Creative Writing, Fiction, Stories by Vikram Karve

A literary and creative writing weblog by Vikram Karve of Pune India

Monday, August 21, 2006

Teaching Stories

(Part 1)

Once upon a time, long long ago, an old wise man walked past a shipyard. Seeing a fire, which he had not expected to be associated with the sea, he asked a workman what it was for.

“We make tar,” said the workman, “and cover the cracks in the underside of the boat. That makes the vessel go faster.”

The wise man went straight home and made a bonfire. Then he tied up his dog and melted some tar in a pan. As soon as he brought the smoking tar near the underside of the mortified animal, the dog broke loose and ran like the wind.

“It works all right!” observed the wise old man.

Don’t we see it happening all around – trying to apply the right solutions to the wrong problems (or maybe the wrong solutions to the right problems?).

The wise man and his wife came home one day to find their house burgled. Everything portable had been robbed and taken away.

“It’s all your fault,” scolded the wife. “You should have made sure that the house was properly locked before we left.”

A neighbor said, “Maybe you did not lock the windows properly.”

“Why did you not expect this?” said another. “You should have installed a burglar alarm!”

“The locks were faulty and you did not replace them,” said a third.

“Just a moment,” said the wise man, “surely I am not the only one to blame?”

“Then who should we blame?” everyone shouted.

“What about the thieves?” asked the wise man, “Are they totally innocent?”

The wise man sent a small boy to get water from the well. “Make sure you don’t break the pot!” he shouted, and suddenly gave the child a tight slap.

A shocked spectator asked him, “Why did you hit the poor boy who done nothing wrong?”

“Because, you fool,” said wise man, “it would be too late to punish him after he broke the pot, wouldn’t it?”

These are teaching stories. Teaching stories have a special quality – if read in a certain kind of way they enlighten you. There are three ways to read teaching stories:-

· Read the story once. Then move on to another. This manner of reading will give you entertainment – maybe produce a laugh; like jokes.
· Read the story twice. Reflect on it. Apply it to your life. You will feel enriched.
· Read the story again, after you have reflected on it. Carry the story around in your mind all day and allow its fragrance, its melody to haunt you. Create a silence within you and let the story reveal to you its inner depth and meaning. Let it speak to your heart, not to your brain. This will give you a feel for the mystical and you will develop the art of tasting and feeling the inner meaning of such stories to the point that they transform you.

Teaching stories relate events that are funny, foolish, bemusing, even apparently stupid. But they usually have deeper meanings. A good teaching story has several levels of meaning and interpretation and offer us opportunities to think in new ways. At first you may just have a good laugh but as you think and reflect, the significance becomes more and more profound. Each story veils its knowledge and as you ruminate, the walls of its outer meanings crumble away and the beauty of the previously invisible inner wisdom is revealed, and you begin to identify yourself in the story, and to acknowledge that you too could be as foolish or as lacking in discernment as the characters in these classic tales.

From time to time, I will try to regale and illuminate you with a few of my favorite Teaching Stories in my blog. And let’s have an enlightened laugh together!



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