The moment you read anyone story from this collection, you are tempted to read more and more. Each story triggers its own thought and leaves a lasting impact. The value addition is enormous and equally nourishing for the mind and soul.
I have had to resist the temptation of reading all of them in one go, for I wanted to taste, chew, and digest each of them, one at a time. Or else, how would I be able to recall them with the same clarity as they entered my mind?
I have already found occasion to narrate some of the stories to drive home their teachings. For instance, 'The statue that sculpted the subject'. I narrated it to my fellow police colleagues attending a special police training course. I asked them to see for themselves if some of the current leadership were not standing before their seniors/masters with hunched backs when they could stand erect? By this I meant: were they not afraid of being correctly assertive even though it was their professional duty to be? Were their fears not self- generated for self-service or self-protection, blinding them to their professional responsibility of true service to the spirit of justice? In other words, one could either have a straight spine or a hunched back.
I suddenly saw a few of the participants straighten up. It was interesting to see how an awareness of a thought suddenly changed a posture. This was exactly the message of the story.
The readers must read the story for themselves to know more. Like this one, there are innumerable others for all... age, status, faith, gender, community, geography being no bar...
The best form of learning happens automatically, without conscious effort. In this, what could be better than stories? No wonder stories have been used since time immemorial by masters and teachers to convey life's core values. The parables of Jesus, the Puranas and Bhagavatam of Hinduism, the Sufi tales of the Middle East and Afghanistan, the Jataka and Zen tales from Buddhism, have all enthralled and enlightened people through the ages.
There are many types of stories, fables, myths, fairy tales, and so on. However, a teaching story is a special kind of tale. Perhaps it will be better to understand this term through dissecting what it is not. Teaching stories are not simple fables which have a simple 'moral' for the reader. They are not merely fairy tales that amuse. At its heart, a teaching story encapsulates the wisdom and truth of life - a timeless human heritage that teaches us in the most pleasurable way how to live. Such stories can be told and retold, visited and revisited, and meditated upon. They themselves change shape and reveal themselves variously in different circumstances and at different stages of human development, and hence, a child and an adult, a seeker and a guru, will enjoy them at their own levels.
Unquestionably, teaching stories, as a form of learning, have no parallel. They contain so many layers of meanings and interpretations that they never fail to yield a precious nugget of insight. Fascinatingly, the inference one gets, as in many real-life dilemmas and situations, is not a simple right or wrong, but a many-layered contextual expression of life with all its complexities in place.
In recent times, we have seen a massive increase in the amount of knowledge we have access to, but surprisingly little increase in wisdom. In our quest to acquire more and more knowledge, we hardly have time to digest, reflect, and assimilate. It is here that teaching stories are the best tool to wisdom, as they entertain and educate seamlessly. While we may not remember the precise wordings of a spiritual tenet, the story seeks to illustrate the tenet and through it, the tenet remains with us.
The compilation of this book has been a wonderful, God-sent opportunity to me, as I spent many hours mulling over them, getting the many insights they tried to convey and trying to understand how I could apply them in my own life. I can truthfully say that my own personal growth has catapulted amazingly in the process.
As contributions came in from co-seekers, writers, and esteemed gurus, it was incredible to see how the same story can mean different things to different people at different times.
At the end of the day, a story communicates its message in a roundabout, oblique manner, and so, though one was familiar with most of the stories, the new insight gained gave them a totally new dimension. For instance, although I had read the story of the saint and the scorpion earlier, Swami Chidananda's lucid and erudite interpretation gave a wonderful new insight of not allowing your own true nature to get corrupted. Similarly, each contribution brought with it a new facet of understanding.
When I was spent editing, the picking of my 'favourite' was a great challenge. Would the favourite be the episode of the building of Rama Setu and the little squirrel, which comes to my mind every time I see the timid creature with three lines on its furry back? Would it be the story of the answers given by Yudhistra to the Yaksha in the Mahabharata that brings out the eternal mystery of life? Would it be one of the pithy yet profound Sufi and Zen tales...? Finally, I picked the story of Angulimala, for the tale, though read many times over the years, still enthrals, never failing to give me goose pimples and new insights every time I read it.
Faraaz Tanveer, my then colleague at Life Positive, collaborated on the illustrations, revealing a distinct style of his own. Though he is pursuing academics now, he did not falter in his commitment to this assignment, and we at Life Positive truly appreciate this.
Suma Varughese, the editor-in-chief of Life Positive, lent unflinching support by mentoring, guiding, and motivating me at every stage of the project.
Paro Anand, who edited the volume, was extremely prompt and professional.
Kiran Bedi, a woman of substance, whose life has a distinct spiritual outlook, is an inspiration to many of us in India, and indeed, the entire world. As an advisor of Life Positive, she has admired the teaching story section in the magazine, and hence, was very pleased with this initiative. I extend my deep gratitude to her for having taken time off her busy schedule to go through the volume minutely, and write a warm and generous foreword.
Last, but not the least, I am truly grateful to Aditya Ahluwalia, the chairman of Life Positive, who gave us all the necessary support for this endeavour. Essentially, this book is one more manifestation of his commitment to spiritual values, positive thinking, and personal growth.
The book is now yours. May it give you hours of enjoyment ... and a lifetime of wisdom.
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