Friday, March 16, 2007

Hesse - Siddharta

Siddharta. Hermann Hesse. New Directions. 1951. An exploration of Eastern Buddhist thought written by a western (Swiss) author. Young Siddharta is a Brahmin's son: "... growing up to be a great learned man, a priest, a prince among Brahmins." But Siddharta is not happy. He feels a spiritual void within himself. He decides to leave the world of the Brahmins behind, and, accompanied by his friend Govinda, he joins the Samanas of the forest. These are aesthetics who neglect the body to feed the mind. While with them Siddharta learns the arts of the mentalist, including levitation and mind control. Eventually he leaves the Samanas and encounters the Buddha in person. In these and other adventures Siddharta seeks the answers to his spirtual quest. Does he discover the secret of existance, the meaning of life, the true nature of humanities' place in the universe? Perhaps he discovers these are the wrong questions. Hesse's 'Steppenwolf' is his best known work, but 'Siddharta' is arguably his best written and most important.

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