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Siddhartha summary

Hermann Hesse

Rediscover the Meaning of Life With This Classic

4.6 (254 ratings)
21 mins

Brief summary

Siddhartha is a philosophical novel by Hermann Hesse that follows the spiritual journey of a young Indian man as he seeks enlightenment and self-discovery. It delves into the themes of love, wisdom, and the pursuit of true happiness.

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    A journey begins

    The beautiful son of a respected brahman, Siddhartha grew up beloved by all. His father admired his intelligence and eagerness to learn and imagined him growing into a wise priest.  His mother cherished the grace and beauty of her son, and her heart leaped each time he greeted her. She saw his future in the love-struck gazes of young women who noticed Siddhartha’s maturing beauty and physical grace.  

    Best friend Govinda grew alongside Siddhartha in these beautiful surroundings, admiring his friend immensely. Govinda loved Siddhartha’s thoughts, his lofty spirit, and his powerful, unbending will. Govinda saw in his friend someone worthy, full of integrity. He decided, still just a boy, that wherever his friend might lead in life, Govinda would willingly follow.

    Yet Siddhartha felt none of this admiration for himself. The daily rituals of prayers and offerings to the gods felt hollow. Empty motions repeated by empty souls. His reading of the sacred texts felt similarly dull. None could help him understand how to get closer to the Atman, the innermost source of true wisdom. This absence nourished a growing frustration and discontent in the young brahman, as his thirst for first-hand knowledge was met with endless ritual and tradition.

    But a group of Samanas, wandering ascetics, passed through his village one day. These holy men had left behind all earthly possessions to dwell in meditation and self-denial. Encouraged by what he saw, Siddhartha made up his mind to leave his family, his home, and all he had ever known to join them. 

    On the eve of his departure, the young Siddhartha had to get his father’s permission to leave, which he won only through an epic standoff of wills. Released from familial obligations, Siddhartha and Govinda leave to join the wandering Samanas.

    In the forest, the two learn to overcome hunger, thirst, and pain. Garbed in simple loincloths, sleeping in the open air, and begging for their food, Siddhartha and Govinda meditate until they transcend the physical, annihilate their hunger and fatigue, and even experience death.

    But with his eyes always open, Siddhartha's discontent grows. These holy men, these Samanas, have mastered control over the physical, but just like Siddhartha, they are no closer to wisdom. He confides in Govinda this desire to leave this path, finding it, too, empty. 

    Then, news of another teacher, an enlightened one, reaches the two friends in the forest. Once again they leave everything behind to seek wisdom from this new source.


    The opening chapters paint a vivid picture of the young Siddhartha, his family, and his privileged upbringing. Everything in his character, his physical grace and intelligence mark him for greatness. Beloved by all, a bright future is laid out for him.

    But Siddhartha was, from his earliest memories, in search of something else. He could feel the essence of the divine within him, yet all the religious observance, teachings, and practices were bringing him no closer to it. Even worse, he saw successful brahmans around him as greedy, ignorant, and corrupt. No one, it would seem, could teach the young man.

    In this way, the novel sets up a broader parable. The author carefully draws a portrait of the emptiness of religion, education, and tradition for seekers of wisdom. Through Siddhartha’s eyes, we see that the suffering of the world is caused by a lack of integrity.  Be it priests in the temple or merchants in the marketplace, Siddhartha beholds a world that appears cut off from the divine.

    At that moment he encounters the traveling holy men, who seem to have found a way through extreme deprivation. Yet still, conquering the body has brought them no closer. Living in self-denial teaches him many esoteric skills, but doesn’t quench the thirst of his spirit. It is the lack of wisdom of his teachers that drives him once again to leave everything behind.

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    What is Siddhartha about?

    Siddhartha (1922) is the beloved classic novel about a pampered prince who goes on a spiritual journey of self-discovery. Through the depths of asceticism to the heights of worldly success, the novel traces one seeker’s path to enlightenment taking the road less traveled.

    Siddhartha Review

    Siddhartha (1922) by Hermann Hesse is a thought-provoking novel about spiritual enlightenment and self-discovery. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Explores the universal quest for meaning and purpose in life, making it relevant to readers from all walks of life.
    • Through Siddhartha's journey, Hesse challenges conventional wisdom and offers alternative perspectives on happiness and fulfillment.
    • The book's profound philosophical insights and lyrical prose immerse readers in a captivating narrative that is both introspective and enlightening.

    Who should read Siddhartha?

    • Seekers curious about this classic texts
    • Path-finders and way-makers looking for stories of kindred souls
    • Anyone interested in alternative visions for society, religion, success, and relationships

    About the Author

    Herman Hesse was a Swiss-German novelist, poet and artist born in 1877 in the Kingdom of Württemberg, best known for his novels Steppenwolf, Demian and Siddhartha. In 1946 he received both the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Goethe Prize. He died in Montagnola, Ticino, Switzerland in 1962.

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    Siddhartha FAQs 

    What is the main message of Siddhartha?

    The main message of Siddhartha is the search for spiritual enlightenment and the meaning of life.

    How long does it take to read Siddhartha?

    The reading time for Siddhartha varies, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Siddhartha a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Siddhartha is a profound and captivating book that explores universal themes of self-discovery and the pursuit of happiness.

    Who is the author of Siddhartha?

    The author of Siddhartha is Hermann Hesse.

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