Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse (1922)
Summary: In the novel, Siddhartha, a young man, leaves his family for a contemplative life, then, restless, discards it for one of the flesh. He conceives a son, but bored and sickened by lust and greed, moves on again. Near despair, Siddhartha comes to a river where he hears a unique sound. This sound signals the true beginning of his life — the beginning of suffering, rejection, peace, and, finally, wisdom.
Last year I read the graphic novel series Buddha by Osamu Tezuka and really enjoyed it. I didn’t know much about Buddha before then but was familiarized with his life story through that series. So I was expecting something very similar when I began Siddhartha.
However this isn’t the typical Buddha story that I’m familiar with. In this book Siddhartha is just a man on a spiritual journey, seeking answers and trying to reach enlightenment. After traveling with the samanas and even meeting Gautama Buddha, he leaves the forest where all of Buddha’s disciples have gathered and goes on his way, believing he doesn’t need a teacher.
He even get pulled back into the world when he begins working as a merchant. Soon he finds himself a wealthy man who has succumbed to earthly pleasures and he seems to have forgotten his earlier path. But after quite a while, he begins to get fed up with his life and once again goes in search of something worthwhile.
I found this depiction of Siddhartha to be very human. He was a flawed character full of pride and his journey to enlightenment had quite a few road bumps and stops along the way. Overall I enjoyed his story and all the different Buddhist teachings which were weaved into it. I’d recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Siddhartha, Buddhism, or spirituality in general.
Have you read any stories of Buddha? Which ones? Do you find stories about spiritual people to be inspiring? Have you had a moment of enlightenment while reading a similar book?