As an adolescent, Siddhartha pursued asceticism. Having found a community of like minded individuals, Siddhartha began to form an intact identity that he could present to others. Through the development of this identity, Siddhartha began to test his resolve and undertake increasingly difficult tasks associated with Self-abnegation.
As an initiate amongst the ascetics, Siddhartha met the Buddha, who had achieved Nirvana. Siddhartha “loved” and “venerated” this individual because he achieved the goal Siddhartha sought (Hesse, 2002, p. 31). However, Siddhartha could not find solace within the Buddha’s teachings, which caused him to separate from his childhood companion who had become a disciple of the Buddha. After dismissing the lessons taught by a higher adept of Self-consciousness, Siddhartha felt alone. “Now he was only Siddhartha, the awakened one, and nothing else… No one was as alone as he was” (Hesse, 2002, p. 45). Siddhartha was awakened to his ego, and for the first time felt alone. Because of this, he sought the company of others.
During early adult-life, Siddhartha longed to engage in a sexual encounter to express his newly acquired sense of manhood.
Around noon he came to a village… At the far end of the village, the way led over a stream, and on the stream’s brink a young woman was kneeling and washing clothes… Siddhartha greeted her, and she raised her head and looked up at him and smiled… She stood up and approached him… she put her left foot on top of his right and made the movement women make when they are enticing a man to make love to them in the style known in the textbooks as “climbing a tree.” Siddhartha felt his blood heating up, and because his dream returned to his mind at that moment, he bent down over the woman and kissed the brown tip of her breast with his lips… Siddhartha felt longing and felt sexuality stir, but since he had never yet touched a woman, he hesitated a moment, just as his hand were reaching out to take hold of her. And in this moment, with a shudder he heard his inner voice, and the voice said no… Kindly he stroked her cheek, turned away from her, and melted nimbly away into the bamboo thicket… (Hesse, 2002, pp. 54-55)
Sexual encounters during young adult-life are common. Early sexual encounters help a person establish their identity (Erikson, 1963). Siddhartha’s sexuality emerged; however, the girl depicted in this passage did not fit into Siddhartha’s overall destiny. Siddhartha kissed the breast of the young woman to nurture his sexual longings. Possibly his hesitation in carrying through with the act of consummating a relationship with this young woman was remnant of unresolved Oedipal conflicts that afflicted his childhood development. Nevertheless, Siddhartha’s conscious did not allow him to carry through with this act of sexual longing. A woman who washed her own clothes at a stream could not nurture the needs of his growing sexual prowess. This woman was not a worthy opponent; she was not similar to his mother and therefore could meet the obligation needed to help the young man sever the anima from the mother archetype that originally housed its polarities. The young lady was of a lower caste than Siddhartha, who was a prince amongst bramins. Although Siddhartha became open to the power of the anima in this passage, he could not consummate a relationship with a woman of a lower caste.
Siddhartha denied all teachings. However, as a young adult he could not turn his back on the history provided him by his family lineage and his personal choice to pursue an ascetic lifestyle. Siddhartha intermingled with a person of a lower caste; however, before he could undertake the deed of making love to a woman beneath his social position, Siddhartha conscience took over and warned him of the impending danger. Siddhartha had awakened sexually to the prowess the anima has on the instincts of the male psyche, but could not make love to a woman that was beneath him.
Human relationships become more complex as people age. Siddhartha longed for a sexual encounter. While Siddhartha was easily able to court this woman, he needed to find a worthy opponent of his own caste with whom to practice the game of love.
On the edge of the city, by a beautiful cloistered grove, the wanderer came upon a small procession of male and female servants laden with baskets. In their midst… sat a woman, their mistress, on red cushions… Beneath the black hair coifed high on her head, he saw a very bright, very tender, very intelligent face, a bright red mouth like a fig newly broken open, eyebrows that had been trained and painted into lofty arches, dark eyes, intelligent and alert… Siddhartha saw how beautiful she was, and his heart laughed. He bowed… Smiling, the beautiful woman briefly nodded to him, then vanished into the grove, followed by her servants. This is the way I enter this city, thought Siddhartha—under a gracious sign. (Hesse, 2002, pp. 55-56)
From a friendly nod, Siddhartha was granted permission from the awaiting mistress to enter the city and begin pursuing her in a game of courtship.
