Siddhartha by Herman Hesse is one of few classics that sits in a very specific category for me: underwhelmingly profound.
While I was first completely disappointed after reading Siddhartha, it is a classic because it captures the essence of Buddha’s teachings like no other book. Rather than glorifying the Buddha himself, it tells a story about his fundamental teaching: the middle way. It strips away everything else that surrounds Buddhism today as a religion, to focus on the core.
Hesse also captures an aspect of Buddhism that is often missed; the idea that nothing is inherently wrong, that he had to fail to succeed, that he had to become the gambling business man to be the enlightened river man (Buddha).
More so, I think what is unique (and opposite to ‘Buddha’ by Chopra) is that Hesse emphasises that Buddha is not a single man to be worshipped but a potential within us all to be realised. He makes clear that following the path laid down by others does not guarantee us any destination; only the path that we choose ourself can.
Quote from it:
“Words do not express thoughts very well. They always become a little different immediately they are expressed, a little distorted, a little foolish.”
- Not a read for people looking to get ‘into’ Buddhism
- Not a page-turning narrative
- Captures the essence of Buddha’s teaching
- Easy read with good quotes
Other reads down this river:
- Buddha – Chopra
- The Alchemist – Coelho