Once upon a time—when doesn’t matter—there lived a man and wife. For a long time, they had no children. At an advanced age, the wife gave birth to two sons, two twins, two brothers. The births were difficult, and soon
after she had borne the two sons, the woman departed for the other world. The father hired a wet nurse and tried to rear his children. He raised them until the age of fourteen. But he himself died when the sons turned
fifteen. The two brothers buried their father in sorrow and sat in their chamber—the two twins. Three minutes separated their appearance in the world, and so one was considered older and the other younger. After a
mournful silence, the older brother spoke.
“As he was dying, our father expressed his sorrow to us that he had not had time to convey to us the wisdom of life. How will you and I live, my younger brother, without wisdom? Our line will continue unhappy without
wisdom. Those who have had time to take wisdom from their fathers might laugh at us.”
“Do not be sad,” the younger told the older. “You are often in reverie. Perhaps time will see to it that you learn wisdom in your reverie. I will do everything you say. I can live without reverie, and living will be pleasant for
me anyway. I rejoice when the day arrives and when the sun sets. I will simply live and work on the farm, and you will learn wisdom.”
“Agreed,” the older answered the younger. “Only wisdom cannot be sought by staying in the house. It is not here, no one has left it here, no one will bring it to us here. But I have decided: I am the older brother, and I myself must find everything that is wise in the world for us both, for our line, which will live on down the ages. I must find it, bring it to our home, and give it to us and to our descendants. I will take everything of value our father
left us and go all around the world, to all the wise men of different countries, learn all their sciences, and return to our dear home.”
“Your journey will be long,” the younger brother said compassionately. “We have a horse. Take the horse and wagon, load as much good as you can, so you will be less poor on the road. I will stay home and await the wiser
The brothers parted for a long time. Years passed. The older brother went from wise man to wise man, temple to temple, learned the teachings of the East and West, spent time in the North and in the South. He had a magnificent memory, and his sharp mind grasped quickly and remembered everything easily. The older brother roamed the world for sixty years or so. His hair and beard turned gray. His keen mind kept wandering and learning wisdom, and he, now a gray wanderer, came to be considered the wisest of men. A throng of disciples followed him. He generously propagated his wisdom to their keen minds. Both young and old heeded him with delight. Great fame preceded him, informing settlements on his path of the wise man’s great coming. In his halo of glory, surrounded by a crowd of subservient disciples, the gray-haired wise man came closer and closer to the settlement where he was born and which he had left as a youth of fifteen, sixty years before. All the people from the settlement came to meet him, and his younger brother, also with gray hair, ran out to greet him, rejoicing, and bowed his head before his brother, the wise man.
He joyously whispered, “Bless me, my brother and wise man. Come into our home, and I will wash your feet after your long journey. Come into our home, my wise brother, and rest.”
With a majestic gesture, the wise man ordered all his pupils to remain on the hillock, accept the gifts of those who met them, and hold wise discussions. He followed his younger brother into the house. The majestic and gray-haired wise man sat down at the table in the chamber wearily. The younger brother began washing his feet with warm water and listening to the speeches of his brother and wise man.
“I have done my duty,” the wise man told him. “I have learned the teachings of the great wise men and set forth my own teaching. I will not stay long in the house, for now teaching others is my lot. But since I promised to
bring wisdom to our house, I will spend a day with you keeping this promise. In that time, I will tell you the wisest truths, my younger brother. Here is the first. All people must live in a beautiful garden.”
Drying his feet with a clean, beautifully embroidered towel, the younger bustled about, trying to please the older, and he said to him, “Taste. On the table before you are fruits from our garden. I gathered the best of them for
The wise man ate all kinds of beautiful fruits thoughtfully and continued. “It is essential that every person living on earth himself cultivate an ancestral tree. When he dies, that tree will remain as a good memory for his
descendants. It will clean the air his descendants breathe. We must all breathe good air.”
The younger brother rushed and bustled about and said. “Forgive me, my wise brother, I forgot to open the window so that you could breathe fresh air.” He pulled back the curtain, opened the window, and continued. “Here,
breathe the air of our two cedars. I planted them the year you left. I dug one hole for a sapling with my own shovel, and for the second hole I dug with the shovel you played with when we were children.”
The wise man gazed thoughtfully at the trees and then continued. “Love is a great emotion. Not everyone is given to live his life with love. There is a great wisdom: each person must strive for love every day.”
“Oh, how wise you are, my older brother!” the younger exclaimed. “You have learned great wisdom, and I have lost my head before you. Forgive me, I have not even introduced you to my wife.” And he shouted, turning toward the door: “Old woman, where are you, my helpmeet?”
“Here I am,” a cheerful old woman appeared in the doorway carrying steaming pies on a platter. “I was held up with the pies.” She placed the pies on the table, and the cheerful old woman made a funny curtsey before the brothers. She walked up close to the younger, her spouse, and said in a half-whisper, but the older brother heard the whisper.
