Review: ‘Siddhartha’

siddharthaSiddhartha

By Herman Hesse

  • Date Finished: Feb. 9, 2014
  • Genre: Fiction, Spiritualism
  • Year: 1922
  • Project: n/a
  • Reading List: Winter 2013-14, 25 Books to Read Before You’re 25
  • Grade: B
  • Thoughts upon reading: 

I had no idea what I was getting myself into with Siddhartha, and even now – days after I finished – I’m still not sure what kind of experience I had. It took me way too long to read the damn book because of my work schedule and schoolwork, preventing me from really getting into the story and message behind it. Which stinks, because Siddhartha is such an existential, spiritual book; to really appreciate it, I feel a lot of meditation on its meaning is necessary. I, unfortunately, didn’t have the time for that.

Siddhartha tells the story of a young Indian man living during the time of the Buddha seeking spiritual fulfillment and nirvana. He lives as an ascetic, a businessman and then finally a solitary ferryman, eventually realizing life’s cyclical and dual nature. To achieve any kind of spiritual contentment, Siddhartha realizes, is to recognize, appreciate and love the world in its entirety.

Upon finally reaching the end of this relatively short book, I did feel that the message made sense, and I liked it! Siddhartha realizes that every experience he had during his life added to his total appreciation for the world, and without them, he would never have become the person he was supposed to be. Because of that, our life choices aren’t worth regretting, Siddhartha argues, a fact that rang true for me. So often, we worry whether certain decisions we made were the “right ones” and pined about the times that we “wasted.” However, every experience matters and, if you consider the cyclical nature of life, we’re still living those moments (as we’re living every moment of our life) right now, simultaneously. Now, this “simultaneous living” theory is a bit far-fetched for me in practice, but treating every moment as real and holy (no matter what you’re doing) seems like a healthy way to life your life. It means paying attention to the here and now, instead of dwelling in the past or being preoccupied with an afterlife. It means loving the life that you’re given, and recognizing that life goes on and on and on and on.

All that being said, I still felt like there was a lot I missed during this reading of Siddhartha. Maybe if I had more time, maybe if I had some guidance, maybe if I was less distracted. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

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