Siddhartha - Hermann Hesse

I was lucky enough to be sent a copy of Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, from Tara who runs 25 Hour Books! This is one of Tara's favourite books and she was kind enough to share it with me as she knows I share an interest in Buddhism. 

This novel is written as a allegorical tale about a young man named Siddhartha, who makes a spiritual journey across ancient Nepal, during the time of the Gautama Buddha.

In the novel, Siddhartha, a young man, leaves his family for a contemplative life, then, restless, discards it for one of the flesh. He conceives a son, but bored and sickened by lust and greed, moves on again. Near despair, Siddhartha comes to a river where he hears a unique sound. This sound signals the true beginnings of life - the beginning of suffering, rejection, peace and, finally, wisdom. 

The story begins with Siddhartha growing up at home, he is the son of a Brahmin (class of educators, doctors, law makers, scholars, priests and preachers of Dharma in Hinduism) and is destined to be one himself. But Siddhartha is restless, and so he instead joins a wandering group of ascetics with his friend Govinda. The ascetics live a life devoid of all earthly possessions and pleasures, in the aim of reaching a purely spiritual existence.

Siddhartha spends many years with the ascetics and learns much from them. He learns to fast, to pray and to wait. But he still feels like he is searching for something. In an effort to find this something, Siddhartha leaves the ascetics and Govinda (who has gone to join the Gautama Buddha in a search for enlightenment) and sets off to live a life of indulgence and luxury. 

He is fortunate enough to meet a courtesan who takes a liking to him. She helps set him up as an apprentice with a local businessman and helps him to learn about the carnal pleasures of life. Here Siddhartha spends many years making money and losing money.

One day he realises how unhappy he is in this world and sets off again to look for the divine knowledge he has been trying to find for so long. It is only when he reaches the absolute depths of despair by the side of a river, that Siddhartha begins to understand what life really is.

Siddhartha's inner journey was very similar to Siddhartha Gautama's (historical Buddha), which I have studied in the past through my history degree. Therefore, this story felt quite familiar to me and I was pleased to read it.

Reading this book really felt like I was enveloped in a warm hug as the spiritual message and lessons in this book are something I can really relate to and understand. Although the text was written in a way which was difficult to read (it did not "flow" as a good text should) it was still interesting enough to keep my attention. It is a short book, only 152 pages long, but it took a while for me to get through it. Partly because of the way it was written and partly because I kept pausing to think about the messages it contained.

Although Siddhartha spends a lot of this book coming to small relisations and conclusions, I felt the most important message in this book was that learning, true learning, can not be achieved through teachers or books but only through experience. This is the only true approach to understanding reality and  to attain enlightenment. A message I feel we can all benefit from.

If you are interested in Buddhism and want to gain a better understanding of the Buddha's message then this is a good place to start. 

If you liked this book and are interested in a detailed explanation of the Buddist concepts of suffering, Samsara, Dependant Origination etc. then I highly recommend, What the Buddha Taught by Dr. Walpola Sri Rahula. 

Thank you Tara! 

Rating 4/5
All content © And the plot thickens... 2009-2011 or their respective owners as credited.

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP