Bethink Yourselves, by Leo Tolstoi

The impulse to believe the absurd when presented with the unknowable is called religion. Whether this is wise or unwise is the domain of doctrine. Once you understand someone's doctrine, you understand their rationale for believing the absurd. At that point, it may no longer seem absurd. You can get to both sides of this conondrum from here.

Re: Bethink Yourselves, by Leo Tolstoi

Postby admin » Sat Mar 03, 2018 10:27 pm


“But how about the enemies that attack us?”

“Love your enemies, and ye will have none,” is said in the teaching of the Twelve Apostles. This answer is not merely words, as those may imagine who are accustomed to think that the recommendation of love to one's enemies is something hyperbolical, and signifies not that which expressed, but something else. This answer is the indication of a very clear and definite activity, and of its consequences.

To love one's enemies—the Japanese, the Chinese, those yellow people toward whom benighted men are now endeavoring to excite our hatred—to love them means not to kill them for the purpose of having the right of poisoning them with opium, as did the English; not to kill them in order to seize their land, as was done by the French, the Russians, and the Germans; not to bury them alive in punishment for injuring roads, not to tie them together by their hair, not to drown them in their river Amur, as did the Russians.

“A disciple is not above his master.… It is enough for a disciple that he be as his master.”

To love the yellow people, whom we call our foes, means, not to teach them under the name of Christianity absurd superstitions about the fall of man, redemption, resurrection, etc., not to teach them the art of deceiving and killing others, but to teach them justice, unselfishness, compassion, love—and that not by words, but by the example of our own good life. And what have we been doing to them, and are still doing?

If we did indeed love our enemies, if even now we began to love our enemies, the Japanese, we would have no enemy.

Therefore, however strange it may appear to those occupied with military plans, preparations, diplomatic considerations, administrative, financial, economical measures, revolutionary, socialistic propaganda, and various unnecessary sciences, by which they think to save mankind from its calamities, the deliverance of man, not only from the calamities of war, but also from all the calamities which men inflict upon themselves, will take place not through emperors or kings instituting peace alliances, not through those who would dethrone emperors, kings, or restrain them by constitutions, or substitute republics for monarchies, not by peace conferences, not by the realization of socialistic programmes, not by victories or defeats on land or sea, not by libraries or universities, nor by those futile mental exercises which are now called science; but only by there being more and more of those simple men who, like the Dukhobors, Drojjin, Olkhovik, in Russia, the Nazarenes in Austria, Condatier in France, Tervey in Holland, and others, having placed as their object not external alterations of life, but the closest fulfilment in themselves of the will of Him who has sent them into life, will direct all their powers to this realization. Only such people realizing the Kingdom of God in themselves, in their souls, will establish, without directly aiming at this purpose, that external Kingdom of God which every human soul is longing for.

Salvation will come to pass only in this one way and not in any other. Therefore what is now being done by those who, ruling men, inspire them with religious and patriotic superstitions, exciting in them exclusiveness, hatred, and murder, as well as by those who, for the purpose of freeing men from slavery and oppression, invoke them to violent external revolution, or think that the acquisition by men of very much incidental and for the most part unnecessary information will of itself bring them to a good life—all this, by distracting men from what alone they need, only removes them further from the possibility of salvation.

The evil from which the men of the Christian world suffer is that they have temporarily lost religion.

Some people, having come to see the discord between the existing religion and the degree of mental and scientific development attained by humanity at the present time, have decided that in general no religion whatever is necessary. They live without religion and preach the uselessness of any religion of whatever kind. Others, holding to that distorted form of the Christian religion which is now preached, likewise live without religion, professing empty external forms, which cannot serve as guidance for men.

