Siddhartha

By

Hermann Hesse

Read in
August, 2020
My rating:
7
/10

Summary

An exploration of the meaning of life as told through the story of a boy, who becomes a man, who grows old and, finally, reaches the wisdom of enlightenment in his old age. Told as a series of dialogues between Siddhartha and the people who pass through his life.

Notes

Meaning

Man's search for meaning does not come from worldly things.

'The ablutions were good, but they were water; they did not wash sins away, they did not relieve the stressed heart.'

We cannot use worldly means to flee or escape from the self, whether it is fasting, or meditation or even drinking and pleasure - all are an attempt to dwell, momentarily in the non-self. But the self will always return.

Without paying attention and due care to the process over time, possessions and the acquisition of material wealth can become a trap and a burden instead of what we thought it might have been: our purpose all along. But it is not.

Learning

No matter how we learn, we must always ask ourselves this question: what remains that even teachers cannot teach you? The biggest mystery is the self - it is not easily conquered or hidden from or escaped or ignored.

Learning a thing is very different to knowing how to think about a thing. How do you think about the things you know?

Purpose, Goals and Finding a Path

When our sights are set high and our goals are challenging, material things seem minor in comparison. Like a stone falling through water, go through the affairs of the world with patience, thought and action with that goal in mind. Don't let other material things bother you on that journey.

'He is drawn by his goal, for he does not allow anything to enter his mind which opposes his goal.'

We all have value to give to the world, to others, to ourselves. It comes in many different forms - some may see it, some may not. We may see it ourselves, we may not. What we are good at, and what we can do for ourselves and others, might be to know something, or be able to do something, or to simply have patience. It is not always obvious, but it is there.

'Most people are like a falling leaf that drifts and turns in the air, flutters, and falls to the ground. But a few others are like stars which travel one defined path: no wind reaches them, they have within themselves their guide and path.'

Some of us have a guide without, and a path within. Others have a guide within, and a path without. Few have both within. When we set a path for ourselves and guide ourselves down that path, how much is that path, and how we guide ourselves along it, swayed and determined by the motion of the outside world and the people that we meet?

Reciprocity, Duality & Time

You cannot have something without giving it also. The love you take is equal to the love you make. The knowledge you have is equal to the knowledge you share. You cannot have pleasure without giving pleasure. When we try to take something without paying for it in kind, we must pay in some other way.

The concept and the symbol of the river are important - it is the symbol of time. The river is the flowing water next to you, it's the waterfall and the spring and the rain falling - it is everywhere at once and there is only the present in which it exists.

'I reviewed my life and it was also a river, and Siddhartha the boy, Siddhartha the mature man and Siddhartha the old man were only separated by shadows, not through reality. Siddhartha's previous lives were also not in the past, and his death and his return to Brahma are not in the future. Nothing was, nothing will be, everything has reality and presence.'

Seeking

Seeking is not the same as receiving. To seek one's goal is powerful and needed, but the act of receiving, of finding, of accepting, is a completely different thing. If we only seek and do not receive, or receive and do not seek, there is only chaos or stasis. Neither is good for our souls. We must do some of both, to find a little tension. 'In striving towards your goal you do not see many things that are under your nose.'

Wisdom

'Wisdom is not communicable. The wisdom which a wise man tries to communicate always sounds foolish.'

Nothing that can be put into words carries the whole truth of the matter. Within the sin there is grace, within grace there is sin. All children are one day to be old. The Buddha is in the robber, the criminal is in the Priest. Everything is necessary.

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