the Ringing cedars of Russia
Vladimir Megre English translation by John Woodsworth

Book 4. Co-creation (1999)

Two brothers

(A parable)


Once upon a time lived a couple that for many years had no children. When they were well on in age, the wife bore twin boys — two brothers. The labour was difficult, and shortly after childbirth their mother passed on to the next world.

Their father hired wet-nurses, and tried to bring up his children as best he could. And he managed indeed, for nigh on fourteen years. But as his boys approached their fifteenth birthday, the father himself passed on.

After burying their father, the two brothers sat mourning in their room. Two twin brothers. Three minutes separated their emergings into the world, and so between the two of them one was considered the elder, his brother the younger. After a period of mournful silence the elder brother spoke:

“Our father on his deathbed told us of his sorrow that he had not been able to impart to us the wisdom of life. How shall you and I live without wisdom, my dear younger brother? Without wisdom our family line will go on in misery. People who have managed to gain wisdom from their fathers might laugh at us.”

“Do not be sad,” said the younger to his elder brother. “You spend a good deal of time in reverie. Perchance time will afford you the opportunity in your reverie to learn wisdom too. I shall do everything you say. I myself can live without reverie, yet I still find living a pleasing experience. I am happy when the day dawns and when it draws to a close. I shall simply live, take care of the household, while you are learning wisdom.”

‘Agreed,” replied the elder to the younger. “Only there is no opportunity to seek out wisdom by staying here at home. There is no wisdom here, no one has left it here and no one will bring it to us of their own accord. But I as the elder brother have decided I must, for both our sakes, and for the sake of our line which will extend through time, find everything that is wise in this world. I must find it and bring it home, and bestow it upon our descendants as well as our own selves. I shall take with me everything of value our father left us, and travel throughout the world and meet all the wise people of different lands. I shall learn all their teachings and then return to my native home.”

“Y)ur course will be a long one,” said the younger brother sympathetically “We have a horse. Take the horse, and the cart as well, and on your departure take along as much goods as you can carry, so that you will find your journey the less hard. I shall stay at home and await your returning as the wisest of men.”

The brothers parted for a very long time. Years went by. The elder brother went from wise man to wise man, from temple to temple, learning the teachings of the Orient and the Occident, journeying to the North and to the South. He possessed a colossal memory, and his keen intellect quickly grasped everything he heard and committed it to heart.

For about sixty years the elder brother plied the highways and byways of the world. His hair and beard turned to ashen grey His inquisitive mind kept roaming and honing his wisdom. And this ageing pilgrim came to be considered himself the wisest of men. He was followed around by a crowd of disciples. To inquisitive minds he generously preached his wisdom. Both young and old hung on his every word. And his glory and fame preceded him wherever he came, and communities would proclaim in advance the wise man’s great coming.

And so it was in an aura of glory, surrounded by a throng of obsequious disciples, that the ageing wise man drew nearer and nearer to the village where he was born and the house which he had left sixty years before as a youth of fifteen.

All the people of the village turned out to greet him, and the younger brother, showing similar signs of grey, ran toward him rejoicing, and bowed his head before his learned brother. And he whispered with gladsome tenderness:

“Bless me, О my learned brother. Come into our home, I shall wash your feet after your long journey Come into our home, my wise brother, and take your rest.”

With a magnanimous sweep of his hand he gestured to all his disciples to remain on the little hill in front of the village, accept gifts from the well-wishers and engage in learned conversations, while he himself entered the home of his younger brother. The wise man, like an ageing dignitary, sat down wearily at the table in the spacious upper room. And the younger brother began washing his feet with warm water and listening to what his learned brother had to say. And the wise man began speaking to him as follows:

“I have fulfilled my duty. I have learnt the teachings of the great wise men of the Earth, and I have created teachings of my own. I shall not stay long at home. Now to impart what I have learnt to others — that is my part. But since I promised to bring my wisdom home, I shall fulfil my promise and sojourn a day or two with you. During this extent of time, my dear younger brother, I shall impart to you the wisest pearls of truth in the world.

“Here is the first: allpeople should live in a splendid garden.” Drying his elder brother’s feet with a beautifully embroidered towel, the younger went to considerable effort to please him, saying:

“Go to, my brother. On the table before you are the fruits of our garden — I have gathered the very best for you.”

The wise man thoughtfully tasted the marvellous array of fruits before him, and went on:

“Every Man living on the Earth should cultivate his own family tree. When he dies, the tree will remain as a good memorial for his descendants. It will purify the air with its leaves so that his descendants will be better able to breathe. We should all be able to breathe good air.”

The younger brother began to show signs of haste and effort, and said:

“Forgive me, my wise brother, I forgot to open the window so that you can breathe fresh air.” Whereupon he threw the window open and then went on:

“Here, breathe the air of our two cedar trees. I planted them the year you left. I dug a hole with my spade for one of the saplings, for the other I used the spade you played with when we were youngsters.”

