I read this short novel of 167 pages for the second time, after a gap of about 17 years.I did not really remember much about it , except that it is a spiritual book and is related to Gotama , the Buddha.
Herman Hesse had written this book in 1922 in German , and only in 1951, it was translated by Hilda Rosner , and was published in the USA then.It became very popular in the USA in the sixties and still continues to be in circulation .
Hesse divided the book in two parts.The first part with four chapters was dedicated to Romain Rolland.The second part , with eight chapters was dedicated to Wilhelm Gundert.Hesse took a long time to write the second part.
The hero of the book is Siddhartha, the son of a Brahmin ,and lives in India during the time of Gotama , the Buddha.He is restless since his youth to find the meaning of existence .He also wants to find out how to reach the state of true joy , or Nirvana. He practises meditation , fasting an self-denial by becoming a Samana(ascetic).But he is not satisfied .He wants to take a new path and decides to go to Gotama.Here too , the life of a monk does not satisfy him .But he believes that salvation does not come through the teachings of another , even if these are by Gotama.It comes through your own search of innermost part of self, your own experience.
Siddhartha gets a variety of experiences ,of lust , greed and riches .He goes through life in a child like manner , at times even animal -like .The name of the game was Sansara,,involving love , women , children, honors , money , plans , hopes and pleasures.But after a time , Siddhartha realises that he could not play this repetitive game called Sansara , over and over again .He decides to go to the forest and stays in a hut , with a ferry man .He tries to mould his son in his own way but realizes that his son needs freedom , like he needed when he wanted to become a Samana in his youth .
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After reading the book this time , I asked myself this question."Did Siddhartha realize the meaning of existence.?If so , what was it?Did he find inner peace, or Nirvana?" I have several doubts .May be , Siddhartha made a compromise with his soul and decided not to explore or gain experience any further.Was it possible to find this meaning and peace , as an individual , without participation in the affairs, challenges and activities of family and community?Is diverse and wide ranging experience essential to reach the truth of existence?Should there be not a limit to the freedom of gaining experiences of diverse kinds?I did not find answers to these in the book .
But still ,the book is thought provoking , though does not really provide answers to many questions . I recommend you to read this book at least once.