Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

Siddhartha

In the novel, Siddhartha, a young man, leaves his family for a contemplative life, then, restless, discards it for one of the flesh. He conceives a son, but bored and sickened by lust and greed, moves on again. Near despair, Siddhartha comes to a river where he hears a unique sound. This sound signals the true beginning of his life—the beginning of suffering, rejection, pe...

Title:Siddhartha
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0553208845
Edition Language:English
Number of Pages:152 pages

Siddhartha Reviews

  • Michelle

    Whatever. Blah blah blah Samana. Blah blah blah Kamala. Blah blah blah Samsara. Blah blah blah River. Blah blah blah Om.

  • Kemper

    So there’s a damn dirty hippie in India named Siddhartha who is supposed to be seeking spiritual enlightenment, but instead of going to a good Christian church like a normal person, he wanders around the woods for a while with some other damn dirty hippies. After he meets Buddha, he finally gets tired of being broke-ass and homeless, and he goes into town where he makes a pile of money. This is good because everyone knows that engaging in capitalism is the only proper way to go through life. As

    So there’s a damn dirty hippie in India named Siddhartha who is supposed to be seeking spiritual enlightenment, but instead of going to a good Christian church like a normal person, he wanders around the woods for a while with some other damn dirty hippies. After he meets Buddha, he finally gets tired of being broke-ass and homeless, and he goes into town where he makes a pile of money. This is good because everyone knows that engaging in capitalism is the only proper way to go through life. As a bonus, he also meets a beautiful woman.

    Then, just when he’s having a good ole time; doing business, drinking, gambling and making time with the woman, the dang fool’s hippie ideas pop up again, and he walks away from all of it. Remember that Chris Farley routine on Saturday Night Live where he’d scream that someone would end up living in a van down by the river? Well, this hippie ends up living in a hut down by the river. And that’s even worse, because at least you could play the radio in a van.

    Finally, Siddartha thinks that the river is god. Or something stupid like that. It just didn’t make any sense. Give me one of them Lee Child novels any day over this hippie dippie crap. That Jack Reacher is a man’s man!

    Just kidding.

    Actually, this is an elegant allegory about a guy going through different phases as he pursues a lifelong quest to rid himself of his ego so that he can know true peace and enlightenment. It’s filled with incredible writing, and it’s short and smart enough to hold the attention of even a doofus like me. I’d put this in the category of books that everyone should read at least once.

  • Stephen

    My apologies if this review reeks of "GUSHness." However, it gave me that

    reading experience that doesn't come along often and so I think it is certainly worthy of the praise I shall heep upon it. Beautifully written and a deeply personal story, Hesse has created the ultimate expression of the journey of self-discovery.

    The book details the story of Siddhartha, the young and brilliant son of a Brahmin in ancient India. The Brahmin are the uber revered caste comprised of poets, pri

    My apologies if this review reeks of "GUSHness." However, it gave me that

    reading experience that doesn't come along often and so I think it is certainly worthy of the praise I shall heep upon it. Beautifully written and a deeply personal story, Hesse has created the ultimate expression of the journey of self-discovery.

    The book details the story of Siddhartha, the young and brilliant son of a Brahmin in ancient India. The Brahmin are the uber revered caste comprised of poets, priests, teachers and scholars***.

    [***

    : How refreshing is it that their most revered group is not made up of morally questionable athletes, morally suspect celebrities and morally bankrupt politicians...I'm just saying!!]

    At the beginning of the story, despite having absorbed all of the teachings of his father and followed all of the religious rites and rituals of his caste, Siddhartha is not content. He knows deep inside that there is something missing and decides to leave his father and his future and seek enlightenment. He sets out, along with his life long friend to find life’s meaning. A decision that makes Siddhartha’s father less than a happy camper.

    Thus begins one of the truly exceptional stories in modern literature. Siddhartha’s journey takes him from the elite of his people:

    1. First, to a group of ascetics who shun personal possessions and view the physical world as the source of all pain;

    2. Next to a beautiful courtesan who teaches Siddhartha the mysterious of physical love, to a world;

    3. Third, to a wealthy trader who teaches Siddhartha about profit, trade and worldly pleasures;

    4. Then to a life of hedonistic excess in which Siddhartha eats, drinks, gambles and indulges in numerous sexual conquests in a very SinCityesque way...

