Siddhartha

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is a ferryman who teaches Siddhartha the importance of listening. The first night that he hosts Siddhartha, he listens perfectly to his story and shows him how to listen to the voice of the river. This provokes Siddhartha’s understanding of natural things and the word of oneness ‘om’. Vasudeva never seems to lose faith or suffer the same griefs as Siddhartha, but he also lives alone and we sense that his wisdom has come from having loved his wife, and been through the trials that Siddhartha is now facing. We learn how close Vasudeva is to enlightenment, even though he is not a thinker or a preacher, when he leaves Siddhartha at the end, to join ‘the oneness’.

Vasudeva Quotes in Siddhartha

The Siddhartha quotes below are all either spoken by Vasudeva or refer to Vasudeva. 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 Two, Chapter 10 – The Son Quotes

“Can I part with him?” he asked softly, embarrassed. “Give me more time, dear friend! Look, I am fighting for him, I am wooing his heart, I want to capture it with love and friendly patience. Let the river speak to him too someday; he too is called.”

Related Characters: Siddhartha (speaker), Siddhartha, Vasudeva, Young Siddhartha
Related Symbols: The River
Page Number: 104
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Siddhartha debates the ferryman about how to handle his young son who has come to live with them. The son grew up in the town with Kamala, and has many of the values from the town that Siddhartha and the ferryman reject. The ferryman, who has learned from the river to let things be as they are, gently prods Siddhartha to allow the boy to go back to the town like he wants, but Siddhartha wants more time with the boy, rationalizing that this time could instill better values in his son. Obviously, this echoes the beginning of the book in which Siddhartha wants to abandon his own father's way of life and his father attempts to prevent him from going before finally relenting to Siddhartha's stubborn insistence.

In a sense, then, Siddhartha's experience with his son marks a cyclical reunification with one of the early trials of Siddhartha's journey to enlightenment, only this time it is inverted. Instead of breaking out from his father's way of life, Siddhartha has to now recognize the importance of allowing his son to take his own path, even if it is counter to the one Siddhartha wants for him. Furthermore, Siddhartha cannot himself instill wisdom in his son; as his own journey has taught him, knowledge has to be earned experientially. There is nothing Siddhartha can tell his son that would be as valuable as allowing him to make his own mistakes and discoveries.

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Part Two, Chapter 11 – Om Quotes

Radiant was Vasudeva’s smile, it hovered, luminous, over all the wrinkles in his old face just as the om hovered over all the voices of the river. Bright shone his smile when he looked at his friend, and bright now glowed the very same smile on Siddhartha’s face.

Related Characters: Siddhartha, Vasudeva
Related Symbols: The Smile, The River
Page Number: 119
Explanation and Analysis:

Though Siddhartha has accepted that his son is gone and he cannot change him, he still feels bitterness and hurt. He is jealous of people who have loving father-son relationships, and wonders if the child people were wiser than he was all along for prioritizing their loved ones. Siddhartha is mostly happy and at peace, but the wound from his son is the only thing bothering him. Finally, after a climactic moment of feeling the river laughing at him for his silliness about his son, Siddhartha, at Vasudeva's urging, looks into the river and demands more than he ever has.

The river gives him a vision of unity, in which all voices are one, all times are one, all emotions are one, and he is one with all of it. Looking back up from the river, Siddhartha finally has the smile – symbolizing enlightenment – that Gautama and Vasudeva have. That Siddhartha attains this enlightenment as an old person – Hesse is careful to point out the wrinkles in his face – is important. The path to enlightenment was long and arduous and there are no shortcuts. Siddhartha had to earn every bit of wisdom through experience and through listening to himself rather than others. Finally, it's important that this final knowledge comes from the river, which symbolizes the unity into which Siddhartha has entered.

“I am going into the forest, I am going into the oneness,” said Vasudeva, radiant.

Related Characters: Vasudeva (speaker), Vasudeva
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:

After Siddhartha experiences his vision unity when looking in the river, Vasudeva reveals that his role in Siddhartha's life is complete. He has pointed Siddhartha to the wisdom of the river, and Siddhartha has successfully learned from it. The two no longer need one another, and Vasudeva decides to go to the forest. This parting is not sad or even ambivalent – both men have learned that, like the river, they cannot control others and they cannot control fate. Further, they know that things seem to come and go, but in reality everything is part of the same unity. Because of this understanding, Vasudeva's leaving does not feel like a parting, but rather a moment of spiritual radiance.

