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Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse
Siddhartha – the protagonist
Govinda – his best friend
Gotama – the Buddha
Kamala – a courtesan
Kamaswami – a wealthy merchant
Vasudeva – a ferryman
India, 6th century B.C.
Vocabulary Words / Concepts
Brahmin: a member of the priestly caste in Hindu society who performs
religious duties
Vedas: Hindu holy texts that include hymns, poems, and songs (this includes
the Rig-Veda, Sam-Veda, or any other Veda mentioned in the book)
Upanishads: philosophical Hindu texts (including the Chandogya Upanishad,
or any other Upanishad mentioned in the book)
Ablution: bathing as a religious ritual
Ascetic: a religious lifestyle characterized by abstaining from worldly
pleasures, embracing poverty, and often participating in acts of self-denial or
Samana: a sect of wandering ascetic monks who renounce worldly pleasures
and live lives of poverty in order to attain Nirvana
Nirvana: the ultimate goal of Buddhism and Hinduism, also called
 Hinduism: the soul has become one with the Supreme Being, escaping
the cycle of rebirth
 Buddhism: perfect peace with the world, free from craving, anger, or
pain, where the mind becomes completely free from limits
 Note: Those who haven’t attained Nirvana cannot fully comprehend it.
Atman: translates to “soul”; sometimes used to mean the “universal soul”
Om: a sacred incantation or prayer
Courtesan: a prostitute with courtly, wealthy, or upper-class clientele
Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse
The 4 Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path are the “gist” of Buddhism. Both are
mentioned in the novel.
4 Noble Truths1:
1. Life is suffering. Both human nature and the world are flawed, which causes
people both physical and psychological suffering.
2. The origin of suffering is attachment. To live is to suffer loss, because both
life and the world are impermanent. When one is attached to worldly things,
through desire, passion, greed, etc, one will suffer.
3. It is possible to end suffering. In order to end suffering, one must overcome
desire. Ultimately, the goal is to achieve Nirvana, to be free from all worries or
4. The path to end suffering is the Eightfold Path. The Eightfold Path describes
how to achieve gradual self-improvement in order to end the cycle of rebirth
and attain Nirvana.
Eightfold Path2: the “middle” path to Nirvana that avoids the extremes of selfindulgence (hedonism) and self-mortification (asceticism)
1. Right View: to see and understand things as they really are, and to
realize the Four Noble Truths.
2. Right Intention: to commit to ethical and mental self-improvement.
3. Right Speech: do not lie, slander, or hurt others with words
4. Right Action: do not harm others, steal, or engage in immoral actions
5. Right Livelihood: earn your living in a righteous, peaceful way
6. Right Effort: put your energy into wholesome, not unwholesome,
7. Right Mindfulness: control and perfect your mind through contemplation
8. Right Concentration: the practice of meditation allows one to concentrate
all mental activity on wholesome thoughts and actions
Conquer the self: Both Hinduism and Buddhism stress conquering the self in
order to attain a higher state. The self is concerned with the world, distracting
one from higher states of consciousness and spirituality. When one has
conquered the self, one has reached a higher state of mind or spirituality,
becoming one with the Supreme Being or the world.
Knierim, Thomas. “The Four Noble Truths.” The Big View. 2010. Sept 18 2010.
“The Noble Eightfold Path.” Ibid.