Herman Hesse, Siddhartha (1922)

Herman Hesse, Siddhartha (1922), 122p.

Siddhartha is the son of a Brahmin, who wanders into the wood to become a Shramana, renounces all ideology and teaching, returns to the world, to reject the secular riches he accomplished again and becomes a simple sage, spending his life as ferryman on the river.

Siddhartha rejects the Buddhist teachings of achieving nirvana through breaking out of Samsara, the cycle of desires. Instead Siddhartha embraces his desires, first his intellectual wanting as a Shramana, then his physical desires as the lover of Kamala and a rich trader, finally as father of his son. But only when he becomes a child again, when he no longer seeks, and therefor finds, does he find peace in the thoughtless unity of Om.

There are elements of Nietzschean and Heracleitan philosophy in Hesse’s story about an Indian sage. Siddhartha undergoes the three transformations of man according to Nietzsche from camel, to lion, to child. And the Heracleitan metaphor of the river forms the central Leitmotif in the wanderings of Siddhartha. The story lacks as in every story by Hesse the emotionally convicting human empathy and is a ideological story based on intellectual ideas. Hesse totally lacks the capacity to understand others as do Dostoevsky or Kazantzakis, and as Hesse lacks this capacity in his writing, so does his character Siddhartha lack the capacity to love. Siddhartha is worth reading because it’s a short read and it’s a great philosophical refute of Buddhism.

The ideological capture of the book is that only those who stop searching will find what they seek, we are all constantly changing, there is no single path to truth for all, each we must walk our own to find our peace.

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