Siddhartha Summary In English

Siddhartha

About Book

Why should you read this summary?

Do you have any idea if you’re living life right? Are you lost, but won’t admit it? Take comfort in the fact that no one knows what they’re doing all the time. However, this book might help guide you in the right direction. Siddhartha’s life will tell you that life won’t always be good. But you have to take the good with the bad to grow.

Who should read this summary?

    People who are lost in life

    People who are depressed

    People curious about Siddhartha’s life

About the author

Hermann Hesse was an author, painter, and poet. All of his famous and best works tackle self-actualization and authenticity. He was the receiver of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946. Hesse’s influence is so big that many schools in Germany, his birthplace, were named after him. There are also numerous literary awards and prizes named after him. 

Siddhartha

Hermann Hesse

Siddhartha
Siddhartha summary
Siddhartha summary in English

Introduction

Are you curious about holy figures? Do you even wonder how they lived life? Were they that different from you? In this book, you will learn about Siddhartha’s journey towards enlightenment. You will learn that, just like you, Siddhartha stumbled through life. He went against his father’s wishes, fell prey to his desires, and made many mistakes. Yet, he used his experiences to reach salvation. Read on and learn a thing or two from the legendary Siddhartha.

The Son of the Brahman

Siddhartha was the son of the Brahman. Siddhartha would spend his days outside their house, being one with nature. He would also spend time talking with wise men as well as his father. Govinda, another Brahman son, was often the companion of the handsome man. Together, they would reflect and practice their breathing. They would pour their heart and soul into meditation. Siddhartha’s father was extremely pleased with him. Siddhartha was passionate and committed to the practice. Not only that, but he was eager to learn more. Siddhartha’s father was already imagining him as a great wise man and a priest. The son of the Brahman would truly be exceptional. Everyone around Siddhartha adored him. His mother was proud of him. His siblings had nothing but love for him. Govinda, Siddhartha’s friend, looked up to him. Everyone who knew Siddhartha could already tell he was going to be magnificent.

Siddhartha was the source of everyone’s happiness, yes. But he was not happy. He would do all of the things that were expected of him. He was perfectly aware that he was fortunate. The people around him gave him so much love and care. The wise men gave him all the wisdom they had. Yet, Siddhartha felt incomplete. His soul was not at peace, neither was his heart. As days passed, Siddhartha grew discontented. His thoughts were nothing but questions. Although he was knowledgeable, he was still yearning for answers. Did the sacrifices they made to the gods effective? Where exactly is the Atman or the inner self? The Atman was neither flesh nor bone, so where was it? These questions plagued Siddhartha. One day, Siddhartha asked Govinda to meditate with him under a Banyan tree. It was evening when Govinda finished the exercise. However, Siddhartha was still deep in thought. He was perfectly still and calm. Then, Siddhartha’s head was filled with images of Samanas. These were people who traveled frequently. They believed that self-deprivation helps with self-actualization. Siddhartha, with a determined voice, told Govinda that he will become a Samana.

Siddhartha immediately went to his father’s chambers. He told his father of his desire to become a Samana. Siddhartha expressed that he wishes his father would say yes. The Brahman did not speak for a long time. He was angry and disappointed. Siddhartha was supposed to be the greatest of his time. Now, he was thinking about becoming a Samana. This was not supposed to be his son’s future. He left his son in the chamber and went to bed. Throughout the night, the Brahman kept waking up. He would look at his chamber and would see Siddhartha there. Siddhartha had not moved from his spot. The Brahman woke up five or six more times and would check Siddhartha. His son remained in his position. Morning finally came and Siddhartha was still there. With a heavy heart, his father permitted him to join the Samanas. After bidding his mother farewell, Siddhartha walked out of his home. A smile was evident on his face when Govinda went to his side.

