Written in a prose of almost biblical simplicity and beauty, Siddhartha is the story of a soul’s long quest for the answer to the enigma of man’s role on earth. As a youth, the young Indian Siddhartha meets the Buddha but isn’t content with the disciple’s role. He must work out his own destiny––a torturous road on which he experiences a love affair with the beautiful courtesan Kamala, the temptation of success and riches, the heartache of struggling with his own son, and finally, renunciation and self-knowledge. The name “Siddhartha” is often given to the Buddha himself––perhaps a clue to Hesse’s aims contrasting the traditional legendary figure with his own conception.
This new edition of the classic Siddhartha includes The Dhammapada (“Path of Virtue”), the 423 verses attributed to the Buddha himself, which forms the essence of the ethics of Buddhist philosophy.
The 423 verses in the collection known as The Dhammapada (pada: “the way”; dhamma: “the teaching”; hence, “The Path of Truth”) are attributed to the Buddha himself and form the essence of the ethics of Buddhist philosophy. There are a number of English translations of The Dhammapada, but this version by Irving Babbitt, for many years professor at Harvard and founder, with Paul Elmer More, of the movement known as “New Humanism,” concentrates on the profound poetic quality of the verses and conveys, perhaps more than any other, much of the vitality of the original Pali text. Babbitt devoted many years to this translation––it was a labor of love. Together with his essay on “Buddha and the Occident,” which is also included in this edition, The Dhammapada was one of the basic components of his view of world history, a view which has influenced leaders of thought as diverse as Newton Arvin, Walter Lippmann, David Riesman and T. S. Eliot. Eliot, indeed, once wrote that “to have been a student of Babbitt’s is to remain always in that position.”