Siddharta by Hermann Hesse

siddharthaTwo thousand five hundred years ago, there was a boy named Siddharta, the Brahmin’s son, who left home but in the most awkward way you could imagine when somebody departed, because he wanted to gain peace by becoming a Samana. He was thirsty of learning, looking for something in his life that he didn’t know. He went out with his friend Govinda. Not only his best friend, but Govinda was like a brother to him. Both of them lived in the forrest and became a Samana. That was where their adventure begun.

Siddharta fasted, and suffered terribly, and soon it came to him that doing so wouldn’t change anything at all. So he said ‘goodbye, thank you for teaching us’ to his teacher; and they traveled. They came across to Buddha, the Gotama, the Illustrious One, The Immortal One, the One that had not Sinned. After listening to his teachings, Govinda decided to be one of Gotama’s (Buddha’s) followers. After Govinda declared to be the Illustrious One’s follower; Siddharta had a talk with the Gotama Himself. Siddharta decided that he wouldn’t be His follower and tried to find out his own path.

Without Govinda, Siddhartha was alone. He entered to another forest and found a river. He went to travel across it with a ferryman who had insisted about him going across without payment. Then, the ferryman said his reward was their friendship.

After crossing the river, Siddharta passed a town on his way. There, he fell in love at the first sight with Kamala; a merchant’s girl. Soon, Siddharta forgot everything he remembered in the past. His thoughts concentrated on Kamala who asked him to be the richest merchant to win her heart. He did, eventually. He became rich and famous; living in the wonderful and dangerous life.

After a really long time, Siddharta dreamt of a beautiful songbird that Kamala kept. The bird dead in its cage and did not sing anymore. Sickening with his life, suddenly he remembered what he had done in the past. He decided to flee from the town, into a forest, into a river. There, he thought about committing suicide and suddenly, something stirred before him. A new Siddharta was born. He fell asleep after his stage of consciousness. As he awoke, he met Govinda, and immediately recognized him. Govinda said that he was a wandering monk and that the Illustrious One was really ill. All monks were traveling to him.

The two men separated. Siddharta decided to live near the river. He met the same ferryman that had helped him crossed the river a long time back. The man’s name was Vasudeva. Vasudeva enjoyed the company and allowed Siddharta to share his hut. They became best of friends. Vasudeva had one weakness. He rarely talked, and normally, it was Siddharta who started the conversation.

One day, they found Kamala and her son. She was dying, had been bitten by a snake. She managed to say good bye to her love, Siddharta. Her son was not a kind boy. He was mean and never liked anybody, especially his father, Siddharta. Siddharta tried so hard to win his heart and was always patient with him, but he stole his money, and left, back to his town.

Siddharta was very sad, but after listening to the flow of the river, he recovered from the broken-heart. Soon it was time for Vasudeva to leave. Siddharta said his goodbye as Vasudeva dissapeared into the forest, forever.

Time had passed since Siddharta had last met Govinda and they stumbled again. Govinda knew at once Siddharta had found peace, but he, Govinda had not. Govinda admitted that he had never seen somebody as peaceful as the Illustrious One. Siddharta told Govinda to kiss him on his forehead. As he did, he did not see Siddharta anymore, but millions and millions of strange faces. It was the life, before and after. All the faces he saw, all the lives his saw, was actually One. At that moment, Govinda had found The Answer. He came to his own peace.

***

The book is heavily talking about philosophy and the concept of Buddhism. As the Buddhists believe, that, after we die, we are reformed into something different. This concept is illustrated by Govinda who sees everything that happens in his past and future.

The words carved in this story are amazingly beautiful. The quotes are splendid. The author has used the words which are indescribable. None of the book I have read before has such poetically prose like this book.

To be honest, it is a difficult book to comprehend its major sense and substance, though the book is quite thin. My edition is around 120+ pages. I finished reading it for two days. What I like about this book is partly because of the main idea of the story, which is the notion of life’s meanings. I don’t really understand all the grown ups’ talk about “having peace in life”, but I do understand about the concept of time. It says something like this: “one second is ten thousand years”.

The author’s purpose is maybe to enlight the readers, or maybe to highlight the spirit of Buddhism in his own interpretation. This is exactly the soul of the book, represented by the main character, Siddharta: “I have always thirsted for knowledge, I have always been full of questions”. After you read the first and second chapter, you may think it is a nonfiction book; a story that really happens in 2,500 BCE, but that is a mistake. It is entirely fiction, except for Buddha Himself.

Hermann Hesse is a novelist who won many awards, including the Nobel Prize in literature in 1946. Hesse is German. His work, Siddharta, will give you a peaceful and calm sensation as you read it. Believe me. Buy and prove it yourself.

PS. Today is my birthday. I am eleven years old now. Although I am not a Buddhist, may the blessing and wisdom of Buddha, the Illustrious One, be with me.

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