Book: Siddhartha (Published in1951 in the US)
Writer: Herman Hesse (1877-1962, German-born Noble laureate).
Genre: Spiritual and religious
First of all, It’s not an autobiography of Goutam Buddha. It’s a fictional one and the author dares to represent protagonist Siddhartha as a critical character of Gautam Buddha. It basically deals with a spiritual journey of self-discovery of Siddhartha, during the time of Gautam Buddha.
Siddhartha, A teenage boy, and also a respected son of Brahmin, lives with his father in ancient India. After performing all of the religious chores, he feels like something is missing. Suddenly he realized that he does not belong in this world and wants to leave all worldly affairs. He runs from home in order to pursue his quest for knowledge, wisdom, and ultimate happiness – which he called “The Spiritual Enlightenment”. And in his journey, he even rejects Buddhist teachings also.
In the very beginning, we found that Siddharth along with his friend Govinda left home and joined a community of saints called “Samana.” Here they learn to meditate, learn to fast, wait, be patient, and all. And while participating in all of that stuff, suddenly he realized that this is not what exactly he looks for happiness, inner peace. So he left them.
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Then they go to Gautam Buddha’s teaching camp to listen to him. Here, his friend Govinda became impressed by buddha and remain there but Siddhartha is again reluctant. After listening to Buddha, Siddhartha thinks that he wants to go on his own and find his own path of spirituality. He thought that no teacher can salvate him, can give him salvation, the only salvation he will even find in his life will be from himself. He left Buddha too. And this comparison may be in our modern life too. In any situation, we try to find answers through others when in reality it’s experienced, that’s the greatest teacher.
Then he realizes that he wants to learn all of the worldly affairs in this universe. And he meets a woman named Kamala, who is basically a prostitute, and Siddhartha learned to love her. And then he joins a job and works with a merchant and Siddhartha eventually becomes more materialistic and obsessive. He has done all a normal human being does and still very calm and silent.
Then he meets Vasudeva, who is a ferryman, and Siddharth meets him at the very end of this book. I admire him the most because he teaches Siddharth how to listen to a river. According to Vasudeva, the river absorbs all of the sufferings of the world just like trees absorb the wind. “Everything returns” is one of the most important learning he learned from the river, he shared it with Siddharth.
And finally, we have another powerful character of this book- Siddharth’s son- who teaches Siddharth just an incredibly valuable life lesson, Sorrow and Misery. His son left him just like he himself left his father. So this cycle perpetuated. Ironic indeed!
And in the last 5 pages of this novel, the real treasure lies. The novel ends with Govinda returning to the river to seek enlightenment by meeting with a wise man who lives there and the wise man is Siddharth himself, the enlightened one. Govinda asks Siddharth for the wisdom of life…and Siddharth explained it with all of his life-long experiences. Siddharth explains neither he nor anyone can teach the wisdom to Govinda. Verbal explanations are limited and can never communicate the entirety of enlightenment. It’s all about the wisdom of indirection. He explained that enlightenment does not come from mastering either the material or spiritual world but from finding the common ground between these polarities of existence.
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In this novel, the most important character is played by the River which fascinates me the most. Here, the River represents life itself, time, and the path of enlightenment. As a representation of life, it provides knowledge without words, and Siddharth’s reward for studying it is an intuitive understanding of its divine essence. The river’s sounds suggest the sounds of all living things, and the flow of the river as well as the fact that its water perpetually returns, suggests the nature of time. The ferryman points Siddharth in the right direction, but the river itself is Siddharth’s final instructor.
This is basically a highly metaphorical fiction talks about the identification of own self, searches for inner peace of souls. Sociology is quite opposite of this genre, where human life is confronted with a materialistic dilemma. From this point of view, this book is of no use. But apart from this objectivity, highly structured life, if you have some time for diving into your own self, you can test this read. This spiritual journey with this book definitely heals your soul in this highly discomposing time.
To me, it’s a life-changing book, though this feeling is very much subjective. I’ve already read this book plenty of times, and the metaphor used here by the author amazed me the most. Most probably, many of you already have gone through this amazing aura, but I can’t control my interest to share it with you all.
If you have enough bogus time like me, then you can read this writing, can share your opinion or feelings about this book. If you have already read it, you can share your perspective regarding this. If you don’t read it, then you may go through this book. If you don’t like my writing, feel free to criticize.
Reviewed by: Maria Afroj
Writer: Herman Hesse
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