Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

As a graduate student, it is a bit of an understatement to say that I am stressed on an hourly basis. I have learned to do things that calm my mind, keeping it quiet and at peace. Reading is one of those activities that I love to do, and it’s even more soothing to read a novel that is based on a calming plot. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse has been on my list of books to read for a long time now. I always thought it was going to be a tome, but in reality was a short 122 pages. Don’t let the number of pages fool you, it is a great read, but not a throw-away paperback.

Siddhartha is a fictional novel that explains the life of the man Siddhartha who leaves his home embarking on a life-changing journey. I will have to say this is a fantastic book to read as a student. Many question the road they are on with respect to work, love, and the future. I would highly recommend this novel to any one who is unsure or needs some inner peace.

Siddhartha leaves home early in his life to wander the Earth as a beggar, in search of spiritual illumination. His best friend Govinda leaves with him and they are off to experience this journey together until they come across the Buddha. Siddhartha has a conversation with the Buddha, and so does Govinda, but separately. Govinda decides to then join Buddha and be one of his followers, where Siddhartha decides to stay behind and experience his own perspective.

From here, Siddhartha travels to a city and meets the beautiful Courtesan, Kamala. She teaches him the art of love and he, in order to gain her affection, works for a merchant and begins prizing materialistic goods. After years in the city, Siddhartha decides that it is not the life that he wants for himself and leaves Kamala. From there, Siddhartha meets a ferryman, Vesudeva, and works and lives with him for years. One day Kamala returns to the river and brings her son, also Siddhartha’s. Kamala dies from a poisonous snake bite, and Siddhartha wants to raise his son. Yet the boy does not like Siddhartha and ends up stealing all of their money and runs away. Siddhartha is heart broken, and it is Vesudeva who comforts him, helping him to realize what is important. The novel ends with Siddhartha and Govinda being rejoined and Siddhartha passing on his enlightenment to Govinda.

I cannot stress the utter peacefulness of this novel and the joy that it brought me to read. Siddhartha is such a humble and joyful character that one would want him to be your friend. In a society such as ours, it’s some times difficult to not get bogged down in the importance of materialistic goods. Isn’t it more important to know you are happy and fulfilled by the life you are leading? Wouldn’t it be more peaceful to worry more about eating to live rather than living to eat? For students, I find it more pressing to be excited to learn more and more and to be interested in the work rather than learning to live. This novel is a historic piece of literature and one that everyone should read. It is neither challenging nor simplistic. Reading it will give you a glimpse at inner peace and maybe change some of your perspectives on the importance of life. These are perhaps religious topics, but just in general, spiritual topics that one should consider. Just my thoughts, for what they’re worth.

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