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Siddhartha’s Monomyth: Journey to Self-Knowledge Essay

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Updated: Jul 1st, 2021

Introduction

The story of Siddhartha represents the spiritual path of any human, regardless of their faith. The experiences that an individual gets and the comprehension of the being constitute the journey to self-knowledge. The first part of the paper will focus on the study of Siddhartha’s character throughout the seventeen stages of the monomyth. The second part of the assignment will apply those stages to the analysis of the life of the imagined character. The purpose of this piece of work is to observe the phases an individual goes through towards their final destination, final goal.

The Call to Adventure

Siddhartha lives a good live, practices meditations, and is loved by everyone. People who interact with this young man and who surround him find joy in him. For example, his father always finds happiness in Siddhartha, his mother, in turn, watches his every single step with love. However, Siddhartha does not share the same feelings about himself. As the book states, he “was not a source of joy for himself, he found no delight in himself” (Hesse 3). Thus, the young man found discontent within himself, and he could not understand what would satisfy him and what would bring true hoy.

It is possible to note that the call to adventure happened to Siddhartha when two Samanas were traveling through his town. In their appearance, Siddhartha saw the current salvation for that moment. He has decided to follow their steps and to go live with Samanas in the forests. By that moment, Siddhartha had a solid decision that there is a need for a change and self-acknowledgment journey for him.

Refusal of the Call

The stage of the monomyth, in which the character refuses to regard the call for adventure, happened to Siddhartha only slightly. He was continually asking himself many questions, to which he did not have answers. The young man was not sure which path would be the best for him to follow, which represents the refusal of the call for this character. Before the Samanas visited the town, the man did not take any action for a change, although the questions were fulfilling him. As he says about the heavenly world, “often, it seemed near, the heavenly world, but never he had reached it completely, never he had quenched the ultimate thirst” (Hesse 4).

Siddhartha was not sure if he can reach the heavenly world, and when one moment it seemed so close, it was still not entirely understandable by him. Thus, it is interesting to observe the inner wanderings and hesitations of this man, all of which would eventually lead him to accept the call.

Supernatural Aid

In the case of Siddhartha, no supernatural or mysterious help was given to the young man. However, one might notice that Govinda became a strong support for Siddhartha throughout his way towards further stages and final knowledge. It is interesting to mention that the book often describes Govinda as Siddhartha’s shadow, like something intangible that always follows you. Govinda decided to become one of Buddha’s disciples, and Siddhartha continued his journey alone. However, the character viewed that as “he has deprived me of my friend, the one who had believed in me, who had been my shadow, but he has given me Siddhartha, myself” (Hesse 15). Thus, even though the character makes references to Buddha, one can say that Govinda symbolizes the supernatural aid given to the man.

The Crossing of the First Threshold

The first step into this stage happened when Siddhartha has decided to go to live in the forests with Samanas. His beloved friend has followed him to the woods, for as he believed in Siddhartha and deeply loved him. The life with the skinny Samanas was not easy for Siddhartha and his friend. Still, it is an essential step in Siddhartha’s journey, because it represents a break-through from the past, a break-through from previous hesitations.

Leaving home and trying to find what he is looking for among the Samanas symbolizes the beginning of Siddhartha’s self-knowledge path. As the book states, “a goal stood before Siddhartha, a single goal: to become empty, empty of thirst, empty of wishing, empty of dreams, empty of joy and sorrow” (Hesse 6). With the aspiration to reach this goal, Siddhartha managed to cross the threshold and start his journey into the unknown.

Belly of the Whale

The entrance to this stage occurred to Siddhartha when he left the grove, where he met Gotama, the Buddha. Departing from the Samanas earlier and making all the way to meet the Buddha, about whom the myths and rumors were spreading across the community, was another step towards the realization of Siddhartha’s true goal. The chapter called Awakening in the book represents this monomyth stage for the character, because it describes the feeling that he gets, final acknowledgment of the real aspiration. This young man thinks to himself, “I want to learn from myself, want to be my student, want to get to know myself, the secret of Siddhartha” (Hesse 16). This moment is one of the most important stages within Siddhartha’s journey.

The Road of Trials

Siddhartha had to go through a challenging stage of various trials that might prevent an individual from reaching the goal and achieving the result. No one is safe from the desires that may lead one astray and give a blurred perception of the world. Hence, Siddhartha, after leaving the grove and saying goodbye to his friend there, came back to the city in search of himself. The city is full of temptations, and the journey to the greater goal meets the searcher with lures and offers that are hard to resist. The author describes it as “the world and sloth had entered Siddhartha’s soul, slowly it filled his soul, made it heavy, made it tired, put it to sleep” (Hesse 28). The thing is in human nature, which shows that every explorer on the way to self-knowledge overcomes the series of events that were preventing him from reaching the final goal.

