No one saves us, but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path, Buddhas merely teach the way.- Paul Carus
This line from the novel, marks a key turning point in Siddhartha’s quest. Unknown to him, it actually symbolizes an awakening, a realization that each one has to seek his own enlightenment. Siddhartha was brought up in a rigorous brahmin household where he learnt the Vedas and the Upanishads, fasted and pronounced the Om, practiced contemplation and meditation, and all the daily customary routines of a pure life, and yet he went out into the world to seek the Self, the Absolute. He joined the roaming ascetics and learnt how to control his senses, how to perform austerities and live with extreme physical deprivation, and he realized that he had not yet learnt how to attain salvation.
Siddhartha realizes that salvation can be attained through actions, through experiencing the real world, and not through rote, and escapism. He indicates that he would rather live the life of a karma yogi, and find the path to salvation on his own. He realizes that knowledge can be acquired, can be taught, but wisdom is self-acquired and this wisdom leads to enlightenment, to the ultimate escape from samsara, the cycle of birth and death.
Buddhist teachings reject dogmas, customs and doctrines, as leading to spiritual enlightenment. The central theme of Buddha’s teachings is to practice compassion, right living, right thought and right action to attain the ultimate goal of salvation.