The wise man thoughtfully gazed at the trees, and then in-toned:

“Love is a grand feeling. Not everyone is handed the op-portunity to live his life with love. And there is a grand wisdom: each of us should strive every day for loved

“Oh, how wise you are, my dear elder brother!” exclaimed the younger. “You have learnt such great wisdom, and I am embarrassed in your presence. Forgive me, I have not even introduced you to my wife...” And he called out toward the doorway:

“Starushka! Where are you, my little cookie?”  “Here I am!” a voice piped up. And in the doorway a cheerful old woman appeared with plates of fresh steaming pies in her hands. “Sorry, I’ve been busy making pies.”

Putting the pies down on the table, the cheerful starushka did a playful curtsy to the two brothers. And then she went over to the younger brother, her husband, and whispered in his ear, but loudly enough for the elder brother to hear:

‘And now you must forgive me, hubby, I have to go lie down.”

“How now, my ne’er-do-well?” her husband replied. “You’ve decided to go have a nap when we have an honoured guest? My very own brother — and you go...?”

“It’s not that, my head is spinning and I’m starting to feel a bit nauseous.”

‘And how could that possibly happen to you, my little busy-body?”

“Perhaps you are the one to blame, no doubt, again. I am once more with child,” laughed the starushka, as she ran off.

“My apologies, brother,” the younger brother excused himself in some embarrassment. “She doesn’t know the value of wisdom, she’s always been light-hearted and is still that way, even in her old age.”

The wise man’s thoughtful moments became increasingly longer. His reverie was broken by the sound of children’s voices. The wise man heard them and said:

“Every Man should strive to learn great wisdom. To learn how to raise children that will be happy and righteous.”

“Tell me, learned brother, I long to make my children and grandchildren happy — you see, my noisy little grandchildren have just come in.”

Two boys no older than six and a little girl of about four were standing in the doorway and quarrelling amongst themselves. In an attempt to smooth things out, the grey-haired younger brother hastened to say to them:

“Quickly tell me what all the fuss is about, my noisy ones. Yiu’re interfering in our conversation.”

“Oh,” the smaller boy exclaimed, “it seems our one grandpa has become two! Well then now, which is ours and which is not, how do we tell?”

“Here’s our Grandpakins sitting right here, isn’t it clear?” piped up the little girl, running over to the younger brother, putting her cheek against his leg, tousling his beard and prattling:

“Grandpakins, Grandpakins, I was coming to see you all by myself, to show you how I’ve learnt to dance, and the boys decided to tag along all on their own. One of them wants to draw with you — see, he’s brought a board and some chalk. The other’s brought a flute and a pipe — he wants you to play them for him. But Grandpakins, Grandpakins, I was the one who decided to come and see you first. You tell the others that. You can send them home, Grandpakins!”

“She’s wrong. I came first to draw with you, and my brother only then decided he wanted to come with me, to play the flute,” observed the boy carrying the thin piece of board.

“There are two of you grandpakins, you decide,” the grand-daughter chimed in. “Which of us came first? You’d better

decide that I was first, or else I’m going to feel terribly hurt and cry.”

The wise man smiled sadly at the youngsters. He furrowed his brow, working out a response in his mind, but said nothing. The younger brother became flustered, and decided to cut short the ensuing pause. He took the flute out of his grandson’s hands and said without stopping to think:

“We don’t have any cause for quarrel here. Dance, my pretty little jumper, and I shall accompany your dance on the flute. My dear little musician will accompany me on the pipe. And you, my dear little artist, draw what the sounds of the music are drawing, and draw the ballerina doing her dance. And now, everybody to their tasks — look to it, lads!”

Whereupon the younger brother struck up a cheerful and splendid melody on the flute, and the grandchildren enthu-siastically imitated him in time, portraying their favourite images. The future famous musician playing the pipe tried his best to keep up with the melody The blushing girl leapt about like a ballerina in a delightful portrayal of her dance. The future artist drew a picture full of joy.

The wise man kept silent. The wise man realised... When the merriment was finished, he rose and said solemnly:

“Tou remember, my dear younger brother, our father’s old hammer and chisel. Give them to me, and I shall hew out on a rock the most important lesson of all. Then I shall go away. I probably shan’t come back. Don’t stop me, and don’t wait for me.”

The elder brother left. The ageing wise man went with his disciples over to a great rock which a pathway bent around. The same pathway that lured wisdom-seeking pilgrims into lands far from home. A whole day passed, and night fell, but the grey-haired wise man kept hammering and chiselling away at the inscription on the rock. When the aged man finished his work in exhaustion, his disciples read the inscription on the rock:

Whatever you seek, pilgrim, you are already carrying with you. Той keep losing it with every step you take, and are finding nothing new.

Upon finishing the parable, Anastasia fell silent. She gave me an enquiring look in the eye, no doubt wondering what I had got from it.

“Well, Anastasia, I took from the parable that all the pearls of wisdom the elder brother talked about, the younger brother was already implementing in his day-to-day life. There’s just one thing that isn’t clear to me, though: who taught the younger brother all these wise things?”

“No one. All the wisdom of the Universe is included for ever in each soul right from the moment it is created. It is just that wise men slyly intellectualise for their own interests, and thereby lead people away from the most important thing.” “From ‘the most important thing? But what is the most important thing?”

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