Siddhartha_ Herman Hesse by sofiaie


                  For Students Who Will Be Sophomores in September, 2009

Introduction to the book Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse

Siddhartha, the adolescent protagonist of this story, sets out on a journey of self-discovery. His
“voyage,” more an inner journey than an external one, has to do with some lessons about the
nature of Hinduism and Buddhism, but mostly about setting out on the path toward wisdom
through an exploration of the soul. (Don’t let this intimidate you; remember, he’s a teenager –
just in a different time and place.)

Like the Buddha himself, Siddhartha’s namesake, at his age, he is at a point in his young life
when he is very unhappy, close to despair. In his misery, Siddhartha, with his loyal friend,
Govinda, leaves to search for the famous teacher they’ve heard much about, a teacher who has
gone through struggles of his own, and whom they hope will have wisdom to impart.

They do find Buddha, but, while Govinda decides to stay with him, surprisingly Siddhartha
decides he must move on, saying:

   . . . and so I think, O Illustrious One, that nobody finds salvation through teachings. To
   nobody, O Illustrious One, can you communicate in words and teaching what happened
   to you in the hour of your enlightenment. That is why I am going on my way—not to
   seek another and better doctrine, for I know there is none, but to leave all doctrines and
   all teachers and to reach my goal alone—or die.

Siddhartha enters wholeheartedly into what Hinduism refers to as "paths of desire,” becoming
entangled in those paths for awhile. When he resumes his journey, he comes to a river (a strong
Hindu symbol) which plays an important role in his growth and transformation -- into
parenthood and beyond.

Meeting his friend Govinda again, Siddhartha shares something he has learned

     . . . Wisdom is not communicable. The wisdom which a wise man tries to
     communicate always sounds foolish. . . . 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.


            Your assignment is about Siddhartha’s journey, and about your own.

There are two tasks, the first requiring you to do some writing based on quotes
from the book; and the second requiring you to write an essay about “the journey.”
TASK 1 -- Using Quotations

a. Below is a selection of quotes from sequential chapters of the book. Choose 5 that resonate with you -
   -meaning that they are quotes to which you can form some sort of connection because they, for some
   reason which you can explain, hold a greater meaning for you. Describe the context within which the
   words were spoken in the story, and why you think these words are particularly significant.

b. Next, choose 2 other quotes that do not appear below, selected because, as you read, you found them
   significant. Again, explain the context, and then, why you think or feel each is important.
   (Be sure to restate the quote, and to specify the page on which it appears.)
The Brahmin’s Son

"[Siddhartha] had begun to feel that the love of his father and mother, and also the love of his friend Govinda, would not always
make him happy, give him peace, satisfy and suffice him. He had begun to suspect that his worthy father and his other teachers,
the wise Brahmins, had already passed on to him the bulk and best of their wisdom [but] his soul was not at peace." p. 5

"Was Atman then not within him? Was not then the source within his own heart? One must find the source within one's own Self,
one must possess it. Everything else was seeking - a detour, error." p. 7


"You have renounced home and parents, you have renounced your own will, you have renounced friendship. That is what the
teachings preach, that is the will of the Illustrious One. That is what you wished for yourself. Tomorrow, Govinda, I will leave
you." p. 30

"I, also, would like to look and smile, sit and walk like that, so free, so worthy, so restrained, so candid, so childlike and
mysterious. A man only looks and walks like that when he has conquered his Self. I also will conquer my Self...No other
teachings will attract me, since this man's teachings have not done so." p. 35


"I, who wished to read the book of the world and the book of my own nature, did presume to despise the letters and signs. I
called the world of appearances, illusion. I called my eyes and tongue, chance. Now it is over; I have awakened. I have indeed
awakened and have only been born today." p. 40

"[Siddhartha] stood alone like a star in the heavens...That was the last shudder of his awakening, the last pains of birth.
Immediately he moved on again and began to walk quickly and impatiently, no longer homewards, no longer to his father, no
longer looking backwards." p. 41


Amongst the People

"Siddhartha's sympathy and curiosity lay only with the people, whose work, troubles, pleasures, and follies were more unknown
and remote from him than the moon. Although he found it so easy to speak to everyone, to live with everyone, to learn from
everyone...there was something which separated him from them...[because] he had been a Samana." p. 69


"Slowly, like moisture entering the dying tree did the world and inertia creep into Siddhartha's soul; it slowly filled his
soul, made it heavy, made it tired, sent it to sleep. But on the other hand his senses became more awakened, they learned a
great deal, experienced a great deal." p. 76
"He had finished with that. That also died in him. He rose, said farewell to the mango tree and the pleasure garden. As he had
not had any food that day he felt extremely hungry, and thought of his house in town, of his room and bed, of the table with food.
He smiled wearily, shook his head and said good-bye to these things." p. 84

