Recommended age group: 12-90+
Form of work: individual, group
Topic: problem with independence, dependence on others, confusion, own underestimation or overestimation, pathological obedience, desire to be constantly liked, problem with authorities, feeling of helplessness, etc.
Therapeutic goals: development of independent thinking, strengthening of intuition, ability to notice one’s own thoughts and emotions, anchoring in one’s own story, finding one’s own solutions, balance
Brief content of the work: Searching for one’s own authentic journay
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse is a story that helps you realize your own personal freedom. It is a powerful story that shows in one person’s life the necessity of authentic experience and tireless search for an essential relationship with oneself.
Siddhartha is great for working with young adults, but also with adults who need to strengthen their self-confidence, have a problem with rules that seem meaningless to them, or feel that they have no place in this world. The story teaches independent thinking and strengthens intuition, but also teaches to work with one’s emotions.
Hermann Hesse came into contact with India since childhood, as his grandparents worked here as missionaries. When Hermann was thirty years old (1911) he went to India, but due to his health condition he had to end the trip earlier than planned. However, throughout his life he dealt with the Indian system of thought, which became a source of knowledge and wisdom for him.
In Siddhartha’s short story, he deals with the personal transformation of a person and “liberation”, which in the spirit of Indian philosophy can also be perceived as the establishment of personal balance, emotional maturity, the ability to endure time in silence with oneself, or look at one’s decisions and actions with the ability to forgive. In the short story, Siddhartha is looking for an answer to his basic question: how can he achieve a state of absolute freedom despite various obstacles in life? However, it does not turn to eternal truths that find freedom outside the real world. Siddhartha’s question makes sense to him in its pure human form, in the life we live right now, in our living presence.
In his desire for wisdom, Siddhartha detaches himself from the world, family, friends, lover and finally from his son. He finds that detaching himself from his beliefs and some ideas about life is beneficial for him, but some are not. At first he was convinced that there was only one right way to freedom, that it had to be discovered, learned. Perhaps this is also why he follows the teachings of the sages with absolute honesty, if he indulges in spontaneity without restrictions. He experiences extremes when he tries to follow the path of asceticism and later the path of sensual enjoyment of the world. However, none of his life decisions bring him inner reconciliation.
And even if over time he becomes aware of his own pride, egoism and disappointment, he discovers that he is unable to learn from his behavior. He realizes that he does not understand the world and cannot find the right guidance that will bring him freedom and peace. In the end, he sees no other way out and wishes for his own death. His own borderline existential situation leads him to ferryman Vasudeva. Thanks to him and the river (which symbolically separates the sensory illusion from what is real, true), he understands that he needs to discover his own path. Through calm and patient observation of nature and inner work, he gradually acquires emotional and personal balance, finds the meaning of life, gains humility towards life and perceives the inner beauty of the world.
From the beginning, Siddhartha was searching for his essential Self (atman) and to achieve this goal he needed to follow his own individual path through life. And even though his life was full of mistakes and detours from the beginning because he was looking for answers to burning questions about the freedom of a human being outside of himself, he understood that the truth was hidden within himself from the beginning. He just needed to let her out of him. In addition, he discovered that the teachings of other people can be rather an obstacle for him on his way.
There are many possible ways to work with this book, thanks to its straightforward philosophy and undemanding symbolism. Siddhartha’s personal crisis is the crisis of all of us. But what makes Siddhartha special is that he abounds with an unrelenting desire for knowledge and an immense will to seek. If we meet such a person who is in a deep personal crisis, but at the same time has a strong will to look for ways of relief, the story of Siddhartha can help him just by reading it. However, with accompanying therapy, the story can be more healing.
Description of the possibilities of professional pedagogical/therapeutic work:
When working with the book, we should realize the power of the human mind and direct the client’s attention to his desires, immerse him in the inner world and help him gain self-confidence in his own feelings and thinking. The story also points out that the solutions we force ourselves into or solutions we are forced into are not right for us. You don’t have to force yourself to extremes either, but it is important to take the time to figure out what is right for us, in which direction we need to go. The essence lies in recognizing your desires and feelings, which should not be left out of your decisions either. We can realize how healing it is to be able to stop for a moment, quiet the mind and let the answers to inner conflicts come to us.