The Meeting with the Goddess

This stage of the monomyth is represented by the appearance of Kamala in Siddhartha’s life. From the moment he saw her for the first time, Siddhartha knew that she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. It is possible to think that meeting Kamala was more of a temptation to Siddhartha. Even the woman herself told him once that they both could not love, and Siddhartha agreed with that. Still, as the author describes, “here with Kamala was the worth and purpose of his present life” (Hesse 25). However, looking at how their relationships evolved, at their story, and at how the book describes Siddhartha’s feelings to her, it is worth saying that Kamala symbolized Siddhartha’s goddess.

Woman as Temptress

One can mention that the temptations Siddhartha had to face were represented by the lifestyle that he led for many years in the city. The author says, “he had been captured by the world, by lust, covetousness, sloth, and finally also by greed” (Hesse 29). Surprisingly, with years, greed became a major temptation for Siddhartha. Throughout his first years being a merchant, Siddhartha perceived everything with a smile. After years went by, his soul became thirsty for money and pleasures. He stopped treating beggars equally and was no longer the one who he once had been. When he describes himself in the book, he states that he was even disgusted by himself (Hesse 30). Thus, temptations that the rich life offers have changed Siddhartha for a certain period.

Atonement with the Father

It is hard to say when this specific stage happened in Siddhartha’s story. It is possible to say that the encounter with a powerful entity occurred to Siddhartha two times throughout the journey. Those times were symbolized as the meeting with Gotama, the Buddha, and Vasudeva, the ferryman. For instance, when the rumors about the exalted one were spreading, they said that “he has overcome the suffering of the world in himself and had halted the cycle of rebirths” (Hesse 9). Even though those events took place at different times of the character’s story, these two men represent influential individuals who contributed most to Siddhartha’s spiritual way.

Apotheosis

This stage of monomyth occurred to Siddhartha when he left the city and went to the river, from which he once departed being a Samana. At this point in his life, Siddhartha did not want to live anymore. He was so disgusted by himself, disgusted by everything that he had been doing for more than twenty years. He found himself being an older man, and the only feeling he had was the desire to drown himself in that river. This event next to the river symbolizes a significant moment in Siddhartha’s journey. Hesse describes it as “he had died, a new Siddhartha had woken up from the sleep” (37). The character had many thoughts at that moment, and finally, he fell into a long sleep that represents a rebirth of the man.

The Ultimate Boon

Siddhartha had achieved what he was looking for with a ferryman, who once helped him cross the river. Siddhartha found peace in his actions, found peace with himself and with those whom he met during his journey. The book makes many references to the river, which plays a significant role in Siddhartha’s path. Listening to the river gave many insights for the character. “He learned from it to listen, to pay close attention with a quiet heart, with a waiting, opened soul, without passion, without a wish, without judgment, without an opinion” (Hesse 39). Siddhartha finally found himself in the place where he belonged.

Refusal of the Return

In the story of Siddhartha, this stage can be referred not to the return to the ordinary world, but rather to the return to the peace that the character managed to find in himself. With the appearance of his son in Siddhartha’s life, his joy and peace were not with him any longer, but he continued to catch the thread of misery to be with his boy. The character realized that “his son had not brought him happiness and peace, but suffering and worry” (Hesse 43). With this, Siddhartha refused to let his son go and have joy again, which transformed into the next stage.

The Magic Fight

When Kamala died, and their son stayed with Siddhartha, the character entered into the inner fight with himself. He saw that the boy was not happy in that place, he was used to another type of life, and Siddhartha could not find the love and devotion in the eyes of his son. Time has passed, but the man could not let his son go, because his love was so big. Despite what Vasudeva told Siddhartha, the man followed the boy even after he ran away.

Only after that, the man realized that he should let him find his path as his father did many years ago. Constant confrontation stayed in Siddhartha’s soul, for “he loved him, but he preferred the suffering and worries of love over happiness and joy without the boy” (Hesse 43). This stage represents another transition for Siddhartha and his journey to oneness.

