Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse - Of The Greatest Books I Have Ever Read Ron Rivchin

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Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse - Of The Greatest Books I Have Ever Read       Ron Rivchin Powered By Docstoc
					       Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

                        Zarathurstra Meets The Buddha

In the shade of a banyan tree, a grizzled ferryman sits li stening to the
river. Some say hes a sage. He was once a wandering shramana and,
briefly, like thousands of others, he followed Gotama the Buddha,
enraptured by his sermons. But this man, Siddhartha, was not a follower
of any but his own soul. Born the son of a Brahmin, Siddhartha was
blessed in appearance, intelligence, and charisma. In order to find
meaning in life, he discarded his promising future for the life of a
wandering ascetic. Still, true happiness evaded him. Then a life of
pleasure and titillation merely eroded away his spiritual gains until he was
just like all the other child people, dragged around by his desires. Like
Hermann Hesses other creations of struggling young men, Siddhartha has
a good dose of European angst and stubborn individualism. His final
epiphany challenges both the Buddhist and the Hindu ideals of
enlightenment. Neither a practitioner nor a devotee, neither meditating
nor reciting, Siddhartha comes to blend in with the world, resonating with
the rhythms of nature, bending the readers ear down to hear answers
from the river. In this translation Sherab Chodzin Kohn captures the slow,
spare lyricism of Siddharthas search, putting her version on par with Hilda
Rosners standard edition. --Brian Bruya

The sources of this book include classics like Nietzche's Thus Spake
Zarathustra, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita and elements of
Buddhism. It is the story of a quest that mirrors th e quests of several
Indian sages from the Buddha to countless Sadhus since. It is important to
let go of preconceptions when reading this book, it is however probably
more suitable to westerners who don't appreciate Indian religions that don't
bear comparison with monotheistic traditions that seek salvation using one
totem. Indeed, Hess seems to treat Buddhism just like another totem to be
ignored given that as a religion it implies "allegiance". Taking refuge with
an open mind is not the same as swearing allegiance. Everyone has to
discover realisation/s for themselves. The Buddha said this. Leaving this
aside, Hess is deeply sympathetic to Buddhism but prefers instead an
individualistic path based on love and a simple appreciation of the world,
the way many human beings come to terms with suffering. It is not
necessarily the path to the realisation of ultimate truth, but more coming to
terms with the problems of life. I was especially touched by the
descriptions of listening to the soothing river. Chapter after chapter offers
various teachers and the book as a whole is about the quest and not
necessarily about answers.

Philosphically the book is about independence and individualism and
makes the case for a lone seeker "fare lonely as a rhinoceros" as a
Buddhits text has it. This means being wary of any religion or movement
and understanding the limits of concepts. Many of us do have to join
groups to come to understand this and it has to be borne in mind that
Siddhartha, the protagonist finds his way by forming relationships, not by
being entirely alone. Siddhartha asks questions and is keen to form bonds
with sources of wisdom. In the end, he only has so much time and when
he is old he has that much wisdom to offer. It may not be the whole
realisation, but it is what is suitable for most readers of this book.

The book is a light and pleasant read and needs to be read slowly with
enough time for digestion of each of the chapters. It is well thought out
and enjoyable and though it may not be on the bestseller ranks, it is just
the sort of book that someone may need and enjoy.

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