Siddhartha by Hermann HesseSiddhartha by Hermann Hesse


byHermann Hesse

Mass Market Paperback | December 1, 1981

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The classic novel of a quest for knowledge that has delighted, inspired, and influenced generations of readers, writers, and thinkers—a perennial favorite for graduation gifts.

Nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read

Though set in a place and time far removed from the Germany of 1922, the year of the book’s debut, the novel is infused with the sensibilities of Hermann Hesse’s time, synthesizing disparate philosophies–Eastern religions, Jungian archetypes, Western individualism–into a unique vision of life as expressed through one man’s search for meaning.

It is the story of the quest of Siddhartha, a wealthy Indian Brahmin who casts off a life of privilege and comfort to seek spiritual fulfillment and wisdom. On his journey, Siddhartha encounters wandering ascetics, Buddhist monks, and successful merchants, as well as a courtesan named Kamala and a simple ferryman who has attained enlightenment. Traveling among these people and experiencing life’s vital passages–love, work, friendship, and fatherhood–Siddhartha discovers that true knowledge is guided from within.
Herman Hesse was the author of Siddhartha, Steppenwolf, and The Glass Bead Game. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946.
Title:SiddharthaFormat:Mass Market PaperbackDimensions:160 pages, 6.86 × 4.18 × 0.42 inPublished:December 1, 1981Publisher:Random House Publishing Group

