At the beginning of the novel, Siddhartha, the son of the Brahmin, grew up in a town with his best friend, Govinda. Siddhartha is unhappy with his life because his father has a different path chosen for him and he wishes to leave his home to join the Samanas and become an ascetic. Although Siddhartha's father does not approve of him leaving to become a Samana, he knew that Siddhartha had already made his final decision. The purposes of his travels are to reach Nirvana and ascend to Atman. Along the way, he meets the Gotama Buddha, Kamala, Kamaswami, and Vasudeva, who all play an important role in his journey. As Siddhartha travels through various stages of life, he encounters new people and learns several new things within this journey, but there is only one purpose for his travels; to achieve the goal of reaching Nirvana that he has worked towards since his life with the Brahmins.
While with the Samanas, Siddhartha learns and masters many new things from his teachers. There, he had only one goal, and that was to let the Self die. He no longer wanted to be Self or to experience the peace of an empty heart or pure thought. From the Samanas, he learned ways of losing the Self through pain, voluntary suffering, conquering pain, hunger, thirst, and fatigue. He even practiced self-denial through meditation. After leaving the Samanas, he comes to meet the Gotama Buddha. He teaches Siddhartha that knowledge and wisdom are different things and that words are not important. He also taught about suffering, the origin of suffering, and the way to release from suffering. After Siddhartha and Govinda have come all this way together, Govinda chooses to stay with the Buddha and become a monk and Siddhartha continues on towards his goal.
After parting from the Gotama Buddha, Siddhartha meets Kamala, a beautiful and clever woman, and Kamaswami, a merchant. Siddhartha wants to become Kamala's friend and for her to become his teacher.