Tales have been told as long as people have been talking. Tales well told communicate their message in a way that all of us like to hear. Many of us may not relish a philosophical or moral treatise but truth in the guise of a good story will be enjoyed by all.
Over hundreds of years as stories are handed down from one generation to another some points slip out some creep in some are exaggerated. The authenticity of the stories is not the issue whether a particular event took place or not a Saint really did this or that a miracle actually happened. What is important is the moral the message contained in the story. Saints use stories to hammer home what we need to know. The stories serve as vehicles for their teachings enabling the reader to absorb their perennial wisdom in a simple direct way.
Most of the stories in this book were drawn from the discourses of maharaj Sawan Singh (1858-1948) known by his disciples as the great Master. A military Engineer and Persian scholar he was a disciple of Baba jaimal Singh (1839-1903) who founded the Radha Soami Satsang near beas in the Punjab India for forty five years the great master taught the path of mysticism and meditation known as surat Shabd yoga the way of the saints and the science of the soul.
In this revised edition of tales of the mystic east some sixty additional stories have been translated from the original Punjabi and included with those of the earlier editions. As before the tales have been retold with additional contextual and cultural details for the benefit of readers unfamiliar with the Eastern traditions.
The book is now in two parts: the first and major part of the book contains new stories, as well as the retranslated and sometimes reworked tales from the first edition; the second part contains largely new material in the form of personal anecdotes originally recounted by the Great Master, and now retold, but retaining as far as possible his words and manner of speech.
The central truth that weaves its way through the book is the one message of all enlightened souls since history began: Love is God. But it is not, in fact, that simple, for the way to the kingdom of love crosses enemy territory, the enemy is mostly undercover, and we keep losing sight of the danger all around. The enemy is our mind; indeed, the mind is our favorite companion, and it is only gradually that we discover it is a trickster and a traitor—that it is our only real foe. It deceives, flatters, and seduces; like an autocratic dictator, i can even destroy us with its power.
The stories are very simple and will be enjoyed by young and old alike. This is the beauty of stories as a teaching medium, for we can all appreciate them from our particular point of view. For the discerning reader, they alert us to the many pitfalls on the way to God. And they inspire us to engage the enemy in battle by pointing to the beauty and brilliance of the land ahead. They talk of surrender, simplicity, devotion; of faith and obedience—the way of the spirit; and they talk of hypocrisy, confusion, vanity, anger, lust— endless deceits of the self-absorbed mind.
Set in the context of the traditions of Hinduism, Islam, and the Sikhs of north India, they remind us that, irrespective of the words and ways we use to describe moral and spiritual truths, those truths themselves are the same. We may call love God, Allah, Ram or Wahiguru; we may call the spiritual Master the Satguru, Guru or Murshid; we may call God’s creative power the Word, Shabd, Nam, or Kalma; we may worship in a synagogue, church, mosque, temple or gurdwara; we may express the entire gamut of human experience in any language; but none of this matters if we are looking for Truth, because Truth exists at a different level from all these forms.
The Great Master was known for his succinct and powerful way of speaking, not just during his discourses, but in everyday life also. A Muslim friend once told him he was going on a pilgrimage to Mecca and asked him if he wanted anything from there. The Great Master said, “Please give my regards to the God of Mecca.” The man was puzzled. “Is there a different God in Mecca?” The Great Master smiled and said, “Then why go there?”
When the voice of truth speaks, it strikes us. We may gain more in a flash of understanding than through weeks of study and reasoning. Such understanding fortifies us—we step back from the immediacy of the situation and review it with a detachment that stands us in good stead.
That we may gain more from such understanding than anything gained through the skills of body and mind is the moral of the story of the legendary One-Eyed Khan.
Born in poverty—his father was a drunken cobbler, his mother a prostitute—One-Eyed Khan was half blinded as a boy. One night his father returned from the tavern and found him praying. This so angered him that he broke his wine flask on the boy’s forehead, which left him blind in one eye.
As he lay dazed in a pool of wine and blood, God spoke to him: “Fear not, young Khan, for you shall hear my voice within you; with your single eye, you shall have understanding, for you shall see into the hearts of men.”
One-Eyed Khan became a wandering storyteller—the most magnetic in the land—who drew large crowds whenever he paused in his travels. It is said that when he spoke, birds stopped singing and flowers bent their heads towards him to catch every sparkling word from his golden tongue.
When the old king, who had no son, wanted to appoint a successor, he asked One-Eyed Than to attend a meeting in his bedchamber. At this meeting each of the chief ministers was invited to say what he’d done to deserve being king. Unknown to them, One-Eyed Khan was asked to look into their hearts and see what lay behind their words.
The chief treasurer spoke first. “I have introduced ten new taxes, 0 King, and doubled the gold and silver in your royal chests.”
“Well done,” said the king, “but tell me, why are the poor still poor and beggars still begging?”
“It is Allah’s will,” replied the treasurer.
The chief judge spoke next. “I have made a hundred new laws, 0 King, and brought order to every corner of your kingdom.”
“Well done,” said the king, “but tell me, why do the poor still lie in chains, their pleas unheard?”
“It is Allah’s will,” replied the judge.
The chief priest spoke last. “I have converted thousands to the faith, 0 King, and filled all your mosques to overflowing.”
“Well done,” said the king, “but tell me, why do the poor not pray in my mosques and prefer the tales of One-Eyed Khan to the teachings of my priests?” “It is Satan’s will,” replied the priest.
Finally, the king turned to One-Eyed Khan and, much to the disgust of the three chief ministers asked him what he thought of their claims to the throne.
One eyed Khan closed his one eye looked deeply into the hearts of the three chief minister and listened to God’s voice within. Then bowing low to the king he replied as follows I say our people are enriched by the wealth of God within them not by trade or taxation. I say your people find peace in god’s law of love not in the whips and manacles of lawmen. I say your people enjoy dancing to god’s music in their heads not praying on their knees in mosques.
Hearing these words the three chief ministers moved to wards one eyed khan to silence him. The king held up his hand let him finish he said so bowing again to the king One Eyed Khan continued. I say that every person in your kingdom whether rich or poor man or woman. Muslim or jew has the right to hear god’s voice and see his face and to know he loves them. Yes o king god loves your people more than your ministers do.
Enraged by this criticism from the mouth of a low born vagrant storyteller the ministers started beating him with their fists.
Stop! Cried the king raising himself from his bed. One eyed khan has spoken the truth and I appoint him to succeed me on the throne.
But my Lord pleaded the chief judge he is the son of a cobbler and a common prostitute.
Maybe he was replied the king but today he has become my son and tomorrow he’ll by your king.
So it was that one eyed Khan became king. The lowliest of men was transformed because he had understanding he heard the voice of god his eye was single his life was filled with light.
Commenting on the great Master’s stories his disciple Maharaj Charan Singh (1916-1990) himself the spiritual master at beas from 1951 to 1990 said being a scholar of Persian his whole background was that of the Persian mystics. If you read Persian literature you will find they always explain beautiful spiritual truths through parables and stories. His approach to satsang was in the same pattern. He would impress on us beautiful truths through an interesting and simple story.
In the Upanishads it says; cows are of many different colors but the milk is all of one color white thus the great teachers who proclaim the truth use varying forms to put it in yet the truth contained in all is one.
The stories in this book point to many different aspects of the way to god. As you enjoy them remember that a cup is a cup not the milk. The truth that we really want cannot be obtained through any book but only through spiritual practice guided by one who hears God’s voice within.
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