Yet a religion which answers to the demands of our time does exist and is known to all men, and in a latent state lives in the hearts of men of the Christian world. Therefore that this religion should become evident to and binding upon all men, it is only necessary that educated men—the leaders of the masses—should understand that religion is necessary to man, that without religion men cannot live a good life, and that what they call science cannot replace religion; and that those in power and who support the old empty forms of religion should understand that what they support and preach under the form of religion is not only not religion, but is the chief obstacle to men's appropriating the true religion which they already know, and which can alone deliver them from their calamities. So that the only certain means of man's salvation consists merely in ceasing to do that which hinders men from assimilating the true religion which already lives in their consciousness.
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Re: Bethink Yourselves, by Leo Tolstoi

Postby admin » Sat Mar 03, 2018 10:28 pm


I had finished this writing when news came of the destruction of six hundred innocent lives opposite Port Arthur. It would seem that the useless suffering and death of these unfortunate deluded men who have needlessly and so dreadfully perished ought to disabuse those who were the cause of this destruction. I am not alluding to Makaroff and other officers—all these men knew what they were doing, and wherefore, and they voluntarily, for personal advantage, for ambition, did as they did, disguising themselves in pretended patriotism, a pretence not condemned merely because it is universal. I allude rather to those unfortunate men drawn from all parts of Russia, who, by the help of religious fraud, and under fear of punishment, have been torn from an honest, reasonable, useful, laborious family life, driven to the other end of the world, placed on a cruel, senseless machine for slaughter, and torn to bits, drowned along with this stupid machine in a distant sea, without any need or any possibility of advantage from all their privations, efforts, and sufferings, or from the death which overtook them.

In 1830, during the Polish war, the adjutant Vilijinsky sent to St. Petersburg by Klopitsky, in a conversation held in French with Dibitch, in answer to the latter's demand that the Russian troops should enter Poland, said to him:—

“Monsieur le Maréchal, I think that in that case it will be quite impossible for the Polish nation to accept this manifesto.…”

“Believe me, the Emperor will make no further concessions.”

“Then I foresee that, unhappily, there will be war, that much blood will be shed, there will be many unfortunate victims.”

“Do not think so; at most there will be ten thousand who will perish on both sides, and that is all,”[1] said Dibitch in his German accent, quite confident that he, together with another man as cruel and foreign to Russian and Polish life as he was himself,—Nicholas I,—had the right to condemn or not to condemn to death ten or a hundred thousand Russians and Poles.

One hardly believes that this could have been, so senseless and dreadful is it,—and yet it was; sixty thousand maintainers of their families lost their lives owing to the will of those men. And now the same thing is taking place.

In order not to let the Japanese into Manchuria, and to expel them from Korea, not ten thousand, but fifty and more thousands will, according to all probability, be necessary. I do not know whether Nicholas II and Kuropatkin say like Dibitch in so many words that not more than fifty thousand lives will be necessary for this on the Russian side alone, only and only that; but they think it—they cannot but think it, because the work they are doing speaks for itself; that ceaseless stream of unfortunate, deluded Russian peasants now being transported by thousands to the Far East—these are those same not more than fifty thousand live Russian men whom Nicholas Romanoff and Alexis Kuropatkin have decided they may get killed, and who will be killed, in support of those stupidities, robberies, and every kind of abomination which were accomplished in China and Korea by immoral ambitious men now sitting peacefully in their palaces and expecting new glory and new advantage and profit from the slaughter of these fifty thousand unfortunate, defrauded Russian workingmen guilty of nothing and gaining nothing by their sufferings and death. For other people's land, to which the Russians have no right, which has been criminally seized from its legitimate owners, and which, in reality, is not even necessary to the Russians—and also for certain dark dealings by speculators, who in Korea wished to gain money out of other people's forests—many millions of money are spent, i.e. a great part of the labor of the whole of the Russian people, while the future generations of this people are bound by debts, its best workmen are withdrawn from labor, and scores of thousands of its sons are mercilessly doomed to death; and the destruction of these unfortunate men is already begun. More than this: the war is being managed by those who have hatched it so badly, so negligently, all is so unexpected, so unprepared, that, as one paper admits, Russia's chief chance of success lies in the fact that it possesses inexhaustible human material. It is upon this that those rely who send to death scores of thousands of Russian men!

It is frankly said that the regrettable reverses of our fleet must be compensated on the land. In plain language this means that if the authorities have badly directed things on sea, and by their negligence have destroyed not only the nation's millions, but thousands of lives, we can make it up by condemning to death on land several more scores of thousands!

