Wednesday, March 19, 2014
It was almost twenty years ago that I first read Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. The book, a fictional account of a wandering monk in the time of the Buddha, is a story sure to trigger spiritual contemplation in any reader. It traces the protagonist's journey through asceticism, worldly desires, and eventually peace and reflection. It is ultimately about seeking truth in all its mystery, which, for Siddhartha, is what life is ultimately all about.
Although it is difficult to remember my exact thoughts about the book twenty years ago, what I do realize is how differently the words feel now that I have had much more life experience. Don't get me wrong, I was still very spiritually minded as a young man. At least as much as today. However, our consciousness seems to be ever-expanding, and as a result, time truly does give us perspective.
One of the things that really struck me this time reading the novel was the fact that this was not just a westerner's interpretation of Eastern thought, but a fusion of Eastern thought with Western mysticism. Hesse was, after all, German, and his take on Eastern philosophy was still seen through the eyes of the West. That said, the truth is the truth regardless of where one lives, and therefore the author still manages to cut through to the core of Siddhartha's contemplative nature.
While doing this, Hesse very deliberately draws parallels between the Buddha and his character, Siddhartha, but is very careful to separate the two in their approach to spirituality and teaching.
At the heart of Siddhartha, is the idea that, "Wisdom is not communicable." Instead, it is seen and heard everywhere all at once, and everything in life is timeless and unified.
However, regardless of which age I happened to be reading this novel, the author's words made me reflect deeply upon the nature of life and reality itself. While now I can relate more to the different stages of Siddhartha's life, perhaps when I'm older I'll look back with even more perspective upon Hesse's eloquent story.