Overview of the Principle of Samsara in Siddhartha

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Overview of the Principle of Samsara in Siddhartha essay
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Samsara, the grind, the monotony of life’s day to day events. Samsara is the weight of the world, the endless cycle of reincarnation and destruction that humans must face throughout their lifetimes. After one’s life comes to an end in this world, it will be reborn anew in a new vessel. Samsara describes stagnation in this cosmic cycle of rebirth; samsara describes mundainity and mediocrity. Samsara is life when poisoned by desire. Samsara is what holds back one’s knowledge of the universe and our place in it. Samsara is the enemy of a souls liberation, an insurmountable wall on the road to true salvation. It is important to study samsara and its effects on one’s life for several reasons, most importantly of which is growth, be it academic, character, or career oriented. Knowledge of samsara can prevent one’s life from becoming stagnated and allows for one to take the necessary actions to avoid samsara within their lives to cultivate a rewarding and varied human experience; diversity is the spice of life after all. As such, samsara can teach us how to live a fulfilling human experience. As far as we know, this life may be our only one on our time on Earth. In the novel by Hermann Hesse, ‘Siddhartha’ and the movie ‘Into The Wild’, directed by Sean Penn, a central thematic focus is the main protagonists conflict with samsara on their spiritual journey to find true salvation and wisdom.

In context, samsara, as a principle element of Hinduism, is best reflected in the narrative of Siddhartha, as a novel heavy with Hindu and Buddhist themes. The concept of Samsara is best demonstrated with Siddhartha’s journey to the town of the child people. While in the town of the child people, Siddhartha encounters a completely foreign world, one ruled by earthly pleasures and filled with samsara. After encountering the only woman he’d ever truly love, Kamala, he’d resolve to stay in the city of the child people until he obtained who he sought. Fortunately for Siddhartha, Kamala introduces him to Kamaswami, a wealthy merchant in the city of the child people. With Kamaswami, Siddhartha learns the way of the merchant, to conduct deals, trade, to loan, and to gamble. Siddhartha treats his new job as a game, accepting gain and loss equally, he truly was not invested in business. He conducted this business as a mean to gain a tuition, so that Kamala could teach him something he could not learn about as a samana; indulgence, desire, and lust. However, unbeknownst to Siddhartha, samsara has been brewing within his soul. “For a long time, Siddhartha had lived the life of the world and of lust, though without being a part of it. His senses, which he had killed off in hot years as a Samana, had awoken again, he had tasted riches, had tasted lust, had tasted power; nevertheless he had still remained in his heart for a long time a Samana; Kamala, being smart, had realized this. It was still the art of thinking, of waiting, of fasting, which guided his life; still the people of the world, the childlike people, had remained alien to him as he was alien to them. Years passed by; surrounded by the good life, Siddhartha hardly felt them fading away. He had become rich, for quite a while he possessed a house of his own and his own servants, and a garden before the city by the river. The People liked him, they came to him, whenever they needed money or advice,but there was nobody close to him, except Kamala.” (Hesse, Siddhartha).

Hesse describes in this quote, the samsara that has crept up onto Siddhartha, the stagnation of Siddhartha’s indulgent life has led to his ultimate loss of his internal voice, Siddhartha had lost his way. Siddhartha had lost what he had learned as a samana, waiting, fasting and thinking, and instead gained hollow indulgences. Investing in his business, Siddhartha never learned about this disease of the soul that has crept up on him, samsara. Siddhartha only learns of this poison through a dream in which a songbird was kept in a beautiful golden cage, and, after its death, the songbird was discarded into the streets. The bird was a symbolic metaphor for Siddhartha, trapped in the cycle of samsara. This was the moment in which Siddhartha realized that samsara was plaguing his soul. It was in this dream Siddhartha realized the samsara that had smothered and binded his internal voice and internal light. In Siddhartha, the concept of samsara and Siddhartha’s conflict with samsara was highlighted in the chapters ‘Kamala’, ‘With The Childlike People’, and ‘Sansara’. The samsara of Siddhartha’s new daily life led him to become addicted and invested in ultimately meaningless worldly values: money, lust, gambling, debt collections. Siddhartha no longer saw these things as things to be learned. Siddhartha soon cultivated malice and lost his compassion. Siddhartha, after learning of his wasted time, began to relinquish all worldly possessions. He then flees and introspects “after all, that entire world of the Kamaswami-people had only been a game to him, a dance he would watch, a comedy. Only Kamala had been dear, had been valuable to him—but was she still thus? Did he still need her, or she him? Did they not play a game without an ending? Was it necessary to live for this? No, it was not necessary! The name of this game was Sansara, a game for children, a game which was perhaps enjoyable to play once, twice, ten times—but for ever and ever over again?” (Hesse, 88).

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Ultimately, this Samsara was both a stepping stone for Siddhartha and an insurmountable wall. The game of samsara was crucial to Siddhartha to realize the oneness of the world; however, samsara was still a poison to his soul. Siddhartha only ends his conflict with samsara after he escapes the city and goes to live as a ferryman. In samsara, time never truly stops. Samsara is a day that never ends; it keeps one suspended in a cycle of stagnation; it prevents one from reaching greater heights. Samsara is akin to a drug, one falls into the depths of despair, seeking a fix, seeking a light that has long since gone out. (Add a link at the end of the body paragraphs to tie it back to the rq).

