Siddhartha

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is Siddhartha’s childhood friend, who grows up admiring Siddhartha’s high calling and wants to follow him on his journey, which he believes will lead to sainthood. Govinda’s own path seems to always follow in the footsteps of others. When he leaves Siddhartha’s shadow, it is to start following Gautama instead. He always wears an expression of seeking, and even when he is an old man, he seeks knowledge from Siddhartha the ferryman.

Govinda Quotes in Siddhartha

The Siddhartha quotes below are all either spoken by Govinda or refer to Govinda. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Path to Spiritual Enlightenment Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of Siddhartha published in 1999.
Part One, Chapter 2 – Among the Samanas Quotes

“I do not desire to walk on water,” said Siddhartha. “Let old samanas content themselves with such tricks.”

Related Characters: Siddhartha (speaker), Govinda
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Siddhartha, now disillusioned with the Samanas, has decided to leave them. In order to go, he must inform the leader of his intent to leave, and the leader is furious about it until Siddhartha hypnotizes him and he acquiesces. The hypnosis proves that Siddhartha has learned a lot from the Samanas and, much like he could have been successful within the traditional path of the Brahmins, he could have become a powerful Samana.

Siddhartha distrusts this kind of straightforward path to success and enlightenment, though – to be able to overpower the Samana leader so quickly shows Siddhartha that maybe he has learned enough from the Samanas and he might be able to push his gifts further in different circumstances. In this exchange, Govinda tells Siddhartha that he could be a great Samana and learn to walk on water, and Siddhartha informs him that this is besides the point. He doesn't want to learn powerful tricks, he wants enlightenment, and he doesn't think the Samanas can get him there. This is one of many examples of Siddhartha distrusting anything that seems too easy and straightforward. He seems to think that enlightenment must come from challenging oneself even if that means rejecting received wisdom.

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Part Two, Chapter 5 – Kamala Quotes

“He is like Govinda,” he thought, smiling. “All the people I meet on my path are like Govinda. All are thankful, although they themselves have the right to be thanked. All are subservient, all want to be friends, like to obey, think little. People are children.”

Related Characters: Siddhartha (speaker), Govinda
Page Number: 46-47
Explanation and Analysis:

Siddhartha has an ambivalent relationship to the adjective "childlike." On the one hand, Gautama's smile – which represents enlightenment – is described as childlike, and it is a childlike presence and openness that embodies enlightenment. On the other hand, Siddhartha still condescends to the townspeople for being "childlike" in that they do not seem as willing or able to think for themselves as Siddhartha is.

The townspeople, like Govinda, want to be told what to do and want to fixate on manageable concerns rather than exploring and pushing themselves, which has been Siddhartha's path. Siddhartha here is somewhat misguided; he has to learn that living in a society like this one can be simultaneously petty and profound. From these townspeople, Siddhartha will learn important lessons about human relationships, and he will also learn of his susceptibility to the same kinds of spiritual traps they fall into. So this condescension is an indicator that there's a lesson here for Siddhartha that will bring him closer to enlightenment through hardship, beauty, and opening his mind. 

Part Two, Chapter 12 – Govinda Quotes

“I have found a thought, Govinda, that you will again take as a joke or as folly, but it is my best thought. This is it: The opposite of every truth is just as true!”

Related Characters: Siddhartha (speaker), Siddhartha, Govinda
Page Number: 124
Explanation and Analysis:

As Vasudeva's parting foreshadowed the necessity of those who have achieved enlightenment to teach others, Govinda comes to seek out the wise ferryman (who is now Siddhartha), just as Siddhartha once sought out Vasudeva. Govinda has been following Gautama's teachings, but has not yet achieved enlightenment and is still seeking it.

Govinda, as he always has, is looking for a shortcut to enlightenment through hearing the wisdom learned by others. Siddhartha knows that the experiential truths he has learned cannot be communicated in words, so he tells Govinda this, saying that every truth is two-sided, and that speaking the truth would eliminate one of the sides. Siddhartha has learned from the river that all things are true at once because all things are the same – life is unity, it only has the illusion of being broken into discrete parts and truths because of time. He tries to steer Govinda into an understanding that Govinda's search for a single truth will always leave him empty handed because it is contrary to the nature of the universe. Instead of seeking something, Govinda must open himself to everything.

He no longer saw his friend Siddhartha’s face; instead he saw other faces, many, a long row, a streaming river of faces, hundreds, thousands, which all came and faded and yet seemed all to be there at once, which kept changing and being renewed, and yet which all were Siddhartha.

Related Characters: Siddhartha, Govinda
Related Symbols: The Smile
Page Number: 130
Explanation and Analysis:

Govinda is about to leave the river just as confused and anxious as before. He is impressed by Siddhartha's presence, but finds his words confusing and unhelpful. Before he goes, Siddhartha kisses his friend and in this moment Govinda has a vision. It is significant that it is an act, not an explanation, that pushes Govinda into challenging his ideas about the world. It is also significant that Govinda has a vision of the river that is similar to the one Siddhartha had; he sees a river of faces that are different but still all one. In this vision he sees good and evil and many other supposed opposites unified in the river, and the unity he sees is visualized by the smile Siddhartha wears.

