Review: “Siddhartha” on goodreads

SiddharthaSiddhartha by Hermann Hesse

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Being of indian origin, I was really thrilled to read this book that captures the ancient spiritual India quite accurately. The most poignant moment for me was to read about Siddartha coming face to face to Gautama Buddha and tell the great teacher that wisdom cannot be taught; that it is incommunicable. Isn’t that so true? No amount of reading or meditating can teach us about life.

The only way to learn about life is to live, to immerse in this extraordinary opportunity that is the human experience, to surrender to its ebb and flow, to take in all the good and bad in stride, to break free of mental shackles, to learn from life as Hesse’s Siddhartha learnt from the river, to let life wash over us and shape our souls in equanimity.

I find this particular conversation intriguing, because of the character juxtaposition, between Siddhartha and Buddha.

In history Siddhartha, the son of king Bindhusara, abandons all worldly pleasures relinquishes his throne, leaves his wife and new born son in his quest for enlightenment, which he finds to become the ‘Buddha’ which means ‘the enlightened’.

In the novel, the character Siddhartha does just the opposite. He starts off as an ascetic, leaves that immerses in worldly life and pleasures, rises to all its heights and hits humiliating lows to find wisdom, which is probably why the character Siddhartha says to the Gautama Buddha, the great teacher that wisdom cannot be taught. It can only be learnt by an individual’s effort. This is why this particular conversation between them becomes the crux of the story.

It questions the fundamental arguments of Indian spirituality, that vests on the premise of mastering the Vedic Scriptures, abandoning worldly pleasures, and embracing extreme suffering through self-denial is the only path to enlightenment. The character Siddhartha disputes that by saying, each has to find his way, by simply living life.

This is why this book is a treasure to me.

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