Siddhartha (Hermann Hesse)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
One of fifty numbered and signed copies of the special edition

Siddhartha. An Indian poem is a story by Hermann Hesse , written in Montagnola in two attempts between December 1919 and May 1922, first published as a book in autumn 1922.


Siddhartha, the Brahmin

The novel is set in India in the 6th century BC and is about a young Brahmin named Siddhartha and his friend Govinda. From his father and other priests he learned about the Vedas, their philosophical thoughts, religious commandments and instructions for prayers and rituals. Because he sees how they do not escape samsara despite holy ablutions and prayers to cleanse sins , he dedicates his life to the search for the Atman , the All-One that is in every person.

Siddhartha, the Samana

His search turns the Brahmin into a Samana , an ascetic and a beggar. Govinda follows him on this path. However, after a while Siddhartha senses that life as Samana will not bring him to his goal. Together with Govinda he makes a pilgrimage to Gotama (Hesse uses the spelling Gotama in Pali , in Sanskrit the name is Gautama ), the Buddha . But he cannot accept his teaching. Siddhartha recognizes that Gotama has attained Bodhi and does not doubt the correctness of his teaching, but he believes that it is only valid for Gotama himself, that one cannot become Buddha through teaching, but must achieve this goal through one's own experience. From this knowledge he embarks on the journey again and begins a new phase of life, while his friend Govinda Gotama joins them.

Siddhartha with the "child people"

He now experiences intensively his surroundings and the beauty of nature, which he previously perceived as Samana (the forest people) in asceticism, rather with simplicity and despising cities. He crossed a river, where the ferryman prophesied that he would return to it one day, and reached a large city. Here he meets the courtesan Kamala, whom he asks to become his teacher in the art of love. In order to be able to afford their services, he becomes a businessman. At first he sees the pursuit of success and money only as a strange peculiarity of the "child people", as he calls the people devoted to the worldly. Soon, however, his arrogance turns into arrogance and he himself becomes more and more like the child people. Only a dream brings this before his eyes and reminds him of his search for enlightenment.

So he leaves Kamala without knowing that she is pregnant by him, and wanders deeper than ever before into samsara, the cycle of life and death and all actions and being, until he gets back to the Meets the river he had crossed long before. He is on the verge of drowning himself when he realizes with a shock how far he has strayed from his original goal of achieving nirvana . After suicide he would only be more trapped in samsara, he would be reborn and no progress would be achieved. Satisfied with this re-realization he begins to meditate and falls asleep. When he wakes up he finds the monk Govinda next to him, who does not recognize him at first.

Even Govinda has not yet become a Buddha and is now traveling through the country with other followers of Gotama. Together with him, Siddhartha reflects on his previous changes: “Where is the Brahmin Siddhartha? Where is Samana Siddhartha? Where is the rich man Siddhartha? Quick changes the transient, Govinda, you know. " . Again he immerses himself in meditation and feels that, as once after his separation from Gotama, he is back at the very beginning of his development, again at the beginning of a new life. More clearly than before he becomes aware of the nullity of learned knowledge and the importance of experience. His thoughts at this point in time are in many ways heightened correspondences of those who once moved him not to join Gotama, but while they were more theoretical considerations at the time, after having got to know the world he has now experienced them directly.

Siddhartha, the ferryman

In search of a new path, Siddhartha feels drawn to the river and again meets the ferryman Vasudeva, whom he asks to accept him as an assistant. Vasudeva, who has also achieved enlightenment, teaches him to listen to the rush of the river and to learn from it.

Siddhartha, the father

There on the river as a ferryman he meets Kamala again, who is on a pilgrimage to the dying Gotama. She carries their son, who, like his father, bears the name Siddhartha, but is bitten by a snake at the river and dies after Siddhartha and Vasudeva tried to help her. Siddhartha takes the son in and wants to teach him, who has so far only been used to the luxurious life of the city, humility and calm. In doing so, however, he unknowingly commits the same mistake that he once accused his own father of: Siddhartha believes that with the help of shielding himself from the world, he can spare the young Siddhartha the path to knowledge and be able to give him this, as far as he can has already achieved to mediate. Disgusted by the always mild understanding of all his provocations, the son flees across the river.

Contrary to Vasudeva's advice, Siddhartha follows him, but in front of the city realizes the futility of his search. At the place of his first meeting with Kamala, he realizes that he must let go of his son in order to be able to advance on his path to nirvana. For many years this incident gnawed at Siddhartha, who thought himself to be balanced, until slowly the actual realization of what wisdom was began to mature and he could reveal himself to his mentor. Again this teaches him to listen to the river and to observe it, which is constantly changing and yet always remains the same river. Siddhartha recognizes his own life in the conflict, himself as a child, young man and old man. After Siddhartha and Vasudeva have found enlightenment, Vasudeva goes into the woods. Siddhartha continues his work as a ferryman.

Siddhartha, the enlightened one

In a last picture, Hermann Hesse shows once again the meeting of childhood friends Siddhartha and Govinda, the accomplished and the still searching. This contrast, which appears in different facets throughout the book, is now canceled out towards the end. Hesse describes how Siddhartha gives his friend, who at first can neither understand nor believe Siddhartha's words, insight into the true nature of things.

The Indian world of belief and the world of Daoism

Buddha statue on the Pauenhof in Hamb

After many years of studying India and China, Hermann Hesse ostensibly approached religious India with this work, as he noted in a diary in 1921. Based on his examination of the spirit of the East, he created a prosaic representation from his own point of view with his “Indian poetry” Siddhartha .

