Siddhartha ~ By Hermann Hesse

Book Introduction:

Hermann Hesse’s compact novel Siddhartha has seldom been declared as a work contrary to preacher action. It brings the West to the lessons of an Eastern story of spiritual forage and satisfaction. Yet, this is an Illusively easy and discursive story of the protagonist namely Siddhartha as he progresses through life. It still provides no standard analyses of the mysteries it poses. In emphasizing Siddhartha’s self-assured character, Hesse offers unpretentiously that his book is an outcome of Western as well as Eastern academic beliefs.

Siddhartha, a son of a Brahmin, goes away from home to explore profound and enduring happiness. It only seems to finish where it started: on the banks of a river, with Siddhartha and Govinda joined in friendship. 

But the opening words of the novel give a sign that it will continue and get its impulse through a series of contrasts: “In the shade of the house, in the sunshine near the boats on the riverbank”. 

Instantly, light is conflicted with shadow, and the permanence of the home is opposed with the transports that use the river’s flow. This foreshadows Siddhartha’s later expected life with the ferryman Vasudeva. The book’s twelve chapters, divided into two parts, discover enduring a change and a fresh start in his quest.

One of the essential questions to examine is whether Siddhartha’s search is motivated more by dissatisfaction with his current state or by an idea of where he is traveling. In continuation, he refuses the mental and ceremonial teachings of his father. The self-renunciation and the hardships of the ascetic Samanas and the chance to become a disciple of Gautama, the Buddha. He also refuses the cynical actuality of material possession; and also the trivial role of a guarding father to his boy.

As Siddhartha shines on in the beginning, the phases of his life are like “the old skin that leaves the serpent”. The vision of the renewed snake intensifies the distinction between his conscious plans and the physical development of things through the phases of life. If we understand that Siddhartha attains development and not a variation of conditions in his enduring quest, it can be examined what role his resolution plays in attaining the enlightenment that he ultimately gains by the conclusion of the journey. To a viewer, the picture of Govinda staring captivatingly at his friend alongside the river might seem to be their meeting after many years of separation. But, to the readers, it is revealed that what Govinda beholds recalls him of the smile of Gautama, the universally recognized as the “Sublime One,” the Buddha, whose lifetime pupil Govinda had been.

At lastly recognizing Siddhartha with the Buddha, Hesse implies that the narrative he is describing  is both larger and smaller than an authentic product of fiction. It is vital to keep in mind that Siddhartha is the assigned name of the person who happened to be known as the Buddha. The initial phases of Siddhartha’s life is parallel to the popular legend of the Buddha’s life. Siddhartha meets Gautama in the third chapter. We have to understand that Siddhartha is a fictional character and Gautama is a depiction of the true Buddha. During their conversation, Siddhartha refuses the notion of accompanying him as a disciple. Siddhartha is initiated on his own. Hesse asks exploring topics about the characteristics of the bond between a mentor and a pupil. It sheds light on how instruction that echoes the knowledge of a teacher can instill that experience in a pupil.

Author Introduction:

In the 1960s, notably in the United States, the books of Hermann Hesse were broadly welcomed by budding readers who discovered a portrayal of their own in his protagonists a reflection of their own hunt for purpose in a restless world. Hesse’s strong references to world mythicisms, particularly those of Asia, and his resolute theme of the self aiming for honesty in defiance to acquired ideas and the majority of culture contested to a generation in an eruption and in quest of refreshed values.

Born in Germany in 1877, Hesse came from a family of pastors, scholars, and authors with firm links to India. This initial exposure to the beliefs and doctrines of Asia—refined and deciphered by thinkers who formed the rational traditions and the flow of new Europe—provided Hesse with some of the most penetrating factors in his small stories and books, notably Siddhartha (1922) and Journey to the East (1932).

Excerpts from the book:

The following excerpt is taken from the book, From Chapter Gotama from the First part. We’ve added bold/italics to some quotes for importance.

Quietly, Gotama had listened to him, unmoved. Now he spoke, the perfected one, with his kind, with his polite and clear voice: “You’ve heard the teachings, oh son of a Brahman, and good for you that you’ve thought about it thus deeply. You’ve found a gap in it, an error. You should think about this further. But be warned, oh seeker of knowledge, of the thicket of opinions and of arguing about words. There is nothing to opinions, 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 no opinion, 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 what Gotama teaches, nothing else.”

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Reviews of the book:


by Hermann Hesse, Hilda Rosner (Translator)

Herman Hesse’s classic novel has delighted, inspired, and influenced generations of readers, writers, and thinkers. In this story of a wealthy Indian Brahmin who casts off a life of privilege to seek spiritual fulfillment. Hesse synthesizes disparate philosophies–Eastern religions, Jungian archetypes, Western individualism–into a unique vision of life as expressed through one man’s search for true meaning.

This review was taken from

A book—rare in our arid age—that takes root in the heart and grows there for a lifetime.

Here the spirituality of the East and the West have met in a novel that enfigures deep human wisdom with a rich and colorful imagination.

Written in a prose of almost biblical simplicity and beauty, it is the story of a soul’s long quest in search of he ultimate answer to the enigma of man’s role on this earth. As a youth, the young Indian Siddhartha meets the Buddha but cannot be content with a disciple’s role: he must work out his own destiny and solve his own doubt—a tortuous road that carries him through the sensuality of a love affair with the beautiful courtesan Kamala, the temptation of success and riches, the heartache of struggle with his own son, to final renunciation and self-knowledge.

The name “Siddhartha” is one often given to the Buddha himself—perhaps a clue to Hesse’s aims in contrasting the traditional legendary figure with his own conception, as a European (Hesse was Swiss), of a spiritual explorer.

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