Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse Summary
Siddhartha is a 1922 novel by Hermann Hesse that deals with the spiritual journey of self-discovery of a man named Siddhartha during the time of the Gautama Buddha. The book, Hesse's ninth novel, was written in German, in a simple, lyrical style. It was published in the U.S. in 1951 and became influential during the 1960s. Hesse dedicated the first part of it to Romain Rolland and the second to Wilhelm Gundert, his cousin. The word Siddhartha is made up of two words in the Sanskrit language, siddha (achieved) + artha (what was searched for), which together means "he who has found meaning (of existence)" or "he who has attained his goals." In fact, the Buddha's own name, before his renunciation, was Siddhartha Gautama, Prince of Kapilvastu. In this book, the Buddha is referred to as "Gotama." The story takes place in ancient India. Siddhartha decides to leave behind his home in the hopes of gaining spiritual illumination by becoming an ascetic wandering beggar of the Shramanas. Joined by his best friend Govinda, Siddhartha fasts, becomes homeless, renounces all personal possessions, and intensely meditates, eventually seeking and personally speaking with Gautama, the famous Buddha, or Enlightened One. Afterward, both Siddhartha and Govinda acknowledge the elegance of the Buddha's teachings. Although Govinda hastily joins the Buddha's order, Siddhartha does not follow, claiming that the Buddha's philosophy, though supremely wise, does not account for the necessarily distinct experiences of each person. He argues that the individual seeks an absolutely unique and personal meaning that cannot be presented to him by a teacher. He thus resolves to carry on his quest alone.