Many of the names are taken from Indian culture. They contain allusions to the religious ideas of both Hinduism and Buddhism and open up another level of meaning in the narrative:

  • Siddhartha comes from Siddhartha Gautama, the name of the historical Buddha (literally "the one who has achieved his goal").
  • Gotama is the name of Buddha in Pali, the language of the oldest traditional texts of Buddhism.
  • According to Indian mythology, Vasudeva is the name of the father of Krishna , and thus an avatar of Vishnu .
  • Govinda is a name of Krishna as it appears for example in the epic Bhagavad Gita .
  • Kamala is an allusion to one of the human goals - sexuality - according to Hindu teaching, personified by Kama , the god of love (cf. Kamasutra ).

The Indian garb, however, is “just a dress” (Hesse), a veiling. In reality, as Hesse himself says, the meaning of the work is closer to Laozi than to Buddha.

Despite the poetic language and the foreign cultural area, the work is similar in its basic structure to other development novels by Hesse such as Demian , Der Steppenwolf , Narcissus and Goldmund and Das Glasperlenspiel : The seeker, who grows beyond himself, is contrasted with the stagnant, the spiritual with the worldly and sensual Life.

Book editions

On 6./7. In August 1920, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung printed the beginning under the title “Among the ascetics”. The Basler Nachrichten published “Gotama” on May 15, 1921. In September 1921, Kurt Wolff's magazine Genius published a preprint entitled “Siddharthas Weltleben. Three chapters from an unfinished poem ”, which contained the chapters“ Kamala ”,“ With the Child People ”and“ Sansara ”. The later first part was preprinted in the Neue Rundschau in July 1922 , dedicated to Romain Rolland .

In October 1922 the first edition was published by S. Fischer Verlag with an edition of 6050 copies, reprinted until 1935. In 1931 Siddhartha was published together with three other stories ( Kinderseele , Klein and Wagner , Klingsor's last summer ) under the title Weg nachinnen , in the new editions 1973 and 1983 supplemented by the Ticino records hike and eight watercolors by Hesse. In 1950, Suhrkamp Verlag published another single edition, and another in 1969 in the Suhrkamp library . The first paperback edition was published under license by Rowohlt Verlag as early as 1967 .

  • Siddhartha. An Indian seal . Fischer, Berlin 1922.
  • Way inside . Four stories. Fischer, Berlin 1931; Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1983, ISBN 3-518-04480-X .
  • Siddhartha. An Indian seal . Suhrkamp, ​​Berlin 1950.
  • Siddhartha. An Indian seal . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1969, ISBN 3-518-01227-4 (= BS 227).
  • Siddhartha. An Indian seal . Rowohlt, Reinbek 1967 (= rororo 951).
  • Siddhartha. An Indian seal . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1974, ISBN 3-518-36682-3 (= st 182).
  • Siddhartha. An Indian seal . With a comment by Heribert Kuhn. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1998, ISBN 3-518-18802-X (= sbb 2).
  • Siddhartha. An Indian seal . With an afterword by Volker Michels . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2012, ISBN 978-3-518-46354-3 (= st 4354).


The story was filmed in 1972 by Conrad Rooks with the title Siddhartha . Shashi Kapoor played Siddhartha.



  • Henry Miller : “To create a Buddha that surpasses the generally recognized Buddha, that is an unheard of act, especially for a German. For me, Siddhartha is a more effective medicine than the New Testament. "
  • Paulo Coelho : "This story of a man who rebelled against the authority of his father and against the fate that society had assigned him is a masterpiece of wisdom."
  • Julius Bab : "The story has a magical effect because it never preaches, because it depicts uninterruptedly and because the rivers and mountains, the animals and people of the great India are mirrored in the gently sliding beat in the swaying repetitions of the language."
  • Volker Zotz : "In Hesse's figure of Siddhartha, the Buddha encountered a modern European individualist with his distrust of dogmas and institutions."


  • Volker Michels (Ed.): Materials on Hermann Hesse "Siddhartha" , 2 volumes:
    • Volume 1: Texts by Hermann Hesse. History of development in personal testimonials and documents . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1975, ISBN 3-518-36629-7 (= st 129).
    • Volume 2: The history of the impact in reviews and essays . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1987, ISBN 3-518-36782-X (= st 282).
  • Maria-Felicitas Herforth: Interpretation to Hermann Hesse: Siddhartha Bange, Hollfeld 2008, ISBN 978-3-8044-1868-4 (= King's explanations and materials 465).
  • Michael Limberg (Ed.): Hermann Hesses Siddhartha . Staatsanzeiger Verlag, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-929981-43-2 .
  • Eberhard Ostermann: Hermann Hesse's "Siddhartha". Introduction and analysis . CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2012, ISBN 1481082809 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. See Jürgen Weber: The Chinese Siddhartha (link to the PDF download)
  2. a b c d Hermann Hesse: Siddhartha. An Indian seal . 5th edition. Suhrkamp, ​​Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-518-46354-3 , pp. 201 .
  3. ^ Siegfried Unseld : Hermann Hesse. Work and impact history . Insel, Frankfurt am Main 1987, ISBN 3-458-32812-2 , p. 107.
  4. Quotation from January 24, 1973, from: Materials zu Hesse Siddhartha , Vol. 2, p. 302.
  5. Quotation from: Siddhartha , Frankfurt 2012, ISBN 978-3-518-46354-3 , book cover.
  6. ^ Quote from 1948 in the New Yorker Herold , from: Siddhartha , Frankfurt 2012, p. 200.
  7. Volker Zotz: On the blissful islands. Buddhism in German culture. Theseus, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-89620-151-4 , p. 257.