Saturday, April 27, 2013

"Of Prayer, of Love, and of Contact with other Worlds"

Optina Monastery, near Kozelsk, served as a spiritual center for Russia in the 19th
century and inspired many aspects of The Brothers Karamazov.
О́птина пу́стынь, расположенный недалеко от города Козельска. Достоевского
прожил в скиту некоторое время; некоторые детали в «Братьях Карамазовых»
возникли под впечатлением этой поездки.

I'm just reading an amazing book called The Brothers Karamazov (Russian: Братья Карамазовы). It is the final novel by the Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Ф. М. Достоевского), published in 1880. We both, Nika and I, really love this book, and we recommend it to everyone who is interested in profound literature.

The Brothers Karamazov is a classic work of world literature and magnum opus (the largest, and the best work) of Dostoyevsky. It's a passionate philosophical novel that enters deeply into the ethical debates of God, free will, and morality. The Brothers Karamazov is a spiritual drama of moral struggles concerning faith, doubt, and reason. This novel also contains an intelligent  criticism of atheism. Dostoyevsky himself was a devout Orthodox Christian and a Christian philosopher.

I'd like to take a long quote (three pages) from this magnificent novel. In this chapter, Elder Father Zosima preaches. Such an excellent spiritual teaching about the subject of the title. I put here both, the original Russian text and the English translation. I think this short speech summarises everything that is really important in life. So deep and great teaching! The Elder Zosima (Старец Зосима) talk like Buddha or our Lord Jesus Christ. I urge you to read this little sermon (below).

By the way, Nika says that the prototype of Father Zosima in Dostoyevsky's novel has been the local starets Saint Amvrosy (St. Ambrose of Optina). Dostoyevsky spent some time in the Optina Monastery, while he was writing his magnum opus. This place is well-known to Nika, too. She tells: "I visited Optina monastery as well as the Shamordino female сonvent which founded Elder Ambrose. When I went there, a bus (it was a pilgrimage) passed Kozel'sk. I have never seen such an amazing city. There are streets which seemed to stop time. It is a real ancient Russian city." — Thank you very much for these interesting details, my dear friend. It is always a pleasure to cooperate with you. ^_^

✿⊱╮ ✿⊱╮ ✿⊱╮✿⊱╮✿⊱╮✿⊱╮✿⊱╮

Father Zosima's speech, the English translation:

Of Prayer, of Love, and of Contact with other Worlds

Young man, be not forgetful of prayer. Every time you pray, if your prayer is sincere, there will be new feeling and new meaning in it, which will give you fresh courage, and you will understand that prayer is an education. Remember, too, every day, and whenever you can, repeat to yourself, “Lord, have mercy on all who appear before Thee to-day.” For every hour and every moment thousands of men leave life on this earth, and their souls appear before God. And how many of them depart in solitude, unknown, sad, dejected that no one mourns for them or even knows whether they have lived or not! And behold, from the other end of the earth perhaps, your prayer for their rest will rise up to God though you knew them not nor they you. How touching it must be to a soul standing in dread before the Lord to feel at that instant that, for him too, there is one to pray, that there is a fellow creature left on earth to love him too! And God will look on you both more graciously, for if you have had so much pity on him, how much will He have pity Who is infinitely more loving and merciful than you! And He will forgive him for your sake.

Brothers, have no fear of men's sin. Love a man even in his sin, for that is the semblance of Divine Love and is the highest love on earth. Love all God's creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God's light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love. Love the animals: God has given them the rudiments of thought and joy untroubled. Do not trouble it, don't harass them, don't deprive them of their happiness, don't work against God's intent. Man, do not pride yourself on superiority to the animals; they are without sin, and you, with your greatness, defile the earth by your appearance on it, and leave the traces of your foulness after you—alas, it is true of almost every one of us! Love children especially, for they too are sinless like the angels; they live to soften and purify our hearts and as it were to guide us. Woe to him who offends a child! Father Anfim taught me to love children. The kind, silent man used often on our wanderings to spend the farthings given us on sweets and cakes for the children. He could not pass by a child without emotion. That's the nature of the man.

