by: Hermann Hesse


Siddhartha’s best friend, Govinda, is also an earnest spiritual pilgrim but does not question teachings to the same extent Siddhartha does. For example, though Govinda is excited at the chance to follow Gotama, Siddhartha goes along but says he has lost his faith in teachers. When Siddhartha decides to leave Gotama’s side, Govinda instead remains stalwartly committed. Govinda does not choose his own path but follows the suggestions of others. Similarly, when the two old friends meet in the end, Govinda quickly apprentices himself to Siddhartha because Siddhartha has attained the Nirvana they both seek. The significant difference between Govinda and Siddhartha is that Govinda is primarily a follower, whereas Siddhartha is more inclined to strike out on his own path. This difference is one of the reasons Siddhartha is eventually able to achieve enlightenment through his own efforts, while Govinda needs assistance in order to achieve the same state. Siddhartha is better able to see the truth before him because of his self-reliance. Govinda needs others to point out the wisdom he should follow and is unable to see when he is following a flawed path and, ultimately, when he is nearing enlightenment.

At the beginning of their quest, when Govinda joins the Samanas, he may well have gone along simply to be with his friend. However, the severity and austere nature of their new lifestyle leaves little reason to doubt Govinda’s conviction. He may be more of a follower than Siddhartha is, but his conviction and determination to find enlightenment are still strong. He does, after all, eventually find enlightenment, just as Siddhartha does—he just arrives at it in a different way.