Please see preceding posts if you're just now entering the story . . . The hermit listened attentively but only patted the emperor on the shoulder and continued digging.  The emperor said, "You must be tired.  Here, let me give you a hand with that."  The hermit thanked him, handed the emperor the spade, and then sat down on the ground to rest.

After he had dug two rows, the emperor stopped and turned to the hermit and repeated his three questions.  The hermit still did not answer, but instead stood and pointed to the spade and said, "Why don't you rest now?  I can take over again."  But the emperor continued to dig.  One hour passed, then two.  Finally the sun began to set behind the mountain.  The emperor put down the spade and said to the hermit, "I came here to ask if you could answer my three questions.  But if you can't give me any answer, please let me know so that I can get on my way home."

To be continued . . .

A note on this series

This post is part of a short series of postings taken from Tolstoy's short tale, "The Emperor's Three Questions."

The tale is a remarkable meditation on mindfulness, the awakened life, the practice of living from a prayerful center. Along with other Russian literary giants, Tolstoy wrote from inside nineteenth century Russia which experienced a revival of the Jesus Prayer among ordinary peasants who sought to live well in hard times.

I see Tolstoy's tale as a popularization of the spirituality of the Jesus Prayer for ordinary people. Reviving this story during our tumultuous century may serve to give us guidance for living well in the midst of the new challenges facing our daily lives.

Take time to ponder this little section of the tale and seek for ways it might guide your day today.

Don't hurry, there is real gold here.

You might also enjoy the award winning 2006 Russian film, The Island, which explores the ethical impact of 19th century Russian spirituality, and in particular, the Jesus Prayer, on our modern world.