No longer knowing whether time existed, whether this display had lasted a second or a hundred years, whether there was a Siddhartha, or a Gotama, a Self and others, wounded deeply by a divine arrow which gave him pleasure, deeply enchanted and exalted, Govinda stood yet a while bending over Siddhartha’s peaceful face which he had just kissed, which had just been the stage of all present and future forms. His countenance was unchanged after the mirror of the thousand-fold forms had disappeared from the surface. He smiled peacefully and gently, perhaps very graciously, perhaps very mockingly, exactly as the Illustrious One had smiled.

This quotation appears near the end of “Govinda,” the novel’s final chapter, and it serves as both Siddhartha’s ultimate vindication and a contradiction to Siddhartha’s beliefs. First, it leaves no question as to whether Siddhartha has succeeded in his lifelong quest to reach enlightenment. Siddhartha’s face is the same touchstone of enlightenment once known only to Gotama, and Govinda can actually taste the Nirvana he emanates. Govinda finally acknowledges that Siddhartha’s methods were the right ones all along. While Govinda’s road toward Nirvana was more traditionally pious, Siddhartha’s path proved more successful. All along Siddhartha had claimed Nirvana can come only from within, and that teachers could not impart enlightenment to students. Govinda seems to accept this contention at last.

However, an ambiguity emerges as this chapter draws to a close. Govinda seems to have achieved Nirvana by kissing Siddhartha’s forehead. This description of Govinda’s transcendent understanding is remarkably similar to Siddhartha’s own experience of Nirvana. If Siddhartha can transmit Nirvana through a kiss, however, he contradicts his own central belief that Nirvana can come only from within. Possibly, Siddhartha gives Govinda merely a glimpse of true enlightenment, not enlightenment itself, essentially pointing the way for Govinda, much as Vasudeva pointed the way for him.