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on 5 January 2010
Siddhartha, son of a Brahman, is on a quest to find the meaning of life. We follow him as he struggles on through his journey, through many different life experiences. He is on a spiritual journey to find out for himself who he really is. Along the way he meets rich people, poor people, holy people, and becomes part of their world for a short time. Through his many encounters, he learns much more about himself and the world, but for a long time he is still not satisfied and still feels a deep need to strive for more and to search for something elusive.
I think this book is relevant to everyone, because although it is telling the tale of a spiritual and religious man, it is also a tale about life and how our life experiences make us who we are. Many of Siddhartha's feelings and thoughts are common to us all as we make our way along the road of our own lives. This book reaffirms the fact that in the end we are all the same, and someone who has stayed in the same place all their life can be as wise as someone who has spent his life travelling on a long search for the truth. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Its message appears to be that we are all the same and all of our life experiences whether good or bad, are necessary for us to find ourselves, and even though everyone will go through different things, we are all bonded by the fact that we are on the same journey. I believe everyone who reads this book will be touched in some way by the simple and poignant words. I would recommend this to everyone, it's a very enlightening and though-provoking read.
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on 31 January 1999
The message of Siddhartha is a personal one. As such, it can't be forced on someone as "required reading". Readers will either find Siddhartha inspirational because of an inherent truth they recognize relative to their own conduct in life, or boring because they find nothing personally relevant below the surface of the simple narrative. Siddhartha is wonderfully concise...if you hate it, its over quickly, and it doesn't require too much investment to revisit years later when your relationship to the story may be profoundly different.
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on 11 April 2000
This book was bought for me by a friend of mine, and I can never say enough thank you's for it. It is the most amazing read. Once I started it, I truely found I could not put it down, I was compelled to read it, and I will again. From the very first page, it makes you sit up and examine your own life. Do I really know who I am? Before your search of knowledge begins, do you know who you are?
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on 6 April 1999
Published in 1922 in German this novel received widespread poor reviews. This may be more to Hesse's persistently pacifist and anti-nationalist stance that eventually forced him to seek refuge and citizenship in Switzerland. 'Siddharta' is not a novel about the Buddha, it is a novel around the Buddha. The Sakyamuni's namesake is the son of a high caste Brahmin priest with great promise but he, too, casts aside wealth and privilege to join the great journey for Self and No-self. Simply written but intriguing, this is an uplifting book. I recommend it.
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on 4 September 2007
Hesse's work was always concerned with spiritual quests that had a Buddhist 'feel' to them but which, in the early days, were always couched within a largely Christian framework. In Siddhartha he finally nails his own spiritual credentials to the mast as this is a novel about the Buddhist path. Hesse's other great preoccupation was with the tension between the hedonistic and the ascetic life, and this finds it's place here, too. Siddhartha, Hesse's central character, finds just as much wisdom via sensual pleasure as he does via spiritual devotion. In fact, to renounce the sensual world, perhaps one must have experienced it?

This is a book which can take multimple re-readings and certainly gives me something new and inspirational each time I read it.
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on 27 May 1999
Hesse's tale of a young Brahmin's son about to embark on the adventure of life is a wonderfully simple and concise story - it is a parable about the struggle of life, and has a wonderfully optimistic message.
Hesse's strengths as an author lie in the way he imbues a strong narrative with a dual meaning - one comes away with the impression of having read a good book, but at the same time with the realisation that the story was merely a framework on which Hesse has hung a touching spiritual tract.
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on 28 May 2001
Anyone who has looked at his or her reflection in a river and were momentarily startled will find this book a fascinating journey. Beautifully written, simple to interpret, prose to warm the heart and to make it weep. I commend this book as an important lesson in life from which self-comparison should be drawn.
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Back in the early `70's, I'd listen to a wonderful series of tales on the radio, put out by ZBS media, in Fort Edward, NY. At least two were "classics": The Fourth Tower of Inverness and "Moon Over Morocco". And sure enough, as both luck and Amazon will have it, they are available today. They feature an intrepid traveler, Jack Flanders, who, in one of the series, spoke of the spiritual energy of the West going to the East... "like an enormous box-car"... and it was moving of its own accord. The early `70's... and I guess, even today, it is reasonable to conclude that there is not much spiritual energy about in the West... and who knows... it just might be somewhere else. Though I was not particularly seeking enlightenment, nor was I a hippie, in 1971, I took what was dubbed the "hippie route to the East," that went overland through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, into India. My personal objective was "the wonder that was India," not to mention, attempting to address my abysmal lack of knowledge of the world at large. I was even enthralled with Afghanistan on the way, and will always regret not having taken that 12-hour rickety school bus to the Buddhist statues at Bamiyan. Even if I had been in an altered state of consciousness somewhere - please note the conditional tense - I can't recall seeing a boxcar pass me by, but I do recall a few folks along the way who felt that "Siddhartha" was their new Bible.