When crawling locusts cross rivers, it happens that the lower layers are drowned until from the bodies of the drowned is formed a bridge over which the upper ranks can pass. In the same way are the Russian people being disposed of. Thus the first lower layer is already beginning to drown, indicating the way to other thousands, who will all likewise perish.

And are the originators, directors, and supporters of this dreadful work beginning to understand their sin, their crime? Not in the least. They are quite persuaded that they have fulfilled, and are fulfilling, their duty, and they are proud of their activity. People speak of the loss of the brave Makaroff, who, as all agree, was able to kill men very cleverly; they deplore the loss of a drowned excellent machine of slaughter which had cost so many millions of roubles; they discuss the question of how to find another murderer as capable as the poor benighted Makaroff; they invent new, still more efficacious, tools of slaughter; and all the guilty men engaged in this dreadful work, from the Tsar to the humblest journalist, all with one voice call for new insanities, new cruelties, for the increase of brutality and hatred of one's fellow-men.

“Makaroff is not the only man in Russia, and every admiral placed in his position will follow in his steps and will continue the plan and the idea of Makaroff, who has nobly perished in the strife,” writes the Novoe Vremya.

“Let us earnestly pray God for those who have laid down their lives for the sacred Fatherland, without doubting for one moment that the Fatherland will give us new sons, equally virtuous, for the further struggle, and will find in them an inexhaustible store of strength for a worthy completion of the work,” writes the St. Petersburg Viedomosti.

“A ripe nation will draw no other conclusion from the defeat, however unprecedented, than that we should continue, develop, and conclude the strife; therefore let us find in ourselves new strength; new heroes of the spirit will arise,” writes the Russ,—and so forth.

So murder and every kind of crime go on with greater fury. People enthusiastically admire the martial spirit of the volunteers who, having come unexpectedly upon fifty of their fellow-men, slay all of them, or take possession of a village and slaughter all its population, or hang or shoot those accused of being spies—i.e. of doing the very same thing which is regarded as indispensable and is constantly done on our side. News about these crimes is reported in pompous telegrams to their chief director, the Tsar, who, in return, sends to his virtuous troops his blessing on the continuation of such deeds.

Is it not evident that, if there be a salvation from this position, it is only one: that one which Jesus teaches?—“Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (that which is within you), and all the rest—i.e. all that practical welfare toward which man is striving—will of itself be realized.”

Such is the law of life: practical welfare is attained not when man strives toward this practical welfare—such striving, on the contrary, for the most part removes man from the attainment of what he seeks; but only when man, without thinking of the attainment of practical welfare, strives toward the most perfect fulfilment of that which before God, before the Source and Law of his life, he regards as right. Then only, incidentally, is practical welfare also attained.

So that the true salvation of men is only one thing: the fulfilment of the will of God by each individual man within himself—i.e. in that portion of the universe which alone is subject to his power. In this is the chief, the only, destiny and duty of every individual man, and at the same time this is the only means by which every individual man can influence others; and, therefore, to this, and to this only, should all the efforts of every man be directed.

May 2, 1904.
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Re: Bethink Yourselves, by Leo Tolstoi

Postby admin » Sat Mar 03, 2018 10:28 pm


I had only just despatched the last of the preceding pages of this paper when the dreadful news came of a new iniquity committed in regard to the Russian people by those light-minded men who, crazed with power, have appropriated the right of managing them. Again coarse and servile slaves of slaves, dressed up in various dazzling attires—varieties of Generals wishing to distinguish themselves, or to earn the right to add one more little star, fingle fangle, or scrap of ribbon to their idiotic glaring get-up, or else from stupidity or carelessness—again these miserable men have destroyed amid dreadful sufferings thousands of those honorable, kind, hard-working laborers who feed them. And again this iniquity not only does not cause those responsible for it to reflect and repent, but one hears and reads only about its being necessary as speedily as possible to mutilate and slaughter a greater number of men, and to ruin still more families, both Russian and Japanese.

