And yet, my dear, you've remained a Samana, and yet you do not love me, you love nobody. Isn't it so?"

"It might very well be so," Siddhartha said tiredly. "I am like you. You also do not love—how else could you practice love as a craft? Perhaps, people of our kind can't love. The childlike people can; that's their secret." (6.50)

Siddhartha and Kamala agree that because they distance themselves from ordinary people, they cannot truly love.

And yet, he envied them, envied them just the more, the more similar he became to them. He envied them for the one thing that was missing from him and that they had, the importance they were able to attach to their lives, the amount of passion in their joys and fears, the fearful but sweet happiness of being constantly in love. These people were all of the time in love with themselves, with women, with their children, with honors or money, with plans or hopes. But he did not learn this from them, this out of all things, this joy of a child and this foolishness of a child; he learned from them out of all things the unpleasant ones, which he himself despised. It happened more and more often that, in the morning after having had company the night before, he stayed in bed for a long time, felt unable to think and tired. It happened that he became angry and impatient, when Kamaswami bored him with his worries. It happened that he laughed just too loud, when he lost a game of dice. His face was still smarter and more spiritual than others, but it rarely laughed, and assumed, one after another, those features which are so often found in the faces of rich people, those features of discontent, of sickliness, of ill-humor, of sloth, of a lack of love. Slowly the disease of the soul, which rich people have, grabbed hold of him. (7.4)

Siddhartha’s greatest frustration as a rich man is his inability to feel love.

With a smiling face, Siddhartha watched him leave, he loved him still, this faithful man, this fearful man. And how could he not have loved everybody and everything in this moment, in the glorious hour after his wonderful sleep, filled with Om! The enchantment, which had happened inside of him in his sleep and by means of the Om, was this very thing that he loved everything that he was full of joyful love for everything he saw. And it was this very thing, so it seemed to him now, which had been his sickness before, that he was not able to love anybody or anything. (8.37)

Siddhartha feels rejuvenated. A sense of love for Govinda’s loving nature and for the world sweeps over him.

He thought these thoughts, listened with a smile to his stomach, listened gratefully to a buzzing bee. Cheerfully, he looked into the rushing river, never before he had seen like a water so well as this one, never before he had perceived the voice and the parable of the moving water thus strongly and beautifully. It seemed to him, as if the river had something special to tell him, something he did not know yet, which was still awaiting him. In this river, Siddhartha had intended to drown himself, in it the old, tired, desperate Siddhartha had drowned today. But the new Siddhartha felt a deep love for this rushing water, and decided for himself, not to leave it very soon. (8.49)

Old Siddhartha wants to drown in the river. New Siddhartha loves the river.

Rich and happy, he had called himself, when the boy had come to him. Since time had passed on in the meantime, and the boy remained a stranger and in a gloomy disposition, since he displayed a proud and stubbornly disobedient heart, did not want to do any work, did not pay his respect to the old men, stole from Vasudeva's fruit-trees, then Siddhartha began to understand that his son had not brought him happiness and peace, but suffering and worry. But he loved him, and he preferred the suffering and worries of love over happiness and joy without the boy. Since young Siddhartha was in the hut, the old men had split the work. Vasudeva had again taken on the job of the ferryman all by himself, and Siddhartha, in order to be with his son, did the work in the hut and the field. (10.3)

Siddhartha loves his son unconditionally.

"I knew it. You don't force him, don't beat him, don't give him orders, because you know that 'soft' is stronger than 'hard,' water stronger than rocks, love stronger than force. Very good, I praise you. But aren't you mistaken in thinking that you wouldn't force him, wouldn't punish him? Don't you shackle him with your love? Don't you make him feel inferior every day, and don't you make it even harder on him with your kindness and patience? Don't you force him, the arrogant and pampered boy, to live in a hut with two old banana-eaters, to whom even rice is a delicacy, whose thoughts can't be his, whose hearts are old and quiet and beats in a different pace than his? Isn't forced, isn't he punished by all this?" (10.9)

Vasudeva suggests that Siddhartha’s love is strangling his son.

Brightly, the ferryman's smile lit up; softly, he touched Siddhartha's arm and said: "Ask the river about it, my friend! Hear it laugh about it! Would you actually believe that you had committed your foolish acts in order to spare your son from committing them too? And could you in any way protect your son from Samsara? How could you? By means of teachings, prayer, admonition? My dear, have you entirely forgotten that story, that story containing so many lessons, that story about Siddhartha, a Brahman's son, which you once told me here on this very spot? Who has kept the Samana Siddhartha safe from Samsara, from sin, from greed, from foolishness? Were his father's religious devotion, his teachers warnings, his own knowledge, his own search able to keep him safe? Which father, which teacher had been able to protect him from living his life for himself, from soiling himself with life, from burdening himself with guilt, from drinking the bitter drink for himself, from finding his path for himself? Would you think, my dear, anybody might perhaps be spared from taking this path? That perhaps your little son would be spared, because you love him, because you would like to keep him from suffering and pain and disappointment? But even if you would die ten times for him, you would not be able to take the slightest part of his destiny upon yourself." (10.12)

Siddhartha’s love for his son is cannot prevent the boy from suffering.

