PAPERBACK; 167 P. TRANS. AARNO PEROMIES WSOY, 2007/1922 SOURCE: FROM THE LIBRARY
Siddhartha (1922) by Hermann Hesse is a deceptively simple, intense, and lyrical allegorical tale of a man in ancient India striving for enlightenment at the time of Buddha. Siddhartha is a man whose life journey runs in parallel and who may or may not be another version of Buddha himself.
Spiritual enlightenment may not be taught, only experienced, and each individual must tread their own personal path toward truth, in this unforgettable novel by the author who won the 1946 Nobel Prize in Literature.
Siddharta is considered to be a classic – it was originally written in German in 1922, but it was revived in the 1960s when Hesse’s works suddenly became best sellers in the US. Especially Siddharta was associated with the 60’s hippie movement because it shares some themes with the movement, such as self-discovery.
Siddharta is the eponymous hero of the book. He is a young man who has been born into the cast of priests and devoted his life for meditation, offerings and searching for enlightenment. Everyone loves and respects Siddharta, but he himself is not content with his life. He feels restless and yearns for more knowledge. Thus when a group of travelling Samanas (forest priests) wanders into the village, Siddharta asks permission from his father to join them. At first his father objects, feeling the pain of letting his son go, but eventually relents. Upon hearing of Siddharta’s decision, his friend also joins the Samanas. Both Siddharta and his friend initiate to the ways of the forest priests, learning a new lifestyle. At first Siddharta feels content, but slowly the same restlessness settles in. The book follows his journey and spiritual search for self, truth, and nirvana.
Siddharta begins his journey in search of a way to enlightenment. He is taught to try and lose himself and thus achieve nirvana. However, the more he searches, the more he becomes aware of himself. The battle of being one with everything and being yourself presented an interesting dilemma. Another theme in the book is bravery – courage to follow your own path. The book contrasts the different lifestyles and the challenges. A young man faces different challenges and has different ambitions than a middle-aged or an old man. Also the different social positions influence the lifestyle: whether a son of priest, wandering beggar, rich merchant or poor ferryman.
Siddharta was a very interesting read; it made me think about how life is constructed and about the world through the perspective of Buddhism. I read this books in a day because it was due back to the library on the next. Nevertheless, it was just what the doctor ordered – an interesting, thought-provoking book but still very enjoyable. I feel that this might not be everyone’s cup of tea – especially if you’re not open to other religions – but it does make you think about humanity and our relation the world.
“When someone seeks,” said Siddhartha, “then it easily happens that his eyes see only the thing that he seeks, and he is able to find nothing, to take in nothing because he always thinks only about the thing he is seeking, because he has one goal, because he is obsessed with his goal. Seeking means: having a goal. But finding means: being free, being open, having no goal.”