Stephen's Reviews > Siddhartha

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
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it was amazing
bookshelves: classics, ebooks, easton-press, religion-spirituality, life-changers, literature, classics-european

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My apologies if this review reeks of "GUSHness." However, it gave me that ONE-OF-A-KIND reading experience that doesn't come along often and so I think it is certainly worthy of the praise I shall heep upon it. Beautifully written and a deeply personal story, Hesse has created the ultimate expression of the journey of self-discovery.

The book details the story of Siddhartha, the young and brilliant son of a Brahmin in ancient India. The Brahmin are the uber revered caste comprised of poets, priests, teachers and scholars***.

[*** Quick Side Note : How refreshing is it that their most revered group is not made up of morally questionable athletes, morally suspect celebrities and morally bankrupt politicians...I'm just saying!!]

At the beginning of the story, despite having absorbed all of the teachings of his father and followed all of the religious rites and rituals of his caste, Siddhartha is not content. He knows deep inside that there is something missing and decides to leave his father and his future and seek enlightenment. He sets out, along with his life long friend to find life’s meaning. A decision that makes Siddhartha’s father less than a happy camper.
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Thus begins one of the truly exceptional stories in modern literature. Siddhartha’s journey takes him from the elite of his people:

1. First, to a group of ascetics who shun personal possessions and view the physical world as the source of all pain;

2. Next to a beautiful courtesan who teaches Siddhartha the mysterious of physical love, to a world;

3. Third, to a wealthy trader who teaches Siddhartha about profit, trade and worldly pleasures;

4. Then to a life of hedonistic excess in which Siddhartha eats, drinks, gambles and indulges in numerous sexual conquests in a very SinCityesque way...
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5. Finally, back to an ascetic life, but one that embraces the world and everything in it as special and unique.

Throughout the various stages of his journey, Siddhartha finds something of value in everyone he interacts with and each stage brings him closer to his ultimate goal. Through elegant and deeply evocative writing, Hesse demonstrates, through Siddhartha's journey, the fundamental value of each and every person on Earth. Everyone has something special to contribute to the universe. Siddhartha's final realization of his goal of finding enlightenment is simply amazing and one that I can not recommend more strongly that everyone read.

I'm a U.S. citizen of Irish heritage living in Las Vegas. I was raised Roman Catholic and spent most of my undergraduate and graduate academic life learning about western philosophy, history and literature. I mention the only because I was completely floored that I could identify so intensely with Siddhartha’s story, despite a background that was as far from embracing an "eastern" viewpoint as you could possibly get.

I think its ability to completely suck me in demonstrates not only the brilliance and beauty of Hesse’s prose, but also the universal nature of the story and its ability to transcend all barriers to understanding. It is an amazing read but also a deeply personal one and I think that everyone will get something different out of reading it. Hopefully it is something very, very positive.
5.0 stars. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!
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Reading Progress

August 15, 2010 – Shelved
March 17, 2011 – Started Reading
March 19, 2011 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-33 of 33 (33 new)

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message 1: by Jackie (new) - added it

Jackie I lent this out before having a chance to read it. Never got it back. In fact, it was the final straw in lending book. Now I just give away what I've already read.


message 2: by mark (new)

mark monday never thought i'd see "what happens in vegas" within a siddhartha review. that is genius!


Stephen mark wrote: "never thought i'd see "what happens in vegas" within a siddhartha review. that is genius!"

Thanks Mark...I actually forgot to use that pic in my review of "The Gambler" by Dostoevsky so I was happy to find a home for it.


message 4: by Catie (last edited Jul 05, 2011 11:30AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Catie I never know what's going to come up next on your feed, Stephen! Your reading is all over the place, but in a good way.

I love Hesse. I was a huge Hesse fanatic back in my younger days. Have you read any others of his?


Flaneurette Gosh, I feel ashamed now. I read this book more than a decade ago when I was young and stupid obviously. I remember I was quite indifferent to it, hence the three stars, but now I am thinking I was probably just clueless and superficial at that time.


Stephen Catie wrote: "I never know what's going to come up next on your feed, Stephen! Your reading is all over the place, but in a good way."

Thanks, Catie. I do try to read a lot of different genres. It keeps things interesting given how much I read.


Stephen Flaneurette wrote: "Gosh, I feel ashamed now. I read this book more than a decade ago when I was young and stupid obviously. I remember I was quite indifferent to it, hence the three stars, but now I am thinking I was..."

I have had the same feeling about books others have loved that have kind of left me feeling, Meh. I think certain books just push our buttons. This one did for me.


Nicole Love this review! I re-read Siddhartha during a period of transition in my life and I really connected to it. If only we could all rise above it all. :) I also HIGHLY recommend. And its super short so is a quick read!


Kate This is one book I really need to re-read. I remember liking it a lot when I first read it for the first time, oh you know, about 7 years ago, so I think it's time to pay it a revisit, thanks to your review.


message 10: by Rickey (new) - added it

Rickey Great review and your Quick Side Note certainly gave me a chuckle. Will have to read this one.


message 11: by Adam (new) - rated it 3 stars

Adam Amazing review. I think I might have to re-read this one.


