SIDDHARTHA by HERMAN HESSE (1922)
Type : Novella
Suitable for age group : 16 +
Hesse’s 12-chapter novel on a Hindu contemporary of The Buddha explores the totality of enlightenment that can only be gained through personal experience. In a later lecture Hesse explained : “Buddha’s way to salvation has often been criticized and doubted, because it is thought to be wholly grounded in cognition. True, but it’s not just intellectual cognition, not just learning and knowing, but spiritual experience that can be earned only through strict discipline in a selfless life.”
Charting the phases of the student, household and spiritual life of our protagonist, Hesse provides a commentary on the life of the actual master himself. Siddhartha literally means ‘one who has achieved realization or understanding’, and in the process of writing the book, Hesse himself pursued the understanding of Indian and Buddhist philosophy in earnest following a personal crisis in his own life. However, Hesse’s conclusions are different from that of Buddhism in many ways, sometimes quite opposite on issues related to religious development of oneself, as opposed to intellectual attainment. The book reached its peak of popularity in the 1960’s and 70’s and interest has been steady ever since.
There has been a film version of Siddhartha released in 1972. This Gutenberg version in pdf can be downloaded here : Siddartha-Hesse.pdf
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