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0553208845

ISBN - 13:9780553208849

Appropriate for ages: 15 - 17

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Rated 1 out of 5 by from Overrated Everyone cites this book as something that changed their lives. I thought it was boring and generic.
Date published: 2018-03-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Essential My friend lent me this book a long while ago. I keep thinking about it. For any lover of literature or simple seeker of spiritual storytelling, this book is essential.
Date published: 2018-03-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from amazing this book is so good. read it when you go to india
Date published: 2018-03-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not for me I really liked the beginning but as things progressed I started to lose interest. I feel like philosophical books just aren't my cup of tea though.
Date published: 2018-03-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Beautiful book First of all, can we talk about this Penguin Modern Classics edition? The cover is so gorgeous! The book within is just as beautiful. It is a very interesting and compelling story that spans the course of a few decades as we follow the life of Siddhartha, who begins rebelling at a young age to find enlightenment. Unlike The Alchemist, which I feel has similar messages, this book is more plot-oriented - not saying it's better, but it may appeal more to those that aren't into philosophical or 'self-help' enlightenment books. I would recommend this one to everyone.
Date published: 2018-01-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Guide This book has become a guide for me. The words are so pure, the meaning behind it is magical. I will go back and re read this book for time to time. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-12-13
Date published: 2017-11-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of his best I have a deep connection with his work for some reason. This one really gives you insight into the beginning of Buddhism.
Date published: 2017-06-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting Lots to think about after reading this book.
Date published: 2017-06-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Read it in one sitting Insightful views into the world of spirituality and wisdom. Sometimes yearning and seeking and searching becomes a routine no different than getting up every day and doing the exact same things. Let us reinvent ourselves everyday in ways that matter
Date published: 2017-03-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from not at all what i expected This book was suggested to me because i am a yogi, but i am not the type of yogi that is in search of a deeper meaning, i just like yoga. so i went in expecting to find it long and tedeious but i fell in love with this book! it has a simplicity to it that wasn't condescending or judgemental. i've lent it to a few friends since and they all enjoyed it.
Date published: 2017-02-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Breathtaking The most beautiful story I've read in a very long time. I would read this book again and again and again. Again when I'm older, again when I've lost my way, again on my death bed, perhaps.
Date published: 2017-01-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My favourite classic book describes Sidharta (Budha) and his life as he becomes enlightened. Beautifully written.
Date published: 2016-12-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Classic Spiritual journey as novel.
Date published: 2016-12-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Thinking This book really makes the reader think and consider their journey through life. Its not quite as easy an read as The Alchemist but is a similar tale
Date published: 2016-12-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sublime, Even To A Hitchensian Atheist Easily some of the most affecting, beautifully written prose imaginable. There's a reason this novel holds the status that it does.
Date published: 2016-11-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from compelling i think this could be read by most or questioning... contemplative and reassuring
Date published: 2016-11-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from a must have ! a beautiful retelling of the grand journey of life .
Date published: 2016-11-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Classic A classic, must read, and re-read, just beautiful
Date published: 2016-01-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Contemplative meditations Insightful views into the world of spirituality and wisdom. Sometimes yearning and seeking and searching becomes a routine no different than getting up every day and doing the exact same things. Let us reinvent ourselves everyday in ways that matter.
Date published: 2015-10-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Phenomenal I picked up this book on a whim, I had read and heard a lot about it and thought I would give it a try. I was not disappointed, Hermann Hesse writes in a way that is totally captivating, while using simple, beautiful language. The story of Siddhartha's life is inspiring! I highly recommend this book to anyone!
Date published: 2012-08-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Simply Great!! This was my first novel by the author Hermann Hesse and definitely not my last. Even though it has been so long last i read this book, its memory imprinted on my heart, i will not soon forget. The details and tedious words of description of any book we may appreciate, but we forget, what stays with us is the message behind the words. This, is what makes the book great. They say big things come in small packages, well this book is a testimony to just that. The book itself is rather short, but the thought compacted inside once opened will explode from the pressure. You will indeed be left fully satisfied at the end of reading this novel. I can only express to a certain extent my aggression to share this book with others. Whether you read the book or not, matters not to me, i would however be to blame if after reading this review left you with less a desire to read the book than in the first place. My enjoyment, as i would like to express should prompt your initial action to read, as is intended. Now all that is left say is to read, read, and read like you've never read before.