The story of ‘Into The Wild’ is a more modern tale on the road to enlightenment, with a more modern atmosphere as well, trading Hindu and Buddhist motifs for the culture of modern America. This heavily affects the themes of ‘Into The Wild’ and the path Christopher McCandless takes on the path to enlightenment; this also heavily effects Christopher McCandless’ central conflict with samsara as it reformats Siddhartha’s concept of samsara and repurposes it for a more modern, less religious, but equally spiritual story. McCandless’ initial motivation for going on his journey was to escape modern materialism and the samsara it brings. During the rising action of Into The Wild, Christopher states “So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned by a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure.” (Alexander Supertramp Christopher McCandless). This quote is clearly describing our natural tendency to cling to uncomfortable and unhealthy conditions as long as they are secure and known, and our discomfort when taking risks. He is also describing an aspect of the human condition, humans intrinsically need to take their future into their own hands to truly escape samsara, and that humans need to escape materialism and conformity to live a truly fulfilling human experience.

However it could be argued that cultivating wealth and working hard is necessary to gain the assets needed for a comfortable life. After all, with a good job or business and massive amounts of wealth, one doesn’t need to worry about the necessities, food, mortgage, rent, bills, etc. If one had these things, they could vacation more and increase their quality of life, one may think. While yes, this is true, samsara comes when wealth becomes meaningless, happiness can be sought when one doesn’t have to worry about where one will sleep tonight or how will one eat or pay for gas. Samsara comes from the meaningless cultivation of wealth, happiness doesn’t come from a golf course or vacations on the beach, that is desire, it is hollow. Happiness comes from time spent with loved ones and giving back to those around one’s community, a passage from The Way of The Bodhisattva highlights this wisdom. “What need is there to say more? The childish work for their own benefit, The Buddhas work for the benefit of others. Just look at the difference between them. If I do not exchange my happiness, for the suffering of others, I shall not attain the state of Buddhahood. And even in Samsara I shall have no real joy. The source of all misery in the world lies in thinking of oneself; The source of all happiness lies in thinking of others.” (Shantideva, The Way of The Bodhisattva). This quote highlights the a path to happiness and out of materialism; social intimacy, and quality time can lead to a healthy and fulfilling life. Christopher McCandless’ conflict with samsara allowed him to cultivate his valid wisdoms, allowing him to reach true contention and freedom from despair. Christopher McCandless only ends his conflict with samsara at the point of his death, reaching his enlightenment. Before his death, Christopher McCandless realized that escaping materialism and the cycle of samsara, in exchange for more quality time spent with loved ones and giving back to those around one’s self is the way to happiness.

In conclusion, the central themes in Siddhartha and Into The Wild teaches us about ourselves and invites introspection and thought into how we live our lives. The main protagonists in Siddhartha and Into The Wild, Siddhartha and Christopher McCandless, set off onto their respective journeys for the purpose of seeking enlightenment and to escape the stagnation of samsara. In their journeys, they encounter a variety of individuals who impart on them wisdom; the lessons these people teach Siddhartha and McCandless are vital on their road to enlightenment, these lessons taught them the importance of the oneness of the world and connectedness. The conflict these characters have with samsara can teach us in the modern age several things: to spend more time with our loved ones, to abandon materialism, to let go of pettiness, and to make our time on earth fulfilling. Oxymoronically, true wealth comes from the richness of one’s experiences rather than the amount of wealth one has accumulated during their lifetime; wealth can be taken away but wisdom cannot. Siddhartha’s escape from indulgence, Christopher McCandless’ relinquishing of materialism and Shantideva’s teachings all show that indulgence and living with desire only serve to fuel desire, to weaken the mind and soul, and to distract one’s self from what truly matters and the path to enlightenment. However, it can be said that as all souls are intrinsically different, paths out of samsara and to enlightenment are also equally varied. This is one of the flaws in the teachings of these novels. One cannot know their own respective route to enlightenment from knowing these conflicts against samsara. As such, it is up to one’s own choices alone, to decide what they will do on their time on earth.

Regardless of seeking spiritual enlightenment or seeking material wealth, one should do what they believe they themselves must do to make their time on earth valuable. If we cannot find meaning we must will it. If we cannot find purpose, we will make it.

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This essay delves into the concept of samsara as depicted in the novel "Siddhartha" by Hermann Hesse and the movie "Into the Wild" directed by Sean Penn. It explores how the central characters, Siddhartha and Christopher McCandless, grapple with the cycle of samsara as they seek enlightenment and liberation from worldly desires. The essay presents a detailed analysis of the protagonists' journeys, drawing parallels between their struggles and the concept of samsara. However, while the essay offers valuable insights into the theme and its relevance in both works, it lacks a consistent and well-structured flow, making the arguments challenging to follow at times. A clearer organization and more focused analysis of key scenes and character developments would enhance the overall coherence and impact of the essay.
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What can be improved
Structural Organization: Divide the essay into well-defined sections for each work (Siddhartha and Into the Wild) to facilitate better readability. Focused Analysis: Concentrate on analyzing key scenes, character developments, and dialogues that directly relate to the theme of samsara and its impact on the protagonists. Transitional Sentences: Use clear transitional sentences to guide readers between different aspects of the analysis and to ensure a coherent progression of ideas. Citation and Referencing: Properly cite quotes and references from the source works to support the arguments and provide textual evidence. Conclusion: Strengthen the conclusion by summarizing the main insights and tying them back to the initial thesis about samsara's significance in the characters' journeys. Proofreading: Review the essay for grammar and punctuation errors to improve overall readability and coherence.
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