Once upon a time there lived a wise man, considered the most intelligent, maybe, in the
entire world. He knew all languages. It suffices to say that he was a wise man recognized by the
entire world. And he travelled.
One time, as he disembarked a ship, he saw a man sitting and drawing something on sand
using a stick. The sage approached that man, looked closer but couldn’t understand what the man
was writing or drawing. And the sage said: "Pardon me, but I am curious - what are you doing?"
The man replies:
- Aren't you this man?
- Yes. Do you know me?
- But how did you know?
- If you want to know what I do and what I am writing... I am going to the same place as you.
You can come with me, and eventually you will see everything yourself.
And so the two men walked together. Suddenly darkness fell. They see a nice big house, so
they knock on the door, and they are let in. They were received with great hospitality. They
walk along the hallways and find a lot of precious objects, such as a golden vase standing on a
golden tray, a painting in a golden frame, etc. Wealth is felt everywhere. The host was gracious
and hospitable. The travelers enjoyed a delicious supper, got comfortable beds in a nice room,
bathed. They fell asleep. At dawn they got their stuff together, and the host says: "If you like,
stay longer." The sage wanted to stay, but the other traveler said: "No, thank you, we are in a
hurry." And they both left.
They walked a few steps, and the wise man feels that the other holds something under
his shirt. So he asked: "What are you carrying there?" The other opened the shirt and retrieved
a golden vase. Sage asked: "Why did you steal that vase?" "You will understand later," was the reply.
overnight. They notice a house: not as great, but not bad either - average house. There was
nothing around it anyway. They knocked. They were let in, but the host was inhospitable. They
were shown directly to their room. The travelers smelled some very delicious food. The wise
man became excited that now they will enjoy a wonderful meal. Yet, the host ate alone, and
the travelers received only the leftovers. They were hungry, so they had to contend with the
leftovers. Then the host told his servant to show them to a barn for lodging. The two men stayed
overnight in the barn. In the morning they got up, but for breakfast they received only a slice of
bread and a glass of water. As they were leaving, the man who previously stole a golden vase
gave it to the host and said: "Thank you kindly for your hospitality." And the two men left.
The wise man was perplexed. "Why did you give him the vase?!?", he said. The other
man replied: "You will understand later."
They walked on. Another nightfall. They see some house, knock. A man opened the
door; no servants, nothing. He is alone, by himself. His beard is uncombed. It turned out that he
is an alchemist. He tries to turn iron into gold. He has been staging experiments for his entire
life, but nothing worked out. He welcomed the travelers as equals, and he said: "I want to give
you a treat, but all I have are garlic and bread. Water is in abundance."
They took the bread, spread garlic over it and ate it. This was followed by a glass
of water. They slept overnight. The man who has been doing all the work so far tells the
sage: "Let's rise early". They got up early. The "active" man lit a match and set the alchemist’s
house on fire. The wise man was getting out of his mind this time and said: "This alchemist
welcomed us the way he could. Why did you set his house on fire?!?" “You will understand
later”, was the reply.
Then they came to a city. They knocked on a door, and it turned out that they entered
a house of a widow. The widow had a 12-year-old son. She welcomed them heartily. In the
morning she catered a good meal for them and bid them farewell. And sage’s companion asked
the widow for directions to the place they wanted to reach, and he named a city. She started
explaining the directions. The sage’s companion said that they, foreigners, didn’t quite know
their way around in this area, and he asked whether widow’s son could should the way. She gave
her consent and told her son: “Go show them the way.”
They walked on and reached a river. River was wide, fast and wild. They saw a sturdy
bridge across the river. The boy says: “Just cross this bridge, and you will easily find out the rest
of your directions.” Sage’s companion asks the boy: “Perhaps, you could walk us to the end of
the bridge?” The boy agreed. When the travelers approached the middle of the bridge, sage’s
companion grabbed the boy and threw him into the river.
The wise man was going insane. “I, the wise man, know everything. But you do
outrageous things. I can’t fathom them.”
His companion replies: “There is nothing to understand. Our first host was a very
wealthy man. So wealthy, in fact, that he doesn’t cherish his abudance, and such behavior could
lead him to poverty. Therefore, I stole a golden vase to show him that someone might take some
of his riches. If theft happens a couple of times on a greater scale, then he might become
impoverished. Yet, currently, he brags about his riches. Such behavior dooms him to eventual
Sage says: “Fine, I understand now. But how about that second host who was
inhospitable, yet you gave him a golden vase as a present?”
