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I can think. I can wait. I can fast…
‘Siddhartha’ was written by Hermann Hesse way back in 1922. The time made sense because the world was already recovering in the aftermath of the First World War.
The plot of the novel (novella, if you will) tries to mimic the style of ancient Indian scriptures that rely heavily on parables and anthropomorphic characters. The protagonist of the story, Siddhartha, leaves his possessions to the wind in search of enlightenment and peace of mind. What follows is a journey through pain, temptation, pleasure, wealth and sacrifice.
A book like ‘Siddhartha’ can teach you a lot. And for that, you do not necessarily have to be a Buddhist or follow the ways of Buddha. There’s still place for an all-inclusive belief system in this world, and we had better be a part of it ourselves.
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To travel is to be alive, but to get somewhere is to be dead, for as our own proverb says, ‘To travel well is better than to arrive…’
‘The Way of Zen’ is a non-fiction discourse that may or may not fall in the ‘interest zone’ of everyone. But just to see where you stand, this is a worthy read about what Buddhism is and how it is misunderstood.
Having read this one when I wasn’t really prepared for what to expect, I should point out here that it took me several reads to get to the last page. However, the efforts were certainly not all in vain. Countless gems of simple philosophical tenets, stories, fables and tales make sure that you are able to soak all the essence in.
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Is it not also a science and an art, hovering between those categories as Muhammad’s coffin hovered between heaven and earth, a unique link between pairs of opposites?
At just about 100 pages, ‘Chess Story’ is a breezy read – and quite predictably so, as Zweig is often considered a master of short stories, second only to Chekov. The book revolves around a mysterious prisoner who, by sheer power of concentration, teaches himself to become the best chess player in the world.
‘Chess Story’, superficially at least, has got nothing to do with Buddhism or spirituality. It does, however, touch upon several muddled aspects of human life, including the search for inner truth, nature of nirvana and the perils of capital punishment.
For pleasure as much as learning, ‘Chess Story’ can be your perfect commute companion.
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None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free…
Being from Germany, the Goethe influence on Hesse was inevitable. Perhaps one Goethe novel that we can directly see a reflection of in ‘Siddhartha’ is ‘Elective Affinities’. The central theme that Goethe maintains throughout this book is that of three stages of love – courting, marriage and divorce, of a very regular German couple.
Despite having a fairly prosaic plot for the times, ‘Elective Affinities’ managed to rub the senses of the bourgeoisie in a wrong way, leading to a brief ban on its publication. The contrast couldn’t have been more disheartening as ‘free will’ is exactly what Goethe had based this book on.
‘Siddhartha’ is written in a very simple yet likeable prose that keeps pedantic ways and highbrow styles at an arm’s length. Books like ‘Siddhartha’ listed above pretty much followed that suite.
Taking it a notch higher, let’s have a look at slightly more ‘difficult’ reads that will help you on your road to self-discovery.
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What’s true of all the evils in the world is true of plague as well. It helps men to rise above themselves…
Albert Camus needs no separate introduction to most readers. ‘The Plague’ is a fine achievement even for an accomplished philosopher like himself.
In a non-disclosed time and a generic French Algerian village, a sudden outbreak of plague throws the routines of simple people off, leading to a chaos that tests the will power, conviction and empathy of the society.
Much like ‘Siddhartha’, it tries to understand the nature of human relations and how little it takes for one to forsake them.
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Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom…
Viktor E. Frankl, a sufferer of World War II atrocities, rose to prominence as a neurologist, an author and for some, even a prophet, with the publication of ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’.
This a collection of war tales, clinical experiences and the Doctor’s own thoughts, all bound in a neat chain of ideas. The book touches upon subjects like the importance of personal achievements, contexts for happiness and nature of grief.
Self-discovery is surely not as easy as reading a few books. But still, we can certainly start to grasp the importance of it through the titles listed so far. If you feel the need to dig deeper, you can give the following books a read: ‘The Brothers Karamazov’, ‘The Stranger’, ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’, and ‘Nausea’.
Do let us know of your experiences in self-discovery and peace of mind, and of course the literary works associated with those by commenting below.
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