At some thoughts one stands perplexed, especially at the sight of men's sin, and wonders whether one should use force or humble love. Always decide to use humble love. If you resolve on that once for all, you may subdue the whole world. Loving humility is marvelously strong, the strongest of all things, and there is nothing else like it.

Inside the Optina monastery.
Внутри монастыря.

Every day and every hour, every minute, walk round yourself and watch yourself, and see that your image is a seemly one. You pass by a little child, you pass by, spiteful, with ugly words, with wrathful heart; you may not have noticed the child, but he has seen you, and your image, unseemly and ignoble, may remain in his defenseless heart. You don't know it, but you may have sown an evil seed in him and it may grow, and all because you were not careful before the child, because you did not foster in yourself a careful, actively benevolent love. Brothers, love is a teacher; but one must know how to acquire it, for it is hard to acquire, it is dearly bought, it is won slowly by long labor. For we must love not only occasionally, for a moment, but for ever. Every one can love occasionally, even the wicked can.

My brother asked the birds to forgive him; that sounds senseless, but it is right; for all is like an ocean, all is flowing and blending; a touch in one place sets up movement at the other end of the earth. It may be senseless to beg forgiveness of the birds, but birds would be happier at your side—a little happier, anyway—and children and all animals, if you were nobler than you are now. It's all like an ocean, I tell you. Then you would pray to the birds too, consumed by an all-embracing love, in a sort of transport, and pray that they too will forgive you your sin. Treasure this ecstasy, however senseless it may seem to men.

My friends, pray to God for gladness. Be glad as children, as the birds of heaven. And let not the sin of men confound you in your doings. Fear not that it will wear away your work and hinder its being accomplished. Do not say, “Sin is mighty, wickedness is mighty, evil environment is mighty, and we are lonely and helpless, and evil environment is wearing us away and hindering our good work from being done.” Fly from that dejection, children! There is only one means of salvation, then take yourself and make yourself responsible for all men's sins, that is the truth, you know, friends, for as soon as you sincerely make yourself responsible for everything and for all men, you will see at once that it is really so, and that you are to blame for every one and for all things. But throwing your own indolence and impotence on others you will end by sharing the pride of Satan and murmuring against God.

Of the pride of Satan what I think is this: it is hard for us on earth to comprehend it, and therefore it is so easy to fall into error and to share it, even imagining that we are doing something grand and fine. Indeed, many of the strongest feelings and movements of our nature we cannot comprehend on earth. Let not that be a stumbling-block, and think not that it may serve as a justification to you for anything. For the Eternal Judge asks of you what you can comprehend and not what you cannot. You will know that yourself hereafter, for you will behold all things truly then and will not dispute them. On earth, indeed, we are as it were astray, and if it were not for the precious image of Christ before us, we should be undone and altogether lost, as was the human race before the flood. Much on earth is hidden from us, but to make up for that we have been given a precious mystic sense of our living bond with the other world, with the higher heavenly world, and the roots of our thoughts and feelings are not here but in other worlds. That is why the philosophers say that we cannot apprehend the reality of things on earth.

God took seeds from different worlds and sowed them on this earth, and His garden grew up and everything came up that could come up, but what grows lives and is alive only through the feeling of its contact with other mysterious worlds. If that feeling grows weak or is destroyed in you, the heavenly growth will die away in you. Then you will be indifferent to life and even grow to hate it. That's what I think.

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Portrait of Dostoyevsky in 1872 painted by Vasily Perov.
Василий Перов. Портрет писателя Достоевского, 1872.