Date published: 2011-01-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Invitation to the spiritual quest Some of us learn through teachers; others choose the experiential path. Siddhartha, written by Hermann Hesse in 1922, is a fictional account of the latter. A moving and revelatory work made more personally profound by my own life experiences, I reread Hermann Hesse's little novel with greater insight and maturity after three readings in as many decades. Set in sixth century India circa 500 BCE, the novel's protagonist, Siddhartha, the son of an Indian Brahmin, is a contemporary of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha. Reluctantly accompanied by his close childhood friend, Govinda (representing his spiritual shadow side), Siddhartha departs from the orthodoxy of brahminic (Hindu) belief to experience deprivation as a wandering sadhu. Yet Siddhartha chafes as a student and yearns to learn experientially. After three years as mendicant monks, Govinda and he encounter the Buddha; Govinda embraces the Illustrious One's teachings about suffering as the result of cause and effect and becomes a disciple. Siddhartha, who encounters the Buddha by himself, rejects further spiritual tutelage and departs alone to experience the world, where he shortly experiences an epiphany that creation is more than shadow and illusion; it is beautiful in itself. It is on this first stage of his solitary journey that he encounters a ferryman, Vasudeva (Charon), who together with his river (Styx) later become significant in Siddhartha's life. No longer a sadhu, Siddhartha encounters a courtesan, Kamala, through whom he intends to learn about carnal knowledge. Their long and intimate relationship becomes the vehicle for his successful career as a rice merchant in partnership with Kamaswami, an avuncular type who, like Kamala, mentors him in the ways of the material world such as possessions, commerce, wealth and status. During the following decade, Siddhartha eventually grows more than satiated with material success and hedonism; he becomes sick (literally 'dis-eased') in his soul (samsara) and seeks release through suicide. Rejecting his material life, he stumbles back to the river, careworn, tired of existence, and intent on drowning himself. In his despair, a childhood spiritual memory returns, the sound of OM; in its repeated pronunciation, he begins the path of inner peace. Divesting himself of his formal life, he apprentices himself to the ferryman and receives both friendship and spiritual instruction through association with the river (representing the eternal now). Siddhartha is the story of one life - it is the story of every life. There comes a point in our existence where we must choose to walk beyond our parents, teachers, and other authority figures and strike out on our own to learn through direct experience. Some, like Siddhartha, embark on this path early; others, like his shadow friend Govinda, never really enter the solitary path and remain lifelong dependants of gurus and other guides, spiritual fledglings more secure as sheep than shepherds. (They are those about which Hebrews 5:12 refers.) In his depiction of Siddhartha, Hesse demonstrates that we are each the captain of our life and the master of our destiny. In choosing to remain dependent on others, we deny ourselves independence of thought. In seeking the approval of others, we deny ourselves self-confidence and maturity of character. Such is the contrast between Siddhartha and Govinda; such is the contrast between the spiritual adherents of mass religious movements of whatever creed and those rare few individuals whom Soren Kierkegaard called the 'chevaliers of the faith'. To those who choose to be receptive and open-minded, Hesse's novel remains a powerful instruction about the spiritual path, from ignorance to enlightenment, from infancy to maturity, from craving to nirvana.
Date published: 2010-12-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Like a Breath of Air I had high expectations for this book, and I have to say, it definitely delivered. The book follows Siddhartha's life, searching to quench his thirst for knowledge, and it will change the way you process what people tell you. It has made me want to become more in tune with nature and give up my material and vain life. This is a book that you will be thinking about constantly.
Date published: 2009-06-28
Rated 1 out of 5 by from .......... Ok, don't get me wrong the novel has a good point and stuff, but this is without a doubt the most boring novel I have ever tried to read. I say "tried to read" because it is just to hard to focus on, and so repetitive, my mind just wonders well I read it. The only way could take in what I was reading was to read each page at least 3 times. If your looking for a novel that you can be amused with don't try this book. If you think this is a novel you can just read over and over again you have horrible taste and need to be smacked. Thats all i have to say.
Date published: 2008-08-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from It's my new bible!!!! Through all the books I have read. I remember I had to read this for english class for high school. I found it, very spirital and thought provoking. I think anyone can relate to this book, when it comes to love, pain, and suffereing but most of all finding yourself, by going through the trials of life. I have read it 6 times and get something new out of it every time. I would definatley say it is a must read.
Date published: 2006-07-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A good life lesson Herman Hesse is really among the best writers of the twentieth century. Siddhartha helped me to realize essentials life values that we usually overlook. A good reading for someone who likes philosophy and buddhism.
Date published: 2002-04-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Everyone is seeking. Siddhartha is a wonderfully crafted story about a man on a quest of knowledge and wisdom. Filled with symbols and metaphors, Siddhartha takes the reader on a journey of self-realization and discovery.
Date published: 2002-02-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant A stunning tale of a man's search for meaning which leads him beyond the paths carved by others. A strong contrast from the Glass Bead Game, but equally enthralling.
Date published: 2001-07-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Too Meaningful Siddhartha is an extraordinarily profound book. The symbolism throughout the story becomes rather tiresome; it made me wish something would actually HAPPEN, as a change from all of these meaningful half-happenings. The book provides a useful outlook on life, however, and it is worth reading-once.
Date published: 2001-06-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Siddhartha One of the most important pieces of fiction ever written.
Date published: 2000-10-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great!!! I really enjoyed this novel. It decribes the inner journey in such a new light. The circular plot forces the reader to understand and really look into Siddhartha's journey from the time at his father's place to when he leaves on his own. I highly recommend this book to those who are on their own spiritual path.
Date published: 2000-04-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Siddharta I was drawn to this book because of its connection to Buddhism. Allow Hesse to take you on a journey to discover the meaning and depths of life, the foundation of wisdom and nirvana. A must-read for intellectually growing teens and for those looking for insight into the Eastern way.
Date published: 1999-09-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Siddhartha Undoubtedly the most profound and thought provoking book I have ever read. A must for anyone who wishes to explore the mysteries of life.
Date published: 1999-06-28

