Rational Wisdom by Leo Tostoy

Rational Wisdom

Leo Tolstoy


A person’s life consists of one thing: making oneself better each year, month and day.

True happiness is always in our hands. It follows a good life like a shadow.

Just as a candle only burns when the wax from which it is made is expended, so life is only real when it is expended for others.

Make the goal of your life the increase of love and you’ll find that happiness is always within your power.

The more a person lives for others, the freer and more joyful is his life.

In order that life not be suffering but rather total joy one must always be kind to all, both people and animals.

One of the most harmful superstitions is to believe that it is possible to compel people to live a good life through force.

We can’t say that life isn’t a blessing, because we know of no greater blessing than life.

Work as if you’re going to live forever, and treat people as if you’re going to die at any second.

Struggling for the good is the entire life of man, and the reward is in the struggle itself.

It’s impossible to increase the blessings and sanctity of our lives. Our entire life is blessed and holy.

It's only when a person understands the fragility & poverty of his physical life that he feels & understands the happiness love gives him.

If a person thinks that his life is in his individuality and lives exclusively for himself, he inescapably suffers.

If a person only lives a physical life, it’s the same as if he locks himself in prison.

Getting used to a life of idleness is worse than all disasters in a person’s life.

Life consists of effort in liberation from sins, temptations and superstitions. The greater the effort, the greater one’s blessings.

In order to improve your life, you must be prepared to sacrifice it.

The most important task is to love all people, because this is the purpose of every person’s life.

The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity.

Man knows himself only when he knows that his life is not in his body, but in his soul.

A person who fails to recognize the beneficence of suffering isn't ready to live a rational, genuine life.

Rejoice! Rejoice! The purpose of life is joy. Rejoice at the sky, the sun, the stars, the grass, the trees, animals, people.

No matter what your life may be, it is a blessing greater than anything else.

Life without moral strength is sleep.

The main task of every person’s life is to become kinder and better.

The more a man lives for others, the freer & happier is his life. The more he lives for himself, the more his life is constricted & painful.

True faith isn’t knowing which days are fasting days, or when to go the temple and read prayers, but in living a good life in love with all.

Do what your soul demands of you—attain humility, mercy, love—and you’ll have no need of any heaven. Heaven will be in your soul.

Do what your body demands of you—attain glory, honor, wealth—and your life will be a hell.

It’s easy to give your life up under the influence of hypnotism borne by the approval of the mob.

The main question of life is simply: will we in this short time that has been given to us do what the One who sent us into this life wishes?

In order to find joy in serving people and all living things you must not build your life on others’ suffering.

The purpose of life is joy. If this joy is disturbed then you’ve made a mistake somewhere. Most often it's disturbed by money and ambition.

The stronger one's faith, the stronger his life.

The first and most common temptation to seize a person is the temptation to prepare for life instead of living.

Live so that it doesn’t matter to you whether you conceal or expose your acts to others.

In order that life not be suffering but rather total joy one must always be kind to all, both people and animals.

A person who is accustomed to restraining himself from his desires, and can do it, has an easy and joyful life in this world.

A man who understands the meaning of life can’t help but feel his equality & brotherhood not just with his own people, but with all people.

Every person’s task in life is to become better and better. Therefore, the only sciences that are good are those which aid this task.

As soon as you feel that your feet are getting muddled in the worries of earthly life, know that you’ve strayed from the path of truth.

People living a physical life are so in need of inequality that they invent inequality between families, people and religions.

The less you indulge your body in food, clothing, housing, merrymaking, the freer your life will be.

If you want to live peacefully and freely, don’t get used to excess, but wean yourself as much as possible from anything you can do without.

In order to learn how to live a good life, first of all you must teach yourself to think good thoughts.

If you don’t love people everything is confused, everything is difficult. Just try to love & everything will instantly become simple & easy.

Love is the expansion of life. The more we love the vaster, fuller and more joyful our lives become.

Love people and animals and you will experience overwhelming joy from being with them.

There can be no virtue without love. There can be no happiness without love either.

Not by money, nor gifts, nor lessons, nor even labor can people improve each others’ lives, but only by love.

Use all your strength to pierce and drive away all that interferes with love.

All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love.

You strive for happiness, and you’ll achieve what you strive for if you strive for the happiness that's achieved by love: happiness for all.


A wise man is always happy.

Children are the wisest people in the world. A child doesn’t value a person’s title, but that single entity that lives within each person.

Don’t think that only certain people can be wise. All people need wisdom, and so therefore all people can be wise.

Wise people are terrified of wealth, while stupid people try with all their might to gather more and more of that which wise people fear.

A wise man speaks only when it's necessary for others, not himself.

A wise person knows a few things, but all that he knows is of use to him and others and all he believes, he believes with certainty.

A wise man doesn't wait for thieves to steal his wealth. He gives it away himself, so that thieves will have nothing to take from him.

A good and wise man can be recognized by the fact that he considers others better and wiser than he is.

Man can use the traditions that have been passed down to him by wise and holy people of the past, but he must confirm them with his reason.

Even if the person speaking to you is a fool, remain wise as a listener.

