They have been passed down in families through generations, from wizened elders who bequeath their wisdom in whispers, a mix of truth and myth spun out, like sugar, in spectacular fashion. They have been told in the courts of kings and queens—uproarious entertainment, with a lesson that lingers. They have been carved into rock and printed in books; they have been enacted on stage and taught in schools. In each culture and religion, in each country and civilization, to understand more about who they are and to teach ways of being and behaving—people have told stories.
On the Siddha Yoga path, stories have long been a means by which people can study and come to a more nuanced understanding of the Guru’s teachings. Over the years Gurumayi and Baba have told countless stories—stories from the Indian scriptures, from the lore of various cultures, from events in daily life. Those who hear and read these stories treasure them; for years on end they remember and recount these stories, referring with affection to “that story about the mind that Gurumayi told in my first-ever Shaktipat Intensive” or “that tale of Sheikh Nasruddin that Baba would tell in evening satsang.” These narratives, which have been told with such compassion, which are so precise and evocative in their descriptions, illustrate what it means to be on the path of sadhana. When we read and study them, when we listen to and reflect upon them, they lead us on a journey of inquiry that is endlessly fascinating, that is gratifying, that spurs lasting change.
When I received the assignment to render a collection of stories throughout 2019—specifically, stories that shed light on the teachings in Gurumayi’s Message—I immediately thought of all the stories I grew up hearing on the Siddha Yoga path. I thought of how those stories have stayed with me—their combination of gentleness and humor, of vivid imagery and deeply resonant truth according them permanence in my heart. These stories shaped my nascent understanding of the Siddha Yoga teachings as a child; and even now that this understanding has matured, I find, unfailingly, that returning to the Siddha Yoga stories helps me to keep refining it.
Many of the stories I will be rendering this year have been told by Gurumayi and Baba. They come from a variety of texts and traditions—from the great Indian epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharata; from the Puranas, including the Shrimad Bhagavatam and its tales of Lord Krishna; from the Jatak Katha, the parables of China, the koans of Zen Buddhism, and from Western folklore.
One key theme I will be exploring through these stories, given their focus on Gurumayi’s Message for 2019, is the mind and its workings. I can’t help but marvel at how perfectly suited the narrative is—as a literary form—for this topic. After all, what is it about a story that enchants? What is it about a story that appeals and resonates? Many things, perhaps—but chief among them, I believe, is the permission a story gives you to step out of the familiar corners of your own mind, away from the swirl of perception and judgment you’ve created about your world and how you relate to it. For a brief span of time, you’re inhabiting another world, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells—immersing yourself in it totally, if the storyteller has done their job right.
Some part of you knows, however, that this is not your world. And there is undeniable comfort in that knowledge. You can certainly empathize with the characters and their situations; you might even see yourself in them. At the same time, by virtue of its not actually being your story, you are afforded a degree of distance and objectivity. You see, with a clarity that might elude you in the circumstances of your own life, the follies and triumphs of those characters, where they are demonstrating the right or wrong understanding, where their effort is well-placed and where it is not. You get a bird’s-eye view into the very tendencies and patterns of thought that you yourself might be exhibiting. Yet from your perch way up high, you can better assess how useful—or not useful—these ways of thinking are, and you can consider what shifts in perspective are appropriate to make.
It is my hope, therefore, that you will approach these stories on Gurumayi’s Message for 2019 as a student of your own mind and life. Be honest with yourself, and be inquisitive. Be patient with yourself, and be generous. Be critical in your self-analysis without veering into judgment.
Each story will be accompanied by an audio recording, which means you can both read and listen to it. And do see how else you’re inspired to work with these narratives. They are a jumping-off point—the setting of the scene, if you will, from which your own varied and beautiful story unfolds.