Read from the Book

Chapter 1 The Son of the Brahmin In the shade of the house, in the sunlight on the riverbank where the boats were moored, in the shade of the sal wood and the shade of the fig tree, Siddhartha grew up, the Brahmin’s handsome son, the young falcon, together with his friend Govinda, the son of a Brahmin. Sunlight darkened his fair shoulders on the riverbank as he bathed, performed the holy ablutions, the holy sacrifices. Shade poured into his dark eyes in the mango grove as he played with the other boys, listened to his mother’s songs, performed the holy sacrifices, heard the teachings of his learned father and the wise men’s counsels. Siddhartha had long since begun to join in the wise men’s counsels, to practice with Govinda the art of wrestling with words, to practice with Govinda the art of contemplation, the duty of meditation. He had mastered Om, the Word of Words, learned to speak it soundlessly into himself while drawing a breath, to speak it out soundlessly as his breath was released, his soul collected, brow shining with his mind’s clear thought. He had learned to feel Atman’s presence at the core of his being, inextinguishable, one with the universe. Joy leaped into his father’s heart at the thought of his son, this studious boy with his thirst for knowledge; he envisioned him growing up to be a great wise man and priest, a prince among Brahmins. Delight leaped into his mother’s breast when she beheld him, watched him as he walked and sat and stood, Siddhartha, the strong handsome boy walking on slender legs, greeting her with flawless grace. Love stirred in the hearts of the young Brahmin girls when Siddhartha walked through the streets of their town with his radiant brow, his regal eye, his narrow hips. But none of them loved him more dearly than Govinda, his friend, the Brahmin’s son. He loved Siddhartha’s eyes and his sweet voice, loved the way he walked and the flawless grace of his movements; he loved all that Siddhartha did and all he said and most of all he loved his mind, his noble, passionate thoughts, his ardent will, his noble calling. Govinda knew: This would be no ordinary Brahmin, no indolent pen pusher overseeing the sacrifices, no greedy hawker of incantations, no vain, shallow orator, no wicked, deceitful priest, and no foolish, good sheep among the herd of the multitude. Nor did he, Govinda, have any intention of becoming such a creature, one of the tens of thousands of ordinary Brahmins. His wish was to follow Siddhartha, the beloved, splendid one. And if Siddhartha should ever become a god, if he were ever to take his place among the Radiant Ones, Govinda wished to follow him, as his friend, his companion, his servant, his spear bearer, his shadow. Thus was Siddhartha beloved by all. He brought them all joy, filled them with delight. To himself, though, Siddhartha brought no joy, gave no delight. Strolling along the rosy pathways of the fig garden, seated in the blue-tinged shade of the Grove of Contemplation, washing his limbs in the daily expiatory baths, performing sacrifices in the deep-shadowed mango wood, with his gestures of flawless grace, he was beloved by all, a joy to all, yet was his own heart bereft of joy. Dreams assailed him, and troubled thoughts—eddying up from the waves of the river, sparkling down from the stars at night, melting out of the sun’s rays; dreams came to him, and a disquiet of the soul wafting in the smoke from the sacrifices, murmuring among the verses of the Rig-Veda, welling up in the teachings of the old Brahmins. Siddhartha had begun to harbor discontent. He had begun to feel that his father’s love and the love of his mother, even the love of his friend Govinda, would not always and forever suffice to gladden him, content him, sate him, fulfill him. He had begun to suspect that his venerable father and his other teachers, all wise Brahmins, had already given him the richest and best part of their wisdom, had already poured their plenty into his waiting vessel, yet the vessel was not full: His mind was not content, his soul not at peace, his heart restless. The ablutions were good, but they were only water; they could not wash away sin, could not quench his mind’s thirst or dispel his heart’s fear. The sacrifices and the invocations of the gods were most excellent—but was this all? Did the sacrifices bring happiness? And what of the gods? Was it really Prajapati who had created the world? Was it not rather Atman, He, the Singular, the One and Only? Weren’t the gods mere shapes, creations like you and me, subject to time, transitory? And was it then good, was it proper, was it meaningful, a noble act, to sacrifice to the gods? To whom else should one sacrifice, to whom else show devotion, if not to Him, the Singular, Atman? And where was Atman to be found, where did He reside, where did His eternal heart lie beating? Where else but within