A wise person gets angry at no one but himself. And therefore a wise person never gets angry.


The truth is brief. Lies are always long-winded.

The most faithful sign of the truth is simplicity and clarity. Lies are always complicated, pretentious and long-winded.

Hold up everything you’re taught to the truth. This is the only way to avoid the terrible deeds caused the religion and government.

In order to speak the truth and not lie, the most important thing is not to value people’s opinions.

Don’t disregard truth in the most unimportant trivialities.

Nothing draws a person away from the truth like unthinking imitation of what everyone else does.

The true word has no need of external solemn ceremonies. Only lies need such ceremonies.

Fear all lies, no matter how harmless

We can teach people by opening the truth to them and providing a good example, but not by forcing them to do what we want.

The main obstacle to recognizing the truth isn’t falsehood but the similitude of truth.

We prefer truth to lies, but when it concerns us we often prefer lies to the truth, because lies justify our bad life while the truth exposes it.

If you wish to know the truth, first of all free yourself from all considerations of self-interest.

The entrance to the temple of truth is low. Only those who bow will enter.


All religion is simply the answer to the question: how do I live my life not before people but before the power that sent me into the world?

True religion is not a religion of reason, but true religion cannot contradict reason.

My religion is to love all living things.

In every religion there is truth and falsehood. Try to take the truth out of the religion you were born into.

He who places his religion second in his life has no religion.

True faith is not in ritual, not in sacrifice, but in union with people.

Liberation from religious superstition is the most important thing you can do; far more important than gaining respect, wealth or education.

Doubt doesn’t destroy faith, it strengthens it.

Faith doesn’t mean knowing what was or what will be, or even what is, but only one thing: knowing what each person must do.

The true enemies of all faiths are those who teach people that they can be saved by something other than their own effort.

Don’t fear ignorance, fear superfluous knowledge, especially if the goal of this knowledge is personal gain or praise.

If you become accustomed to kindness, there will always be joy in your heart.

True kindness is not only a virtue and a joy but also a weapon in battle far more powerful than violence.

Value kind thoughts, whether yours or someone else’s.

Kindness conquers all, and is itself unconquerable.

Don’t become more educated, richer and respected; become kinder

You must never stop learning how to act, speak and think honestly.

For true faith you don’t need temples, or organs, or singing. On the contrary, true faith always enters your heart in silence and solitude.

True religion isn’t a faith established once & for all as a result of supernatural feats and some laws established by a supernatural being.

True religion is not, as the scholars believe, the remains of the superstitions of ancient ignorance, which has no application in our time.

True religion is the relationship of man to his neighbor and to the entire eternal world, in agreement with reason & contemporary knowledge.


Lust annihilates and debases your spiritual source, and it is in this source alone that life’s blessings lie.

We can only gain physical happiness by taking it from others. Spiritual happiness, the happiness of love, only increases others’ happiness.

Conscience is the voice of the spirit that lives within us.

Self-renunciation isn’t renunciation of yourself, but simply the transformation of your self from a corporeal to a spiritual being.

If a person believes his strength is in his physical rather than his spiritual life, he’s like a bird that walks from place to place.

Spiritual power is in everything, but its greatest manifestation of which we are aware is in man. For it to appear, a man must recognize it.

Physical growth is only a preparation of material for spiritual work.

Forget about people, don’t think about uniting with them, but think about uniting with the spirit that lives within all people.

We don’t use our reason to separate physical love from spiritual love, but rather to decorate it with the peacock feathers of spirituality.

Every true religion teaches only that all human life is effort to transition from lower animal life to a life that is more & more spiritual.

A person feels his freedom to the degree to which he transfers his life from physical to spiritual existence.

To live for others means to transfer your self from physical life to spiritual life, i.e. to that for which there is no time, death or evil.

Man, who’s capable of creating the best, inescapably creates the insignificant and evil if he doesn’t recognize his spiritual power.

If a person understands that his life is not in a body but a spirit, then he’ll recognize this spirit in all living beings.

If a person is a spiritual being, and the soul only lives in the body temporarily, then death is simply a transformation.

If you get angry at someone, it means you’re living a physical rather than a spiritual life.

Happy is he who has consciously and freely exchanged personal life for true spiritual life.

A person only awakens and truly lives when he sees and feels in every other person the same spirit that lives within him.

No matter what happens, if you're conscious of your spiritual source no evil can touch you.

If a person is living a spiritual life then wealth is not just unnecessary but a nuisance.

GOD - Realization of the divine

Man is a weak, unhappy animal until his soul burns with the light of God.

I can’t understand God, but I know Him, I know the direction to him; and in fact, of all my knowledge, this is the most reliable.

In order for a person to be a real person, he must understand that God lives in him.

In order to be like God, you need only love.

God’s will is that things be good for all. There's only one way for this to happen: everyone must want blessings for others, not themselves.

In bad times you don’t feel God, you doubt Him. And salvation is always the same: love everyone, and your doubts will instantly cease.

That which is incorporeal in my body I call my soul; that which is incorporeal in the world I call God.

