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Siddhartha Novel by Hermann Hesse

20 October, 2020 - 9 min read


I. Brief Summary

Hermann Hesse is a Nobel Prize winner and his great work is reflected in this literature. This is by far the best novel I have read in my life. Nothing about this book is seductive, but is pure. Siddhartha, a young man leaves his family to find the spiritual enlightenment during the time of Buddha. During his pilgrimage, he meets his companion and conceives a son. It comes to a full circle when his son also leaves him. Siddartha comes to listening to a river to find the true meaning of life. The sound of the river leads to all sort of life lessons. In the end, he reconnects with Govinda to whom he shares the lessons of life. Govinda has always been searching but fails to find anything.

II. Big Ideas

  • Everything is intertwined.
  • Goals are meaningless because every goal is followed by a new one.
  • Wisdom cannot be passed. It has to be experienced. But, knowledge can.
  • Able to love the world as is, not despise it or hate it.
  • Teachings are illusions.
  • Time is an illusion.

III. Quotes

  • Your soul is the whole world.
  • A goal stood before Siddhartha, a single goal: to become empty, empty of thirst, empty of wishing, empty of dreams, empty of joy and sorrow. Dead to himself, not to be a self anymore, to find tranquility with an emptied head, to be open to miracles in unselfish thoughts, that was his goal. Once all of myself was overcome and had died, once every desire and every urge was silent in the heart, then the ultimate part of me had to awake, the innermost of my being, which is no longer myself, the great secret.
  • He went the way of self-denial by means of pain, through voluntarily suffering and overcoming pain, hunger, thirst, tiredness. He went the way of self-denial by means of meditation, through imagining the mind to be void of all conceptions.
  • Suffering was life, full of suffering was the world, but salvation from suffering had been found: salvation was obtained by him who would walk the path of the Buddha.
  • But be warned, oh seeker of knowledge, of the thicket of opinions and of arguing about words. There is nothing to opinions, they may be beautiful or ugly, smart or foolish, everyone can support them or discard them. But the teachings, you’ve heard from me, are no opinion, and their goal is not to explain the world to those who seek knowledge. They have a different goal; their goal is salvation from suffering. This is what Gotama teaches, nothing else.
  • This is why I am continuing my travels—not to seek other, better teachings, for I know there are none, but to depart from all teachings and all teachers and to reach my goal by myself or to die.
  • It is not my place to judge another person’s life. Only for myself, for myself alone, I must decide, I must choose, I must refuse. Salvation from the self is what we Samanas search for.
  • “You know how to talk wisely, my friend. Be aware of too much wisdom!”
  • No teachings will entice me anymore, since this man’s teachings have not enticed me.
  • It was the self, the purpose and essence of which I sought to learn. It was the self, I wanted to free myself from, which I sought to overcome.
  • Three noble and undefeatable feats: fasting—waiting—thinking. These had been his possession, his power and strength, his solid staff; in the busy, laborious years of his youth, he had learned these three feats, nothing else.
  • “It is good,” he thought, “to get a taste of everything for oneself, which one needs to know. That lust for the world and riches do not belong to the good things, I have already learned as a child. I have known it for a long time, but I have experienced only now. And now I know it, don’t just know it in my memory, but in my eyes, in my heart, in my stomach. Good for me, to know this!”
  • Now he saw it and saw that the secret voice had been right, that no teacher would ever have been able to bring about his salvation. Therefore, he had to go out into the world, lose himself to lust and power, to woman and money, had to become a merchant, a dice-gambler, a drinker, and a greedy person, until the priest and Samana in him was dead.
  • Now Siddhartha also got some idea of why he had fought this self in vain as a Brahman, as a penitent. Too much knowledge had held him back, too many holy verses, too many sacrificial rules, too much self-castigation, so much doing and striving for that goal! Full of arrogance, he had been, always the smartest, always working the most, always one step ahead of all others, always the knowing and spiritual one, always the priest or wise one.
  • This was among the ferryman’s virtues one of the greatest: like only a few, he knew how to listen. Without him having spoken a word, the speaker sensed how Vasudeva let his words enter his mind, quiet, open, waiting, how he did not lose a single one, awaited not a single one with impatience, did not add his praise or rebuke, was just listening. Siddhartha felt, what a happy fortune it is, to confess to such a listener, to bury in his heart his own life, his own search, his own suffering.
  • Most of all, he learned from it to listen, to pay close attention with a quiet heart, with a waiting, opened soul, without passion, without a wish, without judgement, without an opinion.
  • Everywhere at once, and that there is only the present time for it, not the shadow of the past, not the shadow of the future?
  • Siddhartha’s previous births were no past, and his death and his return to Brahma was no future. Nothing was, nothing will be; everything is, everything has existence and is present.
  • I’m seeking to win his heart, with love and with friendly patience I intend to capture it.
  • You don’t force him, don’t beat him, don’t give him orders, because you know that ‘soft’ is stronger than ‘hard’, Water stronger than rocks, love stronger than force. Very good, I praise you.
  • Worthy of love and admiration were these people in their blind loyalty, their blind strength and tenacity. They lacked nothing, there was nothing the knowledgeable one, the thinker, had to put him above them except for one little thing, a single, tiny, small thing: the consciousness, the conscious thought of the oneness of all life.
  • Slowly blossomed, slowly ripened in Siddhartha the realisation, the knowledge, what wisdom actually was, what the goal of his long search was. It was nothing but a readiness of the soul, an ability, a secret art, to think every moment, while living his life, the thought of oneness, to be able to feel and inhale the oneness.
  • For the goal, the river was heading, Siddhartha saw it hurrying, the river, which consisted of him and his loved ones and of all people, he had ever seen, all of these waves and waters were hurrying, suffering, towards goals, many goals, the waterfall, the lake, the rapids, the sea, and all goals were reached, and every goal was followed by a new one, and the water turned into vapour and rose to the sky, turned into rain and poured down from the sky, turned into a source, a stream, a river, headed forward once again, flowed on once again.
  • Perhaps that you’re searching far too much? That in all that searching, you don’t find the time for finding?
  • When someone is searching...then it might easily happen that the only thing his eyes still see is that what he searches for, that he is unable to find anything, to let anything enter his mind, because he always thinks of nothing but the object of his search, because he has a goal, because he is obsessed by the goal. Searching means: having a goal. But finding means: being free, being open, having no goal. You, oh venerable one, are perhaps indeed a searcher, because, striving for your goal, there are many things you don’t see, which are directly in front of your eyes.
  • Wisdom cannot be passed on. Wisdom which a wise man tries to pass on to someone always sounds like foolishness.
  • Knowledge can be conveyed, but not wisdom. It can be found, it can be lived, it is possible to be carried by it, miracles can be performed with it, but it cannot be expressed in words and taught.
  • Everything is one-sided which can be thought with thoughts and said with words, it’s all one-sided, all just one half, all lacks completeness, roundness, oneness...But the world itself, what exists around us and inside of us, is never one-sided. A person or an act is never entirely Sansara or entirely Nirvana, a person is never entirely holy or entirely sinful. It does really seem like this, because we are subject to deception, as if time was something real. Time is not real, Govinda.
  • Within the sinner is now and today already the future Buddha, his future is already all there, you have to worship in him, in you, in everyone the Buddha which is coming into being.
  • In the robber and dice-gambler, the Buddha is waiting; in the Brahman, the robber is waiting.
  • In deep meditation, there is the possibility to put time out of existence, to see all life which was, is, and will be as if it was simultaneous.
  • I don’t differentiate much between thoughts and words. To be honest, I also have no high opinion of thoughts. I have a better opinion of things.