Siddharthaby Hermann Hesse
This classic novel of self-discovery has inspired generations of seekers. With parallels to the enlightenment of the Buddha, Hesse's Siddhartha is the story of a young Brahmn's quest for the ultimate reality. His quest takes him from the extremes of indulgent sensuality to the rigors of ascetism and self-denial. At last he learns that wisdom cannot be taught–it must… See more details below
This classic novel of self-discovery has inspired generations of seekers. With parallels to the enlightenment of the Buddha, Hesse's Siddhartha is the story of a young Brahmn's quest for the ultimate reality. His quest takes him from the extremes of indulgent sensuality to the rigors of ascetism and self-denial. At last he learns that wisdom cannot be taught–it must come from one's own experience and inner struggle. Steeped in the tenets of both psychoanalysis and Eastern mysticism, Siddhartha presents a strikingly original view of man and culture, and the arduous process of self-discovery that leads to reconciliation, harmony and peace.
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Read an Excerpt
the time Hermann Hesse was composing his famous short novel
around 1920, he wrote the following words:
are seeing a religious wave rising in almost all of Europe, a wave of religious
need and despair, a searching and a profound malaise, and many are speaking of
. . . a new religion to come. Europe is beginning to sense . . . that the
overblown onesidedness of its intellectual culture (most clearly expressed in
scientific specialization) is in need of a correction, a revitalization coming
from the opposite pole. This widespread yearning is not for a new ethics or a
new way of thinking, but for a culture of the spiritual function that our
intellectual approach to life has not been able to provide. This is a general
yearning not so much for a Buddha or a Lao-Tze but for a yogic capability. We
have learned that humanity can cultivate its intellect to an astonishing level
of accomplishment without becoming master of its soul.
passages sound the call for a sort of "journey to the East," to which
is the answer. The present-day reader, encountering them undated, might be
inclined to place them in a more recent time, in the 1960s and 1970s, when
perceptions similar to those described became the germ of a major
spoke to the seekers of those decades; the novella was in great vogue then.
fact, pangs of spiritual loss and the desire to cure them by means of "a
journey to the East" have seized us recurrently since science and
technology—and especially their shocking large-scale manifestation in World
War I—seriously began shaking the West's perennial culture. Over the last
forty years, in the train of the spiritual shake-up of the sixties and
seventies, we have seen the rise of many sorts of "yogic" culture in
our society. In the end, it was the East that journeyed to the West. Indian,
Tibetan, and Japanese spiritual teachers in particular exerted themselves to
transplant their meditative traditions to this hemisphere. This movement had a
broad influence on Western societies and the images with which they inspire and
entertain themselves, but on the whole its impact has been shallow.
"Yogic" insights have petered out into the vague and diluted
phenomena of the New Age, and this has now largely run out of energy. Of late,
we see life and vitality pouring on a grand scale into a new endemic rapture,
the headlong intoxication with new communication technologies and the
prosperity they have engendered. More and more American high schools and
elementary schools now boast voluntary extracurricular clubs of avid
Internet-wise students of the stock market. Young people of both sexes in large
numbers are identifying with cell-phone-and-laptop-toting traders and
businesspeople who represent the ultimate cool in a coming world of electronic
supercommunication. I have seen fourteen-year-old boys going to business
meetings in suits.
new fertility dance with the microchip and the genome is wondrous and colorful
beyond words. It is making true a future of which the last century only
dreamed. Yet the chances of its expunging or rendering irrelevant the yearning
of which Hesse spoke are small; in fact as the materialistic romp reaches
extremity, it must surely provoke a further acute outbreak of spirituality. If
the yearning for spiritual awakening is an inalienable part of the human
spirit, how could it be otherwise?
