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by Hermann Hesse

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classic of twentieth-century literature chronicles the spiritual evolution of a
man living in India at the time of the Buddha—a spiritual journey that has
inspired generations of readers. Here is a fresh translation from Sherab
Chödzin Kohn, a gifted translator and longtime student of Buddhism and
Eastern philosophy. Kohn's flowing,

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classic of twentieth-century literature chronicles the spiritual evolution of a
man living in India at the time of the Buddha—a spiritual journey that has
inspired generations of readers. Here is a fresh translation from Sherab
Chödzin Kohn, a gifted translator and longtime student of Buddhism and
Eastern philosophy. Kohn's flowing, poetic translation conveys the
philosophical and spiritual nuances of Hesse's text, paying special attention
to the qualities of meditation experience. This edition also includes an
introduction exploring Hesse's own spiritual journey as evidenced in his
journals and personal letters.

Editorial Reviews

Once the preferred marching song of '60s hippies, Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha has returned to its rightful high niche in world literature. This translation by Susan Bernofsky highlights the unblemished clarity of Hesse's tale of spiritual sacrifice and awakening.
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.”
From the Publisher
"Filled with timeless truths and told so beautifully with images that burn deep into your being, Hesse's novel speaks powerfully to every generation of spiritual seekers. . . . A fresh translation of Siddhartha that offers greater authenticity than any other translation—while still preserving the unique beauty of the original prose."— Branches of Light

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At the time Hermann Hesse was composing his famous short novel
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
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.
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?

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.

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
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.



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Meet the Author

Hermann Hesse (1877-1962) 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 Magister Ludi.

Hilda Rosner is an author and translator.

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