Siddhartha: Novel Summary: Part 2 - By the River

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Siddhartha wanders into the forest, knowing that he can never return to his former life. He is disgusted with his life and wants only oblivion. When he reaches the river, the same river he had been ferried across as a young man, he wants to throw himself into it and drown. Then he hears the holy word OM, which means "perfection," welling up from within his soul, and for a moment he remembers the divine, and regrets that he had wished to die. He falls asleep and wakes up many hours later, feeling refreshed. It is as if he has been reborn. He sees a monk in a yellow gown sitting opposite him, and immediately recognizes him to be his old friend, Govinda. Govinda is still a disciple of the Buddha, and is on a pilgrimage. Govinda does not recognize Siddhartha until Siddhartha identifies himself. Siddhartha says that although he is not going anywhere in particular, he is on a pilgrimage, which surprises Govinda because Siddhartha is still dressed in his rich clothes. The two men part on friendly terms, although Govinda is mystified by what his friend tells him. After Govinda leaves, Siddhartha reflects on his life. He feels he has returned to how he was as a child, without possessions, and without knowledge. He accepts all his experiences that have led him to this point, and he is happy. He realizes that when he was a Brahmin and an ascetic, too much knowledge had hindered him, and he had been arrogant. He had had to go out and lose himself in worldly activities because that was the only way the arrogant Brahmin self could be destroyed. Then, out of his despair, a new man could arise.
Analysis
When he arrives at the river, Siddhartha's true awakening can begin. The river acts as a symbol of the totality of life, the unity and the diversity together, that Siddhartha must experience if he is to comprehend the ultimate nature of life. However, he is not yet aware of the full significance of the river. He only knows that he loves it and wants to stay near it. He has a great deal still to learn, but he is finally on the right track.
Govinda returns to the story in this chapter to serve as a contrast to Siddhartha. Govinda is content to be a follower of the Buddha, to live within a set of teachings and doctrines he accepts. Siddhartha, on the other hand, must forge his own path.

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