Foreword by Dr David Frawley to RISHI TALES (Volume 1) by U. Mahesh Prabhu.
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 Ramayana.
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 heritage.
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 unknown.
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.
Sanskrit wisdom is not just abstract mysticism or metaphysical logic but reflects all of human life and nature, integrating them into an understanding that the entire universe is one family, and that we contain the entire universe and all human potentials within each one of us. All of life is a story or a play – hopefully, a tale of wisdom and joy. May these Rishi tales help each one of us discover his or her own inner story of wisdom, compassion, and contentment.
We look forward to further volumes in this series.
Dr David Frawley
Santa Fe, New Mexico USA
April 20, 2018