QHSSYC SUMMER READING & WRITING ASSIGNMENT
For Students Who Will Be Sophomores in September, 2010
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 10 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 5 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
"[Siddhar tha] 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 w ise 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 hear t? 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 indee d
awakened and have only been born today." p. 40
"[Siddhar tha] 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 ag ain and began to walk quickly and impatiently, no longer homewards, no longer to his father, no
longer looking backwards." p. 41
Amongst the People
"Siddhar tha'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 trunk...so did the world and iner tia creep into Siddhar tha's soul; it slowly f illed 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 ex tremely 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 fro m 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, whe n
my hair is fast growing gray...now 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 g ood. 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 hear t, with my stomach. It is a good thing that I know this." p. 98
"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 ra ther 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. Siddhar tha 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 consis ted of
one word: Om - perfection." p.135
"From that hour Siddhartha ceased to fight against his de stiny. There shone in his face the serenity of knowledge, of one who is
no longer confronted w ith conflict of desires, who has found salvation, who is in harmony with the stream of events, with the
stream of life, full of sy mpathy and compassion, surrendering himself to the stream, belonging to the unity of things." p.136
"When someone is seeking...it happens quite easily that he only sees the thing that he is seeking; that he is unable to find
anything, unable to absorb any thing...because he is ob sessed 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 w ith me
and nothing can har m me...I needed lust [and] to strive for property...to 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. R eflect on your life, and
then relate your life to the life of Siddhartha and how his life developed. You will:
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.
o Please proof-read your work and limit yourself to 500-750 words