What is the key message that Hermann Hesse wants to bring out in Siddhartha?
Siddhartha is the story of a young Brahmin’s search for ultimate reality after meeting with the Buddha. His quest takes him on a journey from a life of decadence to asceticism. At the very core of the novella is Siddhartha’s search for enlightenment. Siddhartha believes that the truth is important for a harmonious relationship with the world, as Siddhartha puts it in his philosophical manner, “to be one with the universe”. He wanted not to just know about oneness in much detail, but to actually live it.
Most of the characters in Siddhartha, except Kamaswami, seek Nirvana to achieve spiritual fulfilment. This applies even to the courtesan, Kamala. Various routes to spiritual fulfilment are explored. Siddhartha’s father relies on traditional sacrificial rites portrayed in Upanishads of Sama-Veda. His father was contented with his life and did not go in pursuit of enlightenment. Siddhartha on the other hand was not satisfied with the life he was living, “he did not bring joy to himself, he did not delight himself”. His mind was confused, always searching for answers to which his father and other teachers could not answer, “his mind was not contented, his soul was not tranquil, his heart not sated”. This hints to us that Siddhartha would never rest till he found the source of ultimate reality, “One had to find it, the primal source in one’s one self, one had to make it one’s own”. He is the most determined seeker of them all, and he is determined to pursue his quests in his own way, alone by himself and based on his own experiences, rather than accept guidance form a teacher or Buddha.
Siddhartha also undergoes a period of time ‘away’ from the path of enlightenment during his involvement with Kamala the courtesan and his accumulations of riches through Kamaswami a merchant. He falls into the vices of “sluggishness, sloth, greed, pleasure, lustfulness”. He strays away from the path...