Daily Recco, May 26: Journey of self-discovery with Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha
It is Buddha Purnima today. What better day than this to pick up Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha and embark on a journey of self-discovery.
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It is Buddha Purnima today. The birth anniversary of Siddhartha Gautama, who later came to be known as Lord Budhha. It is believed that this was also the day he attained enlightenment. While you may follow any religion you choose to, Buddhism or not, you cannot deny that Buddha’s preaching went beyond the paradigm of religion and was more about the purest of emotions and feelings — peace, non-violence and harmony.
The book we recommend to you today could be nothing about Buddha, but also could be everything about him. It is Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha. Originally published in 1922 in German, the novel has since been translated to English and many Indian languages, from Tamil to Punjabi.
The self-discovery journey is of the man named Siddhartha, who lived during the time of the Gautama Buddha. Siddhartha, a Brahmin by birth, is driven by the discontent of his current state and is in pursuit of a vision of where he is going. The process of spiritual self-discovery begins with elimination. He first rejects his father’s (and other Brahmins’) intellectual and ritualistic principles. He decides to leave his family and moves on to embrace Samana — a travelling ascetic. He learns to think, wait, and fast, but soon rejects the self-abnegating rigours of the order. The journey leads him to Gautama, the Buddha. Siddhartha’s close friend and confidant Govinda, who embarks on this journey with him, embraces the Buddhist order at this point. A dissatisfied Siddhartha, however, ploughs one, negating Buddhism as well.
His quest leads him to a courtesan with whom he spends a significant part of his life. But even that does not last. We will not give you spoilers, though there are barely any spoilers in this journey of self-discovery that we embark on along with Siddhartha right from the first page.
The wordplay on the names of the protagonist and the Enlightened One, the parallels between the lore of the Buddha and the journey of Siddhartha and in eventually identifying Siddhartha with the Buddha, Hesse indicates that the story could be perceived as fact or fiction to suit one’s interpretation. And believe me you, the interpretation will change each time you read it.
Pick this book up today to embark on this beautiful journey with Siddhartha that will perhaps lead you to discover yourself. Who knows?