A classic novel by Hermen Hesse.
Siddhartha is a brahmin adored by all for his very good qualities. He used to be happy for a while, but then he is not happy with himself. He is not happy with the ablutions and sacrifices given to gods. He wants to find the true meaning of life, leaves home, joins some samanas (sanyasis). His friend, Govinda, also joins him. He lives with them for sometime, but that too seems meaningless to him. Then one fine day they get to meet the Gotama Buddha, the illustrious one, and listen to his teachings. Govinda gets impressed with Gotama’s teachings swears allegiance to Gotama and his philosophy. But Sidhartha does not get impressed. He realizes that he has to go the Gotama’s way and leaves him, in the hope of finding the truth for himself.
After that, he goes through different phases, gets to meet Kamala, earns a lot of money, loses a lot of money gets all kinds of bad habits and finally after much suffering attains wisdom. He then meets Vasudeva, the boat man and they live together for a long time. Siddhartha would still not have gotten the true wisdom until he accidentally meets Kamala who gets bitten by a snake and dies, leaving Siddhartha’s son with him. He tries to give love to his son, but he simply does not accept Siddhartha as his father. One day he runs away from him. Siddhartha decides to go in search of his son.
At that moment he realizes something. He remembers his father when he leaves him many years back. His father would also have had the same suffering. He feels he came a full cycle. That is it. He leaves his son and comes back. He has attained wisdom.
The last chapter “Govinda” kind of summarizes his whole revelations as he explains them to Govinda who still would not be happy. The last chapter is available online at Atanu’s blog.
The last chapter carries some nuggets:
“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.”
“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.”
“The words are not good for the secret meaning, everything always becomes a bit different, as soon as it is put into words, gets distorted a bit, a bit silly—yes, and this is also very good, and I like it a lot, I also very much agree with this, that this what is one man’s treasure and wisdom always sounds like foolishness to another person.”
The novel kind of summarizes eastern philosophy, so to speak.