Author : Herman Hesse

Genre : Philosophy, Literature

One of my alma mater’s (IIM Lucknow) most loved professors, Dr. Neerja Pande, personally gifted it to me with the message: In your path of self-discovery! Since then, I have in-turn gifted and recommended it to dozens of my friends and everyone has vouched that this book is life-changing.

Siddhartha, Siddhi + Arth means ‘he who has found the meaning (of life)’, is just the book a ‘seeker’ could ask for: a young, intelligent man’s quest for fulfillment and peace. Nobel Laureate, Herman Hesse wrote it a hundred years ago, packing deep insights in this book’s simple lyrical format, devoid of any motherhood statements or high moral standing.

The story is set in India at the time of Gautam Buddha and shows various phases of the protagonist’s life. He is born in a very learned Brahmin family, but ‘bookish’ knowledge appears incomplete to him. He masters them but remains skeptical if those chants and ceremonies will lead him to the right path. He struugles to accept the destiny society has chosen for him (to follow in his father’s footsteps).

The restlessness in his heart, that something is missing, makes him leave his comfortable house. He tries various paths. First he practices rigid asceticism in the forest, trying to control and master his senses. But is still not convinced why, if the ultimate motivation is to go beyond pain, we are giving so much pain to the body.

He meets Gautam Buddha, and while he finds the teachings very wise, he is not sure those can directly be reapplied in his life as a ready-made solution. “The teachings of the enlightened Buddha  embrace much, they teach much – how to live righteously, how to avoid evil. But… it does not contain the secret of what The Illustrious One himself experienced – he alone amongst hundreds of thousands.” It was an aha moment: We seek Buddha’s personal state of tranquility but none of his followers ever reached that state!