In this novel the protagonist of the story, Siddhartha, believes that the teachings of others will not allow you to reach Nirvana. Therefore, he sets out on a journey to experience the world for himself, the good and the bad, in order to become closer to enlightenment and to eventually become an enlightened one himself, a Buddha. After each experience Siddhartha comes to a new conclusion as his outlook on life changes, as he becomes closer to enlightenment.
In the beginning of the book Siddhartha is already living in one extreme. He has a perfect life and is sheltered from all harm by his father, the Brahmin. He has plenty of food. He is loved and respected by all of the Brahmins. The women of his village all want him. He has everything he could ever want, or so you would think. He has learned all that he feels he could learn from the teachings of the Brahmins, however, his thirst for knowledge is not satiated. One day a group of a ascetics, called Shramanas pass through his town. They believe in attaining Nirvana through the rejection of worldly pleasures. This teaching is different than the way of the Brahmin's. Siddhartha and his friend Govinda, who is like Siddhartha's shadow, both go and join the Shramanas. They relinquish all of their worldly possessions and wander the forests. Siddhartha, after living the life of a Shrama for many years, no longer looks like the young boy he was when he left his father and the Brahmins. After some time, he has become a well respected member of the Shramanas. However, he realizes that though his elders have achieved many things both physically and spiritually, none of them have ever fully attained spiritual enlightenment. He realizes that this path is not the path to Nirvana. He has learned all that he feels he has needed to learn from the Shramanas and it is time to move on.
During the time that Siddhartha and Govinda decide that it is timeto depart with the Shramanas they hear stories of a holy man named Gotama. He has allegedly attained total spiritual enlightenment, Nirvana. Siddhartha and Govinda decide to visit this holy man to see for themselves. They find Gotama and his followers and are welcomed to stay and to hear his teachings. They learn of the Eightfold Path, the Four Main Points, and other aspects of Buddhism. Govinda is convinced by Gotama's teachings and decides to stay, however, Siddhartha finds contradictions in the Buddha's teaching and does not believe that this path will lead to enlightenment. In truth, he begins doubt if any teaching will lead to true enlightenment. He leaves Govinda behind and begins his own quest for the meaning of life. He will make his own path.
Siddhartha, now alone, goes from one extreme to the other. While with the Shramanas, he rejected all forms of pleasure and earthly desires. Now on his own path he begins to embrace them. In his travels he meets Vasudeva, a kind ferryman who takes him accoss the river at the price of nothing more than his...