oneself, in the innermost indestructible core each man carries inside him. But where, where was this Self, this innermost, utmost thing? It was not flesh and bone, it was not thought and not consciousness, at least according to the wise men’s teachings. Where was it then, where? To penetrate to this point, to reach the Self, oneself, Atman—could there be any other path worth seeking? Yet this was a path no one was showing him; it was a path no one knew, not his father, not the teachers and wise men, not the holy songs intoned at the sacrifices! They knew everything, these Brahmins and their holy books, everything, and they had applied themselves to everything, more than everything: to the creation of the world, the origins of speech, of food, of inhalation and exhalation; to the orders of the senses, the deeds of the gods—they knew infinitely many things—but was there value in knowing all these things without knowing the One, the Only thing, that which was important above all else, that was, indeed, the sole matter of importance? To be sure, many verses in the holy books, above all the Upanishads of the Sama-Veda, spoke of this innermost, utmost thing: splendid verses. “Your soul is the entire world” was written there, and it was written as well that in sleep, the deepest sleep, man entered the innermost core of his being and dwelt in Atman. There was glorious wisdom in these verses; all the knowledge of the wisest men was collected here in magic words, pure as the honey collected by bees. It was not to be disregarded, this massive sum of knowledge that had been collected here by countless generations of wise Brahmins. But where were the Brahmins, where the priests, where the wise men or penitents who had succeeded not merely in knowing this knowledge but in living it? Where was the master who had been able to transport his own being-at-home-in-Atman from sleep to the waking realm, to life, to all his comings and goings, his every word and deed? Siddhartha knew a great many venerable Brahmins, above all his father, a pure, learned, utterly venerable man. Worthy of admiration was his father, still and regal his bearing, his life pure, his words full of wisdom; fine and noble thoughts resided in his brow. But even he, who was possessed of such knowledge, did he dwell in bliss, did he know peace? Was not he too only a seeker, a man tormented by thirst? Was he not compelled to drink again and again from the holy springs, a thirsty man drinking in the sacrifices, the books, the dialogues of the Brahmins? Why must he, who was without blame, wash away sin day after day, labor daily to cleanse himself, each day anew? Was not Atman within him? Did not the ancient source of all springs flow within his own heart? This was what must be found, the fountainhead within one’s own being; you had to make it your own! All else was searching, detour, confusion. Such was the nature of Siddhartha’s thoughts; this was his thirst, this his sorrow. Often he recited to himself the words of a Chandogya Upanishad: “Verily, the name of the Brahman is Satyam; truly, he who knows this enters each day into the heavenly world.” It often seemed near at hand, this heavenly world, but never once had he succeeded in reaching it, in quenching that final thirst. And of all the wise and wisest men he knew and whose teachings he enjoyed, not a single one had succeeded in reaching it, this heavenly world; not one had fully quenched that eternal thirst. “Govinda,” Siddhartha said to his friend. “Govinda, beloved one, come under the banyan tree with me; let us practice samadhi.” To the banyan they went and sat down beneath it, Siddhartha here and Govinda at a distance of twenty paces. As he sat down, ready to speak the Om, Siddhartha murmured this verse: “Om is the bow; the arrow is soul. Brahman is the arrow’s mark; Strike it with steady aim.” When the usual time for the meditation exercise had passed, Govinda arose. Evening had come; it was time to begin the ablutions of the eventide. He called Siddhartha’s name; Siddhartha gave no answer. Siddhartha sat rapt, his eyes fixed unmoving upon a far distant point; the tip of his tongue stuck out from between his teeth; he seemed not to be breathing. Thus he sat, cloaked in samadhi, thinking Om, his soul an arrow on its way to Brahman. One day, Samanas passed through Siddhartha’s town: ascetic pilgrims, three gaunt lifeless men, neither old nor young, with bloody, dust-covered shoulders, all but naked, singed by the sun, shrouded in isolation, foreign to the world and hostile to it, strangers and wizened jackals among men. The hot breath of air that followed them bore the scent of silent passion, a duty that meant destruction, the merciless eradication of ego. In the evening, when the hour of contemplation had passed, Siddhartha said to Govinda, “Tomorrow morning, my friend, Siddhartha will go to the Samanas. He will