Siddhartha

( 266 )

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 ...
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Siddhartha

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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.

A classic of 20th-century fiction, Hesse's most celebrated work reflects his lifelong studies of Oriental myth and religion.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
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.
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781570627217
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/28/2000
  • Series: Shambhala Classics
  • Pages: 112
  • Sales rank: 341,529
  • Product dimensions: 5.99 (w) x 8.97 (h) x 0.51 (d)

Meet the Author

Hermann Hesse (German; 2 July 1877 - 9 August 1962) was a German poet, novelist, and painter. His best-known works include Steppenwolf, Siddhartha, and The Glass Bead Game, each of which explores an individual's search for authenticity, self-knowledge and spirituality. In 1946, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature.
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Read an Excerpt

Siddhartha


By Hermann Hesse

Random House

Hermann Hesse
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0679643362


Chapter One

Chapter 1

The Son of the Brahmin

In the shade of the house, in the sunlight on the riverbank where the boats were moored, in the shade of the sal wood and the shade of the fig tree, Siddhartha grew up, the Brahmin's handsome son, the young falcon, together with his friend Govinda, the son of a Brahmin. Sunlight darkened his fair shoulders on the riverbank as he bathed, performed the holy ablutions, the holy sacrifices. Shade poured into his dark eyes in the mango grove as he played with the other boys, listened to his mother's songs, performed the holy sacrifices, heard the teachings of his learned father and the wise men's counsels. Siddhartha had long since begun to join in the wise men's counsels, to practice with Govinda the art of wrestling with words, to practice with Govinda the art of contemplation, the duty of meditation. He had mastered Om, the Word of Words, learned to speak it soundlessly into himself while drawing a breath, to speak it out soundlessly as his breath was released, his soul collected, brow shining with his mind's clear thought. He had learned to feel Atman's presence at the core of his being, inextinguishable, one with the universe.

Joy leaped into his father's heart at the thought of his son, this studious boy with his thirst for knowledge; he envisioned him growing up to be a great wise man andpriest, a prince among Brahmins.

Delight leaped into his mother's breast when she beheld him, watched him as he walked and sat and stood, Siddhartha, the strong handsome boy walking on slender legs, greeting her with flawless grace.

Love stirred in the hearts of the young Brahmin girls when Siddhartha walked through the streets of their town with his radiant brow, his regal eye, his narrow hips.

But none of them loved him more dearly than Govinda, his friend, the Brahmin's son. He loved Siddhartha's eyes and his sweet voice, loved the way he walked and the flawless grace of his movements; he loved all that Siddhartha did and all he said and most of all he loved his mind, his noble, passionate thoughts, his ardent will, his noble calling. Govinda knew: This would be no ordinary Brahmin, no indolent pen pusher overseeing the sacrifices, no greedy hawker of incantations, no vain, shallow orator, no wicked, deceitful priest, and no foolish, good sheep among the herd of the multitude. Nor did he, Govinda, have any intention of becoming such a creature, one of the tens of thousands of ordinary Brahmins. His wish was to follow Siddhartha, the beloved, splendid one. And if Siddhartha should ever become a god, if he were ever to take his place among the Radiant Ones, Govinda wished to follow him, as his friend, his companion, his servant, his spear bearer, his shadow.

Thus was Siddhartha beloved by all. He brought them all joy, filled them with delight.

To himself, though, Siddhartha brought no joy, gave no delight. Strolling along the rosy pathways of the fig garden, seated in the blue-tinged shade of the Grove of Contemplation, washing his limbs in the daily expiatory baths, performing sacrifices in the deep-shadowed mango wood, with his gestures of flawless grace, he was beloved by all, a joy to all, yet was his own heart bereft of joy. Dreams assailed him, and troubled thoughts--eddying up from the waves of the river, sparkling down from the stars at night, melting out of the sun's rays; dreams came to him, and a disquiet of the soul wafting in the smoke from the sacrifices, murmuring among the verses of the Rig-Veda, welling up in the teachings of the old Brahmins.

