Siddhartha was written in 1922 as an epic tale of spiritual enlightenment. It’s about a boy named Siddhartha (which means “he who achieves his aim”) in ancient India. The story follows him on his journey as he becomes many different types of people throughout his life. Each lesson eventually leads him to the ultimate goal of enlightenment.
He’s raised by Brahmins and realizes that he has outgrown them on his quest for spirituality. This plot resonated with me, as I’m from a small town too and moved to the city to gain access to more knowledge.
He leaves home with his best friend Govinda, and they join a radical group of Samanas in hopes of achieving Nirvana. They learn to fast and abstain from the world and begin to believe that all material possessions are a sham.
On their travels, they meet Gautama, who is the actual Buddha. His best friend chooses to stay, to learn from The Buddha’s wisdom. Siddhartha acknowledges that wisdom cannot be taught, only learned from experience. He leaves his best friend to begin his journey alone.
I have three sisters, and I can confirm that wisdom is NOT transferable (unfortunately..).
Years later, he travels to town to learn about the world of “things.” There, he meets a prostitute named Kamala and falls in love with her beauty. He asks her to teach him about love and art. She explains that he will need gifts, money, and possessions to woo her. Much like 2017, just kidding.
Once he gets a job from a local merchant in exchange for lessons of love, he gets addicted to money, sex and gambling, and decides to leaves town to continue his journey to enlightenment.
In the woods, he runs into Govinda, and he explains that he has become many people in his lifetime (Brahman, Samana, Successful Merchant) but is still not fulfilled. I think this message is critical because I have pivoted social scenes, rebranded and changed jobs often enough to realize that fulfillment comes from within and not from externalized settings.
Siddhartha then connects with a Ferryman and learns about life and work on the river, where the Ferryman claims to have found enlightenment in the simplicity of nature. As the years go by, Siddhartha begins to understand the world around him while working on the water.
Suddenly, a son he didn’t know he had with Kamala is returned to him once she dies from a snake bite. His son, Rāhula, comes from a material lifestyle and makes life hard for his father.
Rāhula eventually runs away. Siddhartha wants to go after him but realizes that his son can only learn life’s lessons on his own. This part of the story is impactful to me because my parents also subscribed to this notion with a casual and libertarian-styled parenting. (Read: I was kicked out at 16, which I attribute to my penchant for self-help books.)
Siddhartha begins to reflect on his life of suffering at the river and realizes that they were all lessons that eventually lead him to enlightenment.
I would recommend this book as a fantastic read for sun-filled parks and treadmills. It’s an easy poetic read, and it has amazing storylines that can apply to your own experiences, no matter how you relate to it.
This post was created with the help of Grammarly.
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