become a Samana.” Govinda turned pale when he heard these words and saw in his friend’s impassive face a resolve as unwavering as an arrow shot from the bow. At once, with a single glance, Govinda realized: Now it is beginning, now Siddhartha is on his way, now his destiny is beginning to bud and, along with it, mine as well. And he turned as pale as a dried-out banana peel. “Oh, Siddhartha,” he cried, “will your father permit this?” Siddhartha glanced over at him like a man awakening. Swift as an arrow he read Govinda’s soul, read the fear, read the devotion. “Oh, Govinda,” he said softly, “let us not squander words. Tomorrow at daybreak I begin the life of a Samana. Speak no more of it.” Siddhartha went into the room where his father was seated upon a mat made of bast fiber; he came up behind him and remained standing there until his father felt there was someone behind him. “Is that you, Siddhartha?” the Brahmin said. “Then say what you have come here to say.” Said Siddhartha, “With your permission, my father. I have come to tell you that it is my wish to leave your house tomorrow and join the ascetics. I must become a Samana. May my father not be opposed to my wish.” The Brahmin was silent and remained silent so long that the stars drifted in the small window and changed their shape before the silence in the room reached its end. Mute and motionless stood the son with his arms crossed, mute and motionless upon his mat sat the father, and the stars moved across the sky. Then the father said, “It is not fitting for a Brahmin to utter sharp, angry words. But my heart is filled with displeasure. I do not wish to hear this request from your lips a second time.” Slowly the Brahmin rose to his feet. Siddhartha stood in silence with his arms crossed. “Why do you wait here?” the father asked. “You know why I wait,” Siddhartha replied. Full of displeasure, the father left the room; full of displeasure, he went to his bed and lay down. An hour later, as no sleep would enter his eyes, the Brahmin got up, paced back and forth, and went out of the house. He looked through the small window of the room and saw Siddhartha standing there, his arms crossed, unmoving. The light cloth of his tunic was shimmering pale. His heart full of disquiet, the father went back to bed. An hour later, as no sleep would yet enter his eyes, the Brahmin got up once more, paced back and forth, and went out of the house. The moon had risen. He looked through the window into the room; there stood Siddhartha, unmoving, his arms crossed, moonlight gleaming on his bare shins. His heart full of apprehension, the father returned to bed. An hour later, and again two hours later, he went out and looked through the small window to see Siddhartha standing there: in the moonlight, in the starlight, in the darkness. He went again from hour to hour, in silence, looked into the room, and saw his son standing there unmoving, and his heart filled with anger, with disquiet, with trepidation, with sorrow. And in the last hour of night before day began, he got up once more, went into the room, and saw the youth standing there; he looked tall to him and like a stranger. “Siddhartha,” he said, “why do you wait here?” “You know why.” “Will you remain standing here, waiting, until day comes, noon comes, evening comes?” “I will remain standing here, waiting.” “You will grow tired, Siddhartha.” “I will grow tired.” “You will fall asleep, Siddhartha.” “I will not fall asleep.” “You will die, Siddhartha.” “I will die.” “And you would rather die than obey your father?” “Siddhartha has always obeyed his father.” “So you will give up your plan?” “Siddhartha will do as his father instructs him.” The first light of day fell into the room. The Brahmin saw that Siddhartha’s knees were trembling quietly. In Siddhartha’s face he saw no trembling; his eyes gazed into the distance straight before him. The father realized then that Siddhartha was no longer with him in the place of his birth. His son had already left him behind. The father touched Siddhartha’s shoulder. “You will go,” he said. “Go to the forest and be a Samana. If you find bliss in the forest, come and teach it to me. If you find disappointment, return to me and we will once more sacrifice to the gods side by side. Now go and kiss your mother; tell her where you are going. It is time for me to go to the river and begin my first ablutions.” He took his hand from his son’s shoulder and went out. Siddhartha lurched to one side when he tried to walk. Forcing his limbs into submission, he bowed before his father and went to find his mother to do as his father had instructed. In the first light of dawn, as he was slowly leaving the town on his stiff legs, a shadow rose up beside the last hut, a shadow that had been crouching there and now joined the pilgrim: Govinda. “You came,” said Siddhartha, and smiled. “I came,” Govinda said.

