Siddhartha-Varying perceptions of reality, which is the right one?

By: Aadithya Varma

Date: April 24, 2020

Siddhartha- Book Cover




Hermann Hesse

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‘Siddhartha’ is a 1922 philosophical novel written by Hermann Hesse, originally in the German language. It travels through the path of Siddhartha, a Brahmin who is seeking knowledge about his existence, and finally does so, a path which extended from his childhood to his old age. The main confusion that someone who would buy this book would have is whether this book would be the life story of Gauthama Buddha because Buddha was himself originally called Siddhartha Gauthama. But to be clear, this is not the life story of Buddha. But, funnily enough, Buddha himself is a character in the book.

The book is written in a very simple vocabulary, which makes the idea of it very visible to the reader. And that language style is quite distinct from a book that I had read in the past, conveying so simple yet so advanced and philosophical methods of thinking. With the use of simple words separated by punctuations, Hermann is quite successful in making a reader feel as though he or she is through a breeze. But the message that the book portrays is well and clear and presents Hermann’s method of thinking, I would presume.

The story wraps up with the amalgamation of the different experiences learnt throughout the book into one or two forms and an amalgamation of occurrence into a single form that conducts the theory of existence into the reader. It took me a while, honestly to contemplate its full meaning, but then the stimulations of thought really helped. But counting this as wisdom would be foolish, as Siddhartha says, ‘Knowledge can be conveyed, not wisdom’, a value which he held on for a long time (though one could argue a perusal of work can be considered an experience).

Instead of seeing Siddhartha as a completely godly figure, Hesse has portrayed him as a special figure of course, but also as a normal human. We are searching for our own existence, and that is what Siddhartha sought for. And in our pursuit, we all get deterred in some way and think our happenings are supreme and real. But then, we feel like we had been through an ordeal, and seek escape. And finally, we all find that nothing was for nothing, every incident possessed its value, and this is the cyclic nature of the ‘perfect’ world, as the book implies, where Siddhartha’s journey ends when he finds that his destination was in his vicinity. A perfectly humanly journey we can all relate to at some time or the other, this is thus.

Siddhartha has truly given me a new bit of knowledge that I now have come to consider, and it is that the materialistic world is to be loved, as we are ourselves illusions. While searching for eternity, many do tend to separate his vicinity from him. But that separates him from his purpose. The book has thus given me thoughts and I am sure that it could be possible to learn one or two things from this 152-page book.

There are a few spelling mistakes in the book, some of them namely ‘Siddharrha’ in Pg.66 and Pg.69 and ‘ftxed’ in Pg. 75. Of course, I would not judge this to be the fault of the author. I think the error lies with the publisher of the particular copy I have, Maple Press, and I would be happy if they change the lexemes.

What I liked about the book:

  1. The use of literature to convey the ideas of the book needs to be complimented.
  2. A wide visualization of the idea of life and its events is presented in the book.
  3. A story set in an Eastern background feels refreshing.
  4. The book has embraced the idea of making mistakes, as nothing is without its unique intention and everything is for a cause. Siddhartha couldn’t have learnt about lust had he not experienced it, he couldn’t have learnt greed had he didn’t have it. He also learnt to not be completely cynical of the society and blame their intentions as stupid as they too have their personal and societal situations associated with it.

What I didn't like about the book:

  1. The spelling mistakes which I had mentioned are pretty evident in the book. I think the publishers ought to have paid a bit more attention in its publication.
  2. I felt many characters being sidelined in the story. A synopsis of their character is being well established in the readers’ minds, but more in-depth knowledge of the history of characters like Govinda or Kamala would have felt amusing. But then, to contradict myself, the book is itself titled ‘Siddhartha’ and this could’ve been the writer’s intention.

The book ‘Siddhartha’ by Hermann Hesse has thus provided a satisfactory judgement of existence of the illusional beings. I would suggest reading this book to anyone who is on a quest to find the meaning of life itself and in which route we should move towards in it. This book certainly has helped me to add a thing or two to my ideology and helped realize a part of the cyclic pattern of our nature. The world indeed is ‘perfect’, isn’t it?