The Three Questions

The Three Questions is a story by Tolstoy concerning an emperor who, in the course of ruling his realm, confronts three questions.

  • The first question is: “What is the best time to start a task? How does on avoid missing the appropriate time, so that one may have no regret?”
  • The second question is: “What kind of person is most crucial to us as individuals? What kind of person would you regarding as important?”
  • The third question is: “Of all the kinds of work that exist, what is the most important?”

The emperor wants to know the answers, because he is sure that if he knows the answers, he can live a successful life. He makes it known throughout the realm that he will reward whoever can tell him the answers. Many learned men offer him answers, but the emperor learns that men are not necessarily wise.

In the end the emperor is provided the answers from a sage who lives among the people.

The wise man replies to the questions:

  • “What is the most important time?” by saying, “Now, this very moment.”
  • “Who is the most important person?” The sage replies, “The person with whom you are involved right here and now.”
  • “What is the most important task?” The wise man replies, “Doing good to others; serving others.”

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