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 (VMC) 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 (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.
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 I. 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!
Acharya Vamadeva Shastri
Santa-Fe NM USA
December 15, 2018