Rescue from Without

The exalted one, Gotama, his friend Govinda, and Vasudeva, the ferryman, were people who guided Siddhartha during the times of despair and lost belief. These characters symbolize support and love in the character’s story. For example, when Govinda found Siddhartha when he had a long sleep after wanting to drown himself in the river. Hesse mentions, “he had been sitting here for a long time and been waiting for him to wake up” (33). It was a turning point in Siddhartha’s journey, and the appearance of Govinda was a rescue for the man.

The Crossing of the Return Threshold

It is hard to judge when precisely this staged occurred to Siddhartha. One might state that it happened after Siddhartha finally let his son go and freed his heart from misery about it. Therefore, the final step in the character’s return to his path of oneness happened after Vasudeva left, and Siddhartha stayed there by himself, finally finding the desired peace, the desired unity with the world. The book describes this moment as “his wound blossomed, his suffering was shining, his self had flown into the oneness” (Hesse 50). At this stage, Siddhartha achieved his goal, achieved towards what he was moving along a long thorny path.

Master of Two Worlds

Gotama, the Buddha, represented the exalted one throughout the story. However, one might note that Vasudeva symbolizes more of binding between spiritual and material. Vasudeva was the one who guided Siddhartha, gave him advice, and was by his side. The travelers whom the two men were helping to cross the river, viewed them as two wise men. The ferryman, in turn, was much more than a wise man for the main character. “He was a simple person, he was no thinker, but he knew what is necessary, just as well as Gotama, he was a perfect man, a saint” (Hesse 51). Thus, Vasudeva, with whom Siddhartha spent so many years in the hut by the river, represents the master of two worlds in the storyline of Siddhartha.

Freedom to Live

The representation of this stage in the life of Siddhartha lies within the river. “If time is not real, then the gap which seems to be between the world and the eternity, between the suffering and blissfulness, between evil and good, is also a deception” (Hesse 52). Thus, Siddhartha learned how “to put time out of existence” and to see life” (Hesse 52). This knowledge, this perception Siddhartha gained from listening to the river, from hearing the continuous Om word, which represented the perfection in everything. After viewing the time like this, and the life the way Siddhartha started to see that, his smile changed, expressing that he is just like Gotama, the Buddha, the exalted one.

Monomyth of the Imagined Character

The first part of the paper analyzes the character of Siddhartha throughout the stages of the monomyth. This analysis sets out a clear guideline and foundation for every person because many of them go through numerous phases in life, which lead to something different. The second part of this paper will analyze an imagined character, who had many struggles in life, faced addictions and bad habits, but managed to change his life for the better. The name of the imagined character will be Charles, an engineer, who is now almost 50 years old. The monomyth for the hero will be Charles’ life, in which there are several major periods, including some from the 17 stages of the monomyth in the first part.

The Call to Adventure

After Charles turned 30, his wife has started to notice that he is consuming alcohol on too many occasions. First, the chances were the meetings with friends, late dinners, karaoke, or bowling nights. However, soon, tough workdays, arguments with a wife, happy workdays also became the reason to have a couple of drinks. When his wife tried to talk to Charles, he denied there was an issue and was getting angry at her. He did not see anything terrible in having some drinks after work.

However, in 7 years after that, the character lost his job and lost his family. Charles’ wife left him together with their daughter, who was ten at that time. Still, it was not a red flag for Charles, and he continued to blame his spouse, his former boss, and his friends in all of his problems. Charles kept getting more and more addicted to alcohol, was having some random part-time jobs, rented a small room in a poor neighborhood, and spent all his earnings for drinking.

He barely saw his daughter, and only at the times when he managed to be sober, his ex-wife would let him meet up with the girl at her presence. It continued like that till after Charles woke up in a hospital one morning with severe alcohol poisoning and got the news that it was time to stop drinking, or his liver would break down. That morning became a wakeup call for Charles, giving the realization that he needs drastic changes.

Knowing and Accepting the Pit

This stage in Charles’ monomyth got this name because one can say that Charles was in a bottomless pit, from which he could not climb out by himself. Lying in the hospital bed that morning, the man thought about his existence throughout the last several years. He could not call it life, and instead he could say that that was existence. There was no joy, no beliefs, no kindness and warmness, no happiness, and no meaning. Charles’ pit was full of liquor, in which he was swimming without even trying to take a deep breath of fresh air from outside of the hole. For the first time, the character realized that he was the one who dug that pit, jumped in it, and remained in it for so many years. Those thoughts made Charles decide that he needs a ladder to get out of that yawner and to live life again.

