Thursday, December 6, 2012

Book Review : Siddhartha

Title : Siddhartha
Author : Herman Hesse
Publisher : Bantam Book

 "The true profession of man is to find his way to himself"
Siddhartha is the story of every thinking individual as one maneuvers through the paths of life while trying to work on the conflicts that the three essential elements of a being pose - mind, body and soul.  I consider such books small little pauses in the otherwise madly running lives in current times. They goad an individual to stop, think, introspect and examine which one of the three - mind, body or soul is dominating the self at any given point of time.

Siddhartha, as a boy got enchanted by the thoughts of gods and sacrifices, as a young adult left his home in order to conquer his mind and body to live as an ascetic, as a man got immersed in fulfilling the pleasures of senses and becoming their slave, and later left everything that was dear to him to embark on a fresh journey to find peace and Atman. His life came a full circle starting from a boy to a man and then back to being a child again. The boy who was boastful of three incredible arts - fasting, waiting and thinking, saw the same abandoning him one by one. He ended up exchanging the skills that he had acquired during the diligent years of youth, for the transitory things which usually obsess an ordinary man. Eventually he had to get in touch with his inner self in order to attain the divine peace.

As  he progressed in his journey of life, his personality changed, his needs changed and accordingly his teachers changed and in the end he learns the essence of life from outwardly mute river. Sitting silently by the river, watching its continuous flow, Siddhartha learns the timeliness of a being, unity of things and the art of listening to that one sound - the Om sound - which has the power of submerging every diverse sound in its folds.  "Learned from river to listen, to listen with still heart, with a waiting, open soul, without passion, without desire, without judgment, without opinions. "

A very thought provoking story but then it does make you believe that things happen when they have to happen and when the time is ripe for the same to happen. Perhaps this was the reason that even after meeting Buddha and getting impressed with his demeanor and his teachings, Siddhartha felt the need to leave that place as he believed that a teacher can simply impart knowledge but cannot make the disciples share the wisdom that experience only brings. "Wisdom is not communicable. Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. One can find it, live it, be fortified by it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate and teach it."

Siddhartha's words while he decided to leave Buddha to embark on his pursuit alone - "Buddha you have reached the highest goal which so many thousands of Brahmins and Brahmins' sons are striving to reach. You have done so by your own seeking, in your own way, through thought, through meditation, through knowledge, through enlightenment. You have learned nothing through teachings. Nobody finds salvation through teachings. To nobody, can you communicate in words and teachings what happened to you in the hour of your enlightenment. The teachings of the enlightened Buddha embrace much, they teach much - how to live righteously, how to avoid evil. But there is one things that this clear, worthy instruction does not contain, it does not contain the secret of what the Illustrious One himself experienced. "

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