Book Summaries Philosophy

Siddhartha Summary (7/10)

He pondered deeply, like diving into a deep water he let himself sink down to the ground of the sensation, down to the place where the causes lie, because to identify the causes, so it seemed to him, is the very essence of thinking, and by this alone sensations turn into realizations and are not lost, but become entities and start to emit like rays of light what is inside of them.

Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

Siddhartha realized that he was not a youth anymore, but a man. And the one thing that no longer existed in him, which accompanied him throughout his youth, was to have teachers and to listen to teachings. He even left the wisest teacher, Buddha. He then wondered what it was that he wanted to learn from his teachers, who had taught him much, but could still not teach him?

“It was the Self, I wanted to free myself from, which I sought to overcome. But I was not able to overcome it, could only deceive it, could only flee from it, only hide from it. Truly, nothing in this world has kept my thoughts thus busy, as this my very own Self, this mystery of me being alive, of me being one and being separated and isolated from all others, of me being Siddhartha! And there is nothing in this world I know less about than about me, about Siddhartha!”

Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

Since he knew nothing about himself, his Self has become alien to him, and this stems from one cause. He was afraid of himself, he was fleeing from himself.

“I was willing to dissect myself and peel off all of its layers, to find the core of all peels in its unknown interior, the Atman, life, the divine part, the ultimate part. But I have lost myself in the process.”

He vowed to never let Siddhartha escape again, to never find the secret behind the ruins, to reject the teachings of the Yogis and the ascetics. He wanted to learn from himself.

He looked around and it was like he saw the world for the first time.

Beautiful was the world, colorful was the world, strange and mysterious was the world! Here was blue, here was yellow, here was green, the sky and the river flowed, the forest and the mountains were rigid, all of it was beautiful, all of it was mysterious and magical, and in its midst was he, Siddhartha, the awakening one, on the path to himself.

The Purpose of Things

Siddhartha had another realization, that the purpose and essential properties were not behind anything, they were in them. He lamented how deaf and stupid he had been.

 “When someone reads a text, wants to discover its meaning, he will not scorn the symbols and letters and call them deceptions, coincidence, and worthless hull, but he will read them, he will study and love them, letter by letter. But I, who wanted to read the book of the world and the book of my own being, I have, for the sake of a meaning I had anticipated before I read, scorned the symbols and letters, I called the visible world a deception, called my eyes and my tongue coincidental and worthless forms without substance. No, this is over, I have awakened, I have indeed awakened and have not been born before this very day.”

Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha


“Everyone gives what he has. The warrior gives strength, the merchant gives merchandise, the teacher teachings, the farmer rice, the fisherman fish.” “Yes indeed. And what is it now what you’ve got to give? What is it that you’ve learned, what you’re able to do?” “I can think. I can wait. I can fast.” “That’s everything?” “I believe, that’s everything!” “And what’s the use of that? For example, the fasting—what is it good for?” “It is very good, sir. When a person has nothing to eat, fasting is the smartest thing he could do. When, for example, Siddhartha hadn’t learned to fast, he would have to accept any kind of service before this day is up, whether it may be with you or wherever, because hunger would force him to do so. But like this, Siddhartha can wait calmly, he knows no impatience, he knows no emergency, for a long time he can allow hunger to besiege him and can laugh about it. This, sir, is what fasting is good for.”

The Child

After rejecting the teachers, and going his own way, Siddhartha observed the passage of time, and with it, his mockery became more tired, and so did his superiority. Slowly, as he became wealthier, he had assumed childlike people’s ways for himself, something of their childlikeness and of their fearfulness. But he envied them, and most of all, he envied them because they had something he didn’t – the importance they attached to their lives and the amount of passion in their joys and fears, the fearful but sweet happiness of being constantly in love.

These people were all of the time in love with themselves, with women, with their children, with honours or money, with plans or hopes. But he did not learn this from them, this out of all things, this joy of a child and this foolishness of a child; he learned from them out of all things the unpleasant ones, which he himself despised.

Wondrous Was My Life

Siddhartha reminisced on his life experienced, he noticed that as a youth, he only cared about asceticism, thinking and meditation, and was searching for Brahmin and the eternal in Atman. As a young man, he lived in the forest, learned to hunger, and taught his body to become dead. A wonderful insight came to him in the form of Buddha’s teachings:

I felt the knowledge of the oneness of the world circling in me like my own blood. But I also had to leave Buddha and the great knowledge. I went and learned the art of love with Kamala, learned trading with Kamaswami, piled up money, wasted money, learned to love my stomach, learned to please my senses. I had to spend many years losing my spirit, to unlearn thinking again, to forget the oneness. Isn’t it just as if I had turned slowly and on a long detour from a man into a child, from a thinker into a childlike person?

Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

But upon reflection, this path has been very good, and the bird in his chest had not died. But in this wondrous path, he had to pass through so much stupidity and vice, errors and disappointments. And it was necessary, he had to experience despair, to sink down to the most foolish of thoughts, suicide, to experience divine grace.

Siddhartha’s Insight

Govinda said: “Still, oh Siddhartha, you love a bit to tease a little. I believe in you and know that you haven’t followed a teacher. But haven’t you found something by yourself, though you’ve found no teachings, you still found certain thoughts, certain insights, which are your own and which help you to live? If you would like to tell me some of these, you would delight my heart.”

Siddhartha said: “I’ve had thoughts, yes, and insight, again and again. Sometimes, for an hour or for an entire day, I have felt knowledge in me, as one would feel life in one’s heart. There have been many thoughts, but it would be hard for me to convey them to you. Look, my dear Govinda, this is one of my thoughts, which I have found: wisdom cannot be passed on. Wisdom which a wise man tries to pass on to someone always sounds like foolishness.”

“Are you kidding?” asked Govinda. “I’m not kidding. I’m telling you what I’ve found. Knowledge can be conveyed, but not wisdom. It can be found, it can be lived, it is possible to be carried by it, miracles can be performed with it, but it cannot be expressed in words and taught. This was what I, even as a young man, sometimes suspected, what has driven me away from the teachers. I have found a thought, Govinda, which you’ll again regard as a joke or foolishness, but which is my best thought. It says: The opposite of every truth is just as true!

Any truth can be expressed with words if it is one-sided. But it lacks completeness, oneness, roundness. Gotama divided the world into Sansara and Nirvana, deception and truth, suffering and salvation. The world cannot be taught any differently.

No person is entirely holy or sinful. Time is not real. And if time is not real, the gap between the world and eternity, suffering and blissfulness, evil and good, is also deception.


It is the because the sinner, which you and I are, is a sinner, but in times, he will be Brahma (God) again, he will reach Nirvana, will be Buddha, and see these times to come are a deception, only a parable.

The sinner is not on his way to become a Buddha, he is not in the process of developing, though our capacity for thinking does not know how else to picture these things. No, within the sinner is now and today already the future Buddha, his future is already all there, you have to worship in him, in you, in everyone the Buddha which is coming into being, the possible, the hidden Buddha. The world, my friend Govinda, is not imperfect, or on a slow path towards perfection: no, it is perfect in every moment.

Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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