Supernatural Aid

Charles has imagined his life in the form of the pit, and, as the paragraph above mentioned, he needed a tool that will help him to get out of it. The ladder came in the form of a dream that Charles had during his second night in the hospital. The dream was featuring the man falling into the abyss without any possible way to survive. After that, Charles saw his daughter, who was still three years old in a dream, dropping a rope ladder to her father, which he caught, and she dragged him to the top of the hill. When Charles woke up, he has decided that it was the message from the above, that his daughter was the guardian angel, and that there is still a way out and forgiveness for him.

The Crossing of the First Threshold

This stage happened to Charles when, after signing out of the hospital, he came back to his room, did not buy a drink, and decided to make his room neat. Throughout the next couple of weeks, the man was working hard on part-time jobs, did not drink any alcohol, and included morning walks that gradually transformed into morning runs. Charles believed that sports and hard physical work would keep the thoughts about the liquor away.

All he could think of was his daughter, the fact that she grew up without his support, and the irresistible desire to have time to give her the life that she deserved. Three months Charles continued his life like that, worked hard, attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, did morning exercise, and had a good sleep. After just a short period, he started to look completely different, as if he became a couple of years younger, more energized, and with a thirst for life.

The Road of Trials

Charles’ journey was not easy for him, especially throughout the first months. Breaking the circle of binge drinking, completely changing the daily routine, and, what is the most important, changing himself inside – all of those were challenging for the character. Sometimes he felt like giving up, sometimes he felt like getting a glass of beer and meeting up with his old drinking mates. All the changes that Charles integrated into his life implied a completely new lifestyle that also influenced his communication circle. Many of his construction work colleagues used to drink all together after a hard day of work.

After late shifts, Charles had an inner fight of not going to the bar and not taking that glass. Constant influence from the previous drinking buddies, continuous pressure from their side, and even ridicules from them make Charles feel miserable, but at the same time gave him will power. His wife still did not let him see his daughter often, so this period was a tough one for the man.

The Meeting with the Goddess

The turning point in Charles’ path happened when his wife let him take their daughter for a weekend. By that time, Charles was already renting a small studio apartment, did not consume any alcohol for half a year, and led a very healthy lifestyle. Charles’ daughter was 15 at that moment, and she did not have any attachment to her father, but, just other children hearths, her heart was open for love and full of forgiveness.

After the dream that the character had six months ago in a hospital, his daughter became a symbol of love and life for Charles. All he dreamt of was to spending some time with her, giving her education in the future, and seeing her happy. Without any doubt, the girl was still a little bit cold with her father after spending a weekend with him, but after that point they started to meet up more often, and it gave additional energy to Charles. Gradually he started seeing love and warmth in his daughters’ eyes. The man knew that she is his guardian angel, and her growing love is the guiding compass.

Atonement with the Father

Another powerful moment happened to Charles in about one and a half years after he had stopped drinking alcohol. He continues visiting AA meetings, and at one of the sessions, he met a woman, who became his close friend. The woman was Christian, and she offered Charles to visit a mass on Sunday and to listen to the priest. Charles has never been a spiritual person, but this message from a friend who helped him to overcome so many difficulties represented symbolized a new beginning. It was the moment when Charles found faith deep inside himself. After the first mass that he attended, he had a long conversation with a priest. The character was full of questions, was full of controversies, but he had this deep inner feeling that this was the place for him to be, that, besides his daughter, it was his forgiveness.

Upon the Hill, Outside the Pit

Charles’ life before the night at the hospital with severe alcohol poisoning was a pit full of liquor, as one of the sections above describes. After five years of struggling with inner desire to have a drink, but simultaneously, enjoying every day of his life, Charles had a long conversation with his priest. During the talk, they have used different metaphors to observe the man’s transition and to observe how he started and where he finds himself now.

Charles immediately recalled the dream with the abyss, and the man has realized that he was not falling anymore. He was standing at the top of the hill, tightly holding his daughter’s hand and not even looking down. Charles did not want to look back, and he knew that he is an addict, and he has admitted the fact that the desire to drink will follow him. Nevertheless, the man had other values, other joys, and a completely different life path now, as he has experienced a rebirth.

This stage represents a conclusion of Charles’ journey towards self-knowledge in the face of a new lifestyle and a tremendous change that the man managed to complete for his own sake. Throughout his path, Charles made many conclusions and gained different knowledge about life. He realized that pleasure is fake and that real happiness comes not from external triggers but from the beloved ones and from the love to God.

Works Cited

Hesse, Hermann. Siddhartha: an Indian Tale. Genera; Press, 2018.

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