“Your soul is the whole world.”
― Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha
The cover and the name of this book will deceive you into believing this is the story of Gautama Buddha. Yet, make no mistake, the book is about a Buddha who lived in the time of Gautama.
“So she thoroughly taught him that one cannot take pleasure without giving pleasure, and that every gesture, every caress, every touch, every glance, every last bit of the body has its secret, which brings happiness to the person who knows how to wake it. She taught him that after a celebration of love the lovers should not part without admiring each other, without being conquered or having conquered, so that neither is bleak or glutted or has the bad feeling of being used or misused.”
Siddhartha is the tale of the young Brahmin boy whose thirst for knowledge is beyond his age. His disagreements with his father on the true nature of enlightenment and how one achieves it leads to him leaving his house. He starts to travel in search for true purpose and meaning of life.
Siddhartha meets Gautama himself in an interesting encounter. His time with Kamala, the enchantress, teaches him the various facets to life. With Vasudeva, the boatman, Siddhartha understands what joy, grief and misery are. The profound ending will keep you thinking for a while.
“What could I say to you that would be of value, except that perhaps you seek too much, that as a result of your seeking you cannot find.”
Written as a poem in German and translated (by Hilda Rosner) to English as prose is a simple read. Hermann Hesse’s knowledge of the Upanishads and Indian/Eastern school of philosophy shines throughout the narrative.
The seminal work of the Nobel prize laureate makes a very good read equally for its beauty and for its depth.