I just finished the book Siddharta by Nobel Laureate, Hermann Hesse. For a book that’s only 150 pages or so, this book sure packs a punch. If you are at all interested in Eastern thought or Buddhism, I highly recommend this book. It brings up so many great ideas, some of which I’ll discuss below.
Seekers never take the ‘Easy Way’
Siddharta is not the Buddha in this story, but he also goes on a journey of enlightenment. The funny thing is that he actually meets the Buddha early in his life. He agrees with the Buddha’s teachings, but he cannot accept them. This illogical behavior seems to be commonplace among seekers. Truth seeking has conditioned them to believe that anything valuable must be earned; as a result, anything that comes easily feels ‘false’ or ‘cheap.’ Even if they are told the Truth, they still must learn it for themselves.
Wisdom cannot be taught, only knowledge
Wisdom is the combination of experience and knowledge to form insights. Your students might know what to do, but they won’t really understand until they experience it themselves. Despite your best effects as teacher or parent, you cannot ‘save’ your children and students from all their painful mistakes. Does this mean that teaching is a waste of time? No, it still helps. At some point, the light bulb may go off in their heads, and your principles will save them some trouble going forward. They can also pass them on, beginning the cycle anew.
True meaning is beyond all teaching
Toward the end of the book, Siddharta becomes enlightened. Govinda, an old friend and devout Buddhist, asks how he became enlightened when so many devout Buddhists had not. Siddharta explains that the problem was not with the Buddha’s teachings, but with all teachings. Teachings are imperfect vessels. They are tools meant to give you guidance and structure, but for true meaning, you must go beyond them � sometimes even ‘break’ them. Some religions are about obedience, but Buddhism is ultimately about transcending everything. If you follow teachings to a tee, you will always stand in the teacher’s shadow. To see the light as he sees it, you must step out into the radiant sun.