When Siddhartha leaves the grove, he is done with teachers and teaching. He wants to know himself, learn from himself, and understand himself. He feels as though he is seeing the world, puzzling and magical, for the first time. He realizes he is in the middle of the world and that he is not enlightened, but that he can awaken while learning more about himself. Siddhartha is suddenly infused with a powerful certainty in his own powers of self-realization. He feels he has truly become a man. He believes his path to Nirvana will not come from following another person’s prescriptive lifestyle. Instead, Siddhartha feels sure that his path to enlightenment will come from within himself. Thus resolved, his new task will be to discover how to find this enlightenment. His first impulse is to return home to his father, but then he realizes that his home is part of the past. He suddenly knows he is completely alone, and a shudder runs through him.
In “Awakening,” Siddhartha fully understands that discovery and enlightenment must come through the world of the here and now. Siddhartha suddenly sees the world’s beauty and realizes that meaning is everywhere. Here, in the midst of what exists within him and around him, Siddhartha must discover who and what he is. He calls this discovery a rebirth, one of several rebirths he will undergo during his quest. This rebirth signifies the death of what he was and his ignorance of what he will become. He knows he cannot return to his father because he will not gain any more wisdom from the past. He is also aware that he does not know where he’ll end up. In a way, this moment exists independently of the rest of time: briefly, Siddhartha has no remembered past and no discernible future. This moment in the present marks more than a transition, however, because it offers Siddhartha a glimpse of the sum of all individual instants in time. Although Siddhartha barely realizes it, this supreme awareness brings him close to the unity he seeks.
“Awakening” encapsulates the revelation Siddhartha has learned from his experiences in the preceding chapters: Enlightenment cannot be reached by relying on teachers or by ignoring the world. This chapter marks the end of one phase of Siddhartha’s quest. The next part of his quest must take him away from the spiritual world and into the material world. Although Siddhartha had considered the freedoms and limitations of the spiritual and material worlds in earlier chapters, he contemplates them more fully here. Since these thoughts end Part One, and since Siddhartha has an actual moment of enlightenment in the middle of the chapter, we can assume that these considerations prompt Siddhartha’s greater understanding of self. “Awakening” gathers the import of the first few chapters, crystallizes them within Siddhartha’s mind, and shows how they act as catalyst for revelation, prompting Siddhartha to move forward into the material world. He can no longer ignore the material world. His imminent investigation of the material world, and the knowledge he’ll gain from this investigation, will be just as important as the knowledge he has gained thus far from his association with teachers and religion.
The conclusion to “Awakening” suggests that Siddhartha’s upcoming investigation into the material world is a continuation of a correct path toward enlightenment. Siddhartha knows what he seeks and is aware of when he moves toward it or remains static in one stage of development. Although he feels a moment of despair about his solitude, he continues with renewed vigor. The lessons he has learned are clear in his mind, he sees the world in its beauty, and he is energized to move forward. Although he does not have a clear sense of how he’ll achieve his enlightenment, he is confident that he will find his way through his own direction. The heightened moment of lyricism in the middle of the chapter seemingly bolsters Siddhartha’s confidence. Through this lyrical writing, Hesse conveys to the reader that Siddhartha’s optimism is correct, and that the next steps will bring him closer to his goal.