If you have not uttered these words as a child, you have missed out on one of the greatest joys of growing up. If this request has been addressed to you as an adult, I hope your response was spontaneous and positive.
There is a magic about stories that never wears off, even for adult readers and listeners. They say that the short story came into its own as a 'literary genre' in the nineteenth century, with the masterpieces of great writers like Poe and Chekhov and Maupassant. I do not know much about literary genres; but I do know that here in India, with its rich oral tradition, short stories go back a long, long way. Indeed, every culture, every ancient civilisation, has its own vast treasure house of stories steeped in the religion, faith, myth and traditions of its society. Nor do we dismiss them any more as 'folk tales' or 'old wives' tales'. Modern anthropology accords due recognition to these stories as repositories of ancient wisdom and human insight. These stories pre-date the written word, and have come down to us through that delightful story-telling tradition that we have inherited from our grandmothers, great aunts and mothers, in those golden days when children were not left at the mercy of the computer and television for their entertainment.
We need to keep alive that glorious tradition even today. In the 70s, pictorial versions came in to rekindle the interest of a new generation of children, in the same stories that we heard from our grandmothers. In the '80s and '90s television 'took over' the task. Now, the power of the printed word is being re-asserted as we are getting books which offer a compilation of the same stories.
When I say 'same stories' it is not meant to be a disparaging phrase about the repetition of known and familiar stories. In fact, I strongly believe that these stories need to be repeated through more and more books and more and more channels and media. I do not for a moment think that a book or a CD can ever be a replacement for a child's grandparents: but in this age of nuclear families and working parents, our children must continue to have access to these treasures through all the possible media. Our children, as well as the eternal child that lives on in all sensitive adults For just as these stories are timeless and ageless, their appeal is universal, and transcends all barriers of class and age-group.
"That which is here, you will find everywhere; that which is not here, does not exist anywhere else." This is a statement that describes the wide variety of issues covered in our ancient epic, the Mahabharata. The same might be said of these stories from the myths and legends of the world's greatest traditions and faiths: heroism, courage, selflessness, compassion, faith, piety, the quest for truth and the aspiration of the spirit - we have beautiful, powerful stories that touch upon all of these topics. Nor are these stories concerned only with the profound and the noble: they have scope to deal too, with the mundane aspects of life - the need for thrift, caution in our dealings, reliance on common sense and reason, you name it, and these stories feature them all. We have Nachiketas side by side with Narada and Brighu; we have Maitreyi, Amrapali and Chandana, side by side with Avvaiyar and Vasuki. Native wit and humour liven these tales with colour and variety. Personally, I have found Mullah Nasruddin, Birbal and Tenali Raman quite irresistible.
Which would you rather hear - a sermon on truth or the story of Harishchandra? A discourse on the ideal marriage, or the story of Saryavaan and Savitri? A lecture on filial piety or the Ramayan katha? Isn't the alternative of the well-told story a truly delightful choice? It has been said, therefore, that every good story is a teaching picture.
Under these circumstances, it is indeed a wonderful thing that the editors and publishers of life Positive, one of India's leading magazines for seekers, are bringing out a collection of stories entitled More Teaching Stories. It is a testimony to the success of their efforts that the first volume has met with such a good reception, that they are now following it up with a second volume. I applaud their efforts and wish them success in this, as well as their future endeavours.
I was elated when Life Positive Books' second volume of wisdom tales, More Teaching Stories, was planned and assigned to me again. I think I have personally grown tremendously by editing the first volume, and as I envisaged, this volume has been even more empowering. What I realised more powerfully this time, was how all these tales give the same insights on life's core values, be it from the Bible, the Koran, the Puranas and Bhagavatam of Hinduism, the Sufi tales of the Middle East and Afghanistan, the Jataka and Zen tales from Buddhism, or folklore from all cultures. Couldn't we all move towards Oneness with just these tales, I pondered?
Teaching stories are not simple tales to be heard and forgotten. Rather, they are potent bearers of truth and wisdom. Palatably concealed in story form, they go deep within us and take root, eventually arising as an insight that throws light on the nature of life or the human being. Such stories can be told and retold, visited and revisited, meditated upon, as they may themselves change shape, revealing themselves variously in different circumstances, and at different stages of human development. Hence, a child and an adult will enjoy them, at their own levels and exposure.
Which is why they are being used for education, development, and motivation, all over the world, at all levels of growth. What is truly fascinating, is the fact that the inferences 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 our quest to acquire more and more knowledge, we hardly have time to digest, reflect, and assimilate. Teaching stories are the best tool to wisdom, as they entertain and educate seamlessly. While we may not remember the spiritual tenet that the story seeks to illustrate, the story remains with us, and through it, the tenet.
As contributions came in again 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. Though one was familiar with most of the stories, the new insight gained gave them a completely new dimension. When I wished to select my favourite, I happened to be rereading Tough Times Never Last, Tough People Do by Robert Schuller, which motivates us to make our own destiny. Immediately, the classic tale of Savitri from the Mahabharata came to my mind, for the story powerfully tells us how one can overcome anything with faith, courage, and fortitude.
When Dada Vaswani read the manuscript, and gave a wonderful foreword despite his busy schedule, I was ecstatic. We at Life Positive convey the utmost gratitude to him for his support and encouragement.
My sincere thanks to all contributors, Mukta Hegde for professionally editing the book and Pankuj Parashar for his amazing illustrations and enthusiastic participation. Thanks also to Geetanjali for her beautiful book design, and to Aneesh Ayyappan and Shreela A. Nair for ably executing it. And finally, my gratitude to editor-in- chief Suma Varughese for her guidance, and our chairman, Aditya Ahluwalia, for his unflinching support and for encouraging me to bring out the second volume.
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