For many years they forgo everything, contenting themselves with meditation, begging, and sleeping on the ground in the woods. Siddhartha learns much from the elder Samnara’s, but again he grows restless, wanting something more, something else that he can’t quite define. It is at this juncture Govinda and Siddhartha go see Gotama, or the Buddha and listen to his dharma talks. Govinda is transformed by Gotama’s words and immediately converts and dons the yellow robe of monkhood. He pleads with Siddhartha to do likewise, but Siddhartha says he cannot learn anything from a teacher anymore, and they part ways.
Instead, Siddhartha decides to learn what it is to love, and his travels take him to the beautiful courtesan Kamala. She agree’s to teach him the ways of love, if he baths and perfumes and oils his hair and treats her to beautiful things. This means that Siddhartha must now find gainful employment and he becomes apprenticed to a wealthy trader. Siddhartha boasts that he only needs to know how fast, meditate and be patient to obtain what he needs.
But things don’t go the way Siddhartha expects and after many years he finds himself staring into the river in abject despair contemplating suicide, but the river speaks to him with the universal sound and Siddhartha enters into a third stage in his life. It is here with the river and an old ferryman that Siddhartha learns the meaning of life, and death.
This is not a very long book, but it covers a lot of ground. I think it helped that I understood many of the Buddist and yogic terms and concepts because they are so integral to the story - knowing those concepts really helped to fill out the characters and what Hesse was attempting to convey. Hesse wrote one phrase in particular that has stuck with me: "Wisdom cannot be learned. Knowledge can be, but not wisdom."