Siddhartha, a prince, leaves his perfect life in his kingdom, witnesses suffering, seeks enlightenment, sits under a tree, achieves enlightenment and becomes the Buddha. That’s Siddhartha Gautama, the dude on which Buddhism is founded. The book “Siddhartha” is about a different Siddhartha. I didn’t know that for about 50 pages, when Siddhartha starts talking about Siddhartha Gautama.
“Siddhartha” is the story of a life spent seeking. Siddhartha seeks enlightenment, and denies those who suggest their’s is the one path. He learns from himself, is led astray, and fails his journey. “Seeking means: having a goal. But finding means: being free, being open, having no goal.”
When Siddhartha wanders with the ascetics for years, he leaves the group. His best friend begs him to stay, pleading that Siddhartha is surrounded by wise men. “‘I shall no longer be instructed by the Yoga Veda or the Aharva Veda, or the ascetics, or any other doctrine whatsoever. I shall learn from myself, be a pupil of myself; I shall get to know myself, the mystery of Siddhartha.’ He looked around as if he were seeing the world for the first time.”
After, Siddhartha takes a side step in his seeking to learn the ways of love. With the help of a beautiful woman, Kamala, he learns the art of love, and many lessons. “…after a celebration of love the lovers should not part without admiring each other, without being conquered or having conquered, so that neither is bleak or glutted or has the bad feeling of being used or misused.”
Siddhartha even puts his seeking aside for a while. He becomes rich. He gambles, drinks, and fights. Siddhartha strays so far off the path of enlightenment, his best friend from his youth doesn’t recognize Siddhartha.
He fathers a son with Kamala, and tries to get his son to join his seeking. His son resents him and he fails.
And this is why I love this book. Siddhartha fails. He makes missteps. He is flawed. His seeking is flawed. But those flaws aren’t without meaning. The missteps in a life spent seeking are where Siddhartha learns so much.
Finally Siddhartha, at a very old age, achieves his enlightenment. And with a soft smile, he is free. I don’t know if he would have found what he sought without his missteps.
I don’t know what any of us would find without our missteps.
Siddhartha made me cry more than twice. It made me love my lovers more. It made me understand my parents better. It made me feel a bit better about my life. It gave me some comfort knowing that in the many missteps I will make, the missteps do not equal failure.
Highly recommend. It’s an easy read. It’s incredible. For a moment, it gave me a smile.