We have to admit—this book makes us want to go down the river on a raft. Possibly for the rest of our lives.
But it's not just because the river is tranquil, soothing, and the best place to chill beverages (a cooler fits perfectly in an inner-tube). It's because, after reading Siddhartha, we have a hard time not thinking of rivers as wellsprings of ancient wisdom about the fleeting passage of time. In a good way.
The river is a central symbol in Siddhartha, representing unity and the eternity of all things in the universe. At times of great transition in his life—such as when he leaves the Samanas and later when he abandons his wealth—Siddhartha returns to the river.
Eventually, as Siddhartha studies the river and comes to recognize it metaphorically for all that it represents about existence and time, he is able to attain enlightenment:
"You've heard it laugh," he said. "But you haven't heard everything. Let's listen, you'll hear more."
They listened. Softly sounded the river, singing in many voices. Siddhartha looked into the water, and images appeared to him in the moving water: his father appeared, lonely, mourning for his son; he himself appeared, lonely, he also being tied with the bondage of yearning to his distant son; his son appeared, lonely as well, the boy, greedily rushing along the burning course of his young wishes, each one heading for his goal, each one obsessed by the goal, each one suffering. The river sang with a voice of suffering, longingly it sang, longingly, it flowed towards its goal, lamentingly its voice sang.
"Do you hear?" Vasudeva's mute gaze asked. Siddhartha nodded.
"Listen better!" Vasudeva whispered. (11.12-15)
Note that the river doesn’t bestow enlightenment in and of itself—it helps direct the thoughts of someone who is ready to listen.
Essay on River in Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
753 Words4 Pages
River in "Siddhartha" by Herman Hesse
The river is a source of knowledge. It symbolises a teacher, a guru, one who knows and is aware of this knowledge and who imparts it to those who seek knowledge from it. In Herman Hesse’s novella Siddhartha, the protagonist Siddhartha is deeply mystified by the secrets and puzzles of the river. He seeks to unravel and them and gain knowledge from the river in order to achieve his goal of attaining nirvana, enlightenment. He is helped in his course by a ferryman Vasudeva, who has lived all his life close to the river, transporting people from one side to the other. He too has learnt a lot from the river. He helps Siddhartha in understanding the river and at instances, clarifies his doubt.…show more content…
Siddhartha recounts his life to him which
Vasudeva listens with intense concentration and attention. Vasudeva tells him “The river has taught……..the other thing too”. Vasudeva, being quite experienced about the river, tells Siddhartha that he will definitely learn much from the river. He says that Siddhartha had already learnt one thing about the river that it is good to seek, to go into depth and this was very good. Vasudeva says “The river knows everything” on pg 170. The river is a universal source of knowledge and it would impart knowledge to Siddhartha since he whished to seek knowledge from it. It would also teach him how to attain nirvana, that which he was so eager to attain.
In the end, after searching so much for nirvana, after living through so much, Siddhartha attains salvation in front of the river. Vasudeva helps him to listen deeply to the river after Siddhartha tells him everything, all that he felt, all his wounds, all his sins. Hesse says
“His wound was healing……..belonging to the unity of all things” on pg
199. Here, Hesse says that Siddhartha had finally attained nirvana, he had attained his goal, and he had merged his Self into everything.
Siddhartha had become a very simple soul, a soul that was everything and not just one thing. Siddhartha’s final step in attaining enlightenment was listening to the river. This shows that the river was the