Sunday, 7 November 2010

The Buddha in Literature 1 - Siddharta - Herman Hesse

Siddhartha was one of the first books I read at University back in the early eighties and looking back it was a powerful and seminal experience that has the roots in my burgeoning Buddhist journey on which I am now embarked.

The book is by the Nobel Prize winning German author Hermann Hesse and concerns the spiritual path of a Indian child called Siddhartha set in the time of the Buddha.
It was Hesse's 9th book and is simply but powerfully written and along with Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and is a must have in any youthful hippy's library. It was first published in English in 1951 and reached huge popularity during the beat inspired 1960's .

The word Siddhartha comes from Sanskrit and means siddha (achieved) + artha (one who is rich ). Combined the words form a name meaning one who has found enlightenment and one who has reached his goals. Of course the Buddha was a Prince whose name was Prince Siddhartha Gautama before he left his palace to seek the truth. In Hesse's book , the Buddha is called simply "Gotama".

“It was the self, the purpose and truth of which I sought to understand. It was the self, I wanted to escape from and which I sought to overcome."

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