Recently, many readers have wondered about the connection between Buddhism and Russian writer Lev Tolstoy. Because they discovered in his story books there are many views that are very similar to Buddhist teachings.
Lev Tolstoy (1828-1910) was a Russian count, poet, writer, and thinker known and respected around the world for his work War and Peace, and his doctrines. bears his name – The Tolstoy Doctrine. He was born on August 28, 1828 into a long-standing aristocratic family at the Yasnaya Polyana estate, Tula province, Soviet Union (former).
He lost his parents at the age of seven. At the age of 16, he began studying law and Oriental languages at Kazan University. In 1847, dissatisfied with the degree education in this place, he abandoned his studies and returned to his hometown to manage his family farm with 300 serfs and live a life of luxury and aristocracy.
In 1851, on the advice of his brother, he joined the army, fought in the Caucasus and only a year later was recruited into the artillery regiment. This camp has left him many beautiful impressions and it has motivated him to start his literary career through his first work “The Story of Yesterday” (An Account of yesterday, xb 1851). , then he published a series of literary memoirs about his life: Childhood (Childhood, published 1852), Boyhood (Boyhood, ed. 1854) and Youth (Youth, ed. 1857). This warrior writer writes very well, he writes anytime, anywhere, since then, during his sixty years of literary activity, there seems to be not a day that he does not write. After being discharged from the army (in 1856), he began to travel around France, Switzerland, Italy and Germany. He wrote many short stories for this trip. After returning to his homeland, he opened a school for poor children in the village of Yasnaya Polyana. During his second European tour (1860-61) he studied their education, then published educational journals and various textbooks. In 1862, he married Sonya A. Bers, a beautiful and educated woman, 16 years younger than him, the two lived very happily and had 15 children together.
Lev Tolstoy has always cared about and helped the poor and sought to improve their lives. He gave the philosophy that man should not try to be wiser than life and nature. This theory is embodied in the modern epic novels in Russian literary history “War and Peace” (Voyni i mir /War and Peace, written and published circa 1865-69), considered to be one of the greatest and most massive works of world literature. The book series has been quickly translated into many languages around the world (Vietnamese version translated by scholar Nguyen Hien Le and first published by La Boi in 1969, 4 volumes, 2936 pages).
Lev Tolstoy and Buddhism
After a personal spiritual crisis in the late 1870s, Tolstoy devoted all of his time to literature and his spiritual needs. In the last years of his life, he lived a life of poverty, simplicity and escapism as a monk. He left his entire estate to his wife and children, and with his youngest son made an indefinite journey, but a few days later, he caught a cold and died at a small train station in Astapovo, aged 82. year old. He left behind 160 works of all kinds. All of these refer to social ethics, philosophy, religion, especially idealistic philosophy on the issue of birth and death, reincarnation, love for fellow human beings… All of them are close and reflect rightly. with the thoughts and aspirations of thousands of hearts on this planet.
Writer Tolstoy was originally from an aristocratic family and was Orthodox. But he is a liberal-minded person who likes to study many different religions to benefit his spiritual life as well as enrich his capital in his writing field. In particular, he was interested in and studied Buddhist teachings for a long time and as a result, this teaching has more or less influenced his conception of life.
In his private library, with more than 20,000 books of all genres and topics, one finds a great deal of Buddhist scriptures and Indian philosophy. Typical among them are: Buddhist Sacred Text by Friendrich Max Mueller (1823-1900); The Buddha, His Life, Teachings and Congregation (Buddha, His life, His Teachings & His Order, xb 1881) by Hermann Odenberg; The Teachings of the Buddha (the Gospel of Buddha by Paul Carus, Publishing in America 1896); Nirvana: A story of Buddhist Philosophy, by Paul Carus, published in Chicago 1896), this volume was translated into Russian by Mr. Boulanger and published in Moscow in 1901); The Life and Teachings of Gautama Buddha, xb 1878, by British Buddhist, Rhys Davids; The Light of Asia (The Light of Asia, xb. 1879) by poet Edwin Arnold; The Word of the Buddha (The Word of the Buddha, by the German Bhikkhu, Nyanatiloka, Publishing House in Burma 1907), especially in this volume is “Buddhism: Studies and Materials”, xb in St.Petersburg, Russia, in 1887), the author is a Russian Buddhist, Ivan P. Minayev and a number of Hinayana sutras in Russian were also translated and printed by this fellow in Mat. Moscow in 1888. Many manuscripts of Tolstoy are also found when reading through these Nikayas.
