When I first read Hermann Hesse’s book Siddhartha I was mesmerized. Months later, passages from the 117-page book have the exact same effect on me. The story is beautiful, lyrical, and powerful. It chronicles the journey of Siddhartha, a brahmin’s son who goes in search of enlightenment, the meaning to life, and a foundation for thought. His search becomes the spiritual evolution of a man traveling through India in the time of the Buddha.
As Siddhartha searches for the innermost essence of his being, the mystery to his life, he encounters people who help him piece together who he is, and who he is not. He practices ascetisism with the Shramanas, engages in the worldly lifestyle of a successful trader, revels in the passions of lovemaking and leisure, wanders in the forest and works as a boatman, and finally returns to the simple and pious life of a Shraman.
“Love, for me, is clearly the main thing … The only thing of importance to me is being able to love the world, without looking down on it, without hating it and myself – being able to regard it and myself and all beings with love, admiration, and reverence.” – Siddhartha
Getting lost in Siddhartha’s path to himself is truly a captivating experience, and that is the very point. An important theme of the story is gaining understanding and enlightenment through experience. No one single element of the story could have led to Siddhartha’s final realization. Reading Siddhartha helps you reevaluate the way you see the world, your relationship to it, and your place in it.