This is a book that has been recommended to me for years, and although I’ve read a handful of books on Buddhism (Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind is my all time favorite), I always overlooked this one.
Siddhartha is a story about the life of Siddhartha Guatama, a seeker of spirituality in ancient India. When Siddhartha is a teenager he leaves his home and sacrifices everything to become a wandering monk and embark on a search for wisdom. His journey takes him across India as he discovers spiritual gurus, falls in love, and pursues enlightenment. Along his path Siddhartha wrestles with problems common to us all and draws upon lessons learned from the universe — from birds, trees, and a mystical river.
Siddhartha, like Buddhism, eschews much of the baggage of the traditional concept of religion and discovers the miracle in all things. In this way, it’s not unlike transcendentalism, championed by Emerson and Thoreau. Siddhartha is a much more enjoyable reading experience though, perhaps because it was written in the 20th century and flows in a more modern and familiar way. It’s easy to pick up and read.
Although I waited a long time, reading this book now has given me great satisfaction because it’s certainly among the best that I’ve read in recent years. The vivid descriptions of intricate physical environments and heady spiritual states in Siddhartha are captivating. Seek this book out.
“When you throw a stone into the water, it finds the quickest way to the bottom of the water. It is the same when Siddhartha has an aim, a goal. Siddhartha does nothing; he waits, he thinks, he fasts, but he goes through the affairs of the world like the stone through the water, without doing anything, without bestirring himself; he is drawn and lets himself fall. He is drawn by his goal, for he does not allow anything to enter his mind which opposes his goal.”
“He looked lovingly into the flowing water, into the transparent green, into the crystal lines of its wonderful design. He saw bright pearls rise from the depths, bubbles swimming on the mirror, sky blue reflected in them. The river looked at him with a thousand eyes— green, white, crystal, sky blue. How he loved this river, how it enchanted him, how grateful he was to it!”
“Vasudeva’s smile was radiant; it hovered brightly in all the wrinkles of his old face, as the Om hovered over all the voices of the river. His smile was radiant as he looked at his friend, and now the same smile appeared on Siddhartha’s face. His wound was healing, his pain was dispersing; his Self had merged into unity.”
Amazon link: Siddhartha by Herman Hesse