The above documents show that Tolstoy had known Buddhism since the early eighties of the 19th century. Thus, he knew and studied Buddhism through documents and books of most Buddhist researchers. Western study. Especially Buddhist scriptures according to Nam Truyen ideology.
It shows that his views on religion and his understanding of Buddhism were mainly confined to the framework of the Nikaya teachings. This has been shown in the work Ispoved / A Confession, xb 1882, which reveals his heartache and torment before the scenes of injustice on his way to find the truth for the poor serf. In this work he wrote about Buddhism more directly than in other books. In particular, he recalled the unprecedented death of Prince Siddhartha, who recognized the illusory process of birth, old age, illness and death of human life, so he boldly abandoned the golden palace. gems in search of truth. Tolstoy concludes that: Shakyamuni recognized the uncertain truth of life and affirmed that life is a sea of suffering that must be released. He proved to all that it was thanks to his constant efforts that he escaped from the suffering of the cycle of birth and death, attained enlightenment and never returned to the state of suffering. that anymore. Many Indian sources have mentioned this event.”
In the book “What I Believe” (What I believe, xb. 1883) Tolstoy emphasized that the essence of Buddhism is to help people realize that life is always in the circle of suffering and needs to be liberated. In the work “Then what are we supposed to do?”(What Then Must We Can Do? xb 1886), in his section on great thinkers, Tolstoy honored Shakyamuni as the greatest thinker in human history.
The two translations of the Lotus Sutra: English, The Lotus of the True Law (translated and printed by friend H.Kern in 1884) and French, Le Lotus de la Bonne Loi (translated and printed by Mr. Eugene Burnouf in 1840) found in his library. At that time, however, he was most likely aware of the existence of these two Mahayana sutras in Europe. Because in his library there is another book written in English which is “Grawled from Buddhist Studies: Action and Spirituality in the Far East” (Gleanings in Buddhafields Studies of Hand and Soul in the Far East, xb 1897), the book is far from perfect, as some pages are missing. But at the beginning of chapter four we saw an excerpt from the Lotus Sutra’s Chapter of Never Disparaging Bodhisattva, in italics: “I have a lot of respect for you, and I don’t dare to disrespect you and look down on you. Why? I deeply revere you. I dare not slight and contemn you. Wherefore? Because you all walk in the Bodhisattva-way and are to become BuddhaThrough this, we see that Tolstoy certainly knew through the thought of the Lotus Sutra, a series of Sutras considered the king of all sutras of the Mahayana Buddhist ideology.
In that spirit, the similarities between this great Russian writer’s views on life and the Lotus Sutra are inevitable, for Tolstoy’s main concept in writing is “The Kingdom of God.” God’s kingdom is within you” (God’s kingdom is within you). Tolstoy tries to convey the message that a person’s true happiness depends solely on his or her inner potential, nothing else, this was stated earlier by Shakyamuni Buddha in the Lotus Sutra. : Everyone has Buddha nature and will become a Buddha.
Living peacefully, non-violence, loving and helping people even those who confront them are the basic principles and play a central role in Lev Tolstoy’s moral philosophy of life. He also argued that the human goal is to want happiness and that no one wants to suffer is the most important point for human life. If there is a clear analysis and comparison between the Buddhist teachings and the human outlook of Lev Tolstoy in the last years of his life, especially through his last plays: The Power of Darkness (The Power). of Darkness, 1887), The Fruits of Enlightenment (1889), The Living Corpse (The Living Corpse, 1910), will surely give us many interesting things, as well as help us to know better about relationship between Lev Tolstoy and Buddhism.
Summary from the documents:
– Echoes of Lotus Sutra in Tolstoy’s Philosophy/ Dharma Work/ Japan/October 1998
– Russia & the former…