By the River

"Now, he thought, that all transitory things have slipped away from me again, I stand once more beneath the sun, as I once stood
as a small child. Nothing is mine, I know nothing, I possess nothing, I have learned nothing...when I am no longer young, when
my hair is fast growing I am beginning again like a child." p. 95

"It is a good thing to experience everything oneself...As a child I learned that pleasures of the world and riches were not good. I
have known it for a long time, but I have only just experienced it. Now I know it not only with my intellect, but with my ears, with
my heart, with my stomach. It is a good thing that I know this." p. 98

The Son

"It was true that he had never fully lost himself in another person to such an extent as to forget himself; he had never undergone
the follies of love for another person. He had never been able to do this, and it had then seemed to him that this was the biggest
difference between him and the ordinary people...[now] He was madly in love." p. 122

"You want me to become like you, so pious, so gentle, so wise, but just to spite you, I would rather become a thief and a
murderer and go to hell, than be like you. I hate you; you are not my father even if you have been my mother's lover a dozen
times!" p. 123


“The river was laughing clearly and merrily at the old ferryman. Siddhartha stood still; he bent over the water in order to hear
better…[His face] resembled the face of his father, the Brahmin.” p.131

 "[A]ll the voices, all the goals, all the yearnings, all the sorrows, all the pleasures, all the good and evil, all of them together was
the world. All of them together was the stream of events, the music of life...then the great song of a thousand voices consisted of
one word: Om - perfection." p.135

"From that hour Siddhartha ceased to fight against his destiny. There shone in his face the serenity of knowledge, of one who is
no longer confronted with conflict of desires, who has found salvation, who is in harmony with the stream of events, with the
stream of life, full of sympathy and compassion, surrendering himself to the stream, belonging to the unity of things." p.136


"When someone is happens quite easily that he only sees the thing that he is seeking; that he is unable to find
anything, unable to absorb anything...because he is obsessed with his goal. Seeking means: to have a goal; but finding means:
to be free, to be receptive, to have no goal." p.140

"Therefore, it seems to me that everything that exists is good - death as well as life, sin as well as holiness, wisdom as well as
folly. Everything is necessary, everything needs only my agreement, my assent, my loving understanding; then all is well with me
and nothing can harm me...I needed lust [and] to strive for learn not to resist them." p. 144
TASK 2 – Essay, “Life Is Like a Journey”

In this assignment, you are invited to take the journey with Siddhartha. Reflect on your life, and
then relate your life to the life of Siddhartha and how his life developed. You will:

      Research the life and times of Siddhartha Gautama (just one good website source will
       do) as well as Hermann Hesse (for the life of Hesse, you can just go to the last page of
       the book) so that you are able to
           o Identify the stages of development that Siddhartha underwent
           o Identify the types of development (social, spiritual, physical, mental), and apply
              this knowledge to your life

      Write an essay reflecting on your life's journey in light of Siddhartha's.
          o You should be able to identify the influences and experiences that helped shape
              Siddhartha, and apply those same influences and experiences to your own life.
          o This requires that you analyze your life and try to understand how such
              influences have shaped you -- evaluating whether these changes are good or bad.
          o Keeping in mind Siddhartha’s journey, venture a projection as to where your life
              will lead in terms of your own development.

                                    Stage One: The Research

   1. Read Siddhartha and understand the sequence of the story.
   2. Do a small investigation of the origins of Buddhist philosophy and how it applies to
      Siddhartha's life.
   3. Reflect on your own life and the developmental stages you’ve been through.
   4. After researching these topics, you should be able to answer the following questions as
      well as pose a few questions of your own. Use the questions posed below to help you
      focus your attention. Your answers to these questions will form the basis of your

            Who is Hermann Hesse?
            What were the social conditions that existed in India which led Siddhartha on his
            What were the chronological steps that Siddhartha took to reach Nirvana?
            What were the philosophical steps that allowed Siddhartha to reach Nirvana?
            How is your life like/unlike Siddhartha's
            What are the chronological steps that you have taken to develop to where you are
            What are the philosophical steps that have helped shape your life?
            What are the social conditions in your life that have influenced your development?

Collect information that is informative, but feel free to include interesting trivia or anecdotes.