More than this, to prepare men for fresh iniquities of this kind, the perpetrators of these crimes, far from recognizing what is evident to all—viz. that for the Russians this event, even from their patriotic, military point of view, was a scandalous defeat—endeavor to assure credulous people that these unfortunate Russian laboring men—lured into a trap like cattle into a slaughterhouse, of whom several thousands have been killed and maimed merely because one General did not understand what another General had said—have performed an act of heroism because those who could not run away were killed and those who did run away remained alive. As to the fact that one of these immoral and cruel men, distinguished by the titles of Generals, Admirals, drowned a quantity of peaceful Japanese, this is also described as a great and glorious act of heroism, which must gladden the hearts of Russians. And in all the papers are reprinted this awful appeal to murder:—

“Let the two thousand Russian soldiers killed on the Yalu, together with the maimed Retvisan and her sister ships, with our lost torpedo-boats, teach our cruisers with what devastation they must break in upon the shores of base Japan. She has sent her soldiers to shed Russian blood, and no quarter should be afforded her. Now one cannot—it is sinful—be sentimental; we must fight; we must direct such heavy blows that the memory of them shall freeze the treacherous hearts of the Japanese. Now is the time for the cruisers to go out to sea to reduce to ashes the towns of Japan, flying as a dreadful calamity along its shores. No more sentimentality.”

The frightful work commenced is continued. Loot, violence, murder, hypocrisy, theft, and, above all, the most fearful fraud—the distortion of religious teachings, both Christian and Buddhistic—continue. The Tsar, the chief responsible person, continues to review the troops, to thank, reward, and encourage them; he issues an edict for the calling out of the reserves; his faithful subjects again and again lay down their property and lives at the feet of him they call, only with their lips, their adored Monarch. On the other hand, desiring to distinguish themselves before each other in deeds and not in words only, they tear away the fathers and the bread-winners from their orphaned families, preparing them for slaughter. The worse the position of Russia, the more recklessly do the journalists lie, transforming shameful defeats into victories, knowing that no one will contradict them; and they quietly collect money from subscriptions and sales. The more money and labor of the people is devoted to the war, the more is grabbed by various authorities and speculators, who know that no one will convict them because every one is doing the same. The military, trained for murder, having passed years in a school of inhumanity, coarseness, and idleness, rejoice—poor men—because, besides an increase of their salary, the slaughter of superiors opens vacancies for their promotion. Christian pastors continue to invite men to the greatest of crimes, continue to commit sacrilege, praying God to help the work of war; and, instead of condemning, they justify and praise that pastor who, with the cross in his hands on the very scene of murder, encouraged men to the crime. The same thing is going on in Japan. The benighted Japanese go in for murder with yet greater fervor, owing to their victories; the Mikado also reviews and rewards his troops; various Generals boast of their bravery, imagining that, having learned to kill, they have acquired enlightenment. So, too, groan the unfortunate working people torn from useful labor and from their families. So their journalists also lie and rejoice over their gains. Also probably—for where murder is elevated into virtue every kind of vice is bound to flourish—also probably all kinds of commanders and speculators earn money; and Japanese theologians and religious teachers no less than the masters in the techniques of armament do not remain behind the Europeans in the techniques of religious deceit and sacrilege, but distort the great Buddhistic teaching by not only permitting but justifying that murder which Buddha forbade. The Buddhistic scientist, Soyen-Shaku, ruling over eight hundred monasteries, explains that although Buddha forbade manslaughter he also said he could never be at peace until all beings are united in the infinitely loving heart of all things, and that, therefore, in order to bring into harmony that which is discordant it is necessary to fight and to kill men.[2]

It is as if there never had existed the Christian and Buddhistic teaching about the unity of the human spirit, the brotherhood of men, love, compassion, the sacredness of human life. Men, both Japanese and Russians, already enlightened by the truth, yet like wild animals, nay, worse than wild animals, throw themselves upon each other with the sole desire to destroy as many lives as possible. Thousands of unfortunates groan and writhe in cruel sufferings and die in agony in Japanese and Russian field hospitals, asking themselves in bewilderment why this fearful thing was done with them, while other thousands are already rotting in the earth or on the earth, or floating in the sea, in swollen decomposition. And scores of thousands of wives, fathers, mothers, children, are bemoaning their bread-winners; uselessly destroyed. Yet all this is still too little; new and newer victims are being prepared. The chief concern of the Russian organizers of slaughter is that on the Russian side the stream of food for cannon—three thousand men per day doomed to destruction—should not be interrupted for one minute. The Japanese are preoccupied with the same thing. The locusts are incessantly being driven down into the river in order that the rows behind may pass over the bodies.

