Religion is in intangible force that many people try to understand. Between all of the different paths and options, religion can never be completely understood. Buddhism is a religion that has so many options to achieve a common goal; therefore, it is difficult, if not impossible, to teach another person. To prove that enlightenment cannot be obtained through direct instruction, Hesse created a Siddhartha apart from Buddha so that the reader is more likely to form a relationship, despite Siddhartha’s path to enlightenment paralleling and differing that of Buddha’s.
Siddhartha and the Buddha begin their paths to enlightenment in a similar pattern; both Siddhartha and Buddha leave their fathers, become Samanas, and meditate (Weeks). However, that is where their similarities end. A difference that is found immediately between Siddhartha and Buddha is that Siddhartha is the son of a Brahmin, and Buddha starts his life as a prince, making Siddhartha more relatable to the common reader than Buddha. Next, Buddha reaches self-taught enlightenment while meditating under the Bodhi tree.
The Buddha then becomes a dedicated teacher to assist others who wished to attain enlightenment as well (Moyer; “Hinduism”). Siddhartha, with his follower and friend Govinda, hear of this opportunity and set out to experience the stories being spread for themselves. Siddhartha and Govinda become students of Buddha’s teachings; however, Govinda decides to become a follower of Buddha, while Siddhartha forges ahead on his own path.
Siddhartha chose to forge ahead on his own path to enlightenment because he feels that enlightenment is not something someone can teach.
Hermann Hesse relates this ideology in terms of wisdom in his novella “Siddhartha”: “Wisdom cannot be imparted. Wisdom that a wise man attempts to impart always sound like foolishness to someone else … Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. One can find it, live it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate and teach it.” (Hesse 15)
As Siddhartha began on his path to enlightenment, he experiments with his own self taught methods; Siddhartha listens to the voice in his heart, a river, and the ferryman. When Siddhartha listens to the voice in his heart that leads to the river, Siddhartha opens himself to “listening” to the river, a symbol of cosmic wisdom and the flow of life, which leads him to reaching enlightenment. Once Siddhartha reached enlightenment, Siddhartha made the decision to become a ferryman, symbolized as a service to everyone who comes across his path. Siddhartha and Buddha both achieve self-taught enlightenment by following their own path, depicting the argument that enlightenment is something that one must reach of their own accord. In correspondence, any person searching enlightenment and learning the ultimate reality that nothing is permanent (Moyer; Anonymous) following the Buddhist system must attain their goal in their own fashion. Anyone striving for salvation or enlightenment in any religion must open himself to the possibility of having their own unique path, and not to emphasize and imitate just one set way to achieve what they so adamantly seek.