Siddhartha By Herman Hesse Translated by Susan Bernofsky The Great Epic of a Great Man

Siddhartha is the son of a respected Brahmin. Handsome, intelligent, and well educated, everybody thought he was destined to become like his father, a talented priest. Yet Siddhartha was not happy of his fate. Tormented by doubt with regard to the practice of his father’s religion, he finally decided to leave everything behind and to become a Samana. Followed by his friend Govinda, Siddhartha learned how to practice self-denial.

Voluntarily retired from civilization, Samanas devoted their life to kill the sensuous self through severe bodily restriction. The killing of desire would lead to a state of expurgated self through which the divine soul would be reached. Yet after meditation, Siddhartha inevitably returned to the torment of the human life cycle.

Distrustful of the Samanas, he and Govinda left the community for the Buddha whose rumor of saintliness was spreading around. After meeting the Buddha, Govinda decided to become one of his disciples, while Siddhartha realized that no more teaching could bring him the knowledge for salvation but his own experience through which self-enlightenment would occur.

Thus Siddhartha left to meet whom he felt to be Siddhartha. Convinced of having lost his time trying to flee from himself, he began to open his sense to the diversity of the world and reflected that meaning and reality were not hidden behind things but in them. He arrived to a town where the sight of the beautiful Kamala voiced him he should learn the pleasure of love from her. Enticed by her sensual knowledge, Siddhartha entered the service of a rich merchant and became acquainted with business, yet not for the aim of making money, but for gaining the favor of the courtesan. As in business, he learned that love necessitates to give and take. Rather observing than active among people, he remarked that petty details made people’s life stressful and unfulfilling.

He soon realized the distance separating him from the common purpose of common people. Siddhartha was still a Samana in his heart. Despite his difference, he remained there, grew older, richer, and more spoiled by polished life than ever. Hating himself for what he had become, his dreams expressed longing for his past.

He woke up one day with the need of getting rid of his present life. Once again, Siddhartha left everything behind, not knowing that he was abandoning a sad Kamala pregnant of him. Full of self-detestation, he yearned for death until an internal voice reminded him of the holy Om. Falling asleep near the bank of the river, he awoke anew as though resurrecting from a dead cycle. Aware of the permanent transitory state of all things, he realized that all sensuous desires have been killed in him.

Hearing an internal voice saying to stay nearby the river, he met the happy ferryman and decided to live with him to learn the river’s teaching. Living with Vasudeva a quiet and simple life, he learned how to listen without opinion in his heart. He came to realize that all torment was in time, and he felt content of his timeless peaceful realm.

One day, Kamala and her son came to cross the river in order to see the Buddha who was approaching death. Bitten by a snake and transported to Vasudeva’s hut, she shared her last moment with Siddhartha who got to know the existence of his son. However, his son did not love him and preferred Samsara to this humble life nearby the river. One day, the boy escaped the hut and returned to town. Longing for his son, Siddhartha became more understanding of normal people for he shared with them the common nature of loving without reason his child.

Then he recalled that he too had left home against his father’s will. In despair, he went on speaking to Vasudeva, and while confessing his wound, he realized that the motionless ferryman was absorbing his words as though being the river itself. Then listening to the river, he heard thousand of voices, of feelings, of good and evil things all streaming toward a goal, and realized that all of them formed the world.

Siddhartha surrendered himself to the harmony of the stream while Vasudeva peacefully disappeared. Many years later, Govinda, who had heard the rumor of a great sage living nearby the river, came to meet Siddhartha. Still seeking for an answer to his puzzled mind, the friend requested him a doctrine upon which he could dwell to progress in his path toward salvation. Siddhartha, who lightened of wisdom, explained him that in every truth the opposite is equally truth and that the whole form perfection. Thus one should not be blinded by the narrow path he is taking since the truth is everywhere. There is no good and evil since everything is transitory and embodies all types of qualities within it. Therefore one should accept the world as it is because the existence of each of its elements has a meaning that serves the whole process of life.

A thing is thus everything and one should love it to be in harmony with everything. Perceiving his aura of saintliness, Govinda bowed low and burst into tears for the ferryman sitting in front of him reminded him of the Buddha.

This book talks and contrasts about the religiousness values respect and identity. One of my favorite quote from this book is

“Deeply Govinda bowed, tears of which he knew nothing about coursed down his old face, and like a fire the feeling of the most ardent love, the most humble reverence was burning in his heart. Deeply he  bowed, bowed to the very earth, before the one sitting their motionless, whose smile reminded him that everything that had ever, in all his life, been dear to him and holy”

This quote is basically the last paragraph of the book and I chose this quote because it shows the impact of a man’s life on another man’s this was probably a moment of utter amazement for Govinda. Sidhartha was a man who did whatever he wished to do and he attained his godly realisation from looking at the peacness of the river. The river in this case is his tool to let him escape out of the birth-death reality. In the Hindu culture when you die your soul gets re-incarnated into another being may it be a cockroach a lizard a dolphin or another human life. The choice of being re-incarnated is decided by the actions and the Karma you do through out your life.

This quote represents the love from two very dear friends even if they have been separated from each other for a long time this is why I chose this quote. It really display’s the true marvel of Herman Hesse’s writing and I find it very hard to believe that a German author could have written this book based on Indian cultural and religious values. This really tells me that everybody can attain great things in life by following their own wisdom, courage and determination.

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