The best form of learning is the one that happens automatically without us being conscious of any effort in understanding any theory or abstract concept. In this, what could be better than stories? No wonder stories have been used since time immemorial by masters and teachers to convey life’s core values. The parables of Jesus, the Puranas and Bhagavatam of Hinduism, the Sufi tales of the Middle East and Afghanistan, the Jataka and Zen tales from Buddhism have all enthralled and enlightened people through the ages.
There are many types of stories, fables, myths, fairy tales and so on. However, a teaching story is a special kind of tale. Perhaps it will be better to understand this term through dissecting what it is not. Teaching stories are not simple fables which have a simple ‘moral’ for the reader. They are not merely fairy tales that amuse. Rather, they are snippets of life designed to show effective ways of defining and responding to common life experiences, Such stories can be told and retold, visited and revisited, meditated upon, as they themselves may change shape, revealing themselves variously in different circumstances and at different stages of human development, and hence a child and a adult will enjoy it at their own levels.
Unquestionably, teaching stories as a form of learning have no parallel. There are so many layers of meanings and interpretations that they never fail to take one to a different plane of existence. What is truly fascinating is the fact that the inferences one gets, as in many real life dilemmas and situations, is not a simple right or wrong, but a many layered contextual expression of life with all its complexities in place.