Ancient Teaching Stories
Teaching stories is a term introduced by Idries Shah to describe stories and anecdotes that have been deliberately created as vehicles for the transmission of wisdom.
"On the surface teaching stories often appear to be little more than fairy or folk tales. But they are designed to embody - in their characters, plots and imagery - patterns and relationships that nurture a part of the mind that is unreachable in more direct ways, thus increasing our understanding and breadth of vision, in addition to fostering our ability to think critically." - Robert Ornstein
Some examples of teaching stories are Sufi stories of Nasrudin or ancient fables, Zen koans, Hasidic tales, Aesop’s fables, and the stories of Buddha. During the early years of my spiritual training, my teachers would often give me stories in answer to my questions. Sometimes, I understood the essence of the story…sometimes, the answers would elude me for years.
Over time, I came to understand that the search for answers is not the reason that we ask questions. In truth, we are looking for pieces of our own puzzle, bricks in the Path that we can apply to the patchwork of our individual story.
I assumed that all my friends, students, and loved ones knew all the stories that I related. I found that this was not the case. Teaching stories flow from one culture to another…one mind to another, and pass gently through the soul leaving the softest of impressions. In truth, the greatest of these leaves us changed forever.
I have chosen these stories for their lessons. Some of the stories are brilliant in their poignancy and beauty. Some of the stories are harsh and cruel, like the lessons of life, but with a spark of hope always embedded within. There are a few stories sprinkled within this text that are designed to transform the reader at the core. You will know those when you read them.
These stories are drawn from many ancient cultures. The breadth of human wisdom is wonderfully preserved through our tradition of story. Curiously, these stories have no known authors. The Master is an amalgamation of wise men from a variety of cultures. He speaks the truths that color the boundaries of our deepest dreams.
May these stories awaken the child that lies waiting to teach us all the ways of the inner Master.
Mitchell and Kathy Gibson
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