“And now, you men, forgive me, I am going now, I have to lie down.”
“What’s the matter with you, silly, all of a sudden deciding to rest? We have a dear guest, my own brother, while you . . .”
“It’s not me, my head is spinning, and I feel a little nauseated.”
“And why on earth would you be having any trouble here?”
“Maybe you are to blame. We must be having a child again,” the old woman said with a laugh, running away.
“Forgive me, my brother,” the younger brother apologized in embarrassment to the older. “She doesn’t know the value of wisdom. She was always cheerful, and in her old age you see she remains a cheery sort.”
The thoughtful wise man paused a little longer. The sound of children’s voices interrupted his reverie. The wise man heard them and said, “Each person must strive to know great wisdom. How to raise children who are
happy and just.”
“Know, wise brother, I thirst to make my children and grandchildren happy. Here you see them coming in, my noisy grandkids.”
Two boys no older than six and a little girl of about four were standing in the doorway arguing. Trying to get them to settle down, the younger brother told them hurriedly, “Tell me quickly what has happened to you, you noisy children, and don’t keep us from our conversation.”
“Oh!” the smaller boy exclaimed. “One grandfather’s turned into two. Which is ours and which isn’t? How can we tell?”
“Here’s our dear granddad, isn’t it clear?”
And the little granddaughter ran up to the younger of the brothers, pressed her cheek to his leg, ruffled his beard, and prattled, “Granddad, dear granddad, I alone rushed to you to show you how I’ve learned to dance, and
my brothers tagged along. One wants to draw with you. See? He brought his board and chalk. The second brought his pipe and horn, and he wants you to play the horn and pipe for him. But I decided to come see you first. Tell them all that. Send them back where they came from, Granddad.”
“No, I came to draw first. Then my brother decided to come with me to play the horn,” said the grandson with the thin piece of board. “There are two of you granddads,” the granddaughter prattled. “Will you decide which of us came first? Pick me or else I’ll cry bitter tears.”
The wise man looked at the grandchildren with a smile and sorrow. Preparing an answer and frowning as he concentrated, the wise man still did not say anything. The younger brother was bustling about and did not let the
pause that arose lengthen. He quickly took the horn from the child’s hands and without thinking said, “There is no reason for you to argue at all. Dance, my beauty and hopper, and I will play a dance on the horn. My dear musician will help me play the pipe. And you, artist, draw what the sounds of the music draw and what the ballerina dances. Draw it. Now then, everyone get busy quickly.”
The younger brother played a cheerful and beautiful melody on the pipe, and the grandchildren all repeated after him simultaneously, choosing their favorite thing to depict. The future great musician tried not to lag behind on
the melody on the pipe. As a ballerina, the little girl hopped, turning red, joyously depicting her dance. The future artist joyfully drew his picture.
The wise man was silent. The wise man learned. . . . When the merriment was over, he stood up and said, “Remember, my younger brother, our father’s old chisel and hammer, give them to me. I want to chisel our main lesson in stone. I am leaving now. I probably will not return. Don’t try to stop me, and don’t wait.”
The older brother left. The gray-haired wise man and his disciples walked up to the stone; the path went round that stone—the path that called the seeker of wisdom to distant lands away from his own home. The day passed, night came, and the gray-haired wise man hammered and chiseled an inscription in the stone. When the exhausted gray-haired old man finished, his disciples read the inscription on the stone:
“All you seek, wanderer, you carry with you. You will find nothing new, and you will lose with every step.”
Anastasia fell silent, having told her parable, and she looked searchingly into my eyes. She probably wondered what I had gotten from the parable. “Anastasia, I understood that all the wisdom the older brother had been
talking about the younger brother had made concrete in life. Only I don’t understand who taught the younger brother all this wisdom.”
“No one. All universal wisdom is contained in each human soul in perpetuity, from the moment of the soul’s creation. Wise men often lead souls away from the main thing for their own benefit without further ado.”
“The main thing? But what is the main thing?”
EACH CAN BUILD HIS HOME TODAY
“The main thing, Vladimir, is that each person can build a home today. He can feel God and live in paradise. Just one instant separates the people living on Earth today from paradise. There is awareness inside each person.
When postulates do not hinder awareness, then, Vladimir, look.”
Anastasia was suddenly merry. She grabbed me by the hand and, pulling me toward the bare ground of the lake’s shore, she began speaking quickly as she walked.
“Right now. You’ll understand everything very soon. People will understand everything—my readers, yours.
“They will determine the essence of the Earth and discover their own purpose. Very soon, Vladimir, here, we will build a house in our thoughts now! You and I and all of them.
of The Ringing Cedars of Russia book series