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Siddartha [book summary]

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One liner: Story about Siddartha on how he takes different roles of student, ascetic, rich and ferryman on his quest of finding purpose of his life.


Siddhartha was talented and good looking young man. He completed his education in flying colors and everyone around him believed that he is destined to become a great in future. But Siddhartha didn't understand purpose of life even after all the learning. His father, who was his teacher as well, couldn't attain enlightenment after all these years through education and teachings. He thought that he cannot achieve it by staying in the same place like his father. He took permission from his parents and left to forest to join Samanas in search of life's purpose along with his friend.

Samanas are people who gave up all pleasures and desires of life to lead an ascetic life in forest. Siddartha and his friend joined them and started same life style by spending most of the time in meditation and thinking. After years of practice, he was restless and discouraged as he was not able to find the purpose in Samana life style and didn't see any elderly Samana reaching nirvana themselves. As time passed, Siddartha heard from locals about Gotama, who attained nirvana or enlightenment during one of his visits to get food from nearby village. He wanted to listen to his teachings if it was real. His friend and him agreed to join Gotama and left forest.

Gotama is spiritual teacher who teaches the path to enlightenment. His teachings made him popular as followers flocking from all over the world. Siddartha and his friend listened to his teachings and are mesmerized by them. After thinking over, his friend decided to join Gotama as disciple. Siddartha thinking was always been that enlightenment cannot be achieved by other's teachings and conveyed the same to Gotama as well. As Gotama achieved it through his experience, he want to follow the same but not through his teachings. So, he decided to leave his friend and village to continue his journey.

Siddartha reached closeby town with his rustly look of Samana. He get into relationship with a Kamala and starts to learn to lead normal life. He wants to put his education to use and ends up working with businessman. He earned good amount of money and buys house and get used to luxury lifestyle. Eventually, his habits changed and he got into gambling to become more richer in a faster way. After getting into this routine for a while, he realized that he got into worldly pleasures and lost his way towards his quest. He left the town and people suddenly without letting know about his departure without knowing Kamala was carrying his baby.

Siddartha started back his journey to forest and he had to cross the same river which he crossed when was going to Samanas first time. And it was the same ferryman who helped him cross at that time, was there with his boat. He asked him to help cross the river and got into conversation with him. He gave him a free ride last time and promised to pay sometime later. He offered his grandeur clothes as fare for his ride as he was not planning to go without paying. In return, ferryman asked him to stay in his place for a night. Both continued their conversation and ferryman got to know better of Siddartha and his life. Siddartha asked him to help in ferrying as an assistant and ferryman agreed to work and stay together.

After many years, rumors spread that Gotoma is not doing well in health and followers came from all over the world to have a last sight of their favorite preacher. Among them, Kamala was also wanted to see him along with his son. She took the forest route and got bitten by snake. In pain and despair, she cried for help. Ferryman came running towards her after hearing. He carried and took her to his home. Siddartha was shocked to see her and realized that it was his son by the looks. He gave her a pain killer to relieve pain but understood that she is going to die. After her death and funeral, he and ferryman took care of the boy. Boy was brought up in riches and was not comfortable with this simpler lifestyle. He never accepted Siddartha as his father and was always angry on him. One day, he took the boat and left for the town without telling them. Siddartha was sad for a while and realized that he got into life's circle which repeated like the way he did to his father.

After a while, ferryman decides to leave Siddartha to lead a life in forest and his friend meets him during his ferry trips to have one final conversation before they leave each other for good.

Ideas I liked

Book was more of philosophical notes than story book as the protagonist talks to different characters. Most of the conversations were abstract for me and it was difficult to comprehend or digest. But here are some of the ideas I can relate:

  • Life is more of discovery than looking at it from other experiences.
  • Try out different roles before finding the right one that fits.
  • Nature is good teacher if we have open mind to learn
  • reminds of proverb that Journey is important than destiny itself
  • There were parallels to Hinduism where ascetic lifestyle of Shiva, celebration lifestyle of Vishnu and Gotama seemed like Buddha. So, I thought author was trying to bring these characters in one story.