Monday, January 7, 2013

Siddhartha - Hesse (Short Novel)

When you read it, feel free to picture
Siddhartha as less womany.
These kinds of personal choices are
what reading is all about!
Maybe I am wrong to think that many people have had a similar experience to the one I am about to describe.  Truthfully, I am just now realizing I have not had many conversations (at least ones I can remember) with people about it; in fact, I cannot presently recall even one.  However, for whatever reason I do believe that I am not alone in this feeling.  Every now and again something will happen, be it after reading a religious text or address, after serious reflection, or after some remarkable event, and I will think, "Yes.  I have the power to become a much better person than I am right now, and I can do it very quickly.  All I need to do is give up whatever is irrelevant to my being good."  I then go on to think about how foolish I've been, how much time I've wasted.  I imagine myself volunteering with people who need it, calling family and friends who I know are lonely (or at least who I believe to be lonely).  I imagine selling my video games and other so-called "time wasters".  I think of all the wonderful things I can do with my time, money, and person, and how awesome it will feel once I've done them; I picture myself meditating for hours at a time, reaching some higher plain of thought, and I wonder why I have not done all of this sooner.  Of course, I never make the Big Change all at once like this.  I get scared.  I get tired.  Life rears its head and I deem these imaginings to be extreme or impossible.  At best, I change something minute about myself and over time hope that these changes make me a better person.

I'm not here to discuss whether or not such a change is possible for most of us, or even to discuss if this change would be positive.  What I am here to talk about is, of course, Siddhartha, Nobel prize-winner Hermann Hesse's most famous novel.  Hesse writes of an Indian Buddhist named Siddhartha (go figure), born into a religious group of Brahmin's, a people who strove to reach Nirvana and absolute personal enlightenment.  Even though Siddhartha is very young in the opening of the book, he is the most loved man in his community, seen as the most spiritual, the most enlightened.  He is the person who is not afraid to do what is described above, he is willing to give up anything and everything for true enlightenment.  Though the novel is quite short, his journey is long.  If you are like me, reading it may return you to the feeling spoken of, a desire to better yourself no matter the cost.  It is an interesting read to say the least, and you may come to find you learn more about yourself here (in terms of strengths, weakness, capability, and personal belief) than you have in a long time.  You may not agree with Siddhartha's choices or beliefs; you may be happy to find that he sometimes finds himself in contradiction with what he has said and done.  Don't we all do that as we try to grow?

It is a feel-good read and is very simply written.  It could easily be finished by most readers (even busy ones) in a number of days.  If you don't have anything else going on it might just take one.  To whet your appetite, here are a few excellent passages:

   On the way, Govinda said: "Siddhartha, you have learned more from the Samanas than I was aware.  It is difficult, very difficult to hypnotize an old Samana, [but you have done so effortlessly.]  In truth, if you had stayed there, you would have soon learned how to walk on water."
   "I have no desire to walk on water," said Siddhartha.  "Let the old Samanas satisfy themselves with such arts."
I looked it up and apparently this really is
how many ribs a person has.  Why does
it look like way too many?

*   *   *

   Siddhartha had one single goal--to become empty, to become empty of thirst, desire, dreams, pleasure and sorrow--to let the Self die.  No longer to be Self, to experience the peace of an empty heart, to experience pure thought--that was his goal.  When all the Self was conquered and dead, when all passions and desires were silent, then the last must awaken, the innermost Being that is no longer Self--the great secret!

*   *   *

   "I posses nothing," said Siddhartha, "if that is what you mean.  I am certainly without possessions, but of my own free will, so I am in no need."
   "But how will you live if you are without possessions?"
   "I have never thought about it, sir.  I have been without possessions for nearly three years and I have never thought on what I should live."
   "So you have lived on the possessions of others?"

There are others quotes that are even better, but they are near the end of the book and I wouldn't want to spoil anything for you.  Enjoy!

-MA 01.07.2013

Note:  For some reason it is so strange to me right now that "strove" is a real word.

No comments:

Post a Comment