Siddhartha, like Vasudeva, has now helped someone else take steps towards finding unity. Like Vasudeva, this has occurred in the form of a natural vision that conjured the same peaceful smile that the enlightened wear. Govinda's vision indicates that Siddhartha has become truly enlightened.

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Govinda Character Timeline in Siddhartha

The timeline below shows where the character Govinda appears in Siddhartha. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part One, Chapter 1 – The Brahmin's Son
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...riverside home, the son of a Brahmin, and lives a spiritual life with his friend Govinda, performing holy offerings and conversing with the sages, the wise men, learning their philosophies. Siddhartha... (full context)
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But Siddhartha’s most loyal love comes from Govinda, who admires all of his qualities and his high calling in life. Govinda knows that... (full context)
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Siddhartha meditates with Govinda and recites a verse about the soul being an arrow and the ‘om’ a bow.... (full context)
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Govinda, realizing that this is the moment when Siddhartha’s path will separate from his, worriedly asks... (full context)
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...bids farewell to his mother and leaves the town. He is pleased when his shadow, Govinda, catches up with him, devoted enough to follow him into his new life as a... (full context)
Part One, Chapter 2 – Among the Samanas
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That evening, Siddhartha and Govinda approach the samanas and are accepted to join them. They give away their clothes and... (full context)
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Siddhartha asks Govinda, who has been living this painful samana life along with him, whether he thinks they... (full context)
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...They don’t seem to be getting any closer to their goal. Siddhartha, slightly mockingly, tells Govinda that he has decided to leave the samana path, because he doesn’t trust that learning... (full context)
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Govinda doesn’t understand how Siddhartha could say such things. It terrifies him to doubt everything he... (full context)
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After three years leading the samana life, a rumor reaches Siddhartha and Govinda of a Sublime teacher, called Gautama, the Buddha, who had also wandered through the land... (full context)
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...But the rumors are colored equally with doubt. Siddhartha distrusts the idea of teaching, but Govinda wishes more than anything to hear the Sublime One speak. Siddhartha expresses his surprise at... (full context)
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Siddhartha tells the eldest samana that he and Govinda plan to leave and the samana is furious. Govinda is embarrassed to have upset their... (full context)
Part One, Chapter 3 – Gautama
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...and his disciples are worshipped. He is given a grove called Jetavana. When Siddhartha and Govinda arrive in the town, they ask their host where to find the Buddha and she... (full context)
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Excited, Govinda wants to hear more but Siddhartha pushes them on to the grove, which they soon... (full context)
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...to beg. This is where Siddhartha first sees the Buddha and points him out to Govinda. He looks much the same as the other monks but they both know instinctively that... (full context)
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Siddhartha and Govinda plan not to eat anything that day. They observe the Buddha taking a tiny morsel... (full context)
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After the teaching, like many others, Govinda asks to be accepted into the Buddha’s fellowship. He is accepted and goes to Siddhartha... (full context)
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That night, Govinda continues to question Siddhartha about the fault he sees in the teaching. Siddhartha reassures him... (full context)
Part One, Chapter 4 – Awakening
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As he leaves the Buddha and Govinda, Siddhartha feels that he is leaving his old life. He muses deeply in this feeling,... (full context)
Part Two, Chapter 5 – Kamala
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...along the way in a ferryman’s hut by the river and has a dream about Govinda. In the dream, Govinda is in the ascetic’s yellow robe and is sad that Siddhartha... (full context)
Part Two, Chapter 6 – Among the Child People
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...love from Kamala, and her friendship warms him. She seems more akin to him than Govinda. Siddhartha one day tries to explain this kinship to Kamala. He tells her that she... (full context)
Part Two, Chapter 7 – Samsara
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...he made was with Kamala. He reflected on the feeling he’d had after he left Govinda with the monks, of delight at realizing his own voice, and it seemed like a... (full context)
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...die within him. He sits contemplating in the grove, and considers how he has left Govinda and Gautama in order to own things like this grove and sees that it was... (full context)
Part Two, Chapter 8 – By the River
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...At first, he thinks the man is a stranger but then he recognizes him as Govinda. Govinda has aged, like Siddhartha has, but still wears the expression of devotion that he... (full context)
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Siddhartha thanks Govinda and, as they part, calls him by his name. Siddhartha explains how he knows him... (full context)
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Siddhartha reminds Govinda that the world is ephemeral. Outward identities are passed through as one passes the stages... (full context)
Part Two, Chapter 12 – Govinda
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One day, Govinda is resting in the pleasure grove with the other monks and hears the rumor of... (full context)
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Govinda asks Siddhartha for a word of advice. Siddhartha doesn’t know what he can say to... (full context)
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In the morning, Govinda wishes to know one last thing before he goes, whether Siddhartha has any teaching, any... (full context)
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Siddhartha comes to his best thought. He tells Govinda that “the opposite of every truth is just as true.” Only one-sided truths can be... (full context)
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...a flower. He does not love words. He suggests that it is words that keep Govinda from finding peace, that Nirvana is only the word Nivarna, nothing else. Govinda claims it... (full context)
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Siddhartha tells Govinda that he has come to see love as the most important thing now. Govinda reminds... (full context)
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Govinda thanks Siddhartha for his thoughts. He doesn’t understand but wishes him well. To himself, Govinda... (full context)
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Govinda wishes for one word that he can understand, to take with him when they part... (full context)