Stephen Thanks Ricky and Adam. Reading this was a special experience.


Shayantani Das What happens in Vegas in a Siddhartha review, WOW! haha.
Also, most of the Brahmin in those days greatly misused their power, much like your morally suspect celebrities and morally bankrupt politicians. They created the whole caste system, even labeling the lower castes as untouchable. So basically, corruption is an age old tradition.
Excelent review btw!


Stephen Thanks, Tanu. I agree with you that corruption is an age old tradition (sadly). I guess with the proliferation of mass media, it is just far more in our faces than it ever has been before.


Shayantani Das True:(


Richard Nice illustrations Stephen. You're good at that. The Grasshopper one was good too!

I'm not a Buddhist and don't intend to convert you to the philosophy (real Buddhists will tell you it's a philosophy, not a religion). But there are quite a lot of surface similarities between the earthly life of Jesus and the life of Buddha as recorded by various sources. These sources tell it somewhat differently than Hesse. For ezample, Siddhartha is supposed to have gotten married and had a son before setting out on his journey of discovery. So don't take Hesse's account as gospel(!).

And did you know that the phrase "Work out your salvatiion..." is an allusion to Philippians 2:12-13? I'm sure the Apostle Paul had a different intent in mind than what Hesse implies, but I'm still working on figuring that one out.


David Some people would say that Jesus was a Buddha. He reached Enlightenment. Legend and myth turned him into a god. Potentially, all human beings can obtain Enlightenment.


Stephen Richard wrote: "Nice illustrations Stephen. You're good at that. The Grasshopper one was good too!"

Thanks, Richard. That picture made me chuckle so I had to use it.

Richard wrote: "I'm not a Buddhist and don't intend to convert you to the philosophy (real Buddhists will tell you it's a philosophy, not a religion). But there are quite a lot of surface similarities between the earthly life of Jesus and the life of Buddha as recorded by various sources."

I could certainly see that as I was reading this. For me, this was one of those reading experiences that just swept me away and Siddhartha's journey had a profound impact on me. Part of this impact is probably the result of my limited exposure to eastern philosophy/religion. Two or three college courses in comparative religion and eastern philosophy barely scratches the surface and doesn't convey any of the nuances.


message 19: by Richard (last edited Dec 26, 2011 06:49PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Richard @ David: My knowledge is limited so please pardon my ignorance; I'm not trying to be confrontational, just to clarify the doctrines so we are all aware of where the other person comes from. Your profile says you are Unitarian Universalist, and I think this means you do not affirm the deity of Christ. But according to a trinitarian Christian reading, John 1:1-14 would suggest that Jesus is God and the Word of God from the beginning, and he was also the Light which came into the world to give light to the human race. So for trinitarian Christians, that would put things the other way round. But one thing we can agree on theologically speaking is that Jesus guides others to enlightenment.

@ Stephen: I had a copy of Siddhartha at one time and started it but couldn't finish. I've read up on Buddhism a bit, but don't know much. I may give it another try some day.


Stephen Richard, if you ever give it another go I'd be curious what you think of it. I found it a very universal story.


Ankit Kapoor Hi Stephen, I like your thoughts on this wonderful book. This book gives a very personal experience, one that everyone should have.


Richard Stephen wrote: "Richard, if you ever give it another go I'd be curious what you think of it. I found it a very universal story."

I have now read it but haven't posted a review of it yet.


message 23: by Gary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gary As a native Las Vegan (what karma!) who has read Siddhartha many times, I laud you for "getting it". This book is scripture posing as literature and is best read after getting what you thought you wanted.


message 24: by Asha (new) - rated it 4 stars

Asha Seth I am the 100th liker of this review! Yaay! I hope I enjoy reading this book! Thanks for the great review Stephen.


message 25: by Dave (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dave I completely agree with your review. Another Hesse book you might like is "Journey To The East". It is a very different book, but one that captures the imagination nonetheless.


Aracelly Mendoza Great review, I absolutely agree!


Pranjal Singh Very apt description. I feel the same (after reading).


Heena Dureja rai Truly...Stephen: you read and understood it in depth... We all
Comes from the word....and in the beginning the word was God...Gof id word which means sound and light.. Everything created by sound and light...in this world...one has to close his eyes and ears, one has to set out of these world and worldly things to see the God sitting inside...its only the faith that guided the Siddhartha.....


Karan Bajaj Fantastic review. One of my all-time favorite books.


message 30: by Tim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tim Its hard not to gush about Hesse. Great review.


Dianna Thiel Great review. I’m about 25 pages in and I just can’t get into the writing style or the story. Why did Hesse choose Buddha’s first name as the protagonist’s name? I need encouragement to restart this book. I feel like it’s a school assignment. Do you really like the style of writing? I think it stilted and distracting.


message 32: by Dan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dan Organ Sounds like a gap year ;-)


Irene Great review, took the words out of my mouth!


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