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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?...it 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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