Ancient Vedic India was a land where knowledge and wisdom were revered as the greatest wealth. There intellectual Brahmins, sagely Rishis, and equipoise Munis were honored for their incomparable knowledge. At a time when writing was not well developed, Smriti or memory was the main medium by which knowledge was recorded before transmitting it through Vak or the spoken word from a pre-ceptor Guru to his disciples Shishyas. Mantras or hymns composed in ancient Sanskrit were used to remember complex knowledge along with Kathy. or thought-provoking tales. These tales besides being entertaining were also enlightening and promoted deeper Vichara or contemplation. In this first volume of Rishis Tales, U. Mahesh Prabhu presents 21 such stories translated from the ancient Sanskrit. Tales that continue to inspire millions of people towards the true un-derstanding of Self, wisdom, peace, and prosperity.
Udupi Mahesh Prabhu is a media, management & political consultant. He is a Founder & Director of Vedic Man-agement Center and pens columns for BW Businessworld as well as Business Goa. A fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland, London (UK) and member of the International Federation of Journalists (USA), he also holds a Masters in Business Administration, with a specialization in Marketing.
India's vast and sublime Sanskrit literature is full
of wonderful stories, anecdotes, parables and
paradoxes since the oldest Rigveda thousands of
years ago. Great epics like the enigmatic
Mahabharata contain extraordinary tales of valour
that depict both the light and dark sides of human
behaviour and their far-reaching consequences.
Other texts highlight stories with magical animals,
powerful gods and demons, like the colourful
Human life is a realm of Maya or a magic show,
and we never know exactly what lurks behind the
appearances of the outer world, or those within
the depths of our own psyche. Many secrets,
dangers and opportunities reside even in ordinary
affairs that we cannot neglect for own karmic
peril. We must always look deeply and not simply
be taken away by the glitter of the senses, media
campaigns, or the allures of the outer world.
Forces hidden behind these may have another
meaning or intention.
Yet if we can move beyond this phantasmagoria of
the external world, we can discover spiritual
realities within and around us, breaking down the
barriers of the mind, challenging our ideas of
limited reality. Consciousness is everywhere and
everything in nature can speak to us and guide us
if we know how to look.
Wisdom is often best taught indirectly through
stories. If given directly through abstract concepts,
the human mind can take the concepts
superficially and miss the actual experience. For
example, you can talk about the Divine or
Paramatman, but to experience that supreme
reality is something else altogether, where speech
and mind cannot go.
Such indirect instruction, particularly done in a
way that the person doesn't know that he or she is
being taught, works better as it can circumvent the
opinions of the mind and address the core of our
being. Real wisdom can be placed in seed form in
simple narratives that anyone can appreciate, in
which curiosity compels us to ponder upon their
meaning, while mere speculative philosophy or
judgmental moral precepts have little value to
communicate with us, much less inspire us.
The Vedic Rishis occupy the highest level of
respect in Vedic thought. The Rishis were the great
seers of the cryptic Vedic mantras, who created
the foundation for the profound systems of Yoga,
Vedanta, Ayurveda and the many different Vedic
sciences. Yet the Rishis also provided practical
wisdom about how we live, extending from our
personal lives to governing a nation. Later the
term Rishi became generic for a sage or person of
profound insight and the many flowerings of the
Rishi implies wisdom and a higher vision that
challenges who we think we are and what we
believe the world to be. The current book of Rishi
Tales provides an excellent introduction to the
India's timeless tradition of wisdom tales that are
given in an easily accessible language and
storybook account, looking back to the heritage of
the Rishis and sages of India, known and
As someone who has translated the ancient Vedas
and tried to uncover their secrets in a scholarly
way, it is refreshing to see how the Rishi Vision
permeated all the literature and stories of classical
India, and in so many different ways.
U Mahesh Prabhu has created a fascinating series
of Rishi Tales, gathered from various traditional
sources, to share this perennial wisdom with a
contemporary audience, in a way that everyone
can understand. These stories cover a variety of
topics and life concerns, as well as having hidden
spiritual meanings. Whether one takes them
simply as engaging reading or as profound
parables to contemplate will depend upon the
depth and attention of the reader, but they
remain relevant to everyone, including children
and the youth. Prabhu brings in his knowledge of
Sanskrit and his skills at Vedic management to
share the Rishi wisdom for all to follow.
There are tales written to entertain, and then,
there are tales written to educate. However, there
are very few which are written with both aims in
mind. Vedic tales in Sanskrit, composed by
wise rishis from thousands of years ago are not just
to educate and entertain, but also to enlighten.
"What is enlightenment?" you may ask. There are
various definitions available. These include when
an individual becomes akin to the supreme
being with supernatural powers. Enlightenment for
the Vedic culture wasn't of this type. While they
did write tales that mention people earning
extraordinary powers - their ultimate pursuit was
to attain and retain a state of perfect equilibrium
and awareness. They called it Stithaprajna, a
state of being beyond good fortune or misfortune,
flattery or insult; a state where one's mind abides
in a state of eternal bliss even while engaged in
What is 'good' or 'bad'? Are they just a matter of
perception? If yes, perception by whom and at
what point in time? Is that which we perceive as
good to ay, goo tomorrow as we . at s
the way to assess good and bad in a practical
manner? Our world today is obsessed with data
and information. Most people confuse data and
information with knowledge and wisdom.
