Book Review: Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

My Rating: 3 Stars

Book & Author: Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

Genre: Spiritual/Philosophical/Allegorical

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I’m going to be honest about why I have rated this phenomenal book as just 3 stars- I’m not in that place in my life where I can relate to anything cosmic or spiritual or anything related to the concept of Aatma/soul or peace while living in this world. And that is what the book precisely talks about.

The book is very well written, something that I miss in the new age books these days. And the concepts in the book are very well thought of as well. It is hard for me to review such a great piece of writing without looking like a fool and I don’t think it would be right of me to to even try to do so either.

This is a story about a young Brahmin, who goes through different stages of life and learns from the lessons life gives him. He feels lost from the beginning and although he comes across many teachers during his lifetime, and learns a lot of things from them, the teachers are unable to give him the answers he is seeking about life and purpose and how to find peace. At the end of the day, aren’t we all asking this and trying to find out the meaning of our lives and existence, one way or the other?

He learns from his father, the brahmin scriptures, he learns from a Samana about sacrifice, he learns from a mistress about love and pleasure, he learns from a tradesman about money and the highs and lows one can achieve from it, he learns from the river about the constant flow of life and unity, he learns from his friends Govinda and Vasudeva about being kind and having the patience to listen, he learns from his son about love and the power of yearning and the fact that the greatest pain is that which is caused by a broken heart and ultimately, he learns from himself, by listening to himself.

There are a lot of great passages in the book that did resonate with me- especially about the futility of running after pleasure and money and also about the joys and sorrows of parenthood. But what I couldn’t grasp was the concept of Unity- how does one live and participate in the world, once one knows that it is all the same? Just events happening across a stretched period of time, which is actually constant?

I’ll leave you with some of my favorite quotes from the book, but this was a difficult one to write a review for. I think I would like to discuss the book more in person with a friend, or in a book club, instead of writing a one sided review about it. Have you read the book? What was the thing or part that struck the most with you?

Let me warn you, however, oh seeker of knowledge, of the thicket of opinions and of arguing about words. Opinions are insubstantial: they may be beautiful or ugly, smart or foolish; everyone can support them or discard them. But the teachings you’ve heard from me are not my opinions, and their goal is not to explain the world to those who seek knowledge. They have a different goal: their goal is salvation from suffering. This is that which Gotama teaches, and nothing else.”

love can be obtained by begging, buying, receiving it as a gift, or finding it in the street, but it cannot be stolen.

He saw mankind going through life like a child or an animal that he both loved and despised at the same time. He saw them toiling, suffering, and becoming gray-haired for the sake of things which seemed to him entirely unworthy of this price.

Nothing was and nothing will be: everything is, and everything is present and has existence.”

 

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