With the Samanas

Siddhartha and Govinda joined the Samanas immediately. They learned to live in scarcity. Their clothes were nothing but a loincloth and a cloak. They often fasted as well. The world was now different in Siddhartha’s eyes. As he saw people going about their day, Siddhartha expressed bitterness. How can these people find joy in their daily lives? Could it be possible that they were just pretending? Again, Siddhartha’s mind was full of questions. He wanted answers badly. Siddhartha learned the ways of the Samanas. Throughout, Govinda was there with him, like a shadow. Siddhartha mastered the ways of self-denial. He knew how to overcome the usual sorrows one experiences. For instance, pain, thirst, and hunger. Siddhartha also became a meditation expert. He wanted to let go of his sense of self. For him, it was the only way to move forward. Siddhartha had to let go of his notions about himself to reach enlightenment.

As Siddhartha and Govinda begged for food, they conversed. Siddhartha expressed that his thirst for knowledge has not been satisfied by the Samanas. After being with them for a while, Siddhartha felt that he was nowhere near nirvana. Govinda disagreed with his friend. Defensive, he recalled all the teachings Siddhartha took to heart. Siddhartha only shook his head sadly. It was not enough. They stayed with the Samanas for three years. One day, the news of Buddha arriving excited the whole town. Gotama or Buddha had overcome the suffering the world had to offer. He was full of knowledge and had reached enlightenment. He now wandered the land, preaching his lessons. His expression was permanently blissful, and he radiated serenity. Govinda was eager to listen to Buddha, but Siddhartha was not. Siddhartha was tired of listening to teachings. It never filled the hole in his heart. But moved by his friend’s excitement, Siddhartha decided to join Govinda. They would leave the Samanas to listen to Gotama or Buddha.

Gotama

Everybody in town was fascinated by the Buddha. Many wished to catch a sight of him. Even more, wanted to hear his infinite wisdom. After asking a lot of people, Govinda and Siddhartha made their way to Jetavana. It was said that the Buddha was there, currently sitting in a garden. The two men were not the only ones eager to see Gotama. Many followers, monks, and pilgrims were also present. Buddha also wore the yellow cloak that the monks were wearing. And yet, Siddhartha knew he was the exalted one. He acted like the other monks, but there was a special aura surrounding him. He looked always at peace. Buddha radiated perfection and holiness. As Buddha began his teachings, everyone stayed perfectly still. They were hypnotized by his wisdom and calm voice. Buddha taught them about suffering. How they can achieve salvation by following the path of Buddha? He also taught his followers about the four main doctrines and the eightfold path. All those that were present in the garden were speechless. They had learned so much.

Once the Buddha was finished, Govinda turned to Siddhartha. He declared that he would walk the path of salvation together with Buddha. But Siddhartha did not accept this path. Govinda had begged his friend to reconsider. Were the Buddha’s teachings not enough? Siddhartha assured his friend that his teachings were marvelous. But Siddhartha still wanted to continue his pilgrimage. After years of staying together, the two friends separated. Siddhartha was determined. He was not satisfied to be taught how to achieve salvation. He wanted to know it in his way. Yes, Siddhartha learned a lot from the enlightened Buddha. But Siddhartha was eager. He wanted to experience salvation himself.

Awakening

As he left the garden where Buddha and Govinda were, Siddhartha pondered. He thought about what he would do. Siddhartha was troubled. How could he be so discontented after hearing the exalted one? What exactly was Siddhartha looking for? Siddhartha thought long and hard. As he was walking, the answer came to him. It was his very self he was looking for. He had lost himself along the way in trying to gain knowledge from others. All along, Siddhartha wanted to learn from himself. He wanted to be his teacher and student. During this moment, Siddhartha was awakened.

Kamala

As he looked at the world through new eyes, Siddhartha once again pondered. The days would pass by quickly as he marveled over the things he saw. How magnificent nature was. Siddhartha felt fortunate to experience all of these. Siddhartha had found himself living in a hut owned by a ferryman. They were near a river in the middle of the forest. One day, Siddhartha asked the ferryman to get him across the river. Siddhartha was apologetic when he said that he could not give any payment to his generous host. The ferryman did not mind. Instead, he told Siddhartha about the river. The ferryman learned about the river’s nature. How everything eventually comes back. He knew Siddhartha would return, just like the river.