Siddhartha had begun to harbor discontent. He had begun to feel that his father's love and the love of his mother, even the love of his friend Govinda, would not always and forever suffice to gladden him, content him, sate him, fulfill him. He had begun to suspect that his venerable father and his other teachers, all wise Brahmins, had already given him the richest and best part of their wisdom, had already poured their plenty into his waiting vessel, yet the vessel was not full: His mind was not content, his soul not at peace, his heart restless. The ablutions were good, but they were only water; they could not wash away sin, could not quench his mind's thirst or dispel his heart's fear. The sacrifices and the invocations of the gods were most excellent--but was this all? Did the sacrifices bring happiness? And what of the gods? Was it really Prajapati who had created the world? Was it not rather Atman, He, the Singular, the One and Only? Weren't the gods mere shapes, creations like you and me, subject to time, transitory? And was it then good, was it proper, was it meaningful, a noble act, to sacrifice to the gods? To whom else should one sacrifice, to whom else show devotion, if not to Him, the Singular, Atman? And where was Atman to be found, where did He reside, where did His eternal heart lie beating? Where else but within oneself, in the innermost indestructible core each man carries inside him. But where, where was this Self, this innermost, utmost thing? It was not flesh and bone, it was not thought and not consciousness, at least according to the wise men's teachings. Where was it then, where? To penetrate to this point, to reach the Self, oneself, Atman--could there be any other path worth seeking? Yet this was a path no one was showing him; it was a path no one knew, not his father, not the teachers and wise men, not the holy songs intoned at the sacrifices! They knew everything, these Brahmins and their holy books, everything, and they had applied themselves to everything, more than everything: to the creation of the world, the origins of speech, of food, of inhalation and exhalation; to the orders of the senses, the deeds of the gods--they knew infinitely many things--but was there value in knowing all these things without knowing the One, the Only thing, that which was important above all else, that was, indeed, the sole matter of importance?

To be sure, many verses in the holy books, above all the Upanishads of the Sama-Veda, spoke of this innermost, utmost thing: splendid verses. "Your soul is the entire world" was written there, and it was written as well that in sleep, the deepest sleep, man entered the innermost core of his being and dwelt in Atman. There was glorious wisdom in these verses; all the knowledge of the wisest men was collected here in magic words, pure as the honey collected by bees. It was not to be disregarded, this massive sum of knowledge that had been collected here by countless generations of wise Brahmins.

But where were the Brahmins, where the priests, where the wise men or penitents who had succeeded not merely in knowing this knowledge but in living it? Where was the master who had been able to transport his own being-at-home-in-Atman from sleep to the waking realm, to life, to all his comings and goings, his every word and deed?

Siddhartha knew a great many venerable Brahmins, above all his father, a pure, learned, utterly venerable man. Worthy of admiration was his father, still and regal his bearing, his life pure, his words full of wisdom; fine and noble thoughts resided in his brow. But even he, who was possessed of such knowledge, did he dwell in bliss, did he know peace? Was not he too only a seeker, a man tormented by thirst? Was he not compelled to drink again and again from the holy springs, a thirsty man drinking in the sacrifices, the books, the dialogues of the Brahmins? Why must he, who was without blame, wash away sin day after day, labor daily to cleanse himself, each day anew? Was not Atman within him? Did not the ancient source of all springs flow within his own heart? This was what must be found, the fountainhead within one's own being; you had to make it your own! All else was searching, detour, confusion.

Such was the nature of Siddhartha's thoughts; this was his thirst, this his sorrow.

Often he recited to himself the words of a Chandogya Upanishad: "Verily, the name of the Brahman is Satyam; truly, he who knows this enters each day into the heavenly world." It often seemed near at hand, this heavenly world, but never once had he succeeded in reaching it, in quenching that final thirst. And of all the wise and wisest men he knew and whose teachings he enjoyed, not a single one had succeeded in reaching it, this heavenly world; not one had fully quenched that eternal thirst.

"Govinda," Siddhartha said to his friend. "Govinda, beloved one, come under the banyan tree with me; let us practice samadhi."

