Please see preceding posts if you're just now entering the story . . . After several nights of reflection, the emperor resolved to visit a hermit who lived on a mountain and was said to be an enlightened man. The emperor wished to find the hermit to ask him the three questions, though he knew the hermit never left the mountains and was known to receive only the poor, refusing to have anything to do with persons of wealth or power. So the emperor disguised himself as a simple peasant and ordered his attendants to wait for him at the foot of the mountain while he climbed the slope alone to seek the hermit.
Reaching the holy man's dwelling place, the emperor found the hermit digging a garden in front of his hut. When the hermit saw the stranger, he nodded his head in greeting and continued to dig. The labor was obviously hard on him. He was an old man, and each time he thrust his spade into the ground to turn the earth, he heaved heavily.
The emperor approached him and said, "I have come here to ask your help with three questions: When is the best time to do each thing? Who are the most important people to work with? What is the most important thing to do at all times?"
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.