                                    Stage Two: The Product

You will write an essay of at least 3 pages in length (typed: 12 point Times Roman, double-
spaced, with 1” margins). You will include

      An Introduction: Introduce your topic -- Life is like a journey -- as best you can.
       Identify this in Siddhartha, and draw references from Siddhartha to your personal life.
       Indicate that you are using Siddhartha as a road map for reflecting on your life. Identify
       the approach you will be using (e.g. spiritual, emotional, psychological, mental, or
      Synopsis: In the next part of your essay, give a short overall synopsis of the book.
       Discuss the characteristics of the main character and his journey through life. How has
       he changed with regard to his relationship with his family, his religion, his friends, and
      Provide Historical and religious background information for both Hinduism and
       Buddhism. Understand the relationship between the two.
      Your Life: Discuss specific developments and lines in the book that parallel your own
       life as you have journeyed through life to the present (and where you might anticipate
       journeying in the future). Take specific examples from the book, and apply them to
       specific occurrences or actions in your life (or, projecting forward, desired results from
       your actions in your life). Please use specific quotes from the book that relate to your life
       or journey.
       This will be the longest part of your essay and will consist of several paragraphs.
       Remember that every time you make a statement or offer an opinion, you MUST back it
       up with concrete examples from the text, cultural context, or your life. Do not assume
       that your opinion or statement is common knowledge.
      A conclusion: Tie everything together, restating your thesis from the introductory
Your paper will be part reflective essay, part research essay, part interpretive essay. You will be
graded on content (what you say) and mechanics (how well you say it).

                       Tips to Keep in Mind When Writing Your Essay
You need to do the research in order to perform the task. This requires that you think critically and then present your
ideas to a reader. Interpretive writing is primarily concerned about what you feel, how you analyze a subject, and
how you present the results of your thinking. You are concerned with making a case for your ideas to the reader,
being informative and, at the same time, interesting.

You also need to show that you can use your knowledge of a specific subject in order to develop a thesis. With this
in mind, you ought to introduce your topic clearly and make sure that any assumptions, judgments, interpretations
are right up front.

Recognizing that every research essay is part narration, keep in mind that unless you also make the attempt to
interpret the facts, your essay will fall short of the mark. So, while you are engaged in the early stages of your
research, make every effort to think in terms of why you are writing the essay. It is not merely to present the facts
(e.g. about Buddhism, Hinduism, India, Herman Hesse, Siddhartha – and, most definitely, you), but to use those
facts -- and this means that you’ll need to organize your essay.

The best way to get organized, and remain organized, is to use an outline. Consider your topic as a whole and then
break it down into its component parts. How do all these components illustrate your general thesis statement? How
does everything fit in? Which aspects are more important in terms of the points you want to make?

It goes without saying that your essay must have an Introduction, Body and Conclusion (but don’t think that each of
these is merely one paragraph). Your Introduction is most important since it is there that you will attempt to
establish the importance and necessity of writing the essay in the first place. The first sentence ought to specify the
entire focus of the essay; in this respect, it is sometimes the most important sentence to get just right.

While creating your outline, make sure that the sections follow one another in an order which you yourself have
established. Once your rough outline has been established, it's time to start writing the rough draft. Be sure to fit in
what some call the “killer quotations,” the ones that really capture the essence of what you want to get across.

Plan to write a couple of paragraphs on each relevant section of your essay, which you clarify as you organize your
outline. (Remember also to use your Introduction to tip off your reader regarding what sections to anticipate. This
sets a direction for you and your reader. It’s like telling a dinner guest what the appetizer, the main dish and sides,
plus dessert will be, without giving away the spices and sauces.)

Who is your reader? Assume that your reader is an individual of average intelligence who, although not an expert,
has an interest in your topic. In other words, you really can't assume too much regarding the reader’s knowledge, so
you have to explain things carefully. Just stating something is not enough---you also have to explain it. You are the
one with the knowledge, and it's your job to express that knowledge to someone who, ideally, wants to know more.
You are in control. After all, you are the author of the essay.

Try to write your essay section by section, over a period of several days. Write some one day and then, the next day,
read what you wrote the previous day and make corrections. Then go on to write the next section. By reading the
previous section, you will have a much better chance of ensuring the logical flow. Without that logical flow (which
stems from the time you spent carefully organizing the outline), you’ll lose your reader.

Remember to provide transitions: as a rule, begin each paragraph with a statement which explains the general drift
of what is to follow. As you close the paragraph, try to think ahead to the next one. Ideally, you want the last
sentence of the first paragraph to suggest the first sentence of the next.

Some material taken from Matawan-Aberdeen School District

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