At one time, when the boy's face reminded him very much of Kamala, Siddhartha suddenly had to think of a line which Kamala a long time ago, in the days of their youth, had once said to him. "You cannot love," she had said to him, and he had agreed with her and had compared himself with a star, while comparing the childlike people with falling leaves, and nevertheless he had also sensed an accusation in that line. Indeed, he had never been able to lose or devote himself completely to another person, to forget himself, to commit foolish acts for the love of another person; never he had been able to do this, and this was, as it had seemed to him at that time, the great distinction which set him apart from the childlike people. But now, since his son was here, now he, Siddhartha, had also become completely a childlike person, suffering for the sake of another person, loving another person, lost to a love, having become a fool on account of love. Now he too felt, late, once in his lifetime, this strongest and strangest of all passions, suffered from it, suffered miserably, and was nevertheless in bliss, was nevertheless renewed in one respect, enriched by one thing. (10.16)

Siddhartha’s desperate love for his son unites him with other people.

After having been standing by the gate of the garden for a long time, Siddhartha realized that his desire was foolish, which had made him go up to this place, that he could not help his son, that he was not allowed to cling him. Deeply, he felt the love for the run-away in his heart, like a wound, and he felt at the same time that this wound had not been given to him in order to turn the knife in it, that it had to become a blossom and had to shine. (10.34)

Siddhartha’s love both pains and awakens him.

"This too," spoke Siddhartha, "I do not care very much about. Let the things be illusions or not, after all I would then also be an illusion, and thus they are always like me. This is what makes them so dear and worthy of veneration for me: they are like me. Therefore, I can love them. And this is now a teaching you will laugh about: love, oh Govinda, seems to me to be the most important thing of all. To thoroughly understand the world, to explain it, to despise it, may be the thing great thinkers do. But I'm only interested in being able to love the world, not to despise it, not to hate it and me, to be able to look upon it and me and all beings with love and admiration and great respect." (10.37)

Siddhartha experiences loving the world as a sense of wholeness.

Differently than before, he now looked upon people, less smart, less proud, but instead warmer, more curious, more involved. When he ferried travelers of the ordinary kind, childlike people, businessmen, warriors, women, these people did not seem alien to him as they used to: he understood them, he understood and shared their life, which was not guided by thoughts and insight, but solely by urges and wishes, he felt like them. Though he was near perfection and was bearing his final wound, it still seemed to him as if those childlike people were his brothers, their vanities, desires for possession, and ridiculous aspects were no longer ridiculous to him, became understandable, became lovable, even became worthy of veneration to him. The blind love of a mother for her child, the stupid, blind pride of a conceited father for his only son, the blind, wild desire of a young, vain woman for jewelry and admiring glances from men, all of these urges, all of this childish stuff, all of these simple, foolish, but immensely strong, strongly living, strongly prevailing urges and desires were now no childish notions for Siddhartha any more, he saw people living for their sake, saw them achieving infinitely much for their sake, traveling, conducting wars, suffering infinitely much, bearing infinitely much, and he could love them for it, he saw life, that what is alive, the indestructible, the Brahman in each of their passions, each of their acts. Worthy of love and admiration were these people in their blind loyalty, their blind strength and tenacity. They lacked nothing, there was nothing the knowledgeable one, the thinker, had to put him above them except for one little thing, a single, tiny, small thing: the consciousness, the conscious thought of the oneness of all life. And Siddhartha even doubted in many an hour, whether this knowledge, this thought was to be valued thus highly, whether it might not also perhaps be a childish idea of the thinking people, of the thinking and childlike people. In all other respects, the worldly people were of equal rank to the wise men, were often far superior to them, just as animals too can, after all, in some moments, seem to be superior to humans in their tough, unrelenting performance of what is necessary. (11.2)

Siddhartha’s painful love for his son transforms into acknowledgment and understanding for the loving and suffering of humanity.

"I have experienced on my body and on my soul that I needed sin very much, I needed lust, the desire for possessions, vanity, and needed the most shameful despair, in order to learn how to give up all resistance, in order to learn how to love the world, in order to stop comparing it to some world I wished, I imagined, some kind of perfection I had made up, but to leave it as it is and to love it and to enjoy being a part of it. —These, oh Govinda, are some of the thoughts which have come into my mind." (12.21)

To love the world in its entirety is to experience oneness and perfection.

"Bent down to me!" he whispered quietly in Govinda's ear. "Bend down to me! Like this, even closer! Very close! Kiss my forehead, Govinda!" But while Govinda with astonishment, and yet drawn by great love and expectation, obeyed his words, bent down closely to him and touched his forehead with his lips, something miraculous happened to him. While his thoughts were still dwelling on Siddhartha's wondrous words, while he was still struggling in vain and with reluctance to think away time, to imagine Nirvana and Samsara as one, while even a certain contempt for the words of his friend was fighting in him against an immense love and veneration, this happened to him: He no longer saw the face of his friend Siddhartha, instead he saw other faces, many, a long sequence, a flowing river of faces, of hundreds, of thousands, which all came and disappeared, and yet all seemed to be there simultaneously, which all constantly changed and renewed themselves, and which were still all Siddhartha. (12.44)

Govinda is drawn by deep love to Siddhartha.