Sage’s companion continued: “I gave him that vase, because his initial judgement of us
was that we are dressed poorly and therefore we can’t offer much in return. By giving him the
vase, I illustrated that one should judge people by their intelligence rather than their outfits. And
he will understand this eventually.”
Sage responded: “Fine, I can understand this, too. And how about that alchemist, who has
been trying to turn iron into gold all his life? Why did you set his house on fire? After all, he
shared the last scraps of food with us.”
His companion replied: “That alchemist has been trying to do something that is
unrealistic. How to turn iron into gold? And to relieve him from perpetual suffering, I did a good
deed for him: set his house on fire. When the house burns down, he will discover a bulky golden
chest full of gold and diamonds. After this discovery he will live comfortably, and he will
abandon his initial idea.”
Sage reasoned: “All right. With your explanation, I begin to understand this as well. But
what about the poor widow?!? She was so welcoming to us, so hospitable. Why did you throw
into the river her only child?”
His companion said: “Her child was 12 years old. When he would have turned 16, he
would have killed you.”
The sage was perplexed: “Who are you that you decide everything by yourself?”
Sage’s companion shrugged off his clothes and flew away. He turned out to be an angel…
We need to be ready, so that when the time comes to meet the angel, we would be able to
recognize him. That wise man, however, knew everything yet couldn’t recognize him. The same
happens in our lives. You need to take into account even the details of how he greeted and bid
farewell to various hosts. Life is very complicated if one doesn’t learn that which he needs to
The Smile of Buddha
Buddhist and Taoist Secret Smile Exercise
Grow the circle of your compassion wider and wider, so that it includes Grow it wider so that it includes people you don’t know,
Prayer of elders from Optina: the "Morning Prayer"
My Lord, let me take everything that upcoming day
may bring with calmness in my soul.
Let me fully rely on Your Holy Will.
During every hour of this day teach
support me in everything.
Whatever news this day may bring, teach me to accept it with calmness in my soul and strong conviction that everything is
Your Holy Hands.
Guide my thoughts and emotions in all my words and actions.
In all unanticipated situations,
don’t let me forget that everything is provided by You.
Teach me to act directly and prudently with every member of my family in a way not to upset anybody.
My Lord, give me strength to persevere through fatigue of upcoming day and all events of the day as it unfolds.
Guide my will and teach me to pray,
forgive and love.
Pearls of Wisdom on a day of Thanksgiving
1. The philosophy of yoga says: a book without teacher does not mean anything, and this because a teacher sees what it is written between the lines.
2. The philosophy of yoga differs from all other philosophies and yoga teachers also differ from all other teachers in that they want that the student is even better than they are.
3. The philosophy of yoga says: “Live quietly, you do not need to plan anything too rigidly and take a long time thinking something over. The brain must be in calmness, but be quick in considering.
4. When man prays, God listens to him, but gives him only what he deserves.
5. The more you laugh the greater energy you obtain. God likes that a man is merry.
6. Man cannot do anything without power, but when he finds energy, he can create miracles with the aid of it.
7. In order to levitate one needs 1.000 energy units and in order to cure cancer one needs 100 units. It is far better that I cure 10 cancer patients, than to levitate. If I will need to fly, I will use an airplane.
8. Abilities can also be “worn out”: the more selfish the desire, the more rapidly the energy disappears. It is never possible to misuse abilities.
9. My pupils are in a state of God’s Bliss, and this is much more pleasant than any bulging vanity.
10. Yoga exercises unfold the student’s talents, given to him by God.
11. It is rare for a soul to be beautiful. Who feels the soul is a happy person.
12. The most important thing of all is not how much one knows, but what one knows!
The Old Man and the White Horse
Once there was an old man who lived in a tiny village. Although poor, he was envied by all, for he owned a beautiful white horse. Even the king coveted his treasure. A horse like this had never been seen before – such was its splendor, its majesty, its strength.
People offered fabulous prices for the steed, but the old man always refused. “This horse is not a horse to me,” he would tell them. “It is a person. How could you sell a person? He is a friend, not a possession. How could you sell a friend.” The man was poor and the temptation was great. But he never sold the horse.
One morning he found that the horse was not in his stable. All the village came to see him. “You old fool,” they scoffed, “we told you that someone would steal your horse. We warned you that you would be robbed. You are so poor. How could you ever protect such a valuable animal? It would have been better to have sold him. You could have gotten whatever price you wanted. No amount would have been to high. Now the horse is gone and you’ve been cursed with misfortune.”
