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Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

Siddhartha (original 1922; edition 2002)

by Hermann Hesse

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18,96023087 (3.97)403
Authors:Hermann Hesse
Info:Shambhala (2002), Edition: New Ed, Hardcover, 192 pages
Collections:Read, Read but unowned, Given Away/Sold
Tags:20th Century, Fiction, German Literature, Literary Fiction, Bildungsroman, Buddhism, Philosophy, Existentialism, Religion, Spirituality, India, Nobel Prize, 1001 Books, Read in 2002, Sold

Work details

Siddharta by Hermann Hesse (1922)

  1. 93
    The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran (Smiler69)
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    Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse (chwiggy)
  3. 10
    The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham (charlie68)
    charlie68: Similar thematically.
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    Phantastes by George MacDonald (charlie68)
    charlie68: Similar themes of a young man looking for spiritual meaning.
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    Buddha, Volume 1: Kapilavastu by Osamu Tezuka (JqnOC)
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    Ramayana by C. Rajagopalachari (Jona25)
  7. 10
    Remember, be here now by Ram Dass (JFDR)
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    Beneath the Wheel by Hermann Hesse (chwiggy)
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    The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (chwiggy)
  10. 11
    Buddha by Karen Armstrong (Nickelini)
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    Mahābhārata (R. K. Narayan ed.) by Vyasa (Jona25)
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    Creation by Gore Vidal (mcenroeucsb)
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    The Black Girl in Search of God (becca58203)
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    The Holy Bible Revised Standard Version by Thomas Nelson & Sons (charlie68)
    charlie68: Connects with a lot of the same themes in Ecclesiastes and the Gospels.
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Showing 1-5 of 202 (next | show all)
This was a difficult read for me. It was boring and I really disliked the main character, Siddhartha. It's considered one of the most widely read books of the 20th century as it became a favorite of the counterculture of the 1960s and had been on my list for a while. Now, that's taken care of...lol.

From the book's Introduction: "Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha is a great story, a tale of a gifted individual struggling to discover the meaning of his life. Through his many colorful adventures, he does not settle for conventional answers, but experiences the whole range of human possibilities for himself and comes finally to profound insight and vast compassion." ( )
  bhabeck | Jul 17, 2016 |
To say this is a beautiful book is to understate the peace and calm with which rings throughout Hesse's patient prose. It may be a short book, but it is best digested slowly and thoroughly over a long period of time. Reading it was a tranquil, meditative experience. Few authors are able to capture spiritual awakening with words, but "Siddhartha" comes close. Very close. I will read this book again someday. ( )
  voncookie | Jun 30, 2016 |
To say this is a beautiful book is to understate the peace and calm with which rings throughout Hesse's patient prose. It may be a short book, but it is best digested slowly and thoroughly over a long period of time. Reading it was a tranquil, meditative experience. Few authors are able to capture spiritual awakening with words, but "Siddhartha" comes close. Very close. I will read this book again someday. ( )
  anna_hiller | Jun 22, 2016 |
Just couldn't appreciate this, empathize enough to understand. ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 6, 2016 |
Told with remarkable clarity and refreshing brevity, Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha is a fantastic book for providing oneself with an environment in which to ponder deep spiritual questions. It tells the story of the eponymous Siddhartha, a restless and thoughtful young man who embarks on a spiritual quest of self-discovery. Despite being only 117 pages long (in my Penguin Modern Classics edition), Hesse manages to tell the story of Siddhartha's whole life, from restless youth to contented, enlightened old age.

Indeed, it is because of this brevity that Siddhartha is a better spiritual treatise than it is a novel. As a novel, a story in which to become engrossed, it is practically non-existent. Aside from Siddhartha's spiritual fulfilment which serves as the plot line, there is no character development. We do not know why Vasudeva embarked upon or continued his own spiritual quest, why Siddhartha and Kamala developed a relationship of such intensity, or why Govinda possesses such loyalty, or a spiritual restlessness that mirrors Siddhartha's. There is also little description of the world which Siddhartha experiences (except perhaps the river which is so important to the final part of the story), and indeed little narrative.

However, when taken as a spiritual treatise, Siddhartha is exceptional. There is a persistent theme that one cannot attain spiritual harmony through established teachings and doctrines, and certainly not organised religion. As early as page 4, the young Siddhartha is contemptuous of the Brahmin (Hindu priests) and rejects becoming one like ten thousand others of [his] kind"; he rejects being a "good stupid sheep amongst a large herd". He becomes obsessed with transcending the body and mind to become one with the Self (Atman), "the eternal which each person carried within him" but few realised (pg. 5), which will connect him to Brahman (with an 'a'), which is the unchanging, divine oneness of the universe. From then on, Siddhartha is a chronicle of the titular character's spiritual journey. Riffing on a phrase found on page 73, there is Siddhartha the Brahmin, Siddhartha the Samana (a sort of spiritual pilgrim), Siddhartha the materialistic rich man, Siddhartha the child, Siddhartha the father and, finally, Siddhartha the ferryman. Siddhartha's spiritual beliefs change throughout this time, but there is a clear progression and maturation of his philosophy so that, by the end, his thoughts seem a logical summation of all that he has learned and experienced.

