I recently finished Siddhartha [Kindle] by Hermann Hesse and highly recommend the book. It’s a fast and flowing read and a powerful story, especially if you’re into Eastern philosophy and Buddhism. Siddhartha is the story of a man, a seeker of wisdom and truth, whose life parallels that of Gautama, the original Buddha. Hermann Hesse has a wonderful and unique writing style and I wanted to share some of my favorite excerpts from the book.
“Siddhartha,” he said, “why are you waiting?”
“You know why.”
“Will you go on standing and waiting until it is day, noon, evening?”
“I will stand and wait.”
“You will grow tired, Siddhartha.”
“I will grow tired.”
“You will fall asleep, Siddhartha.”
“I will not fall asleep.”
“You will die, Siddhartha.”
“I will die.”
The Brahman fell silent and remained silent for so long that the stars in the small window wandered and changed their relative positions, ‘ere the silence was broken. Silent and motionless stood the son with his arms folded, silent and motionless sat the father on the mat, and the stars traced their paths in the sky.
“Wisdom cannot be imparted. Wisdom that a wise man attempts to impart always sounds like foolishness to someone else…Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. One can find it, live it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate and teach it.”
“Govinda,” Siddhartha spoke to his friend. “Govinda, my dear, come with me under the Banyan tree, let’s practise meditation.”
…this smile of Siddhartha was precisely the same, was precisely of the same kind as the quiet, delicate, impenetrable, perhaps benevolent, perhaps mocking, wise, thousand-fold smile of Gotama
“What is meditation? What is leaving one’s body? What is fasting? What is holding one’s breath? It is fleeing from the self, it is a short escape of the agony of being a self, it is a short numbing of the senses against the pain and the pointlessness of life. The same escape, the same short numbing is what the driver of an ox-cart finds in the inn, drinking a few bowls of rice-wine or fermented coconut-milk…”
He soon saw that Siddhartha knew little about rice and wool, shipping and trade, but that he acted in a fortunate manner, and that Siddhartha surpassed him, the merchant, in calmness and equanimity, and in the art of listening and deeply understanding previously unknown people.
Slowly, like humidity entering the dying stem of a tree, filling it slowly and making it rot, the world and sloth had entered Siddhartha’s soul, slowly it filled his soul, made it heavy, made it tired, put it to sleep.
“Most people, Kamala, are like a falling leaf, which is blown and is turning around through the air, and wavers, and tumbles to the ground. But others, a few, are like stars, they go on a fixed course, no wind reaches them, in themselves they have their law and their course.”
“It may be important to great thinkers to examine the world, to explain and despise it. But I think it is only important to love the world, not to despise it, not for us to hate each other, but to be able to regard the world and ourselves and all beings with love, admiration and respect.”
“Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?” That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.”
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