Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

I have always loved reading books from my school days, but back then I didn’t have the resources or options to buy books. So my curiosity would drag me towards the books of next semester! I would read books of any subject except for Maths! So in my bookshelf Maths textbook was kept at the bottom and gained my attention only when the school re-opned in the month of June. History was and is my favourite subject and I was pretty good at science too. But my true love was languages! English was our medium of instruction with Marathi and Hindi being secondary languages to learn. I enjoyed learning all three of them. In fact, many Indians (counting myself) are unaware about the treasured literature written in Indian regional languages.

It was only when I entered my college days, I came to know about novels! My friends were mostly reading romantic novels. I wasn’t reading them. I liked reading books but I was unsure about which books to start reading as a beginner. And I wasn’t much fond of romantic genres.

While I was at college, one aspect of my life was going through a major change, Spirituality.

What is spirituality? How and when does one understands it? And maybe that’s why my curiosity crossed paths with the book of my dreams!

After completing my college, I started searching for places to buy second hand books. I knew only about one book that could quench my thirst for reading “The Prophet” by Khalil Gibran. I did buy one, but the shop keeper at Flora Fountain pavement (Mumbai) seemed to have really good taste for books and he handed me this amazing book Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse’! On the cover, it was written ‘Nobel prize winner’. And that was enough to persuade me to buy the book! Every time, I read the book I remember that shop keeper for introducing me to my favourite genre in reading. I thank him.

I have read this book thrice. I honestly could not understand it in the first instance. Not because the language or thoughts are difficult to comprehend, but because I was in awe of the words that flowed like a river. Sometimes they flowed like a silent estuary blending into seawater and sometimes like a ferocious mainstream river roaring it’s way through narrow valleys! The second time I read this book to understand the story of the protagonist, Siddhartha.

The story

From the very beginning Siddhartha is a highly revered son of a Brahman. He was calm, composed, intelligent, virtuous and perfect. All along the journey of his life, he was faced by many questions and each new answer posed him with a new question. The core of his journey revolved around the desire to know the “Atman”, our innermost self, our soul. Our true identity in the vastness of this universe. In order to understand the Atman, he decided to unlearn all that he had learned from his childhood. He decided to begin the journey anew. His beloved childhood friend, Govinda decided to follow him as well.

While on this journey Siddhartha decided to follow the Samanas, the ascetics. He quickly learned their knowledge of fasting, ‘self-denial’ and meditation. He mastered the art of leaving his own self, exploring the soul of the world around him and again slipping back into his own self. But yet he had qualms about his journey. He was wondering how long will he have to starve himself from his own self only to again to get back to himself?

Siddhartha makes another decision and this time he is about to meet the enlightened one, Gotama! From here the story takes a riveting twist. Until now, he only had questions but after meeting Gotama, Siddhartha had begun finding his own path. And on his path he meets Kamala. Kamala introduces him to the world of lust and greed. A world unknown to him. He was astonished by the existence of such world, he was learning something new here. After meeting Kamala and many other ‘Childlike people’, Siddhartha had started seeing the world in a different light.

The final chapters bring him closer to a river and a ferryman. A man with a small hut, simple living and some bittersweet lessons of life. Starting the journey from abstinence, Siddhartha unfolded all the elements of human life little by little. While unfolding, at times he was lost, at times he learned a lesson. He explored every aspect to life to understand his inner most self. His story is a quest for finding reason behind his existence and to achieve that goal, he struggles to the extent of losing his identity. He goes through pain and happiness to understand the equal significance underlying every human emotion.

How did the book influence me?

I began understanding the story more clearly when he met Kamala. Kamala personified the real world of greed and lust. She knew the art of love. She knew how hearts are broken. Because, these are the moments that we come across in our lives. There is love, desire, regret and a continuous quest to reach at a certain level at a certain age. The third time I read the book, was to find solutions for my personal questions and following is a quote from the book that gave me my answers:

”I see whatever exists as good, death is to me like life, sin like holiness, wisdom like foolishness, everything has to be as it is, everything only requires my consent, only my willingness, my loving agreement, to be good for me, to do nothing but work for my benefit, to be unable to ever harm me. I have experienced on my body and on my soul that I needed sin very much, I needed lust, the desire for possessions, vanity, and needed the most shameful despair, in order to learn how to give up all resistance, in order to learn how to love the world, in order to stop comparing it to some world I wished, I imagined, some kind of perfection I had made up, but to leave it as it is and to love it and to enjoy being a part of it.” – Siddhartha

I had read this book about 2 years ago and from then onward whenever I have been deceived by life, I go back to this book. I open any random page and I just read it. The words calm me down. They kind of listen to my silence, at same time filling the void of my mind with serenity. This book will act as your friend in need, please do read it!

Thank you so much guys for reading my blog! Let me know your thoughts about the book in comments below.

More blogs on the way:)

Stay calm and keep reading

Best wishes,

Akshaya

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