That phrase - 'learned and experienced' - is crucial to whether the reader enjoys and appreciates this book. Whilst Siddhartha's spiritual philosophy is refined over time, the themes of learning and experience are a constant foundation. As mentioned above, there is the conviction expressed by Siddhartha that established teachings and doctrines, even those of the venerable Buddha, cannot in themselves bring spiritual enlightenment. They may set one on the right path (it is Siddhartha's time as a Samana that opens up the world to him) but cannot in themselves bring an achievement. Siddhartha samples various spiritual philosophies and teachings but every time his thirst is quenched, he feels new thirst, and although these paths take him away from the Self, "in the end they always led back to it." (pg. 13). Somewhat unusually for a writer, someone who makes a living based upon his utilisation and manipulation of words, Hesse argues that words cannot communicate spiritual truth. In Siddhartha's meeting with the Buddha, he tells the 'Illustrious One' that he cannot become his follower because "... nobody finds salvation through teachings. To nobody, O Illustrious One, can you communicate in words and teachings, what happened to you in the hour of your enlightenment." (pg. 28). In contrast to the teachings of the Western monotheistic religions, there are no set of rules, teachings or commandments that one must follow in order to be considered a holy man in the same way that one must follow the holy texts and gospels to be a good Christian, Jew or Muslim.

Hesse, through Siddhartha, tells us that one's own life experiences dictate our progression, not the teachings of others ("I will learn from myself, be my own pupil. I will learn from myself the secret of Siddhartha." (pg. 31)). After Siddhartha has succumbed to the materialistic life of a merchant, he acknowledges that he needed to experience it himself in order to reject it. He had been taught in his youth that shallow materialism was not good, but the teaching, the rule, was not enough. Now he had experienced it, and overcome it, he now knew the lesson "not only with my intellect, but with my eyes, with my heart, with my stomach." (pg. 77). We cannot always decide what experiences we may have, but we can be more receptive to them, and more willing to learn from them, and indeed, increase our chances of attaining more valuable experiences through conscious and thoughtful choice (Siddhartha, after all, chooses to embark on a journey of self-discovery, to leave home and pursue the path of the Samana). Many are unwilling to be receptive to new ideas and experiences; there is a neat example where Vasudeva notes how the ferry across the river which serves as a great spiritual inspiration to Siddhartha has "taken thousands of people across and to all of them my river has been nothing but a hindrance on their journey." (pg. 83). To them, the river is an inconvenient obstacle to their ordinary daily lives. In contrast, through his introspective thoughtfulness and receptiveness, Siddhartha seems able to see the spiritual lessons in earthly events (see pages 53-54 for an example of how a trip to a village becomes a lesson on the benefits of karma). More than anything, it is Hesse's advocacy for individualistic, non-conformist spiritual thinking that is the most rewarding and life-affirming lesson from Siddhartha.

Although the spiritual conclusions reached by Siddhartha at the end were not entirely convincing to me, they were told with such clarity and assertiveness that, though they may not harmonise completely with one's own thoughts, they are rewarding for the reader merely to ponder and digest them. Indeed, through the final dialogue between Siddhartha and Govinda, Hesse seems to acknowledge this and implies at the end that he knows many people will not be wholly accepting of his findings. As people are at different stages of their journeys, and have different experiences to draw from, they may not find Siddhartha's professed enlightenment convincing, just as Govinda could not completely accept them from Siddhartha himself ("... yet it also pleases me and seems right that what is of value and wisdom to one man seems nonsense to another", Siddhartha mischievously muses on page 112). As with page 28 mentioned above (when Siddhartha told the Buddha he could not communicate the sensation of his enlightenment to others), one must experience it for oneself before they can truly understand it. It is through his own experiences that Siddhartha comes to find enlightenment and contentment. Realising that all the things in the world are connected in spiritual harmony, Siddhartha claims that "love is the most important thing in the world" (pg. 113); not necessarily love for another human being, but compassionate understanding and affection for all things. As he tells Govinda, "everything needs only... my loving understanding; then all is well with me and nothing can harm me." (pg. 111). Time and suffering, life and death, are all relative; whereas one may feel pain in this moment, one may feel happiness in another, or in another life. Like the river, these moments are ever-flowing and exist alongside one another: "... every sin already carries grace within it, all small children are potential old men, all sucklings have death within them, all dying people - eternal life." (pp110-11). Whereas the hippy-istic message that 'all you need is love' may seem like a cop-out, when it comes at the end of this small but seismic book, it is a revelation. After a restless journey, Siddhartha no longer needs to compare the world to "some kind of desired imaginary world, some imaginary vision of perfection, but to leave it as it is, to love it and be glad to belong to it." (pg. 111). Contentment and affection for the world, after a difficult journey: that is as life-affirming as any message can be." ( )
1 vote MikeFutcher | Jun 3, 2016 |
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[It] attempts to postulate an answer to the riddle of man's confused and contradictory existence in this universe.

