I recently finished reading a small novel by German poet and novelist Hermann Hesse. He is famously known for his spiritual novel ‘Siddhartha’ and this is what my article will be centred upon. Siddhartha by its name suggests a novel upon Gautama Buddha, the enlightened leader, speaker and often revered and venerated to be God who established the foundation of the most followed religion in the world—Buddhism but, the novel is definitely not about him but an Indian Brahmin in search of equanimity and knowledge.
Set in the time period of Gautama Buddha and during his period of preaching and religious discourse, Siddhartha, a rich Brahmin boy after spending hard time coddling his father to permit him in his decision of following the life of Samana, finally moves out of his opulent home and rich life to follow the path of an ascetic in search of inner peace, wisdom and life’s truth. His friend Govinda also accompanies Siddhartha in this spiritual expedition of his but soon their path splits taking both of them into different directions.
Siddhartha, taking the less roads travelled, soon meets a resplendent courtesans ‘Kamala’ and learns from her the art of love. Gradually, in his search of enlightenment, he entangles his heart and mind with many deadly sins like lust, sloth, gluttony, avarice and vainglory realising that he has become like those (childlike people) who blindly follows the materialistic pleasure of life and the saffron cloth he used to wrap around his body as a part of Samana has now been lacerated and is now daubed with dirt and filth of the world he once despised of.
The last part of the novel deals with Siddhartha ameliorating the mistakes he has been doing for quite a long time and his meeting with a ferryman who acts as a real Gautama in his life, illuminating the path he has been searching for, filling his life with satisfaction and peace and helping him in building a philosophy of a Samana, knowledge and life.
The language of the novel is lyrical and poetic making the copious story and the rich backdrop even me exquisite. The author, through this novel, seems to cast his philosophy that no amount of teachings, sermon and lessons learned through others can give you the peace, understanding and happiness until it is self-explored and discovered by the person wishing to enlighten it.