Enlightenment does not have to be complex, or to be challenging, or erudite. One can find truth in the simplest texts, and not have to spend time trying to decipher complicated writing styles or long involved works. Hermann Hesse’s short but wonderful novel Siddartha, which details the life of a young man on a spiritual journey in the time of the Buddha (note that this young man is not in fact the Buddha, which is a common misconception regarding the book). The young man, son of a Brahmin, leaves his home to join a band of traveling monks and live a life denying the world and the self. After speaking with Gotama, the Buddha himself, he experiences an awakening and begins to follow a life of the flesh, a life of experience, as opposed to a life of meditation and understanding.

His journeys eventually bring him, after all is said and done, to the side of a powerful river, where Siddartha has a revelation after hearing the “tens of thousands of voices” … the voices of people he has known and a metaphor for the continuity and eternal flow of life and death, and experiences the oneness of all the universe. This concept is central to the doctrine of the Middle Way, expounded by the Buddha: one should not deny the self and be totally ascetic, and nor should one cater to the self and be a hedonist, for true enlightenment lies somewhere between senses and mind, somewhere between denial and acceptance of self … this is a wonderful and speedy little novel that will change your outlook on life and growth. I can’t recommend the books I’ve read by Hesse (Siddartha, Narziss und Goldmund) highly enough for someone seeking truth or revelation in literature.

Jake Bittle / A&E Editor

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