» Add other authors (154 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hesse, Hermannprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Appelbaum, StanleyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bernofsky, SusanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Binkhuysen, A.M.H.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heberlein, AnnPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Holmberg, NilsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Iyer, PicoForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kohn, Sherab ChödzinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kuhn, HeribertContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mila, MassimoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Neugroschel, JoachimTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rosner, HildaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Lieber, verehrter Romain Rolland!

Seit dem Herbst des Jahres 1914, da die seit kurzem angebrochene Atemnot der Geistigkeit auch mir plötzlich spürbar wurde, und wir einander von fremden Ufern her die Hand gaben, im Glauben an dieselben übernationalen Notwendigkeiten, seither habe ich den Wunsch gehabt, Ihnen einmal ein Zeichen meiner Liebe und zugleich eine Probe meines Tuns und einen Blick in meine Gedankenwelt zu geben. Nehmen Sie die Widmung des ersten Teiles meiner noch unvollendeten indischen Dichtung freundlichst entgegen von Ihrem

Hermann Hesse
First words
In the shade of the house, in the sunshine of the riverbank near the boats, in the shade of the Sal-wood forest, in the shade of the fig tree is where Siddhartha grew up, the handsome son of the Brahman, the young falcon, together with his friend Govinda, son of a Brahman.
En la penumbra y bajo el Sol, al margen del río y cerca a las barcas; a la sombra del bosque de Sauces, creció Siddhartha, el bello hijo del brahmán, el joven halcón, compañero de Govinda, amigo suyo y también hijo de un brahmán.

Im Schatten des Hauses, in der Sonne des Flußufers bei den Booten, im Schatten des Salwaldes, im Schatten des Feigenbaumes wuchs Sidartha auf, der schöne Sohn des Brahmanen, der junge Falke, zusammen mit Govinda, seinem Freunde, dem Brahmanensohn.
Dal verbo suchen (cercare) i Tedeschi fanno il participio presente, suchend, e lo usano sostantivato, der Suchende (colui che cerca), per designare quegli uomini che non s'accontentano della superficie delle cose, ma d'ogni aspetto della vita vogliono ragionando andare in fondo, e rendersi conto di sé stessi, del mondo, dei rapporti che tra loro e il mondo intercorrono. Questo cercare che è già di per sé un trovare, come disse uno dei più illustri fra questi «cercatori», e precisamente Sant'aAgostino; quel cercare che è in sostanza vivere nello spirito.
Nell'ombra della casa, sulle rive soleggiate del fiume presso le barche, nell'ombra del bosco di Sal, all'ombra del fico crebbe Siddharta, il bel figlio del Brahmino, il giovane falco, insieme all'amico suo, Govinda, anch'egli figlio di Brahmino.
[attributions added]
Kamaswami: "... And what is it now what you've got to give? What is it that you've learned, what you're able to do?"
Siddhartha: "I can think. I can wait. I can fast."
Kamaswami: "That's everything?"
Siddhartha: "I believe, that's everything!"
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Siddhartha is het verhaal van een brahmanenzoon die zijn leven wijdt aan het zoeken naar het ware zelf. Als asceet in de bergen mediteert en vast hij, maar vindt de waarheid niet. Zwervend als bedelmonnik hoort hij spreken over de Boeddha, maar ook de grote Meester kan hem de waarheid niet geven. Dan stort hij zich in het wereldse leven, wordt minnaar van de courtisane Kamala, verwerft rijkdom en bezit, totdat hij voelt hierin ten onder te zullen gaan; en opnieuw wordt hij bedelaar.

Geleid door het heilige Om komt Siddhartha ten slotte aan de grote rivier, symbool van harmonie en vergankelijkheid. In de hut van de oude veerman leert hij de wereld der dingen lief te hebben en te begrijpen.

'Van een steen kan ik houden, en ook van een boom of een stuk schors. Het zijn tastbare zaken, en van wat tastbaar is kan men houden. Maar van woorden kan ik niet houden. Daarom zie ik niets in een leer.'

Zo is Siddhartha van asceet en bedelmonnik, levensgenieter en rijkaard teruggekeerd tot de eenvoud van een kind: hij heeft de harmonie, het eeuwige Om gevonden.

Hermann Hesse (1877-1962) ontving in 1946 de Nobelprijs voor Literatuur. Tot zijn beroemdste romans horen Demian, De steppewolf, Narziss en Goldmund en Het Kralenspel.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553208845, Mass Market Paperback)

In the novel, Siddhartha, a young man, leaves his family for a contemplative life, then, restless, discards it for one of the flesh. He conceives a son, but bored and sickened by lust and greed, moves on again. Near despair, Siddhartha comes to a river where he hears a unique sound. This sound signals the true beginning of his life -- the beginning of suffering, rejection, peace, and, finally, wisdom.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:09 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

In the novel, Siddhartha, a young man, leaves his family for a contemplative life, then, restless, discards it for one of the flesh. He conceives a son, but bored and sickened by lust and greed, moves on again. Near despair, Siddhartha comes to a river where he hears a unique sound. This sound signals the true beginning of his life-- the beginning of suffering, rejection, peace, and, finally, wisdom.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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