offerings अर्पणम्

September 27, 2015


Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — arpanam @ 10:16 am


Nobel laureate, Hermann Hesse, has an innate sense of what, spiritual pursuit, means and also has a uncanny ability to accurately depict what it’s seeker, necessarily, has to go through, in his journey. Siddhartha, is, arguably, Hesse’s finest work and he portrays eponymous protagonist’s evocative spiritual journey with piercing insights. These insights are universal in nature and would be true for any genuine seeker. This being so, it’s easy for a spiritual aspirant to relate with the events in Siddhartha’s journey, to such a degree, that it might look, unchronologically, biographical. Here, some of these insights have been penned and the novel along with the movie, has been reviewed.

Siddhartha, makes a firm resolve to be an ascetic and spends few years of his youth, as a Sadhu, living on alms. However, as some point, he forsakes life of penance for indulgence and his getting back to materialism is intriguing inflexion point in the novel. The limitation of material benefits has be an experiential ascertainment and not be a conceptual resolve. This can happen only when you have completely explored all the myriad facet of material allurement. This Siddhartha did, by diving deep into a material indulgence and thereby he did ascertain the hollowness of hideonistic pleasures. After this he again forgoes materialism and becomes a recluse but this time, the clarity he gained, would make sure, that there is no going back.

Hesse doses acknowledge that a seeker has to have certain maturity and in its absence this pursuit would not bear any fruit. A seeker of Truth, has to be endowed with certain qualities, that are necessary for comprehending the sublime. And Truth is sublime. Siddhartha had the unique combination where one can trust, without being a blind believer and can continue to question, without being overtly sceptical or cynical. When he says “I can wait, think and fast”, as his assets, they just go on to demonstrate he was a qualified seeker, अधिकारि. These qualities are described in Vedanta, in great detail and are part of साधन चतुस्त्या, four essential qualities, namely, Vivek, vairagya, mumukshutva and fourth, further includes, six assets, षठ संपती (sham, dam, uparatti, titiksha, shradhha & sanadhan)

Siddhartha initially rejects Lord Buddha, as a teacher. But he had the audacity to go up to him and express his reservations. He displays keen incisiveness when he states that, what he seeks to find is an experiential reality and not get some intellectual construct, that can be passed down, from a teacher. Lord Buddha, rightly, see this response to be the limitations of having excessive reliance on one’s intellect, as being a hindrance, in the pursuit of finding the Truth. His apt answer to Siddhartha, was, “You are clever, but be on your guard against too much cleverness.” In this path there is an essential need for someone to point out the Truth. You cannot bypass a guide. And a seeker has to have sustained trust in him. Cleverness inhibits the ability to trust. Siddhartha initially was unable to trust Lord Buddha but later as he matures, he acquires that essential quality, shraddha. Siddhartha finds Vasudeva, a Guru disguised as a ferryman, who could ferry him across travails of existence, Samsara. Vasudeva was someone who saw unity of life. As he could appreciate that One principle, Vasudeva, that inhers in every thing. And that principle is not distinct from oneself. His name Vasudeva was congruous with his vision. This verse in Bhagwad Gita succinctly expounds this vision and the the person endowed with it.

वासुदेवः सर्वमिति स महात्मा सुदुर्लभः .७- १९

Knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a ‘great soul’ is exceedingly rare.

Siddharta could trust Vasudeva, the ‘great soul’, who used the analogy of river, to teach the wisdom of life. You use symbols to express the inexpressible. ‘Word’ is the finest symbom. He could trust the ‘word’, from a living light, Guru, that is, necessarily, required to illumine that, which is, paradoxically, “self illumined”. On finding that light Siddhartha could gain ‘Siddh’ the meaning ‘artha’ of life.

Siddhartha’s story does explore all these interesting aspects in a lively story-telling format, making it one the finest tales of spiritual journey of our times.Its remarkable that Hesse, a German, has got his fingers, firm, on India’s spiritual, pulse. In comparison, many of Indian authors, are way off the mark, whenever they attempt to write on nature of spirituality and the journey that an aspirant undertakes. It is, indeed, commendable that many Germans and Dutch academicians have invested their quality time towards Oriental wisdom and perhaps, ironically, have made more significant contribution than native Indian academia.

Conrad Rooks later, circa 1972, made a film by the same name, based on the novel. (It’s available on YouTube, link below.) Shashi Kapoor as protagonist fits into Siddhartha’s character, perfectly. Simi Grewal as Kamala, plays the role of stunning courtesan, with élan. Cinematography is way ahead of its times and the landscapes in the film’s latter half are beautifully captured by Sven Nykvist’s lens. Music by Hemant Kumar is soothing and its hummable melody enriches the film, significantly. The editing is below par and film fails introduce the characters in a comprehensive way. Sentuous scenes of love making and stereotype, chillam smoking, sadhus, seem to cater to the film’s commercial viability rather than being a realistic protrayal. Though the film is worth watching but it’s lacks the perceptiveness of Hesse’s masterly, novel.

(I had read the novel, about one and half decades back and later saw the movie. Recently, I got its audio book, too. This review if an outcome of recent conversations with a friend)

“Siddhartha”, movie on YouTube –


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