Siddharthaby Hermann Hesse, James Langton
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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 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.
Actor Ansdell guides listeners in his firm and gentle voice through Hesse’s lyrical prose depicting the self-discovery journey of his protagonist, Siddhartha. Ansdell’s pacing and English accent give his reading for the audiobook an air of philosopher’s wisdom. Ansdell is especially good at pauses and inflections that express Siddhartha’s moods of exaltation and utter despair at various points in his life as a young Brahman, an ascetic, a lover, businessman, and then as a father and elderly recluse who sits by the river and finally experiences the peace and tranquility he has always sought. Published in German in 1922 and in English in 1951, the revival of Hesse’s novel in this era of widespread interest in Eastern religions offers Ansdell a vehicle for his diverse narrative talents. (Sept.)
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By Hermann Hesse
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2015 Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.
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THE SON OF THE BRAHMAN
In the shade of the house, in the sunshine of the riverbank near the boats, in the shade of the Sal-wood forest, in the shade of the fig tree is where Siddhartha grew up, the handsome son of the Brahman, the young falcon, together with his friend Govinda, son of a Brahman. The sun tanned his light shoulders by the banks of the river when bathing, performing the sacred ablutions, the sacred offerings. In the mango grove, shade poured into his black eyes, when playing as a boy, when his mother sang, when the sacred offerings were made, when his father, the scholar, taught him, when the wise men talked. For a long time, Siddhartha had been partaking in the discussions of the wise men, practising debate with Govinda, practising with Govinda the art of reflection, the service of meditation. He already knew how to speak the Om silently, the word of words, to speak it silently into himself while inhaling, to speak it silently out of himself while exhaling, with all the concentration of his soul, the forehead surrounded by the glow of the clear-thinking spirit. He already knew to feel Atman in the depths of his being, indestructible, one with the universe.
Joy leapt in his father's heart for his son who was quick to learn, thirsty for knowledge; he saw him growing up to become a great wise man and priest, a prince among the Brahmans.
Bliss leapt in his mother's breast when she saw him, when she saw him walking, when she saw him sit down and get up, Siddhartha, strong, handsome, he who was walking on slender legs, greeting her with perfect respect.
Love touched the hearts of the Brahmans' young daughters when Siddhartha walked through the lanes of the town with the luminous forehead, with the eye of a king, with his slim hips.
But more than all the others he was loved by Govinda, his friend, the son of a Brahman. He loved Siddhartha's eye and sweet voice, he loved his walk and the perfect decency of his movements, he loved everything Siddhartha did and said and what he loved most was his spirit, his transcendent, fiery thoughts, his ardent will, his high calling. Govinda knew: he would not become a common Brahman, not a lazy official in charge of offerings; not a greedy merchant with magic spells; not a vain, vacuous speaker; not a mean, deceitful priest; and also not a decent, stupid sheep in the herd of the many. No, and he, Govinda, as well did not want to become one of those, not one of those tens of thousands of Brahmans. He wanted to follow Siddhartha, the beloved, the splendid. And in days to come, when Siddhartha would become a god, when he would join the glorious, then Govinda wanted to follow him as his friend, his companion, his servant, his spear-carrier, his shadow.
Siddhartha was thus loved by everyone. He was a source of joy for everybody, he was a delight for them all.
But he, Siddhartha, was not a source of joy for himself, he found no delight in himself. Walking the rosy paths of the fig tree garden, sitting in the bluish shade of the grove of contemplation, washing his limbs daily in the bath of repentance, sacrificing in the dim shade of the mango forest, his gestures of perfect decency, everyone's love and joy, he still lacked all joy in his heart. Dreams and restless thoughts came into his mind, flowing from the water of the river, sparkling from the stars of the night, melting from the beams of the sun, dreams came to him and a restlessness of the soul, fuming from the sacrifices, breathing forth from the verses of the Rig-Veda, being infused into him, drop by drop, from the teachings of the old Brahmans.
Siddhartha had started to nurse discontent in himself, he had started to feel that the love of his father and the love of his mother, and also the love of his friend, Govinda, would not bring him joy for ever and ever, would not nurse him, feed him, satisfy him. He had started to suspect that his venerable father and his other teachers, that the wise Brahmans had already revealed to him the most and best of their wisdom, that they had already filled his expecting vessel with their richness, and the vessel was not full, the spirit was not content, the soul was not calm, the heart was not satisfied. The ablutions were good, but they were water, they did not wash off the sin, they did not heal the spirit's thirst, they did not relieve the fear in his heart. The sacrifices and the invocation of the gods were excellent—but was that all? Did the sacrifices give a happy fortune? And what about the gods? Was it really Prajapati who had created the world? Was it not the Atman, He, the only one, the singular one? Were the gods not creations, created like me and you, subject to time, mortal? Was it therefore good, was it right, was it meaningful and the highest occupation to make offerings to the gods? For whom else were offerings to be made, who else was to be worshipped but Him, the only one, the Atman? And where was Atman to be found, where did He reside, where did his eternal heart beat, where else but in one's own self, in its innermost part, in its indestructible part, which everyone had in himself? But where, where was this self, this innermost part, this ultimate part? It was not flesh and bone, it was neither thought nor consciousness, thus the wisest ones taught. So, where, where was it? To reach this place, the self, myself, the Atman, there was another way, which was worthwhile looking for? Alas, and nobody showed this way, nobody knew it, not the father, and not the teachers and wise men, not the holy sacrificial songs! They knew everything, the Brahmans and their holy books, they knew everything, they had taken care of everything and of more than everything, the creation of the world, the origin of speech, of food, of inhaling, of exhaling, the arrangement of the senses, the acts of the gods, they knew infinitely much—but was it valuable to know all of this, not knowing that one and only thing, the most important thing, the solely important thing?