The old man responded, “Don’t speak too quickly. Say only that the horse is not in the stable. That is all we know; the rest is judgment. If I’ve been cursed or not, how can you know? How can you judge?”
The people contested, “Don’t make us out to be fools! We may not be philosophers, but great philosophy is not needed. The simple fact that your horse is gone is a curse.”
The old man spoke again. “All I know is that the stable is empty, and the horse is gone. The rest I don’t know. Whether it be a curse or a blessing, I can’t say. All we can see is a fragment. Who can say what will come next?”
The people of the village laughed. They thought that the man was crazy. They had always thought he was a fool; if he wasn’t, he would have sold the horse and lived off the money. But instead, he was a poor woodcutter, and old man still cutting firewood and dragging it out of the forest and selling it. He lived hand to mouth in the misery of poverty. Now he had proven that he was, indeed, a fool.
After fifteen days, the horse returned. He hadn’t been stolen; he had run away into the forest. Not only had he returned, he had brought a dozen wild horses with him. Once again, the village people gathered around the woodcutter and spoke. “Old man, you were right and we were wrong. What we thought was a curse was a blessing. Please forgive us.”
The man responded, “Once again, you go too far. Say only that the horse is back. State only that a dozen horses returned with him, but don’t judge. How do you know if this is a blessing or not? You see only a fragment. Unless you know the whole story, how can you judge? You read only one page of a book. Can you judge the whole book? You read only one word of one phrase. Can you understand the entire phrase?”
“Life is so vast, yet you judge all of life with one page or one word. All you have is one fragment! Don’t say that this is a blessing. No one knows. I am content with what I know. I am not perturbed by what I don’t.”
“Maybe the old man is right,” they said to one another. So they said little. But down deep, they knew he was wrong. They knew it was a blessing. Twelve wild horses had returned. With a little work, the animals could be broken and trained and sold for much money.
The old man had a son, an only son. The young man began to break the wild horses. After a few days, he fell from one of the horses and broke both legs. Once again the villagers gathered around the old man and cast their judgments.
“You were right,” they said. “You proved you were right. The dozen horses were not a blessing. They were a curse. Your only son has broken both his legs, and now in your old age you have no one to help you. Now you are poorer than ever.”
The old man spoke again. “You people are obsessed with judging. Don’t go so far. Say only that my son broke his legs. Who knows if it is a blessing or a curse? No one knows. We only have a fragment. Life comes in fragments.”
It so happened that a few weeks later the country engaged in war against a neighboring country. All the young men of the village were required to join the army. Only the son of the old man was excluded, because he was injured. Once again the people gathered around the old man, crying and screaming because their sons had been taken. There was little chance that they would return. The enemy was strong, and the war would be a losing struggle. They would never see their sons again.
“You were right, old man,” They wept. “God knows you were right. This proves it. Your son’s accident was a blessing. His legs may be broken, but at least he is with you. Our sons are gone forever.”
The old man spoke again. “It is impossible to talk with you. You always draw conclusions. No one knows. Say only this. Your sons had to go to war, and mine did not. No one knows if it is a blessing or a curse.
No one is wise enough to know. Only God knows.”
The boy and God
Once, on a bright Easter, a poor widow coloured two eggs with some onion husks and told her son: “Vanyatka, go to the church and give this one egg to the poor. We keep this other one in the house, just in case, someone will suddenly visit us ".
Vanyatka went to the church. People dressed up for the occasion gathered the streets, in the dark! All one could hear was: “Christ has risen!” “Indeed He has risen!”
The poor, except from an empty handed, thin old man who stood alone in poor and thorn clothes, crowded near the church, their baskets filled with kulich (appetizing Easter cakes) and krashenke (coloured eggs). Vanyatka turning to the old man, said: “Christ has raised, grandpa! Take this egg, here!”
“Indeed he has risen, dear!” The old man was glad. They kissed three times, and he said: “I want to give you a present too: let’s exchange our crosses.“
He removed the cross that sat on his skin, it was scolding hot! “No, grandpa, my cross is a cheap one, whereas yours is made of gold!!”
“It’s nothing, my dear, take it! Whenever you wish me to come and visit you, kiss this cross and say: ‘My Lord, bless me!’ You will see what will happen!”
