Lifeways

Summary. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse is a book about life and the search for meaning, satisfaction, peace, and purpose. Although the book is available in many paperback forms, it’s best enjoyed in the hardback version. The book is also available for searching on Amazon. The quotes provided below are accompanied by page numbers from the hardback version. Through reading Siddhartha, the reader with an open mind, open heart, and willingness to be changed, will likely have a unique experience of self growth, transformation, realization, and transcendence. Although from a time long ago and a place far away, the story is somehow familiar and personal.

Review. Of the many books that attempt to explain the meaning of life and our purpose here, Siddhartha allows the reader to travel on a hopeful and practical journey – at times as a companion, and at times alone. The reader believes this is a journey to understanding the main character of the book, Siddhartha. Yet, ultimately it is a journey to self.

Quotes. Below are selected quotes from the book.

  • “When you throw a stone into the water, it falls quickly by the fastest route to the bottom of the pond. This is the way it is when Siddhartha has an aim, an intension. Siddhartha does nothing – he waits, he thinks, he fasts – but he passes through the things of the world like the stone through the water, without bestirring himself. He is drawn forward and he lets himself fall. His goal draws himself to it, for he lets nothing enter his mind that interferes with the goal. This is what Siddhartha learned from the shramanas. This is what fools call magic, thinking that it is brought about by demons. Nothing is brought about by demons; demons do not exist. Anyone can do magic, anyone can reach his goals if he can think, wait, and fast.” (page 66)
  • “Once he [Siddhartha] traveled to a village to buy up a large rice crop. But when he arrived the rice had already been sold to another dealer. Nevertheless, Siddhartha remained a number of days in that village, hosted the farmers, gave their children copper coins, joined in a wedding celebration, and came back from the journey quite content. Kamaswami took him to task for not coming back immediately, for wasting time and money. Siddhartha responded: ‘Give up your scolding, my friend! Nothing has ever been achieved by scolding. If we have taken a loss, then let me stand the loss. I am very content with this trip. I got to know a lot of people, I made friends with a brahmin, I had children sitting on my lap, farmers showed me their fields, no one treated me like a merchant.’ ‘That’s all quite lovely,’ exclaimed Kamaswami indignantly, ‘but you are in fact a merchant, or so I thought. Or was that just a pleasure trip you took?’ ‘Definitely,’ laughed Siddhartha, “I definitely took that trip for pleasure. Why else? I got to know people and places, I enjoyed hospitality and trust, I found friendship. You see, my friend, if I had been Kamaswami, as soon as I saw that my business deal was foiled, I would have turned around instantly and come back home totally upset. The time and money would in fact have been lost. But in my case I had a good few days, learned things, had a good time, and harmed neither myself nor anyone else through anger or haste. And if I ever go back there, perhaps to buy a future crop – or for whatever purpose – I will be warmly and kindly received by friendly people, and I will congratulate myself for not having been abrupt or shown irritation the last time. So let well enough alone, my friend, and do not harm yourself by scolding me.'” (pages 72-74)
  • “He [Siddhartha] saw people going through their lives in the manner of a child or an animal, and he both loved and disdained this at the same time. He saw them striving – and suffering and getting gray – over things that seemed to him completely unworthy of this price: over money, over small pleasures, over a little respect. He saw them chiding and insulting one another, he saw them bemoaning pains that the shramanas smiled over and suffering from privations that a shramana did not feel.” (pages 74-75)
  • “Rich foreign merchants he treated no differently than the servant who shaved him or the street vendor whom he allowed to cheat him out of a few small coins when he bought bananas. When Kamaswami came to him to complain about his troubles or to take him to task over some business deal, he would listen with good humor and interest, marveling over him, trying to understand him. He would allow him to think he was right to the extent that he seemed to require and then would move on to the next person who sought his attention.” (page 75)
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