If it’s better that there is separate life after death, it will continue, and if not, it will end. All God does is the very best.

People don’t think it's base to eat animals b/c false teachers have convinced them God created animals for their exploitation. This is a lie.

He who says he loves God but not his neighbor deceives others. He who says he loves his neighbor but not God deceives himself.

Either there is no God, or there is nothing but God.

There is no God only for those who don’t look for Him. Search for Him and He will reveal himself to you.

It’s considered unforgivable to insult holy books but forgivable to insult people. But books are human creations while within man lives God.

God is spirit, and His religion is only internal. It isn’t tied to a place or any external forms. Temples & temple services are unimportant.

God wishes good for all, and so if you wish good for all, i.e. if you love everyone, then God lives within you.

With the passage of time the law of God becomes simpler, more comprehensible, clearer, and more in concordance with true knowledge.

It’s bad for the person who has accepted what he’s been told about God but hasn’t searched and doesn’t search for God himself.

Anyone can feel God, but no one can know Him. Therefore, don’t try to know Him, but try to feel Him become more and more alive within you.

When you’re suffering, don’t look for comfort in temples or books, look for it within yourself. Only the God who lives within you can help.

Doubt doesn’t destroy faith, it strengthens it.

Does God exist? I don't know. I know there's a law governing my spiritual being. The source of and reason for that law I call God.

You can't consciously be humble. There's only one way to be humble: don't think of yourself and think of service to God and others.

All our troubles are caused by our forgetting that God lives within us, and we sell this God for a cup of porridge--physical pleasure.

Falsehood conceals the God who dwells within us and all people, and therefore there is nothing more valuable than truth.

There is nothing stronger than a humble person, because a humble person, rejecting himself, unites with God.

God gave us our souls so that we can fulfill His Will & so that we'll be happy. And we waste this Divine soul on the service of our bodies.

What a foul habit to begin interaction with a person with a joke. Within every person is God, and you can’t joke with God.

Whatever a person thinks will please God other than a good, pure, kind life is a base and dangerous fraud.

People should openly admit that they've ceased to believe in what the collective wisdom of mankind and the Law of God has said.

For most people, the law of God is that which suits their life and doesn’t interfere in their business.

If you desire something, if you are afraid of something, that means that you do not believe in that God of love which is in you.

If a person doesn’t know God within himself, he doesn’t know any God at all.

The law of God says “all men are brothers, love them;” the law of man says, “these men are enemies, kill them.” Which law will you follow?

God lives in all, and all live in Him. He who understands this can’t treat any living thing with contempt.

All life is senseless, except that which has for its end the service of God.

Unite your will with God's will, and no matter what happens to you you'll find the happiness your heart desires.

God lives in every person, and there is no soul in which it is impossible to awaken consciousness of Him.

We feel the absolute necessity of recognizing God most clearly when we reject Him, when we forget Him.

He who says he loves God but doesn’t love people deceives others. He who says he loves people but doesn’t love God deceives himself.

There is no God only for those who don’t look for Him. Search for Him and He will reveal himself to you.

You can refuse to call God by name, you can flee from the word, but you can't deny His existence. If God doesn't exist, nothing exists.

It’s possible and easy to feel God within yourself. To know God’s nature is both impossible and unnecessary.

If a man believes you can please God with rituals and prayers but not deeds, it means he wants to deceive God, but he only deceives himself.

There is no God only for those who don’t look for Him. Search for Him and He will reveal himself to you.

It’s considered unforgivable to insult holy books but forgivable to insult people, yet books are human creations while within man lives God.

The farther people live from the fulfillment of God’s will, the more they fear death—the moment when they can’t escape His will.

When you’re suffering, don’t look for comfort in temples or books, look for it within yourself. Only the God who lives within you can help.

Remembrance of God is a great affair. You can’t remember Him through words, but by acknowledging that He lives within you.

God wishes good for all, and so if you wish good for all, i.e. if you love everyone, then God lives within you.

God lives in every good and kind person.

Only when a person understands his life in its true sense does he feel God within him and see Him in every person.

They say that on the final day there will be judgment and that God the most kind will be angry, but nothing can come from God but kindness.

We know God exists only because we know Him not through our mind but through our entire being; because we are conscious of Him within us.

Life ceases to be terrible only when you live with God. Without Him life is always terrible.

Don’t seek God in temples. He is close to you. He is within you. He lives in you.

There is no God for someone who doesn’t know Him within himself.

God is what we call that everything of which we feel ourselves a part, and that perfection which we want to attain.

The more you unite with people and God, the more peaceful and joyous your life will be.

In each person lives the same spirit that lives in you, so don’t just love, but honor as holy the soul of every person as much as your own.

"Seek God & you won't live without God." & more than ever before all within me & around me lit up & the light never abandoned me again.

"God exists," I told myself. & I had only for an instant to admit that & at once life rose within me &I felt the possibility & joy of being.

A wise man never seeks to change his circumstances, b/c he knows that God's will--the law of love--can be fulfilled in any circumstances.

If a person lives for God, even though he may not know the consequences of his actions, he knows the consequences will be good.

If you love God, you will fear nothing on earth.