Monday, May 7, 2007


By Hermann Hesse

This book was recommended by one of my friends, who claimed that has read only one book out of course curriculum. He further told me that it carries all the elements, which enables a person to learn everything about life. So, I picked it. Before starting it, I was of the notion that it is based on the life of Gautam Budha. But, it wasn’t so. It was by German writer Hermann Hesse, who was highly influenced by Indian history and culture. I think this work was created more than a century ago. The best part about it is its conciseness.

The story is based on the life of a person named Sidhartha, who lived in contemporary times of Lord Budha. As Sidhartha reached adolescence, his heart was filled with only one desire to know underlying truth of life. Soon the drive became irresistible, and he asked for the permission of his parents to start his journey to find truth. As he was the only child, it was very tough decision for them. But, seeing his drive and unhappy state of mind, his parents granted him his wish.

He started his journey, and was accompanied by one of his friends Gopal, who revered him. Both of them started visiting number of temples and Ashrams of famous saints. They underwent lot of austerities, which according to Indian saints brings one closer to God. But according to Sidhartha, he only developed the ability to fast and to write.

Finally, they reached the ashram of Lord Budha. Gopal, joined the followers of Lord and started living at his ashram. During the stay, Sidhartha and Lord incidentally met in the garden. The Enlightened one asked, whether he came here to get sermons from him or to learn something specific. To this, Sidhartha replied “No one can teach anybody anything. One has to learn it on his own.” And Budha agreed with him.

Now, Sidhartha with Gopal gone, continued his journey alone. Almost after a decade of following austere life, he couldn’t see his search being satiated with his present lifestyle. So, he went to one of the cities and became a merchant. He went to city empty handed, and owing to his abilities of fasting and writing, he became richest businessman of the city. He also left his celibacy, as he came in contact with one of the courtesans of the city. He also was blessed with one son, which he came to know about quite late in the story. Initially, he use to treat business as game, and acted as a detached player. But, as time passed, he started getting emotionally involved. His personality underwent a complete change. He started drinking, gambling, and womanizing. He became short tempered and proud ness overtook his personality. One, fine day he just realized the sort of life he was living. It was like waking up from dream. On this realization, he left the city empty handed and restarted his journey to achieve the sole goal in his life.

Finally he met a boatman, who used to live on river bank and earned his living by helping people to cross the river. The boatman was a simple, unassuming and kind hearted fellow. While conversing with Sidhartha, he told that river is like life to him. At times, it’s very placid and at times very turbulent. If one really wants, one can learn about the philosophy of life by it. On hearing this, Sidhartha made up his mind to live as a boatman for rest of his life and to search the truth via river. He joined the boatman and started living his lifestyle. Both of them started growing old. And at the same time, they were become popular for their wisdom even in the far off places.

Sidhartha, started observing all the moods of the river. By this sole act, he begins to understand the basis of life. And finally, a day came, when he couldn’t differentiate between himself and river. And further, he couldn’t differentiate between him and any other thing around. It was all same to him. This is how he achieved Enlightenment.

The lesson I learnt from this story is that one can learn everything from anything or activity. Only thing required is will. This reminds me of another book ‘Book of Five Rings’ by Miyamoto Musashi. It says ‘An art is not an art, if its approach can’t be applied to another art’.

I recommend this book to all the people who have thirst to discover the underlying philosophy of life.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It seems Sidhartha is actually alter ego of Budhha. Nice review. But, i dont have time to read. :(