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Siddhartha Mass Market Paperback – December 1, 1981
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In the shade of a banyan tree, a grizzled ferryman sits listening to the river. Some say he's a sage. He was once a wandering shramana and, briefly, like thousands of others, he followed Gotama the Buddha, enraptured by his sermons. But this man, Siddhartha, was not a follower of any but his own soul. Born the son of a Brahmin, Siddhartha was blessed in appearance, intelligence, and charisma. In order to find meaning in life, he discarded his promising future for the life of a wandering ascetic. Still, true happiness evaded him. Then a life of pleasure and titillation merely eroded away his spiritual gains until he was just like all the other "child people," dragged around by his desires. Like Hermann Hesse's other creations of struggling young men, Siddhartha has a good dose of European angst and stubborn individualism. His final epiphany challenges both the Buddhist and the Hindu ideals of enlightenment. Neither a practitioner nor a devotee, neither meditating nor reciting, Siddhartha comes to blend in with the world, resonating with the rhythms of nature, bending the reader's ear down to hear answers from the river. In this translation Sherab Chodzin Kohn captures the slow, spare lyricism of Siddhartha's search, putting her version on par with Hilda Rosner's standard edition. --Brian Bruya --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
From Library Journal
Siddhartha's life takes him on a journey toward enlightenment. Afire with youthful idealism, the Brahmin joins a group of ascetics, fasting and living without possessions. Meeting Gotama the Buddha, he comes to feel this is not the right path, though he also declines joining the Buddha's followers. He reenters the world, hoping to learn of his own nature, but instead slips gradually into hedonism and materialism. Surfeited and disgusted, he flees from his possessions to become a ferryman's apprentice, learning what lessons he can from the river itself. Herman Hesse's 1922 Bildungsroman parallels the life of Buddha and seems to argue that lessons of this sort cannot be taught but come from one's own struggle to find truth. Noted actor Derek Jacobi interprets this material wonderfully, and the package, despite abridging a Nobel prize winner's prose, can be highly recommended.AJohn Hiett, Iowa City P.L.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Hesse’s book follows a young man named Siddhartha on his journey to find the true meaning of life and peace. The young man leaves his family of Brahman priests believing that they have spiritually achieved all that they ever will, and embarks with his friend Govinda down the path of a contemplative and restrictive existence. The young man soon realizes that these religious men (Samanas) also are lacking, to Siddhartha, what the path to true enlightenment really is. He continues on his journey coming by entering the company of the real Buddha—Gatama, but soon comes into contradictions with the Buddha’s teaching of removing oneself from the world. This leaves the man frustrated and lost, and eschews him down another path that is quite opposite of the one he originally intended to take.
Siddhartha has now become rather restless with his pursuit of happiness, so he soon discards it for one of sexuality, greed and total reliance on the flesh. He falls in love with Kamala—a beautiful courtesan woman—and embraces the life of a merchant that furthers his greed and lustful desires. Siddhartha and Kamala conceive a son soon after their affair, but after a dream leaves Siddhartha puzzled, he becomes bored and sickened by his lust and greed, and decides to move on to find his enlightened path. With total despair encompassing his heart and soul, Siddhartha comes to a river where he soon hears a unique sound that will change his life forever. This sound signals the true beginning of his new and fulfilled life--the beginning of earthly suffering, human rejection and inner peace, and, finally, ultimate wisdom and enlightenment.
The book is a harrowing tale of man’s lust for greed, power, sex and material gain; however, its ultimate purpose is to show that often times what we are looking for is in the simplest places imaginable. Hesse’s work craftily explains (through Buddhist and Hindu philosophies) that life is an all-encompassing journey that will eventually show all mankind what it is looking for. We suffer and struggle mightily through banal everyday tasks, but perhaps this daily grind of being in a symbiotic relationship with other life is what inner peace really is.
What is the meaning to our existence and how do we find true joy? Siddhartha is outwardly content, yet in his heart there is no joy. This is not a matter of simply struggling over a current confusion, this is an internal struggle which seeks to destroy his very being, eating at his very life energy, consuming his waking hours. He is a seeker, insatiable, desiring his own sense of Nirvana.
At first he seeks to become a Samana and deny himself all worldly possessions and pleasures. "Siddhartha had one single goal-to become empty, to become empty of thirst, desire, dreams, pleasure and sorrow-to let the Self die."
After living a life in which he denies himself all pleasure, he longs for a life filled with pleasure and is satiated to the point of feeling sickened by lust and greed. Finally he finds his way to a river. The most beautiful section of this book is when Siddhartha listens to what the river is telling him.
"Have you learned from that secret from the river, that there is no such thing as time?"
"Yes...That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere, and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past, nor the shadow of the future."
Siddhartha almost gives his life to the water in his despair. However, the river becomes a source of inner reflection for him when he realizes his awakening is his path to wisdom. Even as I finished the story I wondered if Siddhartha had found the inner peace, or if he had just made a pact with his soul not to contemplate the mystery of the universe any further.
Even in the most difficult situations when God feels far away, He might just be letting us awaken to our own inner world. Waiting, loving us, waiting. Perhaps waiting for us to make the right decisions in life, to find our destiny. To find Him.
If you enjoy Siddhartha, you will love Of Marriageable Age by Sharon Maas. She mentions this book in her novel.
~The Rebecca Review
If I was reviewing strictly on the work, this would be a five star review. I'm holding back because the Xist Classics edition is rife with typos and, in some cases, what I think are cases of omitted words. It's distracting and detrimental to the work. Unless you absolutely can't justify the expense, pass on this $0.99 edition and spring for one from a major publisher.