Father Zosima's speech, the original Russian text:

О молитве, о любви и о соприкосновении мирам иным

Юноша, не забывай молитвы. Каждый раз в молитве твоей, если искренна, мелькнет новое чувство, а в нем и новая мысль, которую ты прежде не знал и которая вновь ободрит тебя; и поймешь, что молитва есть воспитание. Запомни еще: на каждый день и когда лишь можешь, тверди про себя: «Господи, помилуй всех днесь пред тобою представших». Ибо в каждый час и каждое мгновение тысячи людей покидают жизнь свою на сей земле и души их становятся пред господом — и сколь многие из них расстались с землею отъединенно, никому не ведомо, в грусти и тоске, что никто-то не пожалеет о них и даже не знает о них вовсе: жили ль они или нет. И вот, может быть, с другого конца земли вознесется ко господу за упокой его и твоя молитва, хотя бы ты и не знал его вовсе, а он тебя. Сколь умилительно душе его, ставшей в страхе пред господом, почувствовать в тот миг, что есть и за него молельщик, что осталось на земле человеческое существо, и его любящее. Да и бог милостивее воззрит на обоих вас, ибо если уже ты столь пожалел его, то кольми паче пожалеет он, бесконечно более милосердный и любовный, чем ты. И простит его тебя ради.

Братья, не бойтесь греха людей, любите человека и во грехе его, ибо сие уж подобие божеской любви и есть верх любви на земле. Любите всё создание божие, и целое и каждую песчинку. Каждый листик, каждый луч божий любите. Любите животных, любите растения, любите всякую вещь. Будешь любить всякую вещь и тайну божию постигнешь в вещах. Постигнешь однажды и уже неустанно начнешь ее познавать всё далее и более, на всяк день. И полюбишь наконец весь мир уже всецелою, всемирною любовью. Животных любите: им бог дал начало мысли и радость безмятежную. Не возмущайте же ее, не мучьте их, не отнимайте у них радости, не противьтесь мысли божией. Человек, не возносись над животными: они безгрешны, а ты со своим величием гноишь землю своим появлением на ней и след свой гнойный оставляешь после себя — увы, почти всяк из нас! Деток любите особенно, ибо они тоже безгрешны, яко ангелы, и живут для умиления нашего, для очищения сердец наших и как некое указание нам. Горе оскорбившему младенца. А меня отец Анфим учил деток любить: он, милый и молчащий в странствиях наших, на подаянные грошики им пряничков и леденцу, бывало, купит и раздаст: проходить не мог мимо деток без сотрясения душевного: таков человек.

Пред иною мыслью станешь в недоумении, особенно видя грех людей, и спросишь себя: «Взять ли силой али смиренною любовью?» Всегда решай: «Возьму смиренною любовью». Решишься так раз навсегда и весь мир покорить возможешь. Смирение любовное — страшная сила изо всех сильнейшая, подобной которой и нет ничего. На всяк день и час, на всякую минуту ходи около себя и смотри за собой, чтоб образ твой был благолепен. Вот ты прошел мимо малого ребенка, прошел злобный, со скверным словом, с гневливою душой; ты и не приметил, может, ребенка-то, а он видел тебя, и образ твой, неприглядный и нечестивый, может, в его беззащитном сердечке остался. Ты и не знал сего, а может быть, ты уже тем в него семя бросил дурное, и возрастет оно, пожалуй, а всё потому, что ты не уберегся пред дитятей, потому что любви осмотрительной, деятельной не воспитал в себе. Братья, любовь — учительница, но нужно уметь ее приобрести, ибо она трудно приобретается, дорого покупается, долгою работой и через долгий срок, ибо не на мгновение лишь случайное надо любить, а на весь срок. А случайно-то и всяк полюбить может, и злодей полюбит. Юноша брат мой у птичек прощения просил: оно как бы и бессмысленно, а ведь правда, ибо всё как океан, всё течет и соприкасается, в одном месте тронешь — в другом конце мира отдается. Пусть безумие у птичек прощения просить, но ведь и птичкам было бы легче, и ребенку, и всякому животному около тебя, если бы ты сам был благолепнее, чем ты есть теперь, хоть на одну каплю да было бы. Всё как океан, говорю вам. Тогда и птичкам стал бы молиться, всецелою любовию мучимый, как бы в восторге каком, и молить, чтоб и они грех твой отпустили тебе. Восторгом же сим дорожи, как бы ни казался он людям бессмысленным.

