Philosophy 312: Oriental Philosophy
Chapter 8: By the River
questions the meaning in his life.
I. Siddhartha's (midlife) crisis: Chapter 8 is a transition
between the second and third periods of his life. (Relate his progress so
Jung's theory of temperaments as summarized at the end of the chapter Amongst
A. Siddhartha uses a method of self-analysis [Hesse 67, 78] as he reviews
II. Commentary regarding Govinda's sitting with Siddhartha:
1. He begins by looking at his personal history—what had made him happy, what had made him sad. This is a useful process for anyone in such a
place in life as Siddhartha is.
B. Thoughts of suicide occur to Siddhartha: the nausea, depression, loss of purpose which
often precede change. Compare his present state to his earlier crisis toward the end of his
life in the chapter Om .
2. By use of an in-depth biography, one can capture the karma of one's life: the path.
E.g., an extraordinarily useful exercise is to write out in detail the following dimensions of
3. By doing so, does not your own path become clearer?
1. Siddhartha was in the position of having everything to live with and nothing to live for. Nietzsche has pointed out that if we have a "why" for our life, then we can tolerate almost any "how."
2. Compare the conversion experience in Christianity stemming from
the despair of "O what a poor wretch am
3. If is often said that to effect a major change in your life a deep crisis of the spirit is necessary.
In this sense, it doesn't seem odd to say that despair is a necessary condition for
happiness just as frustration is a necessary condition for pleasure.
A. Siddhartha's pride gets him through many difficulties: he's often
regarded as a star while others (including Govinda) are falling leaves.
III. His path—his life goals and hopes at this point seem to have resulted only in circles or spirals.
1. His pretense of what he will be helps to make it happen, almost as
though his pretense is a self-fulfilling prophecy. As Kurt Vonnegut,
Jr., wrote in Mother Night, "Be careful who you
pretend to be because you are who you pretend to be."
B. How can Siddhartha exercise such an influence over Govinda?
2. Again, words seem to come before thought. Siddhartha says, "I am making a
pilgrimage" [Hesse 75C].
1. Siddhartha denies the world of appearance and rationalizes his actions.
(E.g., "I must learn to handle the boat."
[84B]. Other examples of his "saving face" [76A, 76B].
C. What Siddhartha learned from Govinda on this occasion: Siddhartha's soul was sick because he could love nothing and nobody [76D].
2. Govinda doubts what Siddhartha says, but shows respect and goes on his
way. Has Govinda progressed? (He seems not to seek
understanding, but, instead, he seeks acceptance of what is.)
3. Evaluate Siddhartha's discussion with Govinda by Freud's dictum
that all reasoning is rationalization.
1. He was an ordinary person—he couldn't wait, fast, and think well.
2. The river, like life itself, goes backwards.
3. He was like a child--he knows nothing. I.e., his knowledge was non-propositional.
4. You have a responsibility to the self who through difficulty made you what you are today. "The child is the father of the man."
A. Does the progress from thinker to ordinary person result in happiness?
B. Siddhartha's cleverness does not come from figuring things out in advance, but from
a process of engagement in living.
1. His centering of self leads to the feeling solidly that he is to proceed rightly.
C. His place in life comes from the following complex: [Hesse 80B].
2. Cf., the metaphor of the song bird.
D. Too much knowledge had hindered him—the Buddha was right; he should guard against too much cleverness.
c. heart—feeling, valuing
1. He had reason, logic, insight—he could not learn because knowledge has to be proposition for him , at this time.
E. The River becomes an attraction in itself beyond analysis and knowledge but an intuition of the eternal now.
2. Yet this knowledge is rejected by nausea; "the revolt of the flesh."