Siddhartha Wasn’t Buddhist

If you read Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha novel, you may have erroneously thought the title character was significant. When in fact, it is a pathos, the vulnerability of that character, that he ends his days a humble ferry-man despite being born a prince, like Gotama (the man who became known as the Buddha).

In this sequence, Siddhartha goes with Govinda to hear the teachings of Buddha, and Govinda remains with Buddha to become his disciple. Siddhartha, however, feels that everyone must find his own way to salvation and, hence, does not remain. The “Gotama” sequence begins with Buddha’s taking alms in the town of Savathi and his abiding in the Jetavana grove.

(Quote source.)

The trick of that novel is that Siddhartha parallel the decisions of Gotama, who was also a prince. But unlike Gotama, who set out seeking the Spiritual, Siddhartha merely held a series of jobs and never quite figured it out to become the Buddha. Siddhartha is the normal man.