To the banyan they went and sat down beneath it, Siddhartha here and Govinda at a distance of twenty paces. As he sat down, ready to speak the Om, Siddhartha murmured this verse:

"Om is the bow; the arrow is soul.

Brahman is the arrow's mark;

Strike it with steady aim."

When the usual time for the meditation exercise had passed, Govinda arose. Evening had come; it was time to begin the ablutions of the eventide. He called Siddhartha's name; Siddhartha gave no answer. Siddhartha sat rapt, his eyes fixed unmoving upon a far distant point; the tip of his tongue stuck out from between his teeth; he seemed not to be breathing. Thus he sat, cloaked in samadhi, thinking Om, his soul an arrow on its way to Brahman.

One day, Samanas passed through Siddhartha's town: ascetic pilgrims, three gaunt lifeless men, neither old nor young, with bloody, dust-covered shoulders, all but naked, singed by the sun, shrouded in isolation, foreign to the world and hostile to it, strangers and wizened jackals among men. The hot breath of air that followed them bore the scent of silent passion, a duty that meant destruction, the merciless eradication of ego.

In the evening, when the hour of contemplation had passed, Siddhartha said to Govinda, "Tomorrow morning, my friend, Siddhartha will go to the Samanas. He will become a Samana."

Govinda turned pale when he heard these words and saw in his friend's impassive face a resolve as unwavering as an arrow shot from the bow. At once, with a single glance, Govinda realized: Now it is beginning, now Siddhartha is on his way, now his destiny is beginning to bud and, along with it, mine as well. And he turned as pale as a dried-out banana peel.

"Oh, Siddhartha," he cried, "will your father permit this?"

Siddhartha glanced over at him like a man awakening. Swift as an arrow he read Govinda's soul, read the fear, read the devotion.

"Oh, Govinda," he said softly, "let us not squander words. Tomorrow at daybreak I begin the life of a Samana. Speak no more of it."

Siddhartha went into the room where his father was seated upon a mat made of bast fiber; he came up behind him and remained standing there until his father felt there was someone behind him. "Is that you, Siddhartha?" the Brahmin said. "Then say what you have come here to say."

Said Siddhartha, "With your permission, my father. I have come to tell you that it is my wish to leave your house tomorrow and join the ascetics. I must become a Samana. May my father not be opposed to my wish."

The Brahmin was silent and remained silent so long that the stars drifted in the small window and changed their shape before the silence in the room reached its end. Mute and motionless stood the son with his arms crossed, mute and motionless upon his mat sat the father, and the stars moved across the sky. Then the father said, "It is not fitting for a Brahmin to utter sharp, angry words. But my heart is filled with displeasure. I do not wish to hear this request from your lips a second time."

Slowly the Brahmin rose to his feet. Siddhartha stood in silence with his arms crossed.

"Why do you wait here?" the father asked.

"You know why I wait," Siddhartha replied.

Full of displeasure, the father left the room; full of displeasure, he went to his bed and lay down.

An hour later, as no sleep would enter his eyes, the Brahmin got up, paced back and forth, and went out of the house. He looked through the small window of the room and saw Siddhartha standing there, his arms crossed, unmoving. The light cloth of his tunic was shimmering pale. His heart full of disquiet, the father went back to bed.

An hour later, as no sleep would yet enter his eyes, the Brahmin got up once more, paced back and forth, and went out of the house. The moon had risen. He looked through the window into the room; there stood Siddhartha, unmoving, his arms crossed, moonlight gleaming on his bare shins. His heart full of apprehension, the father returned to bed.

An hour later, and again two hours later, he went out and looked through the small window to see Siddhartha standing there: in the moonlight, in the starlight, in the darkness. He went again from hour to hour, in silence, looked into the room, and saw his son standing there unmoving, and his heart filled with anger, with disquiet, with trepidation, with sorrow.

And in the last hour of night before day began, he got up once more, went into the room, and saw the youth standing there; he looked tall to him and like a stranger.

"Siddhartha," he said, "why do you wait here?"

"You know why."

"Will you remain standing here, waiting, until day comes, noon comes, evening comes?"

