Sunday 10 March 2013


2013-06   Leo Tolstoy - Three Questions

[After reading Leo Tolstoy's illuminating story, WHERE LOVE IS, GOD IS, we shall take one more worthy illustration of the basic virtues of being good, doing good, loving, giving and forgiving from his TWENTY THREE TALES, namely, the last piece, THREE QUESTIONS. I give below a summary. The full story can be read from Twenty Three Tales pp. 238-242.]  

It once occurred to a certain king, that if he always knew the right time to begin everything; if he knew who were the right people to listen to, and, above all, if he always knew what was the most important thing to do, he would never fail in anything he might undertake.

And learned men came to the King, but they all answered his questions differently. The King agreed with none of them, and decided to consult a hermit, widely renowned for his wisdom. The hermit lived in a wood which he never quitted, and he received none but common folk. So the King put on simple clothes, and leaving his body-guard behind, went on alone.

When the King approached, the hermit was digging the ground in front of his hut. The King went up to him and requested answers  for his three questions.
The hermit listened to the King, but answered nothing. "You are tired," said the King, "let me take the spade and work awhile for you." "Thanks!" said the hermit, and, giving the spade to the King, he sat down on the ground.

The King repeated his questions. The hermit again gave no answer, but rose, stretched out his hand for the spade. But the King continued to dig.  The sun began to sink behind the trees, and the King at last stuck the spade into the ground, and said: "I came to you, wise man, for an answer to my questions. If you can give me none, tell me so, and I will return home."

"Here comes some one running," said the hermit, "let us see who it is." The King turned round, and saw a wounded man come running out of the wood. When he reached the King, he fell fainting on the ground. The King washed wound and bandaged it.  With the hermit's help, he carried the wounded man into the hut and laid him on the bed. 

The King was so tired that he crouched down on the threshold, and also fell asleep. When he awoke in the morning, "Forgive me!" said the bearded man in a weak voice. "I am that enemy of yours who swore to revenge myself on you, but your bodyguards recognized me and wounded me. I should have bled to death but you have saved my life. Now, I will serve you as your most faithful slave!" The King was very glad to have made peace with his enemy and to have gained him for a friend. 

The King looked around for the hermit. The hermit was outside, on his knees, sowing seeds in the beds that had been dug the day before. The King approached him, and said: "For the last time, I pray you to answer my questions, wise man." "You have already been answered!" said the hermit.

"If you had not pitied my weakness yesterday, and had not dug those beds for me, but had gone your way, that man would have attacked you, and you would have repented of not having stayed with me. So the most important time was when you were digging the beds; and I was the most important man; and to do me good was your most important business. 

Afterwards when that man ran to us, the most important time was when you were attending to him, for if you had not bound up his wounds he would have died without having made peace with you. So he was the most important man, and what you did for him was your most important business

Remember then: there is only one time that is important--Now! It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power. The most necessary man is he with whom you are,for no man knows whether he will ever have dealings with any one else: and the most important affair is, to do him good, because for that purpose alone was man sent into this life!"


  1. It is very great story , which leave a very big moral for human kind therefore i had decided to show this story as drama in my school.

  2. it's one of the great treasure of SIR LEO TOLSTOY ... such a great philosophy is not been read by me ever ....... thank you sir

    1. I have added a youtube video of 8 min now. Please see. SRaghunathan