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FAITH AND THINGS MUNDANE

Tales told by mystics By Manoj Das, Sahitya Akademy, Rs 180

Tales told by Indian mystics and orally transmitted through the ages constitute a significant branch of India’s literary heritage and occupy an important place in it. Subtle wit, light wisdom and a strong spiritual flavour account for the enduring appeal of these stories among generations of common people.

The stories, often centering round sadhus, sages and other holy men, point to the power of faith over things mundane. Many of these tales have an element of the ascetic denial of life. They can be viewed as a revolt against the common man’s preoccupation with the selfish concerns of life.

But some of the stories stress the importance of remaining in the world amidst all its mundane preoccupations and yet remembering the divine — a task far more difficult than disregarding normal daily activities and devoting oneself exclusively to god.

Many of the stories, didactic in tone, carry significant moral lessons. What makes one happy' The answer, from the mystic’s point of view, is — man can be happy only when his soul is satisfied.

The story, “The Final Choice”, shows that change of form and style does not lead one anywhere as long as the consciousness remains unchanged. According to the story, “Gold for Happiness”, happiness is a state of consciousness independent of external factors. When the mind is wretched, even a positive external appearance is not of much help.

The story, “Curse or Blessing”, shows how one can be engrossed in action and yet be in a state of renunciation within.

That god is within ourselves is the maxim of the story, “A Gift for the Queen”. Must one look for him outside' The “missing necklace” was with the queen, yet she looked for it everywhere.

The story, “Trying to know the Elephant”, underlines the truism that reality is too vast for the petty human mind to grasp. The blind friends in the story symbolize the blindness of the mind of a man who hits upon an aspect of truth and asserts it to be the entire truth.

The story, “Three Boons”, suggests that freedom of choice sans wisdom is completely meaningless. The Indian democracy is a glaring example of this truth.

“Wanted a Scholar, Old and Bold” focuses on envy and ego as the two most dangerous foibles of man. “Envy blinds one to reality, as nothing else does — and ego blinds one to one’s own defects,” is the moral of the tale. And scholarship or a high social position does little to free a man of these vices.

In this scientific age ruled by reason and logic, these tales told by our mystics have not entirely lost their relevance.

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