“Heart has its reason which reason does not know”, so remarked Blaise Pascal. Indeed, anyone who listens to the wisdom of the heart will walk roads less traveled and discover unique self-actualization that ordinarily people only long for, but do not have the ‘heart’ to pursue….
Herman Hesse’s “Siddhartha” is a timeless classic that captures the human and spiritual journey of one man, in search of life’s meaning and destiny. The book is inspired by the life of Gautam Buddha, but what is striking – and that is the uniquely refreshing aspect of the novel – is that the author takes the reader to see beyond the Buddha and into the dynamics that makes a Buddha. The book leaves one with the feeling that there lies in everyone of us a Buddha waiting to be born, and we only need to consent to its awakening. And once it awakes, we may be leading lives that are quite different from the ways of the established Buddhas, but self-realizing indeed, and thereby unique, refreshing and inspiring to the world.
The novel narrates the story of a young Brahmin (Siddhartha) who leaves home in pursuit of greater meaning in life. The earnest and passionate search takes him through various experiences in life, both good and bad, austere and pleasurable, but each of them leaves him with a sense of non-fulfillment. However, each experience shapes the texture and contour of his life which then comes a full circle in the course of time. There are several characters on the margins that play their part in the destiny of the hero. The evolution of these characters too is fascinating. It will be surprising if the reader does not find his alter ego in some of those characters.
What makes “Siddhartha” a classic is its amazing simplicity of narration and the evergreen topic of the meaning and destiny of human life which never ceases to escape our souls’ longing. Moreover, the novel offers manifold possibilities of interpretation at numerous layers of perspectives. Beside and behind the apparent simplicity lies the complexity and depth of the plot, characters and above all, the symbolism. For example, the character ‘Govinda’ who props up now and then is indeed the archetype of the shadow of Siddhartha. Like “Alice in Wonderland”, “Siddhartha” is a multi-faceted experience of the rich dynamics of the human mind and its possibilities. A reverential reading of the novel will indeed, open up new vistas of spiritual experience for the discerning reader.