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Siddhartha: Novel Summary: Part 1 - Gotama

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Siddhartha and Govinda arrive in the town of Savathi. They spend the night nearby in the Jetavana grove, where the Buddha lives. In the morning they see the Buddha himself. He looks like the hundreds of other monks, but Siddhartha recognizes him by the complete peacefulness of his demeanor. In the evening, Siddhartha and Govinda listen to the Buddha preach about the way to gain release from suffering. Govinda is convinced by what he hears and joins the Buddha's community. Siddhartha gives him his blessing, but he has no intention of pursuing the same path. He tells his friend that he will be leaving him. In the morning Siddhartha speaks to the Buddha in person. Siddhartha acknowledges the wisdom and clarity of the Buddha's explanation of the chain of cause and effect in life, but he thinks he has found a flaw in the teaching. If it is possible to rise above the world and gain salvation, as the Buddha says, this means that the law of cause and effect has broken down. It is not a complete explanation of life. The Buddha replies that his goal is not to explain the world but to give salvation from suffering. Siddhartha then comments that in none of the Buddha's teachings does he explain the secret of what he experienced in his moment of enlightenment. Siddhartha says that he plans to leave all doctrines and teachers behind and reach his goal alone. The Buddha acknowledges that Siddhartha is clever, but warns him not to be too clever.
The Buddha lived from about 563-483 B.C. in northern India. His given name was Gautama (or Gotama); the Buddha was a title given to him, meaning the enlightened or the awakened one. Unlike Siddhartha, the Buddha was not born into a Brahmin family. His father was from the warrior, or ksatriya, class. As a young man Gautama decided to renounce the world and seek a cure for human suffering. He became an ascetic and went in search of a teacher who could point him to the Truth, but none of the teachers he met satisfied him. After giving up his ascetic practices, he gained enlightenment while engaged in deep meditation. Traditionally, this moment happened near Gaya, in the modern state of Bihar, on the bank of the river Neranjara, a tributary of the sacred Ganges river. After this experience, the Buddha set out to teach others the path to salvation. When Govinda and Siddhartha hear him preach, the Buddha refers to the "four main points" and the "Eightfold Path."
The first of these is often known as the Four Noble Truths. These truth are 1) life is suffering; 2) the origin of suffering lies in desire, or craving; 3) the cessation of suffering can be gained by the removal of desire; 4) the way to attain this is through the Eightfold Path. The Eightfold Path is a set of prescriptions about how life should be lived, involving right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, and the correct approach to meditation.


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