Through the millennia, one of the most edifying and enjoyable ways for seekers to learn about sadhana and living a life of dharma has been to embrace the wisdom in stories. Tales of the spiritual quest are a source of inspiration and upliftment both for avid students and for those who do not yet recognize their own thirst for knowledge.
Some stories are straightforward; they enter your heart and give their gifts immediately. Others are like time capsules, revealing their meaning gradually, or else at the appropriate moment, as you continue to reflect on them. The true magic of any great story is that it is unique for each person who hears it. We may all receive the same words, but the experience of the story, the lessons and discoveries it conveys, are wholly our own.
A timeless tale is one that sings across the ages, bridges cultural divides, and vaults perceived barriers. Why is this so? I’m reminded of a play I once saw about the Malian mystic and Sufi sage Tierno Bokar. The play tells the story of his life and his message of religious tolerance and universal love. Toward the end of his journey, Tierno Bokar imparts a teaching that has remained with me ever since: “There are three truths in life: there is my truth; there is your truth; and there is The Truth.”
Since ancient times, storytelling has been the vehicle for exploring these three truths. Stories have the power to remind us that the longing to find meaning in life, to understand one’s self and one’s surroundings, to establish bonds and relationships, and to grasp the divine or true reality has existed across all eras of humanity. People from all walks of life have embarked upon similar paths, found themselves at a crossroads with the same questions, and endeavored to arrive at their destination—the experience of God.
Historians of our earliest past posit that dance and song were the first evolutions of storytelling. Our ancestors were wonderstruck by the natural elements—the rising and setting of the sun and moon, the seeming dance of fire and wind, the behavior of wild beasts, and so on. They gave form to their amazement through these creative expressions, making them rituals.
In Western culture, these rituals gave birth to Greek drama, in which, again, there was a determination to understand the riddles of existence. In the Eastern hemisphere, the rituals of song and dance evolved into nuanced and masterful expressions of performance such as shastriya sangeet and shastriya nritya, classical Indian dance; xiqu, Chinese opera; and bunraku, Japanese puppetry (to name just a few examples). Now, in the modern era, storytelling in its myriad forms continues to be ever-present in all societies.
On the Siddha Yoga path, both Baba Muktananda and Gurumayi Chidvilasananda have emphasized the great importance of reading stories, narrating stories, and telling stories—the stories that invoke the desire to do sadhana and live a life of dharma.
I am extremely grateful that I follow the Siddha Yoga path, where reading and telling great stories are part of the practices. I have always loved a good story. As I was growing up, like many children I had an imagination that would carry me off to faraway worlds and inspire dreams of beauty, wonder, and adventure. This early fascination drew me to the creative life of acting in theatre.
In writing this introduction, I see that it was the stories of the Siddha Yoga lineage that first made me fall in love with this path. When I was in college, I read Baba’s telling of his journey to enlightenment in Play of Consciousness, his spiritual autobiography. It captured my heart—for here, at last, was the quest I had been searching for all my life! Through Baba’s compassionate words—which were unprecedented for sharing what they did of the spiritual journey—he taught me that the magic of a human life is revealed in the practice of meditation as guided by the Guru’s grace. I felt Baba was drawing for me the map of the journey I wanted to traverse, and all the hidden wonders I could discover along the way.
I went on to read Gurumayi’s books and listen to her talks, which often include spiritual stories. Gurumayi became my favorite storyteller. Listening to her tell stories was and is, for me, like standing at a summit’s edge, witnessing the golden sun illumine the firmament. I hear her words, and I realize she is whispering to my heart: Yes, yes, this is the great Truth. This is your great Truth. This is who you truly are.
Perhaps you’ve discovered your own appreciation for the tradition of storytelling on the Siddha Yoga path. Or perhaps you are just beginning to find for yourself the great joy of reading, listening to, and contemplating Siddha Yoga stories—both on your own and with family, friends, mentors, and fellow Siddha Yogis. In either case, this year you will have the opportunity to further your study and engage your imagination through Siddha Yoga storytelling.
For the year 2020, Gurumayi has chosen several stories to support your study of her Message. These stories are rendered by Siddha Yogis, and they are being featured here on the pages of Explore & Study Gurumayi’s Message for 2020.
Each story is presented in writing and is also read aloud by a storyteller. You can access these stories by registering for the Workbook on Gurumayi’s Message. As you play the recordings, I encourage you to bring your full awareness to listening and to allow the language and lessons of the story to resonate on both cognitive and subtle levels. In earlier times, the ears were the primary receptors of storytelling and knowledge. This was true particularly in ancient societies that preserved their legacy and culture through the oral tradition.
Today, we are returning once again, through technology, to the simple act of listening to stories. The global Siddha Yoga sangham is listening together, sharing in the same stories, and, through our study of these stories, allowing them to do their work of connecting us to the world around us, to each other, to our own deepest selves.