Wednesday, August 8, 2012
THREE QUESTIONS BY LEO TOLSTOY One day it occurred to a certain emperor that if he only knew the answers to three questions, he would never stray in any matter. The three questions were: What 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? The emperor issued a decree throughout his kingdom, announcing that whoever could answer the questions would receive a great reward. Many who read the decree made their way to the palace at once, each person with a different answer. But no answer could please the emperor; therefore, no reward was given. After several nights of reflection, the emperor; therefore, no reward was given. After several nights of reflection, the emperor resolved to visit a hermit, who lived up on the mountain and was said to be an enlightened man. The hermit never left the mountains and was known to receive only the poor. So the emperor disguised himself as a simple peasant and climbed the mountain alone. On the mountain, the emperor found the hermit digging a garden in front of his hut. When the elderly hermit saw the stranger, he nodded his head in greeting and continued to dig. 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?” The hermit listened attentively, but only patted the emperor on the shoulder and continued digging. Seeing the old man tired, the emperor offered his help in digging the ground. The hermit thanked him, handed the spade to the emperor 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. The emperor continued to dig till the sun started setting. 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 go back.” The hermit lifted his head and asked the emperor, “Do you hear someone running over there?” The emperor turned his head. They both saw a man with a long white beard emerge from the woods. He ran wildly toward the emperor before falling unconscious to the ground. Opening the man’s clothing, the emperor and hermit saw that the man had received a deep wound. The emperor cleaned the wound thoroughly and then used his own shirt to bandage it. At last, the wounded man regained consciousness and asked for water. The emperor ran down to the stream and brought back a jug of fresh water. Meanwhile, the sun had disappeared and the night air had begun to turn cold. The hermit gave the emperor a hand in carrying the man into the hut where they laid him down on the hermit’s bed. The emperor a hand in carrying the man into the hut where they laid him down on the hermit’s bed. The emperor was worn out from the long day of climbing the mountain and digging the garden. Leaning against the doorway, he fell asleep. When he rose, the sun had already risen over the mountain. He looked over to the bed and saw the wounded man staring at him intently. He said in a faint whisper, “Please forgive me.” “But what have you done that I should forgive you?” the emperor asked. “You do not know me, your majesty. I was your sworn enemy, and I had vowed to take vengeance on you, for during the last war you killed my brother and seized my property. When I learned that you were coming alone to the mountain to meet the hermit, I resolved to take revenge. But instead of finding you, I came across your attendants, who recognized me, giving me this wound. Luckily, I escaped and ran here. If I hadn’t met you I would surely be dead by now. I had intended to kill you, but, instead you saved my life! Iam ashamed and grateful beyond words. If I live, I vowed to be your servant for the rest of my life, and I will bid my children and grandchildren do the same. Please grant me your forgiveness.” The emperor was overjoyed to see that he was so easily reconciled with a former enemy. He not only forgave the man but promised to return all the man’s property, and to send his own physician and servants to wait on the man until he was completely healed. After ordering his attendants to take the man home. The emperor returned to ask the hermit the answers to his questions. He found the hermit sowing seeds in the each they had dug the day before. The hermit stood up and looked at the emperor: “But your questions have already been answered.” “How’s that?” the emperor asked, puzzled. “Yesterday, if you had not taken pity on my age and given me a hand with digging these beds, you would have been attacked by that man on your way home. Then you would have deeply regretted not staying with me. Therefore, the most important time was the time you were digging in the beds, the most important person was myself, and the most important pursuit was to help me. Later, when the wounded man ran up here, the most important time was the time you spent dressing his wound, for if you had not cared for him, he would have died and you would have lost the chance to be reconciled with him. Likewise, he was the most important person, and the most important pursuit was taking care of this wound. Remember that there is only one important time and that is NOW. The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion. The most important person is always the person with whom you are, who is right before you, for who knows if you will have dealings with any other person in the future. The most important pursuit is making that person, the one standing at your side, happy, for that alone is the pursuit of life.