This book came into my hands as a present from my sister. It is one of the most influential books I have ever read and the very reason why I decided to explore Buddhism more seriously. Initially published in 1922, this is one hundred years ago; it relates the life journey of Siddhartha and his search for enlightenment.
In my mind, this book is Hesse’s interpretation of the life of the Buddha, even though he explicitly denies this theory of the book when Siddhartha meets him and challenges the foundation of his doctrine.
“And—this is my thought, O Sublime One—no one will achieve salvation through teachings! O Venerable One, you will not be able to inform and tell a single person in words and by means of teachings what happened to you in the hour of your enlightenment! The doctrine of the enlightened Buddha contains a great deal; it teaches many to live righteously, to shun evil. But one thing this doctrine, so clear, so venerable, does not contain: it does not contain the secret of what the Sublime One himself experienced, he alone among the hundreds of thousands.”Hesse, Hermann. Siddhartha (Dover Thrift Editions) (pp. 44-45). Dover Publications.
There are many moments of insight throughout the life of Siddhartha. He learns how to be spiritual, mundane, rich, poor, young, old during his path. He also adopts many masters that teach him to meditate, love, conduct business, and finally listen. The book builds up to the concept of listening and gaining perspectives to connect with others and the world. This theme becomes apparent through the following passage:
“One goal was Siddhartha’s and only one: to become empty, empty of thirst, empty of wishes, empty of dreams, empty of joy and sorrow. To die away from himself, no longer to be “I,” to find repose with an emptied heart, to be ready for a miracle with thought liberated from ego: that was his goal.”Hesse, Hermann. Siddhartha (Dover Thrift Editions) (p. 30). Dover Publications.
I recommend this book to everyone; it has unparalleled inspirational power and many layers of detail that will show upon reading it repeatedly. I’ve read it at least five times, and I always find new things.
I hope you enjoy this read, and if you have read it before, don’t hesitate to share your thoughts in the comments section below.