Други мои, просите у бога веселья. Будьте веселы как дети, как птички небесные. И да не смущает вас грех людей в вашем делании, не бойтесь, что затрет он дело ваше и не даст ему совершиться, не говорите: «Силен грех, сильно нечестие, сильна среда скверная, а мы одиноки и бессильны, затрет нас скверная среда и не даст совершиться благому деланию». Бегите, дети, сего уныния! Одно тут спасение себе: возьми себя и сделай себя же ответчиком за весь грех людской. Друг, да ведь это и вправду так, ибо чуть только сделаешь себя за всё и за всех ответчиком искренно, то тотчас же увидишь, что оно так и есть в самом деле и что ты-то и есть за всех и за вся виноват. А скидывая свою же лень и свое бессилие на людей, кончишь тем, что гордости сатанинской приобщишься и на бога возропщешь. О гордости же сатанинской мыслю так: трудно нам на земле ее и постичь, а потому сколь легко впасть в ошибку и приобщиться ей, да еще полагая, что нечто великое и прекрасное делаем. Да и многое из самых сильных чувств и движений природы нашей мы пока на земле не можем постичь, не соблазняйся и сим и не думай, что сие в чем-либо может тебе служить оправданием, ибо спросит с тебя судия вечный то, что ты мог постичь, а не то, чего не мог, сам убедишься в том, ибо тогда всё узришь правильно и спорить уже не станешь. На земле же воистину мы как бы блуждаем, и не было бы драгоценного Христова образа пред нами, то погибли бы мы и заблудились совсем, как род человеческий пред потопом. Многое на земле от нас скрыто, но взамен того даровано нам тайное сокровенное ощущение живой связи нашей с миром иным, с миром горним и высшим, да и корни наших мыслей и чувств не здесь, а в мирах иных. Вот почему и говорят философы, что сущности вещей нельзя постичь на земле. Бог взял семена из миров иных и посеял на сей земле и взрастил сад свой, и взошло всё, что могло взойти, но взращенное живет и живо лишь чувством соприкосновения своего таинственным мирам иным; если ослабевает или уничтожается в тебе сие чувство, то умирает и взращенное в тебе. Тогда станешь к жизни равнодушен и даже возненавидишь ее. Мыслю так.

«Бра́тья Карама́зовы» - Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский


  1. Dear Tembo-san

    I sit here befounded, perplexed and bewildered, in a grand panic.. how do I respond to such eye opening wisdom?? I think I may have to dig a hole and put my head in it, to hide for a bit while I try to catch and gather my thoughts together! I am humbled beyond words by Father Zosima's speech!

    Tembo-san, I am just a bit of dry moss blowing about in the wind. Sometimes torn apart by storms, sometimes whole and complete in a gentle breeze. But raging storm or calm wind, I always do what I think is 'right', but my 'right' can always be someone else's 'wrong'! Love all and harm none, that is my pledge to each new day. I walk along my own path at my own pace, and if there is laughter, I am delighted and is joyous. If there are tears and sadness, I embrace it, too for tears cleanses our soul! What then if there is a sinister darkness hovering over me? Why, I take those and tuck them deep into myself, in a place where I keep these dark 'pebbles'! One day, I hope to be able to skip them out over a pond of Peace and watch them disappear one by one into the Great Beyond.

    Thus, I add my nonsensical thoughts to your wonderful blog entry! Thank you, Nika-san and Tembo-san, for this great share. Love it! -^^-

    The sometimes serious Kunoichi D'Bonnie

    1. Dear 'The sometimes serious Kunoichi D'Bonnie' -^^-

      So glad to see you here again. Heartfelt thanks to you for your profound comment, dear friend. No, that was not a nonsense at all! You are so genuine and sincere, and that's why I appreciate you. :) You're right, we can just try to do the right and walk our own path at our own pace. What else we can do? No one can do more than his best.