And so a couple years thereafter, I read it... and had the sensation that it had the substance of cotton candy, with, you know, man, "the wholeness of the universe," how everything is connected in improbable ways. So, some four decades later, decided to give it a re-read. And sure enough, once again, things ARE linked in improbable ways. My edition is published by "New Directions" publishing (which also still exists!) and which was founded by James Laughlin in 1936. He was the scion of a steel dynasty that owned and operated steel mills in Pittsburgh (and elsewhere), one of which was nestled along the Monongahela River, just off the Parkway East that I frequently drove, before it became an Interstate. This edition has a few flagrant spelling errors, and I have been guilty of a few of those too, though with "spell-check," the "flagrant" adjective is less appropriate nowadays.

Hermann Hesse's novel is the account of a youth, Siddhartha, who was also seeking answers to the meaning of life. Of course, he was already in India, and never considered that the answer might be in the West. With his father's reluctant permission, this Brahmin left home, with his faithful friend, Govina. They joined a passing troop of monks, who lived a basic hand-to-mouth existence, and are referred to as the "lean jackals in the world of men," the "Samanas." They stay with them for three years. Then they run into a spiritual guru by the name of "Gotama" who has the strong attributes of the "spiritual game of follow the leader." Govina and Siddhartha split. Govina is happy to be a follower; Siddhartha claims that everyone must find their own way in life, you know, man, you have to seek your own destiny.

I saw the inverse parallels between Thomas Merton and Hermann Hesse. Merton was also interested in the spiritual energy of the east... he had led a "full and worldly life" until the age of 26, and then entered a Trappist Monastery. Siddhartha, on the other hand, was first a monk, and then did the "full and worldly life" bit, with his own personal "guru" being a famous and beautiful courtesan, Kamala. Hum! An education in that proverbial "comfortable classroom." She introduces him to a local business, Kamaswami, and within a bit, Siddhartha is wealthy, fine clothes, retinue of servants, etc. He finally tires of his new life, and just before he chucks it all to find solace with the ferryman, and the "eternal" river that speaks, he impregnates Kamala on the last try (Ugh!), and, sure enough his son will do to him what he did to his father... that neat, "full circle."

The book is replete with some "New Age" Pablum, and the following are a couple samples:

"There shone in his face the serenity of knowledge, of one who is no longer confronted with conflict of desires, who has found salvation, who is in harmony with the stream of events, with the stream of life, full of sympathy and compassion, surrendering himself to the stream, belonging to the unity of all things."

"There are stones that feel like oil or soap, that look like leaves or sand, and each one is different and worships Om in its own way; each one is Brahman. At the same time it is very much stone, oily or soapy, and that is just what pleases me and seems wonderful and worthy of worship."

Those dastardly - truly - "political events" have long since shut down the "Hippie Route," to the East. In the unlikely event that I should seek ... well... let's just leave it at that... I can always drive, in air-conditioned comfort, the one hour up Interstate 25 to Santa Fe.... As for Hesse's novel, on the re-read, 3-stars.
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on 4 April 1999
Siddharta is a sort of story which one finds very close to heart. One feels the same passions and temptations which were faced by the Barhimans son. Hermann Hesse really excels when Siddharta is cofronted with Buddha and that portion is the high light of this masterpiece.
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`Siddhartha' is one of those books that is both simple to read and yet powerful and profound at the same time. Following a young Brahmin's son as he tries to find his spiritual path in life, this book manages to weave a tale that is both captivating and enlightening. This book is so good I could read the first 30 pages alone and put the book down a happy man, the remainder is purely icing on the cake! Hesse manages to write in a deceptively simple style that belies the depth to the message he shows us and the skill behind his writing. He won the nobel prize for good reason. This may be a short book, but it is one that will stay with you long after you have read it and will bring you back to rediscover it's delights at regular intervals. Beautiful prose, beautiful message and highly recommended indeed.

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