Surely, many verses of the holy books, particularly in the Upanishades of Samaveda, spoke of this innermost and ultimate thing, wonderful verses. "Your soul is the whole world", was written there, and it was written that man in his sleep, in his deep sleep, would meet with his innermost part and would reside in the Atman. Marvellous wisdom was in these verses, all knowledge of the wisest ones had been collected here in magic words, pure as honey collected by bees. No, not to be looked down upon was the tremendous amount of enlightenment which lay here collected and preserved by innumerable generations of wise Brahmans.— But where were the Brahmans, where the priests, where the wise men or penitents, who had succeeded in not just knowing this deepest of all knowledge but also to live it? Where was the knowledgeable one who wove his spell to bring his familiarity with the Atman out of the sleep into the state of being awake, into the life, into every step of the way, into word and deed? Siddhartha knew many venerable Brahmans, chiefly his father, the pure one, the scholar, the most venerable one. His father was to be admired, quiet and noble were his manners, pure his life, wise his words, delicate and noble thoughts lived behind its brow—but even he, who knew so much, did he live in blissfulness, did he have peace, was he not also just a searching man, a thirsty man? Did he not, again and again, have to drink from holy sources, as a thirsty man, from the offerings, from the books, from the disputes of the Brahmans? Why did he, the irreproachable one, have to wash off sins every day, strive for a cleansing every day, over and over every day? Was not Atman in him, did not the pristine source spring from his heart? It had to be found, the pristine source in one's own self, it had to be possessed! Everything else was searching, was a detour, was getting lost.
Thus were Siddhartha's thoughts, this was his thirst, this was his suffering.
Often he spoke to himself from a Chandogya-Upanishad the words: "Truly, the name of the Brahman is satyam—verily, he who knows such a thing, will enter the heavenly world every day." Often, it seemed near, the heavenly world, but never he had reached it completely, never he had quenched the ultimate thirst. And among all the wise and wisest men, he knew and whose instructions he had received, among all of them there was no one, who had reached it completely, the heavenly world, who had quenched it completely, the eternal thirst.
"Govinda," Siddhartha spoke to his friend, "Govinda, my dear, come with me under the Banyan tree, let's practise meditation."
They went to the Banyan tree, they sat down, Siddhartha right here, Govinda twenty paces away. While putting himself down, ready to speak the Om, Siddhartha repeated murmuring the verse:
Om is the bow, the arrow is soul,
The Brahman is the arrow's target,
That one should incessantly hit.
After the usual time of the exercise in meditation had passed, Govinda rose. The evening had come, it was time to perform the evening's ablution. He called Siddhartha's name. Siddhartha did not answer. Siddhartha sat there lost in thought, his eyes were rigidly focused towards a very distant target, the tip of his tongue was protruding a little between the teeth, he seemed not to breathe. Thus sat he, wrapped up in contemplation, thinking Om, his soul sent after the Brahman as an arrow.
Once, Samanas had travelled through Siddhartha's town, ascetics on a pilgrimage, three skinny, withered men, neither old nor young, with dusty and bloody shoulders, almost naked, scorched by the sun, surrounded by loneliness, strangers and enemies to the world, strangers and lank jackals in the realm of humans. Behind them blew a hot scent of quiet passion, of destructive service, of merciless self-denial.
In the evening, after the hour of contemplation, Siddhartha spoke to Govinda: "Early tomorrow morning, my friend, Siddhartha will go to the Samanas. He will become a Samana."
Govinda turned pale, when he heard these words and read the decision in the motionless face of his friend, unstoppable like the arrow shot from the bow. Soon and with the first glance, Govinda realized: Now it is beginning, now Siddhartha is taking his own way, now his fate is beginning to sprout, and with his, my own. And he turned pale like a dry banana-skin.
"O Siddhartha," he exclaimed, "will your father permit you to do that?"
Siddhartha looked over as if he was just waking up. Arrow-fast he read in Govinda's soul, read the fear, read the submission.
"O Govinda," he spoke quietly, "let's not waste words. Tomorrow, at daybreak I will begin the life of the Samanas. Speak no more of it."
Siddhartha entered the chamber, where his father was sitting on a mat of bast, and stepped behind his father and remained standing there, until his father felt that someone was standing behind him. Quoth the Brahman: "Is that you, Siddhartha? Then say what you came to say."
Quoth Siddhartha: "With your permission, my father. I came to tell you that it is my longing to leave your house tomorrow and go to the ascetics. My desire is to become a Samana. May my father not oppose this."
