Manoj Das' Tales

January 13, 2023 [books] #dharma

Book: Tales Told By Mystics
Author: Manoj Das

Manoj Das is a much decorated Odiya author and a devotee of Aurobindo. This book is a compilation of folk tales circulating in the Indian subcontinent in the twentieth century. They are essentially of religious nature. Versions of these stories are part of my childhood. Themes include search for God, who is within, the futility of visiting religious places if it's not accompanied by inner transformation, rogue sadhus changed by wearing the ochre robe or by the faith of the devout. The dissolving of identity is emphasized and also the power of faith. The latter is unsurprising, this is the land of Bhakti after all. The dissolving of identity is a close to universal precept among many Indian religions, even if the consequences of that idea has had curiously minimal impact on the lived experience of most people. Relatedly, there is no mention of jati at all, which reminded me yet again of the sort of literature I was exposed to as a child.

The stories are simple and memorable enough, given the themes, and I found myself entertaining children of friends with these. If nothing else, this is valuable for that alone. I am tempted to say it's also valuable because it captures ideas from a more innocent time, when Indian religion still seemed to hold promise of liberation. Now accessing the same attitude as an adult requires some considerable soul work and rationalizing.