      I agree with you, Father Zosima's speech really humbled, in a good way. I was glad when Nika told me that this person was a real historic character, even though under a different name. I read this sermon three times and I felt my heart is melting, I felt love and joy and truthfulness! This speech includes such a great ideal, pure but simple (and very hard to really live out). Anyway, from now, this one will be one of my favorite sermon - I know that. ^^

      Again, thank you very much for visiting, Bonnie-chan. I also thank you on behalf of Nika. Stay well and enjoy your life, dear friend. Have a joyful and sunny week ahead! :)

      Blessings from sunny Finland,


  2. Hi Teisuka,

    Thank you for sharing this excellent excerpt from the novel The Brothers Karamazov. I learned a lot from this passage, which is really inspiring. Yes, it's so true that love is the key in a person's godly life. But it's hard to always have love, and that's why it needs practice to do so. I think this is the lifelong lesson we all have to learn. Probably God put us on the earth just to let us learn love before He brings us to the Heaven. "We must love not only occasionally, for a moment, but for ever. Every one can love occasionally, even the wicked can." -- well said!

    Recently I've not been doing very well, and I really feel down sometimes. I'm still trying to get used to my implant crown, and I'm not sure whether I'll eventually get used to it. It's kind of annoying to me, but I've consulted two other dentists, and they all say that my dentist did a wonderful job for me. What can I do right now? I think I'll have to give it more time. Also, I caught a cold more than one week ago, and right now I'm still coughing after taking antibiotics. And I also have some family issues bothering me. But after reading the passage that you posted, I think I should really look at the bright side in life. I think I should keep praying and believe that eventually God will help me get over the things that do not go my way.

    Right now, even though I still enjoying making YT videos, I've started getting tired of YT. I have spent much less time on it recently. And probably I will eventually leave YT, just like you. Ha ha...who knows, but I'm sure I will definitely cut down my time on YT, just as what I did with Facebook. I used to be quite active on Facebook, but right now I only go there occasionally, maybe once a week.

    Hope everything has been going well with you, my friend. It seems that you've found peace and strength in your faith. I'm happy for you. Hope you will enjoy more good things in life and be free of all the worries.

    Thanks again for sharing the passage. May you enjoy the rest of the week. -:)


    1. Hello, Mr. Bao.

      Many thanks for your great comment. 非常感谢! Glad to see you, my friend. I agree with you, it's hard to always have love, and that is the lifelong lesson, indeed. Thank God, we don't need to find that kind of love from ourselves, but God give it to us. Like the apostle Paul says, "God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us" (Epistle to the Romans 5:5). I think this happens all the time, when we humbly approach God, in faith and prayer...

      You wrote, "Recently I've not been doing very well, and I really feel down sometimes". I'm sorry to hear that. I can completely understand you, because I have felt the same. Just few days ago, I was very sick... Time is what we can give for things. We must never surrender and lose our hope. Nika used to say, "I will never give up, because despair is a sin". To my mind, this is such a great attitude. I have a lot of learn from Nika, even though she is much younger than I. :) God can give us patience and hope. Things will be solved, one by one... So, no worry. Surely, God will help you get over the things that do not go your way.

      Aiya! You are also a bit sick and tired of YouTube? From time to time, we can just "fasting" from the things that takes too much our time, like Internet. Fasting means, no need to stop eating but eat less. :D By the way, I am not in Facebook at all. That's why I have my own blog.

      Thank you for your good wishes, my friend. I wish the same to you. As I said, little by little things will be solved... Meanwhile, God teach us patience and give us serenity to accept the things we cannot change. This is also a good verse to remember, when we have hard times: "Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you [God] are with me" (Psalm 23:4).

      Have a happy week, my friend! :)



      P.S. I saw your new Teresa Teng video (我到海邊送夕陽 ~ I'm Seeing Off Setting Sun at Seashore) on YouTube. Very beautiful. I liked it. 谢谢分享!