Siddhartha

Siddhartha

4.2 280
by Hermann Hesse
     
 

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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

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"James Langton, offers a measured, unhurried reading that's an effective rendering of the spare, lyrical prose Hesse crafted for this quiet novel." —AudioFile
The Nation
“The cool and strangely simple story makes a beautiful little book, classic in proportion and style; it should be read slowly and with savor, preferably during the lonely hours of the night.”
Chicago Tribune
“One could even hope that Hesse’s readers are hungrily imbibing Siddhartha, and that they will be so wisely foolish as to live by it.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Hermann Hesse is the greatest writer of the century.”
Washington Post Book World
“In Siddhartha the setting is Indian and we encounter the Buddha, but the author’s ethos is still closer to Goethe.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307423696
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
07/22/2009
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
160
Sales rank:
318,208
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

Read an Excerpt

Translator's
Preface

At
the time Hermann Hesse was composing his famous short novel
Siddhartha,
around 1920, he wrote the following words:


We
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.

These
passages sound the call for a sort of "journey to the East," to which
Siddhartha
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
countercultural groundswell.
Siddhartha
spoke to the seekers of those decades; the novella was in great vogue then.

In
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.

This
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?

Thus
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,
Siddhartha
is not sharp, but sweetly and naively eclectic. But this hardly matters, for in
Siddhartha,
Hesse captured the truth of the spiritual journey.

Hesse
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
Siddhartha
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,

but
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.

This
is where buddhas begin.

Boulder,
Colorado

March
2000



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