What do Indian epics teach us about grief?

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Renuka Narayanan was the editor for religion, arts and culture for Indian Express. She has used her deep knowledge of Indian epics to study how they help modern men and women. In her latest book, Learning From Loss, she explains how grief and how we deal with it hasn’t changed since ancient times – in fact, there is much our Gurus can teach us about it.


Grief comes in many guises and puts us on a painful personal journey that we must walk alone. There are many sentimental and philosophical sayings about loss and grief, but there is no getting around the fact that it hurts. Grief leaves us in tears, shed or unshed, and robs us of sleep and laughter. It can discourage us so much that we are unable to function normally. Learning from loss is a slow struggle. Different people react in different ways and take their own time to deal with it.
Indeed, we are frequently told that time heals, but not how long it takes. That seems to depend on our individual sadhana, or emotional practice. There are no rules, nor is it in the least dishonourable to grieve. Being human, we cannot help but mourn our loss. But beyond the dark shadow of grief lies the golden calm of peace if we let our hearts and minds take us forward into it.

Our Indian stories have a great deal to offer us on coping with loss and grief. In my view, the epics and the lives and parables of saints and sages are principally about anger management and recovery from loss. They are like an illustrative textbook on response options. Somebody loses a loved one, somebody loses his honour, somebody feels abandoned by fate and deserted by luck. In selecting these stories, I looked for a variety of causes and responses across time and space from classical Hindu, Buddhist and Bhakti traditions. These stories touched a deep chord in me as I hope they will in you. I wish each one of us success in our personal journeys.

Read these wonderful stories in Learning from Loss – out now!


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