Hesse's brilliant offering to the human spirit, the spiritual journey of
Siddhartha, the brahmin's son, cannot really go out of style. True, Hesse's
grasp of Buddhist thinking was imprecise. He did not escape touches of theism
and thoughts of sin, being the offspring, as he was, of two generations of
Christian missionaries. Doctrinally,
is not sharp, but sweetly and naively eclectic. But this hardly matters, for in
Hesse captured the truth of the spiritual journey.
began with a stereotypic, perhaps even corny paradigm. His style was archaic,
recalling scripture; he was dealing with a legendary scenario, beyond time,
larger than life. But as he proceeded to develop his formula, the story became
increasingly real, desperately real—too real for Hesse. His insights cost him
heavily. He suffered a major depression and had to stop writing
for more than a year. His exploration had uncovered a process in which layer
after layer of conventional and conceptual reference points have to be stripped
away; through inspiration, but also profound disappointment and loss, the
seeker relentlessly approaches naked mind. First to come and go for Siddhartha
is orthodox religion. This is supplanted by life-denying asceticism, which in
turn proves inauthentic and has to be given up. The next patch that will not
hold is affirmation of self and enjoyment of sensuality and the material world;
next, rejection of that approach proves groundless too. At last, understanding
at all, any analysis or intellectual grasp, shows itself as ludicrous
one-upsmanship in the face of reality's flow; the brilliant seeker's last rag
has to be surrendered. The process culminates in the final heartbreaking loss
of the spiritual project altogether. Seeking is exhausted at its root—and
confusion with it. Hesse does not quite give us the "return to the market
place" found in the last of the ten Zen ox-herding pictures,
the utter excoriation of ego—all one's world of hopes and fears—is vivid
enough. As is the desolate fulfillment inseparable from the seeker's final
forlornness. There is total dignity and freedom, surety and cosmic correctness,
in not having to attend one's own funeral.
is where buddhas begin.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I had to read this book for a literature class in high school. Lately, I've been returning to some of my high school assignment books to see how they read now that I'm older and in a different mind-set. The first time I read this, I wouldn't say that I hated it, just rather indifferent to it. I just re-read it and......wow! What a great story about the search for wisdom and enlightenment. It makes the very valid point that while knowledge can be taught from one person to another, wisdom simply cannot. It is acquired through one's own experiences. No truer words were ever spoken and I think it is a point that not everyone recognizes. A wonderful and relatively easy reader, Siddhartha contains messages that can be appreciated by anyone who questions the hardships and meaning of life.
This book is short, but packed with so much power. Its prose is simple, but it's what's written between the lines that is so thought provoking. I would actually say that this book changed my life every time I am going through a rough time, I think back to Siddhartha and I'm calmed a bit. Pure wisdom.
Thought provoking and profoundly moving. I really loved the language and the subtle and nuanced writing. Great to read and reread
This is a classic for anyone interested in Eastern religions/ways of life, but don't expect a real epic adventure. The book is as slow moving as its characters. I was more excited to start reading it than I was actually reading it. However, it holds multiple life-long messages, all extracted from an author who has respectfully learned them first-hand. It's short & precise, and reminds us how cool monks are, even if it's not original (it's nearly identical to the acclaimed story of the Buddha). Read it, learn from it, move on!
This is not a long book, but you'll read every word, and many paragraphs twice. It's filled with insight, drama and high emotion. Tons of introduction before and notes after to set up the story and author, then explain references. A true "Classic."
This book is about a man's journey seeking the ultimate truth. For me, three points stand out. First, the journey is long and hard. It takes a life time to reach. Second, it is hard for everyone, even those who are supposed to be superior in spirituality. Third, humbleness and love for all are the necessary conditions for achieving that ultimate goal. It is a book of great inspiration. For anyone who is interested in spirituality, this book is a must read.
This book-length tale may be the finest of its kind. It's a book about life, about finding out how to live it properly.
I picked up this Hesse classic on my Nook after a recommendation from a friend. I had never read Hesse and knew nothing of the book's history before reading although I had studied some basic Buddhism in college. In a sense the college work gave me a nice base from which to think a little deeper about some of the concepts Hesse presents through this wonderful story. But, I think one with no prior knowledge of Buddhist beliefs could still stand to gain much from this book. The book is a nice read, well written and just the right length I think for Hesse to present his story. Not too complex and yet not too simple. I highly recommend it.
