Religion plays a large part in everyone?s life. In Herman Hesse?s epic story Siddhartha the aspect of religion is taken apart and looked at from nearly every possible angle. There are many key concepts revolving around the main theme of religion, but three which seem to me to be the most important and powerful are the ideas of control of self and soul; that knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom; and the closely related ideas that time is not real and The Oneness of All Experience.
In Siddhartha the idea of Control of Self and Soul is very important, not only to religion but in the gaining of knowledge and wisdom. Once a woman tempts Siddhartha to make love with her, but he hardens his soul and moves on. Shortly thereafter he finds the courtesan Kamala who captivates him and with whom he later learns the art of love. He is then glad that he resisted temptation. Siddhartha becomes rich so that he may experience all of life, and when he becomes nauseous with the pointlessness of his wealthy life and tries to commit suicide, he stops himself and thinks about what he is doing. He soon realizes the folly of his action and starts his life anew. Siddhartha believes that anything can be overcome if one will control himself. he expresses this to Kamala one day, saying; "Nothing is caused by demons; there are no demons. Everyone can perform magic, everyone can reach his goal, if he can think, wait and fast." I agree with Siddhartha?s thinking. All problems can be solved, you just have to know how to do it.
The second concept in Siddhartha is the idea that knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. Siddhartha believes this very strongly, and feels it is only right that one must gain wisdom for himself. When he and Govinda come to the garden of the Buddha and listen to Gotoma?s words, Govinda is immediately converted and stays. Siddhartha, however, does not. He respects Gotoma and believes that he has actually reached Nirvana, but Siddhartha does not believe that Gotoma can teach him to reach it. Later Siddhartha finds himself at a river, having run away from his riches. Here he sees another wise man, Vasudeva, the ferryman. He stays at the river and learns wisdom for himself. Siddhartha learns of the wonders of life, and that what he had always held to be true was true; that wisdom is not teachable. When he again meets his friend Govinda he tells him of the wisdom that he has found. "Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. One can find it, live it, be fortified by it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate and teach it." He then tells Govinda about Vasudeva. "For example, there was a man at this ferry who was my predecessor and teacher. He was a holy man who for many years believed only in the river and nothing else. He noticed that the river?s voice spoke to him. He learned from it; it educated and taught him. The river seemed like a god to him and for many years he did not know that every wind, every cloud, every bird, every beetle is equally divine and knows and can teach just as well as the esteemed river." Belief is everything, and I believe in what this book says, that everything is important, no matter how small. I also believe that it Siddhartha is correct; that wisdom is not communicable. A man can spend years learning physics and can be so intelligent that he invents the next nuclear weapon, but did he have the wisdom not to build it in the first place? The answer is no.
The third key concept in Siddhartha is really two very closely related ideas. The idea that time is not real and the oneness of all experience. All experience is happening every moment. Everything exists all at once, and the only thing separating these existances is the illusion of time. When Siddhartha is sitting by the river Vasudeva comes up to him and asks what he has learned from the river, and Siddhartha tells him that he has learned that time is not real. The river is at its mouth and its source and the waterfall and there with them at all times