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CHAPTER 3: Gotama
The two young men proceed to Jetavana, where Buddha, the Illustrious One, dwells. They spend the night there and in the morning, when the place is swarming with pilgrims, the men go off to seek their midday meal. Siddhartha recognizes the Buddha sitting with his disciples. He is eating such a meager quantity of food that even a bird would not have been satisfied with it.
In the evening, Siddhartha and Govinda hear the Buddha preach. The Illustrious One speaks in a soft, but firm voice. He talks about the origin of suffering and the way to release it. Since suffering can be overcome, there is salvation from a life of pain for those who follow the way of the Buddha. He teaches the four main points in the Eightfold path. At the end of the day, many pilgrims, including Govinda, go forward and request the Buddha to accept them as his disciples; the Buddha blesses them all.
Govinda is surprised that Siddhartha has not yet chosen to tread the path of salvation offered by the Illustrious One; but Siddhartha has not been moved. Early the next morning, Govinda embraces Siddhartha and sadly prepares to leave him to put on the yellow robe as instructed by the old monk. Siddhartha wishes his friend well. He then roams through the grove in thought, where he meets Gotama. Siddhartha requests permission to speak, and Gotama nods his assent. Siddhartha tells him that he and his friend have listened to his teachings the previous day. His friend has been moved and is going to stay with the Buddha. Siddhartha then says that he believes that the Buddha has presented a perfect picture of the world; according to him, the world is just a cause and effect cycle.
Siddhartha tells the Buddha his own belief about salvation; he feels that nobody finds Nirvana by being taught, for it has to be learned through firsthand experience. Though Buddha's teachings explain how to live righteously and how to avoid evil, they do not express the secret of how the Illustrious One found salvation. Siddhartha says that he is going to find his own goal without the help of any doctrines or teachers, for he believes that it must come from within; he must learn how to conquer self. Siddhartha tells the Buddha that he will always remember the Illustrious One, his teachings, and the day he met him.
The Buddha wishes Siddhartha luck in achieving his goal. He also asks him whether he thinks that it would be better for all his disciples to return to the life of worldly desires. Siddhartha says that he cannot judge for others. Even though he refuses to judge Govinda, he admits that he feels he has been robbed of his friend, who has been his shadow; now Govinda is to be the shadow of Gotama.
This chapter is set in the Jetavana grove outside the town of Savathi; it is Gotama's favorite abode. The chapter describes the Buddha as a very peaceful person who seems outwardly neither sad nor happy. Instead, he seems to have an inward smile that is almost a secret like that of a healthy child's. Though he is dressed exactly like the other monks, all his physical features and movements, his face, his walk, his downward glance, his finger, and his hand, indicate completeness. He conveys a sense of total peace, seeking nothing. Siddhartha notices this peacefulness right way and immediately is enraptured by Gotama, even though he will not follow his doctrine.
The contrast between Siddhartha and Govinda is again delineated in this chapter. After listening to the Buddha's teachings, the simple Govinda immediately decides to join him as a disciple. Siddhartha cannot fully embrace the Buddha's philosophies, although he admires and respects Gotama as a teacher and as a person. Siddhartha believes that salvation cannot be taught. Even Gotama has attained Nirvana because of his personal experiences.
A clear distinction is made between teaching and experience. Siddhartha learns much from Gotama, but to be taught is not to experience firsthand. Siddhartha, therefore, decides to go away and acquire experiences for himself. He wishes to attain something beyond all that has been previously achieved by him. For this end, Siddhartha's restless spirit is prepared to go through any kind of experience, no matter how dangerous it may be.