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THE SON

For the first time, Siddhartha is experiencing love, both its joy and its pain, for his son. The boy is accustomed to living in wealth and luxury and having all his wishes granted. He is sulky and defiant toward this old father-a stranger to himand this father's drastically simple life and menial tasks. Siddhartha hopes to win the boy's affection by kindness and patience. Vasudeva warns him that it will not work, that he must let the boy go his own way.

A day comes when Siddhartha asks the boy to perform a small chore, and the boy turns on him in rage. Soon afterward, little Siddhartha runs away.

Vasudeva has given Siddhartha good parental advice. Little Siddhartha did give up a life of luxury-but not by choice, only because he was obliged to go with his mother. Now he must live with old men who have nothing that the boy values. Siddhartha's love and patience can't win the boy, but can only make him ashamed of his resentment and therefore more resentful. Now Vasudeva advises Siddhartha not to follow the boy. But Siddhartha, made unwise by his love, sets out after his son.

He goes as far as the gate to what had been Kamala's grove. There he stops, reviewing his years spent here until disgust with the life of pleasure had overtaken him. He realizes that he can't force himself on his son. He crouches in the dust, waiting for the pain of loss to subside. Vasudeva finds him and they return together to the ferry.

Little Siddhartha's rebellion against his father recalls Siddhartha's rebellion against his own father. Is this a case merely of a generation gap, or do you see something more in these two situations? What are the similarities and the differences in the two father-son conflicts? A further question arises: Do you find any hints that little Siddhartha will eventually turn from the materialistic life and become a seeker of wisdom like his father?


OM

Siddhartha still feels the pain of his loss. He envies travelers with children whom he ferries across the river. Even criminals have children whom they love and who love them-why not he? He no longer feels superior to ordinary people. Their concerns, however trivial, now win his sympathy, and their vitality and ability to endure suffering win his admiration and love. Sages are different from ordinary people only in their grasp of the unity of all life.

One day, with the wound of his loss especially painful, Siddhartha rows across the river, intending to search again for his son. He hears the river laughing at him. Looking down, he sees his father's face reflected in his own. He is reminded that he left his father as his son has left him. It is a comedy of repetition, and the river is laughing at it. Siddhartha rows back to the hut and confides his pain to Vasudeva. As he does so, he feels his pain being washed away.

Listening to and looking into the river, Siddhartha sees his father, his son, and himself, each alone and lonely. He sees Kamala, Govinda, all yearning, all flowing away in the river. He hears all the voices of humanity blending together into the word Om that signifies perfection. When Siddhartha looks again into Vasudeva's face, his own face reflects the same serenity. He is no longer fighting against his destiny and struggling with conflicting desires. He is now full of sympathy and compassion for all creatures. He has surrendered himself to the stream of life and the unity of all things.

NOTE:

The phrase "harmony with the stream of events" is used here as a synonym for salvation. The achievement of harmony, whether with life, nature, or the universe, has been the goal of many religions, including both Confucianism and Taoism in China. A Chinese legend tells of an emperor who periodically sent inspectors around the realm to tune all the instruments, in order to keep the empire in harmony. In his last novel, The Glass Bead Game, Hesse quotes a Chinese sage as saying that the condition of a nation is revealed by its music. How would you describe Siddhartha's experience of harmony?

Vasudeva now shines with a godlike radiance. He has waited for Siddhartha to arrive at this wisdom. He says farewell and disappears into the woods.

At this culmination of Siddhartha's lifelong quest, how do you think he has in fact won this ultimate wisdom? This chapter traces the stages he has passed through on the road to serenity. But what do these stages represent? What is the meaning of salvation in this context?

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