Siddhartha leaves the grove where the Buddha lives, feeling that he has left his former life behind. He no longer has a desire to listen to teachers. Deciding that in seeking for the Divine, he has lost himself, he resolves no longer to try to escape from himself. He will no longer despise the world and regard it as an illusion. He would find meaning in the world, not beyond it. He would start his life afresh. He has a few moments of loneliness, when he realizes how isolated he is, since he is now putting his old life behind him. He knows he cannot return to his father, the Brahmin priest. But he quickly regains confidence and walks forward briskly.
In this short chapter Siddhartha undergoes an apparent reversal of his thinking. Up to this point, his goal has been to discover the ultimate reality of life that lies beyond the five senses. He had accepted the idea that the senses take a person away from the underlying truth. The reality, he believed, was an absolute, silent, universal consciousness that lay beyond the things of the world. The goal of the spiritual life was to access that silent, pure consciousness within oneself. Then one would realize that the Atman (the essence of the individual self) was the same as Brahman (the universal self). In this belief he is in accord with a long tradition of Indian religious thought. The world is seen as maya, or illusion, since it is just the play of temporary, impermanent forms, not the underlying reality that gives rise to those forms. But in this chapter, Siddhartha takes a new view. He decides that the divine can also be found in the world, because everything in creation is just the One expressing itself in multiple forms. There is no dichotomy between the absolute One and the multitude of relative forms the One takes on. In reaching this new understanding, Siddhartha has opened himself up to another aspect of traditional Indian thought. It is a paradox. The world is maya, it is not the divine (because it is impermanent), and yet it is also an expression of the divine. It is unity expressing itself through diversity. This sounds very abstract and it is. It is difficult to grasp at an intellectual level. It has to be directly experienced. This is indeed Siddhartha's complaint about the teachings he has so far encountered. They seem to him to lack that vital ingredient of direct experience. The experience of seeing the entire universe as an expression of one unified, divine consciousness manifesting through a multiplicity of forms will ultimately enlighten Siddhartha. But at the moment he is a long way from his goal. In fact, he is ready to forget it altogether.
Siddhartha: Novel Summary: Part 1 - Awakening