However, the fact Vasudeva seems to have been liberated by having passed his own knowledge to Siddhartha points to one last thing that Siddhartha needs to do. To be implicated in the chain of spiritual enlightenment, he must do what he can to steer someone else into the kinds of experiences that provide enlightenment. 

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Vasudeva Character Timeline in Siddhartha

The timeline below shows where the character Vasudeva appears in Siddhartha. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part Two, Chapter 5 – Kamala
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The next day, Siddhartha gets a ride with the ferryman across the river and the ferryman tells him about his love for the river, how... (full context)
Part Two, Chapter 9 – The Ferryman
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Siddhartha knows he wants to stay by the river, and resolves to find the ferryman who had showed him kindness before. He thinks this is the way to start his... (full context)
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...not wish any longer to be judged for these clothes. He offers them to the ferryman in exchange for his apron. He also asks if he can be the ferryman’s assistant... (full context)
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Siddhartha watches Vasudeva row with admiration for his calm strength and focus. He remembers the fondness he had... (full context)
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Vasudeva listens carefully. Listening is the ferryman’s great virtue. Siddhartha feels that Vasudeva is absorbing all... (full context)
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Siddhartha accepts and praises Vasudeva for his ability to listen, hoping to learn it from him one day, but Vasudeva... (full context)
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On another occasion, Siddhartha asks the ferryman if it is true that the river is all voices, each woman, man and creature.... (full context)
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...try to go on towards the river but Kamala collapses. Young Siddhartha is distraught. Luckily, Vasudeva hears Kamala’s cry and comes to her and carries her to the hut. Siddhartha sees... (full context)
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...learned from the Brahmins and sings it. His son calms down and sleeps. Siddhartha and Vasudeva know that Kamala is dying. She awakes again in great pain. She tells Siddhartha that... (full context)
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...figure stretched out and pale. He has a deep feeling of the eternity of life. Vasudeva prepares food for him, but he doesn’t eat. He spends the night sitting outside the... (full context)
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Early in the morning, Vasudeva comes out and Siddhartha tells him that he has been reflecting, listening to the river... (full context)
Part Two, Chapter 10 – The Son
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...and learn to love him, is disappointed. Young Siddhartha is defiant and rude. One day, Vasudeva approaches Siddhartha about it. It saddens him to see his friend so misused. He sees... (full context)
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...he can woo his son and that eventually, young Siddhartha will hear the river too. Vasudeva agrees that certainly the boy is destined for something, but they do not know what... (full context)
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Siddhartha is saddened and ashamed but when Vasudeva suggests that the boy should be brought back to the town, Siddhartha is reluctant to... (full context)
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Vasudeva had never spoken so much at once. Siddhartha thinks restlessly about it. He knows Vasudeva... (full context)
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...for the child’s safety and begs that they make a raft and follow him. But Vasudeva responds that they will make a raft only to fetch the boat back and they... (full context)
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They build the raft and go over to the boat that has been abandoned. Vasudeva takes an axe with them, because he suspects that young Siddhartha may have destroyed their... (full context)
Part Two, Chapter 11 – Om
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Siddhartha has gradually learned what real wisdom is and he is even more drawn to Vasudeva, as the embodiment of the oneness and the smile that real wisdom is all about.... (full context)
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Siddhartha goes back to the hut, wanting to open his heart to Vasudeva, the great listener. Vasudeva is old and slow now, but still wears his serene smile.... (full context)
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Siddhartha stops thinking about his wound and the presence of Vasudeva fills him up. Vasudeva’s transformation seems right and just. He realizes that he views Vasudeva... (full context)
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...son and lonely father, and himself. The voice of the river is lamenting and determined. Vasudeva urges Siddhartha to keep listening and listen better. The images of his friends and family... (full context)
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...to him in a single word, ‘om’. Siddhartha’s face takes on the same radiance of Vasudeva’s. He feels his wound blossoming and his ego becoming one with everything else. (full context)
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Siddhartha’s suffering has stopped. He knows divine, perfect knowledge. Vasudeva sees that Siddhartha has this knowledge thanks to the river and happily he tells Siddhartha... (full context)
Part Two, Chapter 12 – Govinda
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...but Siddhartha doesn’t see much difference between words and thoughts. It is things that matter. Vasudeva showed this in his belief in the river. He became venerable without books. Govinda is... (full context)