Nothing can be farther from the truth.
Data is not information. Information is not
knowledge. Knowledge isn't necessarily wisdom.
Data and information at best can present facts;
facts that can be interpreted, misinterpreted as
well as manipulated. To interpret data and
information - correctly , one must have true
knowledge and, above all, wisdom.
In this book Mahesh Prabhu presents Vedic stories in their core essence, relaying and focusing their deeper meaning, not interfering with it or reducing it to alien and superficial concepts. His stories are short, poignant, and diverse, with multiple levels of meaning, like parables, conundrums, paradoxes and axioms (sutras). He has drawn these stories from many traditional sources in Sanskrit literature and reworked them in a concise and invocative manner. They feature the names and stories of famous sages, kings, places and the peoples of old India. Such exalted figures as King Bhartrihari or the Vedantic sage Ashtavakra visit these pages and come to life again through them.
Wisdom is best conveyed in stories as it is experiential in nature,
not a matter of mere beliefs, concepts or theories. These Rishi
Tales are not simply literal accounts of a person's life, statements
or interactions, but episodes in a higher life expression that
borders on the timeless. One could say that they are fictional, but
one could also say that they reflect a higher reality not bound by
outer appearances. India abounds in such wisdom tales, with an
extensive literature in this field on several levels from ancient
Vedas to modern time, dwarfing that can be found anywhere else
in the world. Such stories can be entertaining and enlightening
to both young and old.
The Rishi is the ultimate archetype of these wisdom stories and
refers to a sage of Self-realization, who is attuned to the universal
movement, not any merely personal beliefs or sentiments. As
such, these rishi responses cannot be circumscribed by the
constraints of our ordinary human social reality and its mundane
concerns. They take us to a transcendent vision that is yet
profoundly relevant to our deepest motivations.
Today there are a number of authors, both from India and the
West, writing about the diverse and extraordinary stories of
India, particularly from the Hindu tradition and its vast and
colorful literature. Unfortunately, too many of these scholars
look at such wisdom tales in terms of modern psychology,
mythology, anthropology or even worse politics, and scale them
down to their own cultural interests and intellectual opinions, or
even demean them. Such approaches are misleading and
superficial and irrelevant to the core teachings involved. Scholars
miss the yogic knowledge that is the real purpose of these
profound depictions, which to awaken our higher intelligence
and link us with the wisdom of the cosmos, not simply to discuss
the challenges of human life. They aim at leading us to a state of
wonder and awe, not at any mere intellectual understanding.
Mahesh Prabhu is a dynamic and innovative thinker in the Vedic
field today. His Vedic Management Centre (YMC) is on its way
to becoming one of the premier institutions on Vedic knowledge
and covers a vast range of topics, helping us bring Vedic
principles and practices into every aspect of our lives, individual
and collective. The current book is one of its several important
publications, with many more likely to come in the years ahead,
bringing the principles of Vedic living into the entire society.
Mahesh Prabhu presents these wisdom stories in their core
essence, relaying and focusing their deeper meaning, not
interfering with it or reducing it to alien and superficial concepts.
His stories are short, poignant, and diverse, with multiple levels
of meaning, like parables, conundrums, paradoxes and axioms
(surres). He has drawn these stories from many traditional sources
in Sanskrit literature and reworked them in a concise and
invocative manner. They feature the names and stories of famous
sages, kings, places and the peoples of old India. Such exalted
figures as King Bhartrihari or the Vedantic sage Ashtavakra visit
these pages and come to life again through them.
Classical India was always a fascinating country with colorful and
powerful rulers and their magnificent courts, wise and witty sages
and their entourages of devoted disciples, and an open social
interaction and discourse, which allowed every sort of discussion
and debate to be freely engaged in. Such stories may bring in
animals and the world of nature as well, embracing the whole of
life as part of a greater expression of universal intelligence.
One can take these stories for their immediate and poignant
meaning and values, which are considerable, or one can
contemplate them and live with them, slowly absorbing their
implications, discovering yet deeper levels of meaning over time.
Such stories are refreshing, inspiring and motivating to our
spiritual quest and to our efforts to understand our often-
bewildering human lives. They help us recognize the greater
wisdom behind life that we are all struggling, sometimes fitfully,
to recognize, much less to achieve. They encourage us to pursue
an inner wisdom with a clarity of mind and heart, and a simple
yet direct insight that is ever new in every circumstance. No doubt
the reader will both enjoy and be elevated by this extraordinary
collection. Their meanings are much more relevant than any
modern novel, movie or news item.
Rishi Tales II is the second of these story collections, of which
there are likely to be many more over time. It continues in the
same idiom and approach as Rishi Tales 1. Such Rishi stories are
innumerable and can provide a new genre in Vedic wisdom
relevant to our society today. We look forward to further such
stories and depictions. They bring a new and insightful light into
our mental processes today that are often so much overburdened
with outer events that we forget the magical Rishi knowledge that
remains part of our deeper spiritual heritage. May that Rishi wisdom awaken in all!
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