Friday, May 16, 2014

2014 Classic #7

Siddhartha – Herman Hesse, 0141181230

This novel will take you on a philosophical and spiritual journey through various tests that are designed to aid the search for the meaning of existence. Siddhartha, the protagonist, is raised in the privileged  Brahmin caste, but his discontent drives him to become a samana, or recluse, in the woods. 

With thinking, fasting and waiting, he trains himself to overcome the worldly desires for inner peace and happiness and be one with the spiritual world and identify the nucleus of all things. After being a hermit, Siddhartha meets with the Buddha, who warns him not to be so clever.  This encounter, however, does not help him to answer the big questions and spurs him to be a seeker without a guru.

Experiencing a crisis, he returns to the world of work and pleasure. He witnesses and observes rich and knowing worldings who know they got a real good bead on things.  He learns to make love with Kamala,  a high -class prostitute. Siddhartha learns as much as possible about making money, gambling, and drinking.

Coming to despise himself, he leaves the world again and takes up with a simply ferryman who encourages him to listen to and learn from the river, a.k.a. nature. He learns to wait, to be willing to listen , be patient , serve and always think of the dynamic changes of life. As composer John Cage said, “No why. Just be.”

Generally speaking, the novel is interesting in terms of storyline, philosophy and pretty language. The drawback, for me, is the Siddhartha ends up alone, responsible only for himself. This is not the way most of us readers live, who figure it's their duty to take care of other people . We have obligations to spouses, kids, employers, and friends. We can’t seek wisdom and peace by a river, alone.

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