Happily, Vanyatka run home, but he did not mention any of this to his mother, as she would certainly have scolded him for taking this expensive cross. Before dinner he was full of concerns as to what would happen if, when kissed the cross, the promise would not be maintained.
But, after taking the scolding cross, kissing it and saying: “Lord, bless me!“ he immediately found himself in the Ninth Sky, in the efflorescent heavenly garden. An exceptionally beautiful angel flew to him, and said: “Do not be scared by anything child! Come with me!” At this, the angel led him to an amazing fairytale palace.
In the first chamber, immersed in the fragrances of white flowers, the angels and archangels sung with their celestial voices and, in the second chamber, full of sparkling, rare and precious stones, the Immaculate Mother and the apostles praised the Lord. Yet, the third chamber was the most marvellous of all, as here, in the middle of it, stood the tall golden divine throne, adorned with pearls and emeralds and on it, in a light that cannot be described, Christ in person sat dresses in a snow white tunic. In his hand he held a sceptre used to judge human matters and around him flew cherubs and seraphim.
“Come closer, dear!” Christ spoke softly and affectionately. “I am the old man to whom you had given the egg.”
He was dumbstruck by fear, his feet were glued to the floor and his mouth had dried up, “Thanks!” An angel, taking him by his hand, led him to the throne and sat him next to Christ. “Sit here a little. I’ll soon come back,” said Christ, leaving together with the angels and the cherubs. Vanyatka, on the golden throne, looked around full of curiosity, straighten himself up a little and, growing bolder, took the heavy sceptre into his hands to see what happened on earth.
He saw five robbers who were digging under the church, with the intent of robbing it. “Ah you, damned!” yelled Vanyatka. “Here, I’ll show you now!!” He raised God’s sceptre, with which all human matters are judged, and said threateningly: “May this church fall and crush you, robbers! “Immediately the church crushed with a deafening noise and killed all: the robbers, the parishioners and the priest, who were in it.
Turning his head to the side, Vanyatka saw that at sea a pirates’ ship had overtaken a merchant ship and had hooked on to it. The pirates were robbing everything they could put their hands on, throwing the merchant off board. “I order that this ship sinks with all the robbers,” exclaimed Vanyataka, raising the sceptre threateningly a second time. Immediately, as the two ships were hooked on to each other, the abyssal depth of the sea sucked into its waters both the pirates’ and merchant’ ships with all the people on board.
Thirdly, Vanyatka saw a whole city in which alcoholism, robbery and fornication reigned. He yelled with a terrible voice: “Because of this lawlessness, may the ground open and the whole city be sucked into it!” Immediately, in a terrible crash, the whole city in a smoke and flames sunk into the ground!
Then, the Lord of mercy entered the chamber with a fast step and, seeing Vanyatku on the throne holding the sceptre in his hand, said sternly: “You judge unmercifully! You sat on my throne only for half an hour and you have killed 300.000 people, who had not confessed. If you sat here longer, you would have destroyed all people who had not confessed! I, the Lord and creator of all people and only I can punish or forgive.”
At this, he grabbed the sceptre from the hands of the scared Vaniatki’s and ordered an angel to lead him away from Heaven back to earth.
Several years went by and Vanyatka joined a secluded monastery, became a hermit. When he became an old man, people started coming to him asking his advice about what to do with stingy people or with unscrupulous and violent hooligans would then answer: “You must not destroy your soul with vengeance, as only the Lord can punish or forgive, because he said: “Let me be the one to take vengeance, let me the one to reciprocate!!!”
And this too shall pass
One day Solomon decided to humble Benaiah ben Yehoyada, his most trusted minister. He said to him, "Benaiah, there is a certain ring that I want you to bring to me. I wish to wear it for Sukkot . You have six months to find it."
"If it exists anywhere on earth, your majesty," replied Benaiah, "I will find it and bring it to you, but what makes the ring so special?"
"It has magic powers," answered the king. "If a happy man looks at it, he becomes sad, and if a sad man looks at it, he becomes happy." Solomon knew that no such ring existed in the world, but he wished to give his minister a little taste of humility.
Spring passed and then summer and still Benaiah had no idea where he could find the ring. On the night before Sukkot, he decided to take a walk in one of the poorest quarters of Jerusalem.
He passed by a merchant , who had begun to set out the day's wares on a shabby carpet.
"Have you by any chance heard of a magic ring that makes the happy wearer forget his joy and the broken-hearted wearer forget his sorrows?" asked Benaiah.
