Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
Once regarded as a cult book in the 1960s by the Flower Power generation, Siddhartha by Herman Hesse remains even today a simple and fresh tale of a man's spiritual quest. Penned by a deeply spiritual German author, Siddhartha explores multiple themes of enlightenment, thinking beyond set rules, love and humanity. Siddhartha is a young contemporary of the spiritual master Gautam Buddha who lived in India at some time during the 4th century BC. The story has striking parallels to Buddha's own life story in which he abandons his wealth and status as the young prince of Kapilavastu, his wife and young son and his family to embark on a voyage of self discovery. Siddhartha in the book is the son of a respected Brahmin priest and leaves the comfort and security of his home to seek the meaning of life. His close friend, Govinda, joins him and the two wander as mendicants seeking alms and spiritual guidance. They meet Gautam Buddha and are drawn to his teachings, but whereas Govinda decides to dedicate his life to the spiritual order set up by Buddha, Siddhartha continues his sojourn as he feels he must arrive at enlightenment in his own way. He meets many people from whom he learns valuable lessons about life and death. A ferryman, Vasudeva, teaches him about the river and the flow of life. Kamala a beautiful courtesan teaches him about physical love and how it forms an important foundation of spirituality. Kamaswami, a shrewd businessman shares the secrets of materialism. Siddhartha absorbs important teachings from all these people. The final chapters of this slim volume trace his metaphysical transformation. Hermann Hesse published the novel Siddhartha in 1922. He was the son of a strict and uncompromising Lutheran missionary whose belief that humans are born evil and into sin was rejected by the young Hermann. Having been exposed very early in life to the religions of Asia, Hermann was deeply conflicted. He initially trained to join the church, but was expelled for his rebellious and disruptive behavior. He was schooled at home by tutors, joined various schools which he soon left and was prone to severe depression. He continued his studies on his own and got a job as a bookstore clerk in his hometown of Calw. Siddhartha is a book that adds dimension and depth to today's modern world which is steeped in materialism and consumerism.