    5. Finally, back to an ascetic life, but one that embraces the world and everything in it as special and unique.

    Throughout the various stages of his journey, Siddhartha finds something of value in everyone he interacts with and each stage brings him closer to his ultimate goal. Through elegant and deeply evocative writing, Hesse demonstrates, through Siddhartha's journey, the fundamental value of each and every person on Earth. Everyone has something special to contribute to the universe. Siddhartha's final realization of his goal of finding enlightenment is simply amazing and one that I can not recommend more strongly that everyone read.

    I'm a U.S. citizen of Irish heritage living in Las Vegas. I was raised Roman Catholic and spent most of my undergraduate and graduate academic life learning about western philosophy, history and literature. I mention the only because I was

    that I could identify so intensely with Siddhartha’s story, despite a background that was as far from embracing an "eastern" viewpoint as you could possibly get.

    I think its ability to completely suck me in demonstrates not only the brilliance and beauty of Hesse’s prose, but also the universal nature of the story and its ability to transcend all barriers to understanding. It is an amazing read but also a deeply personal one and I think that everyone will get something different out of reading it. Hopefully it is something very, very positive.

    5.0 stars. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!

  • Nandakishore Varma

    Most religions know of it as "Enlightenment" - when the individual transcends himself and sees himself as one with the ultimate reality. It can be theistic (the

    - "I am the Brahman" or

    - "Thou Art That" of Hinduism) or atheistic (the Buddhist Nirvana, based on the

    - "non-soul"); but the person who achieves it, according to all sources, is caught up in profound rapture. To reach this stage, one has to tread an arduous path. Carl Gustav Jung called the process

    Most religions know of it as "Enlightenment" - when the individual transcends himself and sees himself as one with the ultimate reality. It can be theistic (the

    - "I am the Brahman" or

    - "Thou Art That" of Hinduism) or atheistic (the Buddhist Nirvana, based on the

    - "non-soul"); but the person who achieves it, according to all sources, is caught up in profound rapture. To reach this stage, one has to tread an arduous path. Carl Gustav Jung called the process "individuation": Joseph Campbell called it "the hero's journey". Herman Hesse's eponymous protagonist of

    is a man who embarks on this enterprise.

    Siddhartha, the handsome Brahmin youth who apparently has everything, is dissatisfied with life: with the whole pointlessness of it. He leaves home with his friend Govinda and joins a group of ascetics (the Samanas) who have made renunciation a way of life. However, the true seeker he is, Siddhartha finds that simple renunciation does not work for him: he joins the Buddha in pursuit of enlightenment. However, he soon understands that whatever knowledge he must possess, must be experiential.

    Leaving Govinda to become a Buddhist ascetic, Siddhartha buries himself in the sensual world across the river, where Kamala the courtesan trains him up in the pleasures of the flesh and Kamaswami the merchant instructs him in the secrets of commerce. Siddhartha soon tires of these too: he returns to the river in penury (not knowing that his child is growing within Kamala), and is taken up by the aged boatman Vasudeva as a helper.

    Here, ferrying people across the river, Siddhartha finally attains enlightenment - not from a great teacher, not from years of penanace and not even from the kindly Vasudeva (even though he points the way) - but from the river. Kamala's death and his son's abandonment of the stranger father completes his education, as distress turns to peace. Then it's time for Vasudeva, the mentor, to disappear - leaving his student alone with the river.

    The river flows, and becomes one with the ocean. The vapour from the ocean form into clouds, and descend on the mountains, becoming the river. The river keeps on flowing: it is inconstant, ever-renewing, never the same - yet it is eternal. The river flows, and the river

    . On its surface, you can see the faces of all your loved ones: whether alive, dead or yet to be born. In the roar of the river, if you listen carefully, you can hear the sacred

    - the first syllable outward, the second one inward, the third one silence...and the fourth one, the all encompassing silence which bears the sound of the cosmic ocean in its womb.

    Highly recommended.