When will this cease, and the deceived people at last recover themselves and say: “Well, go you yourselves, you heartless Tsars, Mikados, Ministers, Bishops, priests, generals, editors, speculators, or however you may be called, go you yourselves under these shells and bullets, but we do not wish to go and we will not go. Leave us in peace, to plough, and sow, and build,—and also to feed you.” It would be so natural to say this now, when amongst us in Russia resounds the weeping and wailing of hundreds of thousands of mothers, wives, and children, from whom are being snatched away their bread-earners, the so-called “reserve.” These same men, the majority of the reserve, are able to read; they know what the Far East is; they know that war is going on, not for anything which is in the least necessary to Russia, but for some dealings in strange land, leased lands, as they themselves call them, on which it seemed advantageous to some corrupt speculators to build railways and so gain profit; also they know, or might know, that they will be killed like sheep in a slaughterhouse, since the Japanese possess the latest improvements in tools of murder, which we do not, as the Russian authorities who are sending these people to death had not thought in time of furnishing themselves with the same weapons as the Japanese. Knowing all this, it would indeed be so natural to say, “Go you, those who have brought on this work, all you to whom war is necessary, and who justify it; go you, and face the Japanese bullets and mines, but we will not go, because we not only do not need to do this, but we cannot understand how it can be necessary to any one.”

But no, they do not say this; they go, and they will continue to go; they cannot but go as long as they fear that which ruins the body and not that which ruins both the body and the soul. “Whether we shall be killed,” they argue, “or maimed in these chinnampos, or whatever they are called, whither we are driven, we do not know; it yet may happen that we shall get through safely, and, moreover, with rewards and glory, like those sailors who are now being feasted all over Russia because the Japanese bombs and bullets did not hit them, but somebody else; whereas should we refuse, we should be certainly sent to prison, starved, beaten, exiled to the province of Yakoutsk, perhaps even killed immediately.” So with despair in their hearts, leaving behind a good rational life, leaving their wives and their children,—they go.

Yesterday I met a Reservist soldier accompanied by his mother and wife. All three were riding in a cart; he had had a drop too much; his wife's face was swollen with tears. He turned to me:—

“Good-by to thee! Lyof Nikolaevitch, off to the Far East.”

“Well, art thou going to fight?”

“Well, some one has to fight!”

“No one need fight!”

He reflected for a moment. “But what is one to do; where can one escape?”

I saw that he had understood me, had understood that the work to which he was being sent was an evil work.

“Where can one escape?” That is the precise expression of that mental condition which in the official and journalistic world is translated into the words—“For the Faith, the Tsar, and the Fatherland.” Those who, abandoning their hungry families, go to suffering, to death, say as they feel, “Where can one escape?” Whereas those who sit in safety in their luxurious palaces say that all Russian men are ready to sacrifice their lives for their adored Monarch, and for the glory and greatness of Russia.

Yesterday, from a peasant I know, I received two letters, one after the other. This is the first:—

“Dear Lyof Nikolaevitch,—Well, to-day I have received the official announcement of my call to the Service; to-morrow I must present myself at the headquarters. That is all. And after that—to the Far East to meet the Japanese bullets. About my own and my household's grief I will not tell you; it is not you who will fail to understand all the horror of my position and the horrors of war; all this you have long ago painfully realized, and you understand it all. How I have longed to visit you, to have a talk with you! I had written to you a long letter in which I described the torments of my soul; but I had not had time to copy it, when I received my summons. What is my wife to do now with her four children? As an old man, of course, you cannot do anything yourself for my folks, but you might ask some of your friends in their leisure to visit my orphaned family. I beg you earnestly that if my wife proves unable to bear the agony of her helplessness with her burden of children and makes up her mind to go to you for help and counsel, you will receive and console her. Although she does not know you personally, she believes in your word, and that means much. I was not able to resist the summons, but I say beforehand that through me not one Japanese family shall be orphaned. My God! how dreadful is all this—how distressing and painful to abandon all by which one lives and in which one is concerned.”

