Summary and Analysis Part 2: Sansara



We plumb the depths of the world of illusion in the sequence entitled "Sansara." Sansara, the polar opposite of Nirvana, is identified in the Buddhist system with illusion, spiritual death, and ultimate despair. Many years pass during this sequence that takes place in the city, and the fine poetic image of the potter's wheel symbolizes Siddhartha's spiritual awareness grinding to a halt. Siddhartha has abandoned his soul for a life that will become a barren, sterile waste for him, and because Siddhartha is an intellectual, ennui and soul sickness set in. Siddhartha becomes obsessively acquisitive and yet, at heart, he is contemptuous of wealth; again, then, he is part of a vicious circle. In this temporal, hedonistic world of the city, time is the devourer of all things. Herein lies the root of Siddhartha's suffering; all that is imbued with the element of time is doomed to death.

Also in the "Sansara" sequence, we again experience one of Hesse's close-ups — in this instance, Siddhartha is reminded of a peculiar dream on a certain evening. Siddhartha, so thoroughly conditioned by his life with the Samanas, is utterly unfulfilled by the superficiality of life with the child-people. He reflects on the elements of time and aging, retires after midnight, and puts in a night of complete personal misery. It is only at dawn that he sleeps at all, at which time he has the dream of which he seems to have been reminded the evening before. It is a highly symbolic dream in which a primal element of nature is the key symbol. He dreams of Kamala's little pet bird, symbolic of Siddhartha's spiritual self which he now believes to be dead. He reflects upon the desert of his soul and resolves that because his life among the child-people is a slow, corrosive death, he must leave the city that night. The sterile life of the city has become a prison for his soul as the cage is a prison for the little songbird.

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