PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION
The abstruse ideas of religion and philosophy have an unerring appeal when clothed in homely imagery. Great truths are easily comprehended when expressed through a simple figure or similitude. The homeliness of the outer crust endows the core of the teaching with an effortless familiarity, ensuring its usefulness in the day to day life of religious practice. Parables therefore occupy a most important place in the teachings of the saints and seers. Jesus and Muhammad, Buddha, and the Vedic Sages have again and again adopted the allegorical method of presentation as an effective way of religious instruction. In this respect they have widely differed from professional philosophers and theologians. The Bible tells us that when Jesus delivered one of his parables, ‘the people were astonished at his doctrine, for he taught as one having authority and not as the scribes’. The directness of appeal inherent in parables is well borne out by this observation. Another point about the way in which the great Teachers taught deserves mention here. When Jesus taught the gathered, crowd his first parable, he was questioned by his disciples as to the propriety of speaking to the multitude in parables. His reply was that by so doing he had thrown a veil over the inner import, making it difficult of comprehension by all except those who really cared to understand. This should not be taken as an indication of a narrow conservatism in his outlook; on the contrary, it points out only the excellence of the methodology adopted by true and great Teachers of men. Easy winning makes the prize always cheap. The Mahabharata hands down to us an ancient tradition which advises teachers to part with the great truths of religion only to earnest enquirers. The motive of Jesus was not different from this. Sri Ramakrishna, the spiritual teacher par excellence that he was, however, does not make any effort to make his parables obscure; the morals they convey lie on the surface. Many of his parables are drawn from ordinary domestic and social life, customary with the people who lived around him. Some he had devised on the model of Puranic stories. But all have a humorous vein and bear witness to his consummate wit and keenness of observation. We hope this collection of the parables published for the first time in separate book form will be of service to all who wish to get some acquaintance with the fundamentals of spiritual life through the interesting medium, of payables, and stories.