The Brahman fell silent, and remained silent for so long that the stars in the small window wandered and changed their relative positions, 'ere the silence was broken. Silent and motionless stood the son with his arms folded, silent and motionless sat the father on the mat, and the stars traced their paths in the sky. Then spoke the father: "Not proper it is for a Brahman to speak harsh and angry words. But indignation is in my heart. I wish not to hear this request for a second time from your mouth."
Slowly, the Brahman rose; Siddhartha stood silently, his arms folded.
"What are you waiting for?" asked the father.
Quoth Siddhartha: "You know what."
Indignant, the father left the chamber; indignant, he went to his bed and lay down.
After an hour, since no sleep had come over his eyes, the Brahman stood up, paced to and fro, and left the house. Through the small window of the chamber he looked back inside, and there he saw Siddhartha standing, his arms folded, not moving from his spot. Pale shimmered his bright robe. With anxiety in his heart, the father returned to his bed.
After another hour, since no sleep had come over his eyes, the Brahman stood up again, paced to and fro, walked out of the house and saw that the moon had risen. Through the window of the chamber he looked back inside; there stood Siddhartha, not moving from his spot, his arms folded, moonlight reflecting from his bare shins. With worry in his heart, the father went back to bed.
And he came back after an hour, he came back after two hours, looked through the small window, saw Siddhartha standing, in the moon light, by the light of the stars, in the darkness. And he came back hour after hour, silently, he looked into the chamber, saw him standing in the same place, filled his heart with anger, filled his heart with unrest, filled his heart with anguish, filled it with sadness.
And in the night's last hour, before the day began, he returned, stepped into the room, saw the young man standing there, who seemed tall and like a stranger to him.
"Siddhartha," he spoke, "what are you waiting for?"
"You know what."
"Will you always stand that way and wait, until it'll becomes morning, noon, and evening?"
"I will stand and wait."
"You will become tired, Siddhartha."
"I will become tired."
"You will fall asleep, Siddhartha."
"I will not fall asleep."
"You will die, Siddhartha."
"I will die."
"And would you rather die, than obey your father?"
"Siddhartha has always obeyed his father."
"So will you abandon your plan?"
"Siddhartha will do what his father will tell him to do."
The first light of day shone into the room. The Brahman saw that Siddhartha was trembling softly in his knees. In Siddhartha's face he saw no trembling, his eyes were fixed on a distant spot. Then his father realized that even now Siddhartha no longer dwelt with him in his home, that he had already left him.
The Father touched Siddhartha's shoulder.
"You will," he spoke, "go into the forest and be a Samana. When you'll have found blissfulness in the forest, then come back and teach me to be blissful. If you'll find disappointment, then return and let us once again make offerings to the gods together. Go now and kiss your mother, tell her where you are going to. But for me it is time to go to the river and to perform the first ablution."
He took his hand from the shoulder of his son and went outside. Siddhartha wavered to the side, as he tried to walk. He put his limbs back under control, bowed to his father, and went to his mother to do as his father had said.
As he slowly left on stiff legs in the first light of day the still quiet town, a shadow rose near the last hut, who had crouched there, and joined the pilgrim—Govinda.
"You have come," said Siddhartha and smiled.
"I have come," said Govinda.CHAPTER 2
WITH THE SAMANAS
In the evening of this day they caught up with the ascetics, the skinny Samanas, and offered them their companionship and—obedience. They were accepted.
Siddhartha gave his garments to a poor Brahman in the street. He wore nothing more than the loincloth and the earth-coloured, unsown cloak. He ate only once a day, and never something cooked. He fasted for fifteen days. He fasted for twenty-eight days. The flesh waned from his thighs and cheeks. Feverish dreams flickered from his enlarged eyes, long nails grew slowly on his parched fingers and a dry, shaggy beard grew on his chin. His glance turned to ice when he encountered women; his mouth twitched with contempt, when he walked through a city of nicely dressed people. He saw merchants trading, princes hunting, mourners wailing for their dead, whores offering themselves, physicians trying to help the sick, priests determining the most suitable day for seeding, lovers loving, mothers nursing their children—and all of this was not worthy of one look from his eye, it all lied, it all stank, it all stank of lies, it all pretended to be meaningful and joyful and beautiful, and it all was just concealed putrefaction. The world tasted bitter. Life was torture.
A goal stood before Siddhartha, a single goal: to become empty, empty of thirst, empty of wishing, empty of dreams, empty of joy and sorrow. Dead to himself, not to be a self any more, to find tranquility with an emptied heard, to be open to miracles in unselfish thoughts, that was his goal. Once all of my self was overcome and had died, once every desire and every urge was silent in the heart, then the ultimate part of me had to awake, the innermost of my being, which is no longer my self, the great secret.
Excerpted from Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. Copyright © 2015 Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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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.
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 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 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 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.
A story of a simple quest, told with the bravery of leaving conclusions to the reader.
I boredly swirl water around in glass
A true philosophical classic. It might open your eyes to new possibilities. ~*~LEB~*~
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.