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Siddhartha (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Overview

Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

One of the most widely read novels of the twentieth century, Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha explores the struggle of the soul to see beyond the illusions of humankind and achieve a deeper wisdom through spirituality.

Born into wealth and privilege, Siddhartha renounces his place among India’s nobility to wander the countryside in search of meaning. He learns suffering and self-denial among a group of ascetics before meeting the Buddha and coming to realize that true peace cannot be taught: It must be experienced. Changing his path yet again, Siddhartha reenters human society and earns a great fortune. Yet over time this life leaves Siddhartha restless and empty. He achieves enlightenment only when he stops searching and surrenders to the oneness of all.

Rika Lesser’s new translation deftly evokes the lyricism and quiet beauty of Hesse’s novel, which first appeared in German in 1922. At once personal and universal, Siddhartha stands outside of time, resonating in the hearts of truth-seekers everywhere.

Robert A. F. Thurman holds the first endowed chair in Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies in the United States, the Jey Tsong Khapa Chair at Columbia University. The first American to be ordained a Tibetan monk, he has been a student and friend of His Holiness the Dalai Lama for forty years. Thurman is the author of numerous books, most recently Infinite Life: Seven Virtues for Living Well.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781593083793
  • Publisher: Barnes & Noble
  • Publication date: 11/1/2007
  • Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 26,343
  • Product dimensions: 5.75 (w) x 8.44 (h) x 0.44 (d)

Read an Excerpt

From Robert A. F. Thurman’s Introduction to Siddhartha

I first read Siddhartha at the very start of the 1960s, and I can still remember the powerful inspiration it gave me. Why would a young person seeking to escape from wasp-hood at Harvard turn to India as the mother of inner exploration, when nothing in Western education would indicate that India was a source of great explorations in the quest for some transcendent truth? Clearly, Siddhartha was a model for my own journeys, for my own development of his vaunted skills at “fasting—waiting—thinking.”

Looking into Hesse’s personal life, I was astonished to discover many parallels between the troubled youth of this great psychic explorer, poet, critic, novelist, painter, and gardener who wandered the world before World War I and finally fled from the Rhineland down to southern Switzerland, and that of my own more humble and less accomplished self, hailing from Manhattan and traveling more or less on foot to India my first time out in 1961. At fifteen Hesse began to rebel against his strict Pietistic father and mother and the mission school they placed him in; he never felt comfortable in conventional German society of the time. Some of us—certainly myself, and I think Hesse, too—though born in the West, tend to wander as if doomed to exile and always feel like “a stranger in a strange land.” For both of us, forty-plus years and another World War apart, “Mother India” was a salve, a home, for our wandering spirits. Why? Is it because India’s civilization alone has had the wisdom to open itself up truly to embrace the naturally homeless? Hesse himself had this to say about India:

For example, with my Indian journey I had an unforgettable experience. At first it was a real disappointment, I returned completely downcast. But almost ten years later, as I was writing Siddhartha, suddenly the Indian memories were extremely precious and positive, and the little disappointment of earlier on was extinguished.1

Siddhartha was published in German in 1922. Its first English translation was published in 1951. Siddhartha’s quest was an important model for the whole postwar generation’s seeking of “Enlightenment in the East.” For Hesse himself, the book articulates a complex of strands in his character. It shows his rich appreciation for India conceived in a specific Western way, inherited from his missionary grandfather and parents. He says:

And this learned and wise grandfather had not only Indian books and scrolls, but also shelves full of exotic wonders, not only coconut shells and strange birds’ eggs, but also wooden and bronze idols and animals, silken paintings and a whole cabinet stuffed with Indian cloths and robes in all materials and colors. . . . All this was part of my childhood, not less than the fir-trees of the Black Forest, the Nagold river, or the Gothic chapel on the bridge.

Siddhartha is distinguished by Hesse’s consummate artistic, spiritual, and poetic sense of the high transcendent experiences and values accessible through the Indian “inner sciences” and “mind yogas.” At the same time, the book contains a certain European, world-weary cynicism and a sense of the inevitable faultiness of all religious paths. Hesse again: “At the age of thirty, I was a Buddhist, of course not in the church-sense of the word.” The book hums with Hesse’s pursuit of Christian, Tolstoyan nonviolence and the inner kingdom, all the while roiled from within by its opposite: his own driving inner violence, his volcanic sensuality, and his deep despair of fulfilling human relations—a despair that stemmed from his ambivalent struggles with his parents and his ups and downs with his first wife and three sons.

Rereading Siddhartha now, I can clearly see its influence on my decision at twenty to leave college and the study of Western literature, philosophy, and psychology, and seek a higher enlightenment in India. More than forty years later, I have gone back and forth from “the West” to “the East” so many times I can hardly tell the difference anymore, though I observe certain groups still struggling to maintain the “never the twain shall meet” sort of attitude. Having trod a little bit in both of the Siddharthas’ footprints in my own small way, I appreciate the book even more. I can now unravel the tangled threads of Hesse’s mixing of Hindu and Buddhist worldviews, his entrapment in some of the stereotyped views of “the East” that were almost inescapable for a man of his time and culture, and his romantic depiction of Buddhist/Hindu enlightenment as a kind of return to nature, a resignation to the flow of the great river of life. In spite of this creative Hindu/Buddhist mixing, I enjoy the book much more now than I ever could have in my youth.

Hesse seems to have been haunted by a keen insight into the human condition, and his work seems to mark a great turning point in the growth of a genuine European respect for the civilization of enlightenment that developed in ancient India. He himself loved nothing more than to leave hearth and home and wander south to Italy with artistic friends, the European version of a sadhu (Hindu ascetic). He slept in bed-and-breakfasts or camped alfresco, contemplated nature and art, and took a break from the routine chores of householding in northern Europe (very likely overburdening his high-strung wife with their three sons). But it was hard to wander with open mind and heart and intellect in the Europe of that time, so he also went to India and southeast Asia. His keen artist’s perception saw there that the complex fabric of the culture of India was rich enough and its weave loose enough to accommodate all manner of eccentrics, wandering here and there, always on some spiritual pilgrimage or other, seeking beauty or peace, magical energy or complete transcendence.

At this moment in my journey, I am very pleased to have the chance to introduce Siddhartha to a new generation, since I think it still has the power to inspire the seeker of higher truth. I do not pretend to evaluate Hesse’s great achievement from some higher vantage of supposed enlightenment, which I do not claim for myself. But I have put in a bit of study of enlightenment’s various forms and levels, the institutions and cultural orientations it has supported in various countries, and the high civilizations it ultimately created. And following Siddhartha’s inspiration more than forty years ago, I did make a bit of progress—just enough to know that, as elusive as it continues to be, enlightenment is still highly worth pursuing.

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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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.

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  • 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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