"Siddhartha" was a great book. My favorite part about this book is how the author used symbolism. The author used symbolism to express greater thoughts. An example of this is the river that Siddhartha reflects in his own life. Siddhartha learns to understand through the rivers' "om". Om is a representation of meditation and when Siddhartha finds om in the river then he finds unity in his self. The river also represents the flowing of Siddhartha's life. The river is always moving and doesn't stop for anything, like life. Another example is the songbird. When Siddhartha travels to the sinful city of Samsara, he meets Kamala. Kamala has a rare song bird that she keeps caged up. After 20 years, Siddhartha has a dream that the song bird dies and sees it as his inner self dieing. He decides to leave the city. After he leaves, Kamala sets the bird free because she is heart broken. After leaving and being away for awhile, Siddhartha realizes that the "song bird" within his self is still alive. After seeing the affect that symbolism had on the book, I think the author completed his purpose well. The authors' purpose was to show how the world altered the mind of Siddhartha. The author expresses this by symbolism and conflict. Throughout the book Siddhartha is going through different kinds of conflict, internal and external. By going through different kinds of conflict, Siddhartha realizes the struggles within himself and the world. After realizing how difficult the world is, Siddhartha realizes that he must make himself happy to reach Nirvana. He must keep himself happy by moving on and never stopping or allowing someone to stop him in his path, like the river. He realizes that he must be free and not have anyone hold him back, like the songbird in the cage. This book was a good book and I would recommend it to anyone who is not just learning about the life of Siddhartha, but to anyone who is learning about life itself.
I've loved this book ever since I first came upon it in high school. It is a thoroughly lyrical work that is at once strange and comforting. I've read it very slowly at least four times, almost meditating with each page on the depths of another soul's struggle for enlightenment. It is one of those rare books that not only touches your soul but leaves you changed and for the better afterwards. I'd recommend everyone with an open heart to read it or to re-read it again.
My criticism is not of the beautiful story, but of the poor translation of what is Hesse's usually lyrical prose. At times the sentences are clunky and often ungrammatical. I bought this as a bargain deal - fuess it wasn't such a bargain, after all. From now on I will check out print translations before I buy an ebook.
Let me tell you straight...one of the best book i have ever read. Very well written, almost written like a long poem, and an insightful story that has alot to say about life. You won't be disappointed.
I would say this is my first audiobook, but I checked out a cassette tape of Harry Potter when I was ten. Outside of that, this is my first audiobook! I got my copy of Siddhartha from Librivox via booksshouldbefree.com. We opened the book on the river, and I think somehow the fact I was listening to this book made the description and scenery mean more. I was so moved by Siddhartha's passion for finding bliss and the meaning of life. His standoff against his father, his deep conversations with his friend Govinda. He journeys with his friend to live with Samanas, alleged masters off reaching nirvana. Siddhartha comes to a troubling conclusion that for all they learned and did there, none of the masters have nor will actually reach nirvana. He doesn't find what he's looking for, so he keeps looking. This spiritual allegory has many parallels to religion as a whole. Thinking of my own religion, I found the allegory of Siddhartha had its parallels to Christians desperately searching for God, leaving the whole religion out of frustration, only to grow into wanting what was again. Those reborn (or reborn for the third time) are sometimes much closer to God and Heaven than those who were literally born into the religion and went to church every week but never learned anything (like the Samanas in this book).
Eye opening to the true oneness of all things
I did not know very much about Vedic or Buddhist teachings before reading this book, but I found it to be a very entertaining introduction. Various doctrines and philosophical concepts are put forth through the life of the title character. The story line is very compelling and the language style, while rather formal, is still easy to read. Since I do not speak German, I cannot say how faithful this translation is to Hesse's original intent, but it certainly does work well in English. The introduction and footnotes do a great job of explaining the book in the context of the author's life and the finer points of Vedic and Buddhist traditions.