The second letter is as follows: “Kindest Lyof Nikolaevitch, Only one day of actual service has passed, and I have already lived through an eternity of most desperate torments. From 8 o'clock in the morning till 9 in the evening we have been crowded and knocked about to and fro in the barrack yard, like a herd of cattle. The comedy of medical examination was three times repeated, and those who had reported themselves ill did not receive even ten minutes' attention before they were marked ‘Satisfactory.’ When we, these two thousand satisfactory individuals, were driven from the military commander to the barracks, along the road spread out for almost a verst stood a crowd of relatives, mothers, and wives with infants in arms; and if you had only heard and seen how they clasped their fathers, husbands, sons, and hanging round their necks wailed hopelessly! Generally I behave in a reserved way and can restrain my feelings, but I could not hold out, and I also wept. [In journalistic language this same is expressed thus: “The upheaval of patriotic feeling is immense.”] Where is the standard that can measure all this immensity of woe now spreading itself over almost one-third of the world? And we, we are now that food for cannon, which in the near future will be offered as sacrifice to the God of vengeance and horror. I cannot manage to establish my inner balance. Oh! how I execrate myself for this double-mindedness which prevents my serving one Master and God.”

This man does not yet sufficiently believe that what destroys the body is not dreadful, but that which destroys both the body and the soul, therefore he cannot refuse to go; yet while leaving his own family he promises beforehand that through him not one Japanese family shall be orphaned; he believes in the chief law of God, the law of all religions—to act toward others as one wishes others to act toward oneself. Of such men more or less consciously recognizing this law, there are in our time, not in the Christian world alone, but in the Buddhistic, Mahomedan, Confucian, and Brahminic world, not only thousands but millions.

There exist true heroes, not those who are now being fêted because, having wished to kill others, they were not killed themselves, but true heroes, who are now confined in prisons and in the province of Yakoutsk for having categorically refused to enter the ranks of murderers, and who have preferred martyrdom to this departure from the law of Jesus. There are also such as he who writes to me, who go, but who will not kill. But also that majority which goes without thinking, and endeavors not to think of what it is doing, still in the depth of its soul does now already feel that it is doing an evil deed by obeying authorities who tear men from labor and from their families and send them to needless slaughter of men, repugnant to their soul and their faith; and they go only because they are so entangled on all sides that—“Where can one escape?”

Meanwhile those who remain at home not only feel this, but know and express it. Yesterday in the high road I met some peasants returning from Toula. One of them was reading a leaflet as he walked by the side of his cart.

I asked, “What is that—a telegram?”

“This is yesterday's,—but here is one of to-day.” He took another out of his pocket. We stopped. I read it.

“You should have seen what took place yesterday at the station,” he said; “it was dreadful. Wives, children, more than a thousand of them, weeping. They surrounded the train, but were allowed no further. Strangers wept, looking on. One woman from Toula gasped and fell down dead. Five children. They have since been placed in various institutions; but the father was driven away all the same.… What do we want with this Manchuria, or whatever it is called? There is sufficient land here. And what a lot of people and of property has been destroyed.”

Yes, the relation of men to war is now quite different from that which formerly existed, even so lately as the year '77. That which is now taking place never took place before.

The papers set forth that, during the receptions of the Tsar, who is travelling about Russia for the purpose of hypnotizing the men who are being sent to murder, indescribable enthusiasm is manifested amongst the people. As a matter of fact, something quite different is being manifested. From all sides one hears reports that in one place three Reservists have hanged themselves; in another spot, two more; in yet another, about a woman whose husband had been taken away bringing her children to the conscription committee-room and leaving them there; while another hanged herself in the yard of the military commander. All are dissatisfied, gloomy, exasperated. The words, “For the Faith, the King, and the Fatherland,” the National Anthem, and shouts of “Hurrah” no longer act upon people as they once did. Another warfare of a different kind—the struggling consciousness of the deceit and sinfulness of the work to which people are being called—is more and more taking possession of the people.

