April A-to-Z: must-read books
By Hermann Hesse
(1877-1962) German Empire
People will tell you emphatically that this book is about the Buddha. It is not. It is about a man with the same given name (Siddhartha) as the Buddha, who searches for truth and reality by means of his own organic exploration, at a time when some of his peers are literally following the Buddha around. And this distinction is critical because it highlights a factor that is critical to the evolution of individuals (and thus mankind): It may be harder work to be an explorer rather than a student of explorers. It may take longer to establish the learning. But the learning is true because it stems from personal living experience and not from testimony, and as such carries much more weight and more power to change you. Such airy delights as faith and hope and belief may be convenient crutches for those with busy agendas in the world of work, but truth blows them away. There is no comparison.
For those with a knack for observation, for solitude and reflection; those with discoveries of their own, the testimony of other explorers can be a great comfort and a tool for consolidation, and to that end, this book is paramount; a must-read.
Siddhartha faces such similar questions, struggles and perspectives as I have, that I was in tears through most of this book. This begged the question: Had the author himself embarked on a similar journey? Did this story come from his own experience or from learning? From what I’ve read about Hesse, he indeed had a knack for solitude at times in his life, and a penchant for spiritual expansion, but he was also an aggressive student of such matters and a personal associate of Carl Jung for a time.
Reading Siddhartha, I had the feeling it was constructed from academic, not personal, experience (though it still resonated profoundly). But as a writer I know that this could be misleading. My own writing is far from perfect, and though I write from personal experience I know it could be interpreted otherwise.
“…I am Siddhartha! And there is nothing in the world I know less about than myself, than Siddhartha!”
The thinking man, walking along slowly, halted, overcome by that thought; and instantly another thought sprang from that one, a new thought: “There is only one reason, a single one, why I know nothing about myself, why Siddhartha has remained so foreign to myself, so unknown. The reason is that I was afraid of myself, I was fleeing myself! I was seeking Atman, I was seeking Brahma. I was willing to dismember my ego and peel it apart in order to find the core of all peels in its unknown innermost essence: to find Atman, Life, the divine, the Ultimate. But I myself was lost in the process.”