Highlighting the importance of storytelling in Buddhism as a direct and meaningful way to engage the Dharma, Gil Fronsdal shares classic Buddhist tales.
This talk from Gil Fronsdal was originally published on DharmaSeed.org
Buddhism & Storytelling
In this unique talk from Spirit Rock Meditation Center’s Family Retreat on 8/02/12, Gil Fronsdal discusses the importance of storytelling in Buddhism as a way of moving pasts abstractions and numbered-lists to engage in a more personal and living relationship with the Dharma. Relaying how the Buddha was a great storyteller, and how so much of Buddhism is in the sharing of these stories; Gil takes the opportunity to tell some classic Buddhist tales.
“It could be that rather than what’s important in Buddhism or religions is the story, maybe what’s more important is the storytelling, because it’s in the storytelling that we discover ourselves today. So I might tell you a story, but it’s how you tell the story to yourself that is important.” – Gil Fronsdal
Omid Safi offers meaningful spiritual stories in this ‘Fireside Chat with Rumi,’ on Ep. 15 of Sufi Heart
Buddha Didn’t Make It Home (8:01)
Gil begins his story session with a retelling of Buddha dropping his body, showcasing how the way we share a story can shed light on various meaningful interpretations. Continuing with Buddhist tales, Gil reflects on old age, sickness, death, privilege, parenting, the fullness of life, and the Heavenly Messengers, through the lens of young Buddha.
“The Buddha didn’t make it home. He was heading home, he didn’t make it. He died first. Is that meaningful? If you tell the story a certain way, understand a certain way. It’s meaningful to me because you don’t know if you’re gonna make it home. We have plans, ideas, aspirations for our lives…The Buddha didn’t finish his plans, he wasn’t able to. He didn’t make it home. Isn’t that a powerful story? Even so, he died peacefully, at ease, feeling quite content.” – Gil Fronsdal
Jack Kornfield explores Identity, Death, and the Heavenly Messengers, on Ep. 110 of Heart Wisdom
The Stories We Tell Ourselves (26:00)
What are the stories you tell yourself? How many of them do you live in day after day? Observing that so much of how we relate to our lives is based on the stories we tell ourselves, Gil offers insight into how we can use storytelling to our advantage—uprooting unbeneficial stories and replacing them with reference points of peace, wellbeing, ease, and calm. From here, Gil shares more stories and reflections around death, healing, and the Heavenly Messengers.
“We tell ourselves lots of stories, and then we inhabit those stories, we believe those stories. Are they necessary? One of the stories Buddhists can explore is to have a reference point of peace, wellbeing, ease, calm—and use that to ask the question… ‘What’s the story you’re telling yourself that says that it’s worthwhile and appropriate to give up your wellbeing and peace at this moment?'” – Gil Fronsdal