Book Review: Siddharta

SiddhartaSiddharta by Hermann Hesse

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

** Spoiler alert ** Siddharta is an indian tale about a brahmin boy who follows his heart, leaving the place he was brought up in to become a Samana, fasting and meditating for extended periods in the forest and the mountains. Later on in the story he meets the Buddha, but not being satisfied with teachings in general, he also rejects Buddha’s teachings. Instead of becoming a monk and a follower of Buddha, he starts a totally different life. He becomes a rich merchant, a lover, later an ordinary ferryman and a father.

As soon as I started reading the words on the first page I fell in love with the simple prose the author used in writing this book. The easy to digest information made my read easy and quick, never losing the ability to grasp the authors profound messages. Also, like the writing style the plot is authentic and zen like.

I noticed that there is no antagonist in the story unlike in most other stories. Perhaps the only antagonist in the search to unveil the deepest secret and mystery is Siddharta himself.

I loved all the characters in the book, especially Siddharta. He is a lovely character. He is strong willed, and an intelligent seeker of truth. For a character of this proportion the author did an amazing job in discerning and discribing his psyche. I found it immensly interesting to learn about the main character; his thoughts, his feelings, his behavior, the choices he made and where those choices led him. His meeting with the Buddha was especially meaningful to me.

The themes in this tale, such as self discovery and spirituality are among my favorite ones. I can say that Hesse is a master in working with these themes. The messages in these book are deep and profound. Often I have admired how skillfull Hesse was in writing out the character of Siddharta, whom I could relate to so deeply. Hesse depicted the good heart of Siddharta and this man’s character so beautifully.

It is interesting to read this tale, that took place in the Indian sub continent. The author was able to explore its culture and philosophies very well, I think. I do wonder how Siddharta would have responded to a meeting with Jesus Christ and His gospel.

Siddharta’s childhood friend Govinda joined him and became a Samana as well, but down the road they parted ways. Govinda followed the Buddha, while Siddharta went an entirely different path, slowly becoming like the childlike people, following his passions and yearnings, nurturing love and attachment.

Yet at the end of their lives when they meet in Siddharta’s hut Govinda’s heart is not at peace and is still seeking while Siddharta has found peace of heart. This story made me think, that’s for sure.

I give this book a 9 out of 10 and recommend it to every seeker.

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Introducing Henk and Hetty

Hendrik
Hendrik, my grandfather (1926-1990)

This old chap is my grandfather, Hendrik. He was born in Bredevoort, Holland, the place where he also grew up.

After school my grandfather became a marinier, serving in the US navy. He went on to Indonesia and served there at the frontline, collecting the wounded and the dead. I am quite proud of him. Together with his team they each received a medal for saving a company from the Japanese.

Hetty, my grandmother
Hetty, my grandmother

During that time of his life he met Hetty, my grandmother. She had to flee from the Japs who invaded her home in Mlang and found shelter in a barn of farmers who gave her the permission to stay there. The family that took her in hiding was very kind to her and gave her pots and pans for her to cook with in return for some odd jobs at the farm.

My grandfather noticed her in the farm while driving by one day. Not long after he surprised her with a little goat, that he gave to her as a gift.

Fast forward to some distant future. After many years, now living in Bruges, Belgium, being married and having their three children all grown up, her elder daughter Mary-Elizabeth, who is my aunty Marlies, welcomed the missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints into her home. Together with her husband, uncle Jaques, they got baptized and thus joined the Church as the first members in their region. My aunty and uncle told my grandmother Hetty about their discovery, the restoration of the gospel and many other things. After investigating it my grandmother decided to get baptized as well.

But, this was much to the dismay of Henk, who was not a religious man. And when my grandmother told him that she was going to get baptized he got bloody angry. He even forbade her from joining what he called “the mormons.”

Luckily, my grandmother is a fighter. She rung her voice and argued with him, “if you may go to soccer games on Sundays, have a drink and play pool with your friends, then I may do what I want on Sundays, even if that includes going to church!”

But, when Henk found out that she was going to pay tithings as well, that’s when he exploded. “A tenth of our income being donated to their treasury!? No! No way they are taking our money!”

But, Hetty did not give in. She claimed autonomy and stood her ground. As she had her own job she told him that she was going to give a tenth of her own income, that it was none of his business. Finally the argument ended, but with her leaving him and staying with her daughter until he accepted her choice, or not…

So, my grandfather was suddenly all by himself in an empty house. Days passed. Weeks passed. And visitors came to meet them. But, she not being home, Henk had to do the chores. Henk had to explain the situation to them, that Hetty was staying with her daughter. It made him uncomfortable to say the least. And, he missed her. so, her absence became a burden which became heavier and heavier until he couldn’t bear it anymore.

In the end, Henk apologized to Hetty and asked her to come back, which she did smilingly.

Come

Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.
Marie Curie (1867-1934) French Physicist

 

 

 


Audio of the poem you can read as you scroll down

 

Come, let me just hold you, Fear
You may squeeze me, here here
When you’re sobbing it’s okay
I’m here for you

Life can be hard, I know you know
But look, there in the meadow
For everyone there is a way
Of happiness

Your problems may seem titanic
But I ask you not to panic
His hands can crush all your demons
Come

Poem of the Month: Process

I found this poem by Ashleigh Young in SPORT 44 New Zealand New Writing 2016


Process

All the friends we lost
to self-improvement will come back to us
oddly polished but otherwise the same.

All of the decisions we make in the small hours, to leave, to stay
will also be correct when we wake again.

The great suction that comes from beneath a passing truck
signifies the velocity of the living drawing us near;

when we look back to our dear friends cycling behind us,
their eyes are wide with joy and not terror.

All the friends who avoided our eyes in supermarket aisles
will embrace us in the vegetable markets.

Our erasure of our social media presence will not be half hearted.
On this day our city is as a perfect haircut, its losses gently layered
and what is left, falling gracefully.

If I am riding a horse that takes fright and gallops up a hill,
the horse you are riding will also take fright
and we will be carried away screaming together.

Things will follow due process.
Anything lost, only fallen in long grass.
If I can’t see your face it is only because my face
is pressed into your shoulder.

Pictureless walls sing their freedoms
as if facing a new city, new river, new air.
An open window pulls sheets from the bed
delays their flight, lights up particles of skin and strands of hair.