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Pat Swenson, CSUN - Siddhartha Discussion Guide
eastern religion, om symbol, om images

Prof Pat Swenson

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Campus Email: pat.swenson@csun.edu

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Siddhartha - Discussion Guide

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1. WISDOM

  • Siddhartha believed that wisdom could only be attained by experience. How did his experiences lead him to nirvana?
  • Describe the three stages of Siddhartha's life, and how all three stages were necessary for his attainment of wisdom.

2. THE SAMANAS & THE BUDDHISTS

  • Describe the lives of the samanas and the Buddhists.
  • How did each try to attain nirvana?
  • Why did Siddhartha leave these teachings?

3. GOVINDA

  • Why is Govinda considered Siddhartha's shadow?
  • Why did Govinda stay with the Buddha?
  • Compare and contrast their paths to enlightenment.

4. MATERIAL LIFE

  • Why is Kamala a central figure in Siddhartha's life?
  • What role does she play in this novel?
  • Explain the purpose of the middle chapter - material life and Kamaswami.
  • Analyze the symbolism in Siddhartha's two dreams.

5. VASUDEVA & THE RIVER

  • What is the role of Vasudeva, the ferryman? (Vasudeva is another name for Lord Krishna).
  • The river is a vital symbol in this novel. What is the function of the river and how is it associated with timelessness?
  • How is this sense of "timelessness" critical to the Buddhist understanding of life?
  • Explain Vasudeva's statement, "everything returns."
  • What is the sound of "OM?" Why does Vasudeva encourage Siddhartha to learn to listen to the river, listen to "OM?"

6. THE FATHER-SON THEME

  • Discuss the father-son theme in the book (2 fathers, 2 sons).
  • Describe little Siddhartha.
  • How are little Siddhartha and his father similar or different?

7. LOVE

  • How does Siddhartha come to the realization that love can cure his soul sickness?
  • Describe his feelings toward self-love and loving others.