Yes, the great strife of our time is not that now taking place between the Japanese and the Russians, nor that which may blaze up between the white and yellow races, not that strife which is carried on by mines, bombs, bullets, but that spiritual strife which without ceasing has gone on and is now going on between the enlightened consciousness of mankind now waiting for manifestation and that darkness and that burden which surrounds and oppresses mankind.

In His own time Jesus yearned in expectation, and said, “I came to cast fire upon the earth, and how I wish that it were already kindled.” Luke xii.

That which Jesus longed for is being accomplished, the fire is being kindled. Then do not let us check it, but let us spread and serve it.

13 May, 1904.

I should never finish this paper if I were to continue to add to it all that corroborates its essential idea. 49 Yesterday the news came in of the sinking of the Japanese ironclads; and in the so-called higher circles of Russian fashionable, rich, intellectual society they are, without the slightest conscientious scruples, rejoicing at the destruction of a thousand human lives. Yet to-day I have received from a simple seaman, a man standing on the lowest plane of society, the following letter:[3]

“Much respected Lyof Nikolaevitch, I greet you with a low bow, with love, much respected Lyof Nikolaevitch. I have read your book. It was very pleasant reading for me. I have been a great lover of reading your works. Well, Lyof Nikolaevitch, we are now in a state of war, please write to me whether it is agreeable to God or not that our commanders compel us to kill. I beg you, Lyof Nikolaevitch, write to me please whether or not the truth now exists on earth. Tell me, Lyof Nikolaevitch. In church here a prayer is being read, the priest mentions the Christ-loving army. Is it true or not that God loves war? I pray you, Lyof Nikolaevitch, have you got any books from which I could see whether truth exists on earth or not? Send me such books. What they cost, I will pay. I beg you, Lyof Nikolaevitch, do not neglect my request. If there are no books then send me a letter. I will be very glad when I receive a letter from you. I will await your letter with impatience. Good-by for the present. I remain alive and well and wish the same to you from the Lord God. Good health and good success in your work.”
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Re: Bethink Yourselves, by Leo Tolstoi

Postby admin » Sat Mar 03, 2018 10:28 pm



[1] Vilijinsky adds on his own behalf, “The Field-Marshal did not then think that more than sixty thousand Russians alone would perish in this war, not so much from the enemy's fire as from disease—nor that he would himself be amongst their number.”

[2] In the article it is said: “This triple world is my own possession. All the things therein are my own children … the ten thousand things in this world are no more than the reflections of my own self. They come from the one source. They partake of the one body. Therefore I cannot rest, until every being, even the smallest possible fragment of existence, is settled down to its proper appointment.… This is the position taken by the Buddha, and we, his humble followers, are but to walk in his wake. Why, then, do we fight at all? Because we do not find this world as it ought to be. Because there are here so many perverted creatures, so many wayward thoughts, so many ill-directed hearts, due to ignorant subjectivity. For this reason Buddhists are never tired of combating all productions of ignorance, and their fight must be to the bitter end. They will show no quarter. They will mercilessly destroy the very root from which arises the misery of this life. To accomplish this end, they will never be afraid of sacrificing their lives.…” There follow, just as is usual with us, entangled arguments about self-sacrifice and kindness, about the transmigration of souls and about much else—all this for the sole purpose of concealing the simple and clear commandment of Buddha: not to kill. Further it is said: “The hand that is raised to strike and the eye that is fixed to take aim do not belong to the individual, but are the instruments utilized by a principle higher than transient existence.” (“The Open Court,” May, 1904. “Buddhist Views of War,” by the Right Rev. Soyen-Shaku.)

[3] The letter is written in a most illiterate way, filled with mistakes in orthography and punctuation.

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