Siddhartha — Book Review

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Cross-posted from Goodreads.

No teaching alone can help you find nirvana. Words cannot convey the message of actions. Wisdom cannot be passed on, for it cannot be expressed in words. When it is, it’s not wisdom anymore but mere opinions.

This, I think, is the key message of the book. Nirvana doesn’t always mean salvation, an end to the cycle of rebirths. It could be anything that one searches for their entire life. It could be one’s meaning in life or their sense of peace.

In other words, you and only you can find your life’s purpose. The teachings of great people that came before us may guide us in our quest and perhaps bring positive changes in our ways. But that’s all teachings can do for us. No teaching is a template to achieve your life’s ultimate purpose. That you have to find yourself, through actions and experiments. Only through actions can you discover the self.

Is it a coincidence that the protagonist is named Siddhartha? Clearly, Gautama Buddha and this Siddhartha who share a common name are two separate individuals with distinct identities, origins, and paths. Yet, there’s more than just a name that they share. Both ultimately achieve nirvana, in their own ways. Ways known only to them. Ways that cannot be the same for two individuals.

Siddhartha is a tale written in simple words. Yet, it is so deep. An entire philosophy of life expressed in 160 pages: that is the talent of Herman Hesse. In some uncanny ways that I cannot express in words, I found the book’s message similar to that of Man’s Search for Meaning.

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