Bookclub Guide

The classic novel of a quest for knowledge that has delighted, inspired, and influenced generations of readers, writers, and thinkers—a perennial favorite for graduation gifts.Nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American ReadThough set in a place and time far removed from the Germany of 1922, the year of the book’s debut, the novel is infused with the sensibilities of Hermann Hesse’s time, synthesizing disparate philosophies–Eastern religions, Jungian archetypes, Western individualism–into a unique vision of life as expressed through one man’s search for meaning. It is the story of the quest of Siddhartha, a wealthy Indian Brahmin who casts off a life of privilege and comfort to seek spiritual fulfillment and wisdom. On his journey, Siddhartha encounters wandering ascetics, Buddhist monks, and successful merchants, as well as a courtesan named Kamala and a simple ferryman who has attained enlightenment. Traveling among these people and experiencing life’s vital passages–love, work, friendship, and fatherhood–Siddhartha discovers that true knowledge is guided from within.1. What does Siddhartha mean when he refers to the “path of paths” that must be found (p. 17)? Why is he so certain that neither the Brahmins nor the samanas have found it?2. Does Gautama adequately answer Siddhartha’s contention that “no one is granted deliverance through a teaching” (p. 32)? Why doesn’t Siddhartha become one of Gautama’s followers?3. What is the connection between Siddhartha losing his friend Govinda to Gautama and Siddhartha’s “awakening”? What does it mean that “the awakening man was on the way to himself” (p. 37)? 4. What is the meaning of Siddhartha’s dream in which Govinda becomes a woman?5. Why does Siddhartha both love and despise the “child people”? How is it that having been a samana separates him from them?6. After waking up by the river, why does Siddhartha say, “I have nothing, I know nothing, I can do nothing, I have learned nothing. How wondrous this is!” (p. 84)? 7. How is Vasudeva’s ability to listen so deeply related to his being “no friend of words” (p. 94)?8. Why is seeing Siddhartha just as good for Kamala as seeing Gautama?9. When Siddhartha can no longer distinguish the many voices he hears in the river, why does he feel that “he had now learned all there was to know about listening” (p. 118)?10. Why does Vasudeva leave Siddhartha?11. Why does Govinda think Siddhartha’s teaching sounds foolish?12. Why does the story end with Govinda thinking about “everything that he had ever loved in his life,” when he had previously reminded Siddhartha that Gautama had “forbade us to fetter our hearts in love for anything earthly” (p. 132; p. 128)?13. How can we know who is the right teacher for us?14. Can wisdom be taught?15. What is the relation of words to wisdom? Do words tend to enhance or limit wisdom?

From Our Editors

Following a young man's desperate search for meaning in his life, Siddhartha is a study in growing up. The hero first of all leaves his family to live a quiet life where he can reflect on the world around him. Quickly bored, he abandons his ideal and lives life as if he were dominated only by his rawest emotions. When he fathers a son he moves on again, in search of greater pleasures to satisfy his appetite. It's only when Hermann Hesse's character finds the source of life in a riverbed that he begins to heal and understand his quest for truth.