Various relaxation techniques, breath work, imagination, etc. can also be helpful in working with the client.
Questions that we can rely on could be, for example, the following:
“What fills me with helplessness?”
“How could I take my power back?”
“When do I not feel like I’m betraying myself?”
“What do I really need to do for myself in this situation?”
“What are my deepest desires, and where do they lead me?”
“What is the first thing I will actually start doing for myself (second, third…)?” – make a list and slowly fill it.
Description of experience from own work with a literary work:
I return to Hesse’s Siddhartha often. I first read the story when I was twenty years old, but it really benefited me only after my thirties, when I realized that I was suffering from a strong trauma and that I needed to get out of it. The story was definitely one of many that I used on my way out of trauma. The pictures that were close to me told the story of a person who is suffering and cannot figure out how to relieve himself. The paths of others turn out to be a detour for him. The solution becomes a “return” to oneself.
It took me a while to realize that the way I perceive the events that led to the trauma and the way I need to grasp and deal with it is just my unique perspective, just my unique path. When I realized this fact, the healing was already taking place relatively quickly. Also for the reason that I did not look for recognition of my pain from others. On the contrary, I began to feel free to confess my own emotions, which helped me gradually figure out what I really needed. Such a return to oneself is then permanent. The acquired radical honesty towards oneself cannot be abandoned.
Čaputová, Barbora. 2017. Teória vykúpenia: [Redemption Theory:] Mircea Eliade and Hermann Hesse. In Philological studies 3. – Nümbrecht : Kirsch-Verlag, 163-176 p. ISBN 978-39-43906-37-0
Kaplan, Martin: 1998. Rethinking Ziolkowski’s “Landscape of the Soul:” A Mahayana Buddhist interpretation of Siddhartha: http://www.gss.ucsb.edu/projects/hesse/papers/kaplanpaper7.PDF
Kocku von Stuckrad: “Utopian Landscapes and Ecstatic Journeys: Friedrich Nietzsche, Hermann Hesse, and Mircea Eliade on the Terror of Modernity”. In: Numen. 57 (2010) no. 1, 78 – 102 p.
It has not undergone language editing!
Warning: The content may be contradicted for persons who are clearly anchored in other religiosity, or they do not tolerate Hindu and Buddhist religiosity well, so it is recommedned to find out person´s openness to multi-religiousness and multicultural penetration or overlapping, it is still recommended not to impose to publication, but to offer it as one from possiblities of personal growth and self-development.
The reference to literary piece created by:
Mgr. Barbora Čaputová, PhD., Workplace: United school in Bratislava, Slovakia, Last uptadate: Dec 30, 2022
The recommendation from Slovak to English translated by: Mária Trechová, Workplace: PRO SKIZP – Association for support of Slovak Chamber of Physicists, Laboratory Diagnosticians, Language Speech Therapists and Therapeutic Educators, c. a. Bratislava, Slovakia
Recommended citation procedure:
Čaputová, Barbora. 2022. Professional reference of the literary work of Herman Hesse Siddhartha. In Kotrbová, K. et al: Biblioterapia.sk. Bratislava: PRO SKIZP – Association to support the development of the Slovak Chamber of Clinical Physics, Laboratory Diagnosticians, Language Speech Therapists and Therapeutic Pedagogues, 2023. ISBN 978-80-974667-0-1 Available on: https://www.biblioterapia.sk/en/publikacia/reference-of-literary-work-siddhartha/
The contribution was created thanks to support from the European Union Erasmus+ program, Key action 2 – Cooperation between organizations and institutions, KA210 – Small partnerships for cooperation in the field of education and training. Project name “Prototype of online teaching aid for bibliotherapy”, project number 2022-1-SK01-KA210-VET-000082483. It represents the opinion of the author and the European Commission or author is not responsible for any use of the information contained therein.