LEO TOLSTOY

Russian novelist who served the Russian army from 1852 to 1854. Authored War and Peace (1865-69) and Anna Karenina (1875-77). After 1876 he developed a form of Christian anarchism and devoted himself to social reforms.

Alexander Shifman, Adviser to the Tolstoy State Museum, in his book Tolstoy and India writes : ‘During the last decade of Tolstoy’s life Ramakrishna Paramahansa and his pupil Swami Vivekananda occupied his [Tolstoy’s] thoughts. ...

‘On 13 February 1903, Tolstoy read the journal Theosophischer Wegweister sent to him from Germany and in his copy underlined a number of Ramakrishna’s aphorisms. “There is much in common with my conception”—he noted in his diary.’35

‘Later on, in February 1906, Tolstoy received from his friend and biographer, P.A. Sergeenko, the book Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa’s Sayings in English published in 1905 in Madras and read it with interest. “Wonderful sayings! Ramakrishna died 50 [20 ?] years ago. A remarkable sage,” said Tolstoy to a circle of his intimates and read aloud to them some of those sayings by the Indian philosopher.’36

‘From the literature about Ramakrishna, Tolstoy selected nearly a hundred sayings and parables which he intended to publish in Russia. However, this publication did not materialise and the writer after carefully working over them included some in his collections of ancient wisdom over which he was working at that time.’37