This passage is laden with sexual innuendoes. This woman was no ordinary woman; the fact that servants surrounded her suggests she was of a high caste. She was a woman of power, who Siddhartha knew would be a worthy opponent. Siddhartha showed her respect because she was an object that he wanted. The mistress represents an anima projection, a worthy opponent with whom Siddhartha could practice his emergent sexuality.
The woman sat on red cushions. Red is a warm color that evokes many emotions associated with passion, rage, and lust. In this passage, the cushions also lie at the seat of the mistresses’ sexuality. These innuendoes continue in the explanation that the mistresses’ lips were like a fig newly broken open. The mistress’ lips were ripe for the young brahmin’s taking. However, the mistress is not only sexual. Hesse also explained the mistress as having an intelligent face. Siddhartha sought to learn love; to learn of this emotion, he needed to find someone who has knowledge of the specific nuances sexuality creates between two people. Siddhartha needed a master of the loving arts, with whom he could engage his sexuality as a man. The mistress was of the appropriate caste, intelligence, and beauty to appease Siddhartha’s innermost needs.
The mistress of this passage is bright. She represents a positive anima figure with whom Siddhartha can become enlightened to his sexual longings. She is a princess, not a peasant. However, Siddhartha had a more difficult time engaging the mistress from the appropriate caste than he did with a woman that fell below his social position. Furthermore, a degree of mystery is discernible in this passage. Siddhartha wanted to know this mystery. The mistress represented beauty, possibly similar to the protagonist’s own mother, who was a queen amongst the brahmin’s. Siddhartha would finally consummate his Oedipal longings with a princess rather than a pauper. The brahmin who sought to abandon his caste now sought to know the mystery of love with a woman from a similar caste. The feelings Siddhartha sought to suppress became the very feelings he wished to engage in a lovemaking ritual. The mistress was of the appropriate caste, had servants, and graciously nodded to Siddhartha. However, Siddhartha still had one remnant left from his childhood; he had yet to cut off the hair and beard that identified him as an ascetic.
Siddhartha was an ascetic; being such, he could not attract the beauty of a young woman that sought worldly riches.
He felt drawn to enter the grove immediately, but he reconsidered and for the first time became aware of how the servants and maids at the entrance had looked at him, how disdainfully, with what suspicion, what rejection. I am still a shramana, he thought, still an ascetic and a beggar. I cannot stay like that; like that I cannot enter the grove. And he laughed… Then he entered the city. He had an aim now. Following this aim, he let himself be swallowed up by the city… Toward evening he made friends with a barber’s assistant whom he had seen working in the shadow of an archway and met again praying in a temple of Vishnu. He told him stories about Vishnu and Lakshmi. He slept the night by the boats on the river, and early in the morning, before the first customers arrived in the shop, he had the barber’s assistant shave off his beard and cut and comb his hair and anoint it with fine oil. Then he bathed in the river. (Hesse, 2002, pp. 56-57)
The act of courting a woman is ritualistic. People learn to groom themselves in a manner they feel will lead others to accept them as a worthy lover. Siddhartha felt the disdain the servants projected on him due to his outside appearance. Siddhartha knew that his outside appearance would affect his ability to court the mistress. Siddhartha needed to make drastic changes to compete for her love. Siddhartha was ready to engage an adult relationship. By cutting off his hair, anointing it with fine oil, shaving off his beard, and bathing in the river, Siddhartha became ready to court the mistress in an adult relationship, therefore consummating his early adult development with another.
Erikson, E. (1963). Childhood and society (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Norton.
Hesse, H. (2002). Siddhartha: A new translation with an introduction by Paul W. Morris. (C. S. Kohn, Trans.) Boston, MA: Shambhala. (Original work published 1922)