Siddhartha eventually stumbled into a city. There, he saw the beautiful Kamala. Siddhartha was mesmerized by her beauty. All her movements were precise and lovely. Siddhartha begged her to teach him everything Kamala knew about love. Kamala, impressed by Siddhartha’s courage, agreed. However, Siddhartha had to stop living like a Samana. So, Siddhartha lived in the house of a rich merchant called Kamaswami. Siddhartha slowly began to have possessions again. He wore fine clothes, engaged in Kamaswami’s business, and visited Kamala. He gave her expensive gifts and learned the acts of love from her. This went on for years. Siddhartha enjoyed life. But one night, he felt his soul again. He had stopped thinking and pondering about life.

Siddhartha allowed jewelry, money, and other valuables to possess him. He felt like he was dying. When did he stop his pursuit of achieving enlightenment? As he contemplated his life, Siddhartha sat under a mango tree. He now had strands of gray hair. Siddhartha was slowly becoming old. He thought about Govinda, about Gotama. Slowly, a smile started to form on Siddhartha’s face. In the middle of the night, Siddhartha left his home and the city. Kamaswami and Kamala tried to look for him at first. But Kamala knew that Siddhartha would always be a Samana. He would never settle down anywhere. With a heavy heart, Kamala closed her doors. She no longer accepted visitors after Siddhartha left.

By the River

Siddhartha returned once more to the forest where he met the ferryman. He was still young back then. During this time, Siddhartha was disgusted with himself. He had wasted years of his life doing sinful things. He became depressed. As dark thoughts consumed him, Siddhartha looked into the clear river. The urge to drown himself was strong. What was the purpose of living anyway? He was already a failure. Siddhartha closed his eyes and approached death. But then, a voice in Siddhartha stopped him from killing himself. The voice only said one word, but it was enough for Siddhartha. He could feel energy running through his veins again. The dark thoughts vanished completely.

That voice said the holy “Om”. It was what Siddhartha said during his meditations back home.“Om” meant “that what is perfect”. Siddhartha’s spirit reminded him of how foolish he has been. The events of that day exhausted Siddhartha. And so, he fell into a deep sleep. When he woke up, it was like seeing the world through his young self again. Siddhartha found himself saying Om to himself repeatedly. This soothed him. As Siddhartha stood by the river, he pondered. He had not pondered for years. Siddhartha, now old, was too busy pleasing his senses. He could not help but feel like a child again. Siddhartha was lost. All those years of meditating, of being with the Samanas, were now seemingly forgotten. Siddhartha did not have any possessions either. He suffered through hardships, temptations, and disgust. Yet here he was. An “om” on his lips. He was a child. And this brought a smile to his face.

Everything was going against him. Siddhartha was going downhill, but he laughed at his situation. He glanced at the river and saw that it was also going downhill. It will supply the people in the city with endless streams of water. The river looked happy going downhill. Siddhartha smiled at it. Siddhartha felt happiness blooming in his chest. If he had continued life with Kamala and Kamaswami, he would not feel joy right now. If he had not let misery consume him, he would not be in this moment right now. With the river as his only company, Siddhartha once again pondered. He was not content with being taught by the wisest of men. When he joined the Samanas, Siddhartha was still unsatisfied. What Siddhartha was missing all along was himself. He failed to consider that only himself can bring salvation.

The Ferryman

After more than twenty years, Siddhartha saw the ferryman once again. The ferryman, named Vasudeva, barely recognized him. Siddhartha told him about his adventures. They reconciled like old friends. Then, Siddhartha told Vasudeva about his experience with the river. Vasudeva nodded, understanding Siddhartha completely. The river speaks to those who it deems worthy. It had chosen to speak to Siddhartha. And thus, Siddhartha once again lived with the ferryman. Siddhartha learned how to operate the boat, and to put his hands to use. When he was done with his chores, Siddhartha would listen to the river. He would open his soul to it and would listen without judgment. Siddhartha learned from the river that there was no time. The river is everywhere. It connects with the sea and is in the mountains. The river only stays in the present time. It does not concern itself with the past or the future. It only knows now. Siddhartha applied this teaching to his life. His life was like a river. He thought about young Siddhartha, Samana Siddhartha, and old Siddhartha. They were not separate as Siddhartha thought they were. All of these people are still him because he is in the present. There is no past him or future him either.