"I will remain standing here, waiting."

"You will grow tired, Siddhartha."

"I will grow tired."

"You will fall asleep, Siddhartha."

"I will not fall asleep."

"You will die, Siddhartha."

"I will die."

"And you would rather die than obey your father?"

"Siddhartha has always obeyed his father."

"So you will give up your plan?"

"Siddhartha will do as his father instructs him."

The first light of day fell into the room. The Brahmin saw that Siddhartha's knees were trembling quietly. In Siddhartha's face he saw no trembling; his eyes gazed into the distance straight before him. The father realized then that Siddhartha was no longer with him in the place of his birth. His son had already left him behind.<<br>
Continues...


Excerpted from Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse Excerpted by permission.
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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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 266 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(146)

4 Star

(63)

3 Star

(36)

2 Star

(10)

1 Star

(11)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 267 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    2nd time around

    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.

    23 out of 24 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2008

    The most beautiful book I've ever read.

    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.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2012

    Excellent read

    Thought provoking and profoundly moving. I really loved the language and the subtle and nuanced writing. Great to read and reread

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 25, 2013

    A quick but powerful read

    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."

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 21, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    Brilliant Vision of Life

    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.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 5, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Interesting, But...

    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!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 27, 2012

    Highly Recommended

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2012

    A Book Worth Reading

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2007

    A guidebook for spiritual awakening

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2012

    One of the most enlightening stories ever written. A very intros

    One of the most enlightening stories ever written. A very introspective
    book that can make one re evaluate ones own self

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 24, 2011

    AP World History Review: a description of my opinion of the book

    "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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 29, 2014

    Very hard to understand, extremely boring!

    Very hard to understand, extremely boring!

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  • Posted March 7, 2014

    loved it

    I had to read this for class yet I ended up loving it. It kept me interested. Makes you think a little and reflect on your own life

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2013

    Okay

    Long winded...its about lifes lessons

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  • Posted June 2, 2013

    Siddhartha is not a very good book. I was more excited to read i

    Siddhartha is not a very good book. I was more excited to read it than when I was reading it. This is probably one of the worst books I have ever read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2012

    Great Read!

    I really didnt expect to like this book so much, but it is so worth it! So much meaning! For all you people who say it is boring, you people need to take a deeper look inside yourselves.

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  • Posted October 21, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Not just for buddhas

    There aren't many books that beckon a second or third reading. Siddhartha has to be read again and again, partially because it's a good book, but mostly because its lessons are so easy to forget. If I told you that the book's main teaching is 'Go with the flow', that would be a vast oversimplification, but it wouldn't be too far off the mark. I've seen it compared to 'Don't Worry, Be Happy'. Now that makes me take offense. Probably the best analogy to Hesse's book comes from the movie Van Wilder, of all things. The protagonist in that awful story says: 'Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn't get you anywhere.'

    Incredibly, that movie, surely without knowing it, offers both a summation and a critique of Siddhartha. Hesse's protagonist learns and therefore advises us not to let even major problems get to us. However, Hesse's solution seems to be to let go of materialism and many worldly (secular) values, in return for mental and emotional satisfaction. I'm not sure that's the best way to go. It seems a bit like the flip side of the rocking chair problem. Worrying may indeed get us nowhere, but letting go of a significant part of our hold on the world probably wouldn't get us any further. After all, as satisfied as our minds may be without material desires, they are themselves made of material, and in reading one of the few passages where the Bible got it right, we find that we will return to the dust of the earth, with or without nirvana, salvation, or any other kind of 'spiritual' satisfaction.

    There is great value to be had from this book, though, and within the material world (the only world) at that. Tempering our worries with perspective and context is a valuable lesson that can be teased from this book, and it's also easy to forget, making return trips to Siddhartha worth it, despite the infinite spiral of unanswerable questions it so easily draws from us.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2012

    Alright

    Its more of a adult read than a high school read

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2011

    Spiritual adventure.

    One of my top 5 favorite books of all time.

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  • Posted July 25, 2011

    Oh

    You need to be high to understand it. Unfortunately, I do not do drugs.

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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