He watched the old man take a plain gold ring from his carpet and engrave something on it. When Benaiah read the words on the ring, his face broke out in a wide smile.
That night, the entire city welcomed the holiday of Sukkot with great festivity.
"Well, my friend," said Solomon, "have you found what I asked you to look for?" All the ministers laughed and Solomon himself smiled.
To everyone's surprise, Benaiah held up a small gold ring and declared, "Here it is, your majesty!" As soon as Solomon read the inscription, the smile vanished from his face. The jeweller had written three Hebrew letters on the gold band: ‘gimel, zayin, yud’, which began the words: ‘Gam zeh ya'avor: This too shall pass.’
At that moment Solomon realized that all his wisdom and fabulous wealth and tremendous power were but fleeting things, for one day he would be nothing else, but dust.
The Blind Men and the Elephant
American poet John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887) based this poem, on a fable that was told in India many years ago. It is a good warning about how our sensory perceptions can lead to some serious misinterpretations; especially when the investigations of the component parts of a whole, and their relations in making up the whole, are inadequate and lack co-ordination.
It was six men of Indostan to learning much inclined, who went to see the Elephant (Though all of them were blind), that each by observation might satisfy his mind.
The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
"God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!"
The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, "Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me 'tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!"
The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a snake!"
The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
"What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain," quoth he;
" 'Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!"
The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: "E'en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!"
The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a rope!"
And so these men of Hindustan disputed loud and long, each in his own opinion exceeding stiff and strong, though each was partly in the right, and all were in the wrong!
So oft in theologic wars, the disputants, I ween, rail on in utter ignorance
of what each other mean, and prate about an Elephant not one of them has seen!
The Repentant Sinner
'And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy Kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.'- Luke xxiii. 42, 43.
THERE was once a man who lived for seventy years in the world, and lived in sin all that time. He fell ill but even then did not repent. Only at the last moment, as he was dying, he wept and said:
'Lord! forgive me, as Thou forgavest the thief upon the cross.'
And as he said these words, his soul left his body. And the soul of the sinner, feeling love towards God and faith in His mercy, went to the gates of heaven and knocked, praying to be let into the heavenly kingdom.
Then a voice spoke from within the gate:
'What man is it that knocks at the gates of Paradise and what deeds did he do during his life?'
And the voice of the Accuser replied, recounting all the man's evil deeds, and not a single good one.
And the voice from within the gates answered:
'Sinners cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. Go hence!'
Then the man said:
'Lord, I hear thy voice, but cannot see thy face, nor do I know thy name.'
The voice answered:
'I am Peter, the Apostle.'
And the sinner replied:
'Have pity on me, Apostle Peter! Remember man's weakness, and God's mercy. Wert not thou a disciple of Christ? Didst not thou hear his teaching from his own lips, and hadst thou not his example before thee? Remember then how, when he sorrowed and was grieved in spirit, and three times asked thee to keep awake and pray, thou didst sleep, because thine eyes were heavy, and three times he found thee sleeping. So it was with me. Remember, also, how thou didst promise to be faithful unto death, and yet didst thrice deny him, when he was taken before Caiaphas. So it was with me. And remember, too, how when the cock crowed thou didst go out and didst weep bitterly. So it is with me. Thou canst not refuse to let me in.'
And the voice behind the gates was silent.
Then the sinner stood a little while, and again began to knock, and to ask to be let into the kingdom of heaven.
And he heard another voice behind the gates, which said:
'Who is this man, and how did he live on earth?'
And the voice of the Accuser again repeated all the sinner's evil deeds, and not a single good one.
And the voice from behind the gates replied:
'Go hence! Such sinners cannot live with us in Paradise.' Then the sinner said:
'Lord, I hear thy voice, but I see thee not, nor do I know thy name.'
And the voice answered:
'I am David; king and prophet.'
The sinner did not despair, nor did he leave the gates of Paradise, but said:
Have pity on me, King David! Remember man's weakness, and God's mercy. God loved thee and exalted thee among men. Thou hadst all: a kingdom, and honour, and riches, and wives, and children; but thou sawest from thy house-top the wife of a poor man, and sin entered into thee, and thou tookest the wife of Uriah, and didst slay him with the sword of the Ammonites. Thou, a rich man, didst take from the poor man his one ewe lamb, and didst kill him. I have done likewise. Remember, then, how thou didst repent, and how thou saidst, "I acknowledge my transgressions: my sin is ever before me?" I have done the same. Thou canst not refuse to let me in.'