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Siddhartha is an allegorical novel by Hermann Hesse which deals with the spiritual journey of a boy known as Siddhartha from the Indian Subcontinent during the time of the Buddha.

The book, Hesse's ninth novel, was written in German, in a simple yet powerful and lyrical style. It was first published in 1922, after Hesse had spent some time in India in the 1910s. It was published in the U.S. in 1951 and became influential during the 1960s. Hesse dedicated Siddhartha to Romain Rolland, "my dear friend".

The word Siddhartha is made up of two words in the Sanskrit language, siddha (achieved) + artha (meaning or wealth). The two words together mean "he who has found meaning (of existence)" or "he who has attained his goals". The Buddha's name, before his renunciation, was Prince Siddhartha Gautama. In this book, the Buddha is referred to as "Gotama".

The story takes place in ancient India around the time of Gautama Buddha (likely between the fifth and seventh centuries BCE). It starts as Siddhartha, the son of a Brahmin, leaves his home to join the ascetics with his companion Govinda. The two set out in the search of enlightenment. Siddhartha goes through a series of changes and realizations as he attempts to achieve this goal.

Experience is the aggregate of conscious events experienced by a human in life – it connotes participation, learning and perhaps knowledge. Understanding is comprehension and internalization. In Hesse’s novel Siddhartha, experience is shown as the best way to approach understanding of reality and attain enlightenment – Hesse’s crafting of Siddhartha’s journey shows that understanding is attained not through scholastic, mind-dependent methods, nor through immersing oneself in the carnal pleasures of the world and the accompanying pain of samsara; however, it is the totality of these experiences that allow Siddhartha to attain understanding.

Thus, the individual events are meaningless when considered by themselves—Siddhartha’s stay with the samanas and his immersion in the worlds of love and business do not lead to nirvana, yet they cannot be considered distractions, for every action and event that is undertaken and happens to Siddhartha helps him to achieve understanding. The sum of these events is thus experience.

For example, Siddhartha’s passionate and pained love for his son is an experience that teaches him empathy; he is able to understand childlike people after this experience. Previously, though he was immersed in samsara, he could not comprehend childlike people’s motivations and lives. And while samsara clung to him and made him ill and sick of it, he was unable to understand the nature of samsara. Experience of samsara at this point did not lead to understanding; perhaps it even hindered him. In contrast to this, Siddhartha’s experience with his son allows him to love, something he has not managed to do before; once again, the love itself does not lead to understanding.

The novel ends with Siddhartha being a ferryman, talking to the river, talking to stones, at long last at peace and capturing the essence of his journey.

A major preoccupation of Hesse in writing Siddhartha was to cure his 'sickness with life' (Lebenskrankheit) by immersing himself in Eastern philosophy such as that expounded in the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. The reason the second half of the book took so long to write was that Hesse "had not experienced that transcendental state of unity to which Siddhartha aspires. In order to do so, Hesse lived as a virtual semi-recluse and became totally immersed in the sacred teachings of both Hindu and Buddhist scriptures.His intention was to attain that 'completeness' which, in the novel, is the Buddha's badge of distinction." The novel is structured on the three stages of life of traditional Indian philosohphy (student (brahmacarin), householder (grihastha) and recluse/renunciate (vanaprastha)) as well as the Buddha's four noble truths (Part One) and eight-fold path (Part Two) which form twelve chapters, the number in the novel. Ralph Freedman mentions how Hesse commented in a letter "[m]y Siddhartha does not, in the end, learn true wisdom from any teacher, but from a river that roars in a funny way and from a kindly old fool who always smiles and is secretly a saint." In a lecture about Siddhartha Hesse claimed "Buddha's way to salvation has often been criticized and doubted, because it is thought to be wholly grounded in cognition. True, but it's not just intellectual cognition, not just learning and knowing, but spiritual experience that can be earned only through strict discipline in a selfless life." Freedman also points out how Siddhartha described Hesse's interior dialectic: "All of the contrasting poles of his life were sharply etched: the restless departures and the search for stillness at home; the diversity of experience and the harmony of a unifying spirit; the security of religious dogma and the anxiety of freedom."
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review by . July 01, 2010
Don't expect to get much out of reading this book unless you take it slowly and seriously. It is a short book, all in all, and it's densely packed with allegory and spiritual transition. Like the lead character of the book, you will be taken through many different ways of life, ways of responding to life; unlike the character, you can step outside of what you are reading and decide if you can feel what he is feeling, become what he is becoming... or if you really want to take that journey …
review by . July 01, 2010
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse is a novel seeking answers to profound questions of self, individuality, love, friendship, happiness, and more. Themes abound in this tale. The message sent is fairly clear and accessible, yet considerable in both breadth and depth. The book made me question many things in my life and the world. It made me wonder. It made me think. It made me see things in a different light. That is the joy I love most after reading a great book; I have grown in some direction; my time …
review by . June 29, 2010
I had read this book based on a recommendation from a High School teacher whom I respected. He let me borrow his copy and it honestly took me two years to finally read it. I had been told that it would be life changing and illuminating, but I felt let down when I finally finished it. I found the language to be simplistic and not particularly engaging. What bothered me most was that I didn’t feel challenged by the text, yes the book was straightforward, but the surface value of the themes was …
review by . June 13, 2010
I read this book when I was thirteen and it made an immense impact on me, because I was on a spiritual journey of my own in practicing yoga. The author, Herman Hesse, was an existentialist author who was attempting to portray the existince of a man searching for spiritual enlightenemnet and happiness. He begins the journey explaining the prince's life and all the temptations that he pursued, because his father did not want him to be a monk. It discusses how he wanted to be enlightened and traveled …
Quick Tip by . July 12, 2010
I just finished this book. It is great, I can relate to the main character's search for his own way in life. I really like it, but the very end, like all Hesse's books was a bit mysterious.
Quick Tip by . July 07, 2010
Love this timeless book, relevant to everyone of any era. Life lessons for all worldwide!
Quick Tip by . July 06, 2010
great book!
Quick Tip by . July 01, 2010
This was a required reading in school, and just never caught my interest.
Quick Tip by . June 30, 2010
-.-
Quick Tip by . June 28, 2010
Amazing, philosophical, thought-provoking.
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