Om

Siddhartha was in sorrow. After many years of not seeing each other, Siddhartha saw Kamala. But Kamala was already dying before his eyes. Kamala wanted to see and hear Gotama for the last time. The Buddha was dying and only had days left. Being a worshipper, Kamala brought her and Siddhartha’s son with her. However, the 11-year-old Siddhartha was spoiled. He was used to fine riches and servants. He did not understand why he and his mother were traveling. It was tiring. While they were near the river, Kamala was bitten by a snake. The poison spread quickly. Vasudeva heard Kamala’s screams of agony and brought her to his hut. There, Siddhartha and Kamala saw each other for the last time. Between painful breaths, Kamala told Siddhartha that they had a son. It was an overwhelming situation.

It wasn’t long before Kamala passed. Young Siddhartha stayed with his father. But he hated every minute of it. He did not love Siddhartha. Siddhartha tried to be a good father, but it was no use. His son could not stand living with Siddhartha. After a few years, he escaped to the city. Siddhartha never saw him again. The pain was the only thing Siddhartha knew. While his heart was aching, he still listened to the river. One day, he just realized what his goal was. Siddhartha’s soul was ready to acknowledge it. His goal was oneness. It was to be in harmony with the world. Vasudeva and Siddhartha had grown quite close over the years. Siddhartha would tell him everything he had ever felt. Vasudeva would only listen and smile peacefully at Siddhartha. It was all Siddhartha needed.

Together, they listened to the river once more. The driver spoke to them, but it also showed Siddhartha images. All the people that Siddhartha loved were shown on the river’s surface. It disappeared as quickly as it came. These faces merged as the river flowed freely. The voice of the river was also becoming different. It had a longing, happiness, and desire in its tone. The cacophony of noises and faces all merged as one. From it, a perfect voice said: Om. Enlightenment had reached Siddhartha at last. He let everything go. Siddhartha acknowledged that he must be like the river. The river flows no matter what state it is in. The river continues to flow because it is a part of the oneness. No amount of sorrow or pleasure can stop it.

Govinda

After Siddhartha left the city, Kamala had given her garden to the Buddha and the monks. This is where Govinda decided to go to the forest. They had heard rumors about a wise ferryman. Govinda wanted to listen to his teachings. And so, Govinda and Siddhartha were once again reunited. Happiness was evident in their now old and graying faces. Govinda then asked his dear friend for knowledge. Siddhartha advised Govinda that finding knowledge or anything can be tricky. You are so focused on your search. You fail to notice the other things that can lead you to your goal. Govinda was still confused. So, he asked Siddhartha what Siddhartha lived by. Siddhartha refused. Because that was what he learned all these years. Knowledge can be taught, but not wisdom. Siddhartha is in harmony with the universe because he went through everything that made him wise.

Conclusion

You learned about Siddhartha’s journey towards enlightenment. Siddhartha was born into an elite family. Yet, he abandoned his riches and the counsel of wise men. Siddhartha knew that he would not achieve enlightenment this way. So, he became a Samana. Siddhartha stood up against his father and made his path. You learned about Siddhartha’s struggles. He deprived himself of almost everything because that was Samana’s way. Because of his struggles, Siddhartha became stronger. He also became wiser. You learned that you have to be brave if you want to achieve a goal. Siddhartha realized that he had to achieve salvation on his terms. It could not be taught to him. He rose to the challenge.

After years of experiencing pain, greed, and sorrow, Siddhartha was enlightened. Just like the river, Siddhartha let all of his emotions flow freely. The river does not stop if there is a rock in the way. It simply goes around it and continues to flow. Siddhartha also emphasized the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge can be passed on. However, wisdom cannot. It is wisdom that makes you enlightened. You have to make your path to reach it. Do not be afraid to walk alone. Each of us has different destinies. You may ask for help, but ultimately, you are responsible for your fate. Create your path and don’t be afraid to fail. You will see that you can reach whatever it is you put your mind to.

Leave a Comment