Here is a timeless collection of traditional stories that recount the personal spiritual journeys and true acts of selflessness by saints from various religious traditions indigenous to India, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Sufism. The authors present a diverse selection of these inspirational tales—about both men and women saints, from a variety of time periods, and from all over India—and make them relevant for a modern audience. The stories reveal that, despite their perceived differences, the same spiritual principles underlie all the great religious traditions.
Glener and Komaragiri present 26 tales of Indian saints, martyrs and other figures of religious inspiration. Affiliated with the transnational Hindu movement known as the Self-Realization Fellowship, both authors have selected broadly appealing stories that include varieties of Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh and Jain heroes and heroines. The authors admit that they have scripted traditional stories for dramatic and didactic effect, underscoring the universal values within each tradition. Each tale fits neatly within a short-story model that reads like a fable, culminating in a moral or inspirational insight, and followed by a lovely drawing of an Indian devotional figure. "Tegh Bahadur Helps his Hindu Brothers" describes how the ninth Sikh guru chose death over forcible conversion to Islam, and how his brave beheading at the hands of Aurangzeb inspires "all of India with the courage to resist evil." Bahadur's martyrdom is no less saintly than that depicted in the Jain tale, "The Wedding Feast that Never Was," the story of Prince Arishtanemi's abandonment of his bride and kingdom for the sake of the creatures that were to be slaughtered for the wedding rite. Throughout, themes of nonviolence and individual renunciation underlie the stories. The advantage of this presentation is its accessibility and coherence of style. Yet each story, written in much the same voice, loses something of the great variety of Indian religious traditions, in which tales of saints are sung, chanted, and recounted in many colorful and cacophonous voices.