The story begins as Siddhartha, the son of a Brahmin, leaves his home to join the ascetics with his companion Govinda. The two set out in the search of enlightenment.
Siddhartha goes from asceticism, to a very worldly life as a trader with a lover, and back to asceticism as he attempts to achieve this goal.
The story takes place in ancient India around the time of Gotama Buddha (likely between the fourth and seventh centuries BCE).
Experience is the aggregate of conscious events experienced by a human in life – it connotes participation, learning and knowledge. Understanding is comprehension and internalization. In Hesse’s novel Siddhartha, experience is shown as the best way to approach understanding of reality and attain enlightenment – Hesse’s crafting of Siddhartha’s journey shows that understanding is attained not through scholastic, mind-dependent methods, nor through immersing oneself in the carnal pleasures of the world and the accompanying pain of samsara; however, it is the totality of these experiences that allow Siddhartha to attain understanding.
Thus, the individual events are meaningless when considered by themselves—Siddhartha’s stay with the samanas and his immersion in the worlds of love and business do not lead to nirvana, yet they cannot be considered distractions, for every action and event that is undertaken and happens to Siddhartha helps him to achieve understanding. The sum of these events is thus experience.
Hermann Hesse (German pronunciation: [ˈhɛɐ̯man ˈhɛsə]) (July 2, 1877 – August 9, 1962) was a German-Swiss poet, novelist, and painter. In 1946, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature. His best-known works include Steppenwolf, Siddhartha, and The Glass Bead Game (also known as Magister Ludi), each of which explores an individual's search for authenticity, self-knowledge and spirituality.