  • Paquita Maria Sanchez

    If I could turn back time*or perhaps pass through some portal which brings me face-to-face with my 14-year-old self, there are so many books I would recommend to little me, grabbing my shoulders to shake my malnourished frame and insisting that I get to reading them as soon as effin possible instead of waiting until I'm too old and cynical and hyper-critical to appreciate and relate to what they have to say. If this ever is/was the case, this time-warp, today I would probably see a lot more nove

    If I could turn back time*or perhaps pass through some portal which brings me face-to-face with my 14-year-old self, there are so many books I would recommend to little me, grabbing my shoulders to shake my malnourished frame and insisting that I get to reading them as soon as effin possible instead of waiting until I'm too old and cynical and hyper-critical to appreciate and relate to what they have to say. If this ever is/was the case, this time-warp, today I would probably see a lot more novels as earth-shattering and brain-splattering magic rather than, well, pretty good stuff that I interrupted much better reading over the last two days to absorb for no good reason save for the mild satisfaction of completing a task.

    The main wrong idea I had about this novel--which had quite a bit to do with it taking so long for me to get around to reading it--is that it's specifically about the Buddha. (I don't have to explain the reason for that misconception, right? Cool, moving on.) I thought maybe it was like a biography or some sort of weird Hessian alt-history or, well...honestly, I didn't think about it very far beyond that, and even those assumptions were fuzzily formed and essentially microscopic. Fortunately, Hesse takes his novel in a much more engaging direction by focusing in on a formerly devout and self-restricting member of the Samana movement who falls in love with a real Playboy Bunny™ of a gal, a lusty little obsession which quickly moves him away from his faith and into her privates. Drugs, drink, gambling, greed, and fornication ensue for years. And years. And years. And years.

    Some of you may be familiar with the place he eventually finds himself: remorse, self-hatred, what-if's, what if not's, physical illness, years of wasted time, obsessive reflection i.e. largely pointless yet still horrifyingly circular cap-D Dwelling, nothing to show for your indulgences, spiritually crushing and tooth-grinding depression, et mofuggin' cetera.

    A dark place, no doubt. Unfortunately, this is the point where the book I was at first mildly bored with and then fully engaged in suddenly became just really fucking irritating. Hesse takes the word-slash-concept "Om" and uses it as the ultimate--and probably shortest named--deus ex machina of all time in my personal brain library's dusty archives. After spending unnumbered decades living like Robery Downey Sheen, our protagonist sits by a river for, I dunno, a couple of minutes reciting "Om" before it just miraculously all comes back to him and he's all enlightened and at peace again and shit (this is not even remotely the end of the novel, so please don't spoiler-mark me out of spite). So wait, what? Not for nothin', but if I have even a mildly snaggle-toothed hangover, I practically require endless supplies of coffee and 800mg ibuprofen, an animal and/or person to cuddle with, liquid b12 drops, at least an entire season of some television drama to fall into, and various plush surfaces to flail about on as I frantically loop Stuart Smalley quotes in my head just to keep the demons at bay. Sure, I am not enlightened and I know I sound like a total wimp right now, especially compared to one so self-disciplined as a monk-type, but I'd say his story of basically spending half a lifetime dipped in chocolately booze pools with naked bodies slithering all around him while he passed the glass n' rolled up dollar bill around gives new meaning to the phrase "falling off the wagon." Then again, I guess being at one with the spiritual path

    be sorta like riding a bike, maybe? I don't suppose my hair turns white from shock every time I hear about an Amish kid returning to his village après Rumspringa. Anyway, my point is that everything just happened so fast and I wasn't ready.

    All this nitpicking makes it sound like I didn't like the book, even though I pretty much did. Trite as the whole "setting free the bird" image was (as in, one character literally sets free a bird on the day her lover decides to leave her

    ), my heartstrings did play a purdy song when Siddhartha and his gal split ways, and everything that happened

    the whole Om Affair did snap me back into the story. I particularly dug the ending, as there was ambiguity in a lot of the right places, and the very last scene was quite lovely. Read it, young me. Read it right after you get the almanac back from Biff. Oh, and speaking of the almanac, you're definitely gonna want to hold on to that thing because, honey, let me tell you a little something about the world economy in the early 21st century...

    *Haha, Cher's totally stuck in your head now. Sucker.


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