Monday, July 18, 2016

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse: Book Review

SiddharthaSiddhartha by Hermann Hesse
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The critique of this book is absolutely subjective, as is the case of most philosophical books. Siddhartha is a cleverly put fiction woven around the Buddhist ideology set somewhere in 6th century India during the life and times of Gautama Buddha. It is interesting that the name of protagonist "Siddhartha" it is the name that Buddha's parents gave him. I grew up listening to Buddha's story. However, the story in this book is that of a wealthy Brahmin man named Siddhartha and his quest for nirvana.

I was anticipating it to be more of a spiritual/ religious book but it did not disappoint me by being so. It falls in the genre of philosophy. The protagonist, a well-educated man, is not content with the knowledge in the Vedas of Hinduism and seeks a deeper understanding of what "consciousness" is. He often is unsatisfied with the knowledge he gathers and hence changes his ways. No kidding our boy Sid in today's times would have been a badass hippie somewhere in Bhutan. #InsideJoke

Another interesting thing in the book is its idea of parenting. Often parents assume that their experience in life will be easily incorporated into their child's life and they will save the child from hardship by just telling their stories. However, the child rebels... The books show that child cannot be helped. Hence must be allowed to learn from their own mistakes. This may cause distress to the parents but the sooner they understand the better, that the child will live their own life make all the classic mistakes in the book and learn by his/her own experience.

The Writing style in the book is metaphorical and somewhat poetic in the essence. Despite being translated from German, I didn't come across any feeling of missing out something because of translation. Perhaps, my Indian-ness makes it conceivable. I understand the terminology such as Brahman, Sansara, Samanas etc... I reckon it would not be clear to many people.

These days I have been reading the books that are regarded as "religious" in the most literal way in order to understand ideas and arguments from a religious perspective (you don't want to know how some texts had enraged me!) Siddhartha, on the other hand, is one of those books that carry the zest of spirituality leaving aside the religious "politics". Besides Buddhism is a wonderful lifestyle/culture/spirituality/religion perhaps one of the most serene ones.

I recommend this book to people interested in the philosophical read. I would say I could relate the conclusion of the book to be in line with the "Spacetime Loaf of bread" theory, sprinkled with the idea of the following quote by Carl Sagan.

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.”

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