His face resembled that of another person, whom he had once known and loved and even feared. It resembled the face of his father, the Brahmin. He remembered how once, as a youth, he had compelled his father to let him go and join the ascetic, how he had taken leave of him, how he had gone and never returned. Had not his father also suffered the same pain that he was now suffering for his son?

This quotation appears in the chapter titled “Om.” After Siddhartha’s son leaves, Siddhartha resumes the life of a ferryman with Vasudeva. Siddhartha has been sick at heart about his son’s decision to flee back to the city, and the passage of time has not helped to ease the pain. Here, Siddhartha looks into the river, and he sees his father in his reflection in the water. He remembers his own departure from home in the midst of unhappy circumstances, and he remembers that his departure hurt his father, just as his son’s departure hurt Siddhartha himself. He realizes that he could not have stopped his son from leaving, just as Siddhartha’s own father could not have stopped Siddhartha. Although Siddhartha wanted to share with his son all he had learned about life, he accepts now that his son will have to come into his own understanding. Siddhartha could not have helped him in his search for meaning any more than Siddhartha’s own father was able to help Siddhartha. These observations and the solace Siddhartha draws from them mark the beginning of his understanding of life as a river, which is one of the most important aspects of the Nirvana he eventually attains. Like the flow of the river, events in Siddhartha’s life seem inevitable, repetitive, and even circular. Trying to resist the river’s current is senseless. For the first time, Siddhartha truly internalizes these notions, and he begins to understand the ideas of timelessness and peace.