Monday, April 28, 2014

Siddhartha Reflection Chapters 1 through 6

Something I noticed about the first few chapters of Siddhartha is that they talk a lot about beauty and grace. The way that Siddhartha himself is described is almost sensual and very much about his physical appearance. "Delight leaped into his mother's breast when she beheld him, watched him as he wlked and sat and stood, Siddhartha, the strong handsome boy walkiung on slender legs, greeting her with flawless grace. Love stirred in the hearts of the young Brahmin girls...[when they saw him with] his radiant brow, his regal eye, his narrow hips...He loved Siddartha's eyes and his sweet voice, loved the way he walked and the flawless grace of his movements..." (Hesse 4). The way Siddhartha is described makes it sound like he is being looked at through the eyes of a lover (which he is, occasionally) and puts a lot of emphasis on how he seems to be very attractive. I find that a little odd. Just because it is like Siddhartha has everything, so naturally he would be attractive as well. There is just a lot of describing it. But then later, when he gives everything up to become a Samana, there is still a lot of emphasis put on how different he looks, how different they look from everyone else. "The flesh vanished from his thighs and cheeks. Hot tears flickered in his enlarged eyes, his nails grew long on his withering fingers, and from his chin grew a dry, patchy beard" (Hesse 12). These descriptions make it sound like he is becoming more and more unattractive, and that is written very specifically so. Now that he has given up all pleasure, he must also give up his looks. But then they meet the Buddha, and his physical features seem to not matter except to convey his amount of peace and divinity. "...he scrutinized Guatama's head, his shoulders, his feet, his quietly dangling hand, and it seemed to him that every joint of every finger on this hand was doctrine; it spoke, breathed, wafted, and glinted Truth" (Hesse 26). The words used are those used to describe a gem, or jewelry, or perhaps the spirit. The Buddha is a very spiritual person, and that is conveyed using specific words that basically ignore his body as a whole to describe the feeling he gives off. The body is used as a powerful device in this story to portray feelings, and appearances seem to matter a great deal with regard to metaphors.

But as the story progresses, the appearances matter less as Siddhartha goes his own way about enlightenment. They still do matter, but it is no longer only about the body. It is about beauty in everything, everywhere. " longer the meaningless random multiplicity of the world of appearances..." (Hesse 35). Siddhartha is thinking to himself about how, now that finding himself is most important, more important than losing himself so that he may be at one with the world, everything is no longer governed by appearance. Everything matters in its own way. But then he meets a beautiful woman, and wishes to be taught by her in the ways of love. Her lips are continually described as figs, and here again is the concept of physical appearance equating to wonderfulness. "'Your mouth is like a fig split in two, Kamala,'" (Hesse 49). Siddhartha is using her appearance almost as an excuse for what he wants. That's not exactly what's going on, but she being beautiful is certainly part of Siddhartha's sudden desire to learn about love. He may have already wanted to learn, and was only searching for a mentor, but somehow I think that seeing a beautiful and rich woman helped with that a little bit. But perhaps not. In the next chapter, there is a particular description about how he feels that makes a lot of sense, looking back over the story. "...Siddhartha saw it all as a game whose rules he was striving to learn but whose substance did not touch his heart" (Hesse 57). Maybe after being a Samana for so long, he doesn't want anything to be so deeply ingrained in him again. He wants to learn about the world but preserve himself in the process. I think that to learn properly, you have pour yourself into something fully and devote yourself to it completely before you will learn anything of note about it. But perhaps Siddhartha is going about things differently. It shall be an interesting journey.