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An Indian Tale

Eine indische Dichtung


Translated by Gunther Olesch, Anke Dreher, Amy Coulter, Stefan Langer and Semyon Chaichenets

To Romain Rolland, my dear friend

Stemming from Hesse's love for Indian culture and Buddhist philosophy, this novel is the spiritual journey of self-discovery of a man named Siddhartha during the time of the Gautama Buddha. It is Hesse's ninth novel originally written in German. Only after Hesse's death did it become highly popular during the 1960s counterculture movement.

The word Siddhartha is made up of two words in the Sanskrit language, siddha (achieved) and artha (what was searched for), which together means "he who has found meaning (of existence)" or "he who has attained his goals". In fact, the Buddha's own name, before his renunciation, was Siddhartha Gautama, Prince of Kapilvastu, Nepal. In this book, the Buddha is referred to as "Gotama".

In the shade of a banyan tree, a grizzled ferryman sits listening to the river. Some say he's a sage. He was once a wandering shramana and, briefly, like thousands of others, he followed Gotama the Buddha, enraptured by his sermons. But this man, Siddhartha, was not a follower of any but his own soul. Born the son of a Brahmin, Siddhartha was blessed in appearance, intelligence, and charisma. In order to find meaning in life, he discarded his promising future for the life of a wandering ascetic. Still, true happiness evaded him. Then a life of pleasure and titillation merely eroded away his spiritual gains until he was just like all the other "child people," dragged around by his desires. Like Hermann Hesse's other creations of struggling young men, Siddhartha has a good dose of European angst and stubborn individualism. His final epiphany challenges both the Buddhist and the Hindu ideals of enlightenment. Neither a practitioner nor a devotee, neither meditating nor reciting, Siddhartha comes to blend in with the world, resonating with the rhythms of nature, bending the reader's ear down to hear answers from the river.

In very simple prose Herman Hesse has conveyed a very profound message for all seekers. This is a story of a brahmin boy who follows his heart and goes through various lives to finally understand what it means to be enlightened. Siddhartha experiences life as a pious brahmin, a Samana, a rich merchant, a lover, an ordinary ferryman to a father--each life bringing a new awakening, bringing him closer to the truth till he finally is one with Buddha.--Submitted by Payal Koul

What is life? What is truth? What does one mean by illusion? These and many other questions have been haunting many of us when we are in isolation. It is simply impossible to curb the echoes of our mind. The more you suppress the more they will echo. Renunciation is not everyone's cup of tea; enlightenment does not bless all. But remember that it can be achieved by anybody, provided we are strong: mentally, not physically. Siddhartha is anybody who questions the ways of the world; for instance, does god really exist? Who coloured flowers, trees and grass? What is permanent: soul or body? goes on. Siddhartha is very relevant. No need to tread the path he chooses but we can gain self-introspect with the help of his principles. Following one's heart is the right choice and is what one learns from the life of Siddhartha. It is very exciting to read the encounter of Siddhartha with Buddha. It is very wonderful to see life as a hollow log of wood filled with the termites of so many WHATs and WHYs.--Submitted by Deepak Malapur

Wonder what keeps you from becoming who you really are? Wonder what keeps you from achieving your goals? Wonder how not to lose yourself the day you finally seem to find your way? Wonder how to achieve pleasure and learn the mystery of love? Wonder how not to take your life, happiness and misery too seriously? --Submitted by Anonymous

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Recent Forum Posts on Siddhartha

My take on Siddhartha

I just finished listening to the audio book version of the book, and I instantly fell in love. Well, I have one chapter left...but the book resonates with me very deeply. I think (well at least to me) the core message is that spirituality/enlightenment cannot be taught or imitated. By the way this was the teaching of Jesus as well, before he was hijacked my the church and politicians. (he said to his disciples, you shall be doing greater things that I have done..) The most interesting part is the family relationship and Siddhartha's attachments and disassociations from people and finally his own son. This is the hardest thing to do, to let go of a sibling. I think this was masterfully orchestrated by Hesse and it showed the key. By the way, I am not meaning to harping on other prophets, namely Jesus... but the Master, ANY MASTER must be without family, or the whole plan is off. Of course, Siddhartha did not plan having a son, or marring and settling down, but it happened nevertheless. A side note, Lord Buddha, had a son and a wife and one day he kissed them and left. "In order to alleviate suffering we must create some". I advise to all to read the masterfully thoughtful book, the Buddha's Wife by by Gabriel Constans. Andras Nagy Ancient Wisdom Publications

Inner Voice in Siddhartha

Hi, The inner voice is featured prominently in several stages of Siddhartha's life. While functioning as a motif, what exactly is this inner voice?


I understand that Siddhartha is an allegory for buddhism but why would Hess use this as a model if he rejects the concept?

Words of wisdom like siddhartha

If any of you have seen the forbidden kingdom you might remember this little speech. Kung Fu... Hard work over time to accomplish skill. A painter can have kung fu. Or the butcher, who cuts meat everyday with such a skill that his knife never touches the board. Learn the form, seek the formless. Hear the soundless. Learn it all, and forget it all. Learn the way, and then find your own way. The musician can have kung fu, or the poet, who paints pictures with words and makes emperors weep. This too is kung fu. But do not name it, my friend. For it is like water. Nothing is softer than water, yet it can overcome rock. It does not fight, it flows along the opponent. Formless, nameless. A true master dwells within. Only you can free him. Little duo-monologue from Jackie Chan and Jet Li. The kung fu stuff doesn't really fit but I thought the whole "Learn the way, and then find your own way." part was basically siddhartha. anyways awesome read, liked it, maybe ill go read some more hesse. shame i'll prolly never get to visit india :(

Need Help Understanding Siddharta

Maybe this book was just not an attention getter for me, but I passively read Siddharta and did not find the fullfilment that I usually do reading other books. To me, everything was described clearly, but I did not find a satisfying ending. What realizations were made by Siddharta in the end? Or was it something that Govinda realized? To me, it just doesn't seem like the last chapter. Can anyone help me understand the last of Siddharta so I can possibly make a connection to the rest of the book? *edit: Does anyone see any types of symbolism in the book? I really want to pull meaning out of this book, but I can't find any symbolism! --tabby123

Siddhartha by Herman Hess

I didn't see an actual thread devoted to it and it really does deserve it's own. If you've read Siddhartha, and if you haven't I strongly suggest you do, I'd like to know what you felt the most important messages or overtones were to you. One of my favorites was his thinking about language, where he stated language was only transportation for ideas, or something along those lines.

Siddhartha's beauty

Hesse describes Siddhartha's beauty. What is the importance of it? and community wise?

Waiting, fasting, thinking. What's so special about these?

Siddhartha claims these attributes were his best; waiting, fasting, thinking. Why is this so?

Cycle Themes

How is cycle demonstrated in this book? I know life reincarnation is one and becoming innonce and child-like again.

does siddhartha love anyone?

although Siddhartha says he cannot love anyone i believe he loves his son and possibly Kamala? feedback would be wonderful thank you!

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