Grigori Efimovich Rasputin
Life of an Experienced Pilgrim
First I lived like everyone else with my worldly interests and pleasures until I was 28 years of age. I loved the world, was fair and searched for consolation in this earthly world. I had carts and worked as a coachman, caught fish and plowed. Indeed everything was good for a peasant but I had a lot of grief. If there was a mistake they blamed me though it was not really my fault. Other workers in teams mocked me. I plowed a lot and slept little. My heart was searching for salvation. I looked at priests as they sang and read loudly and brightly and then chopped wood as peasants. That was not what I wanted for myself. I decided to become a pilgrim and started on my path. Everything was interesting to me – good and bad but there was no one I could ask what it all meant. I travelled a lot and researched everything in life. I had to suffer through grief and bad luck during my pilgrimage. Evil people planned to kill me and chased me but God saved me each time. Many lies were told against me. I would leave a place at night and someone envious of my good deeds would say I stole something and the owner would send people to hunt for me. Soon though the guilty person was discovered. Many times wolves started to attack me but then ran away. Once I came across robbers who wanted to take all from me. I said to them, ęThis does not belong to me. These all are Godís possessions. Take whatever you want. I will be happy to give it to youĽ. That surprised them and they asked me who I was and where I was from. I said that I was a person sent by God and devoted to God. It is easy to write about it now but it was hard to live through. I passed 40-50 versts a day in spite of the weather. I did not eat often. I passed through Tambov Guberniya eating just potatoes. I had no money with me. Good people put me up for the night and shared their food with me. Many times I travelled from Kiev to Tobolsk without changing clothes, once for half a year. I often walked for three days at a time without stopping and had very little to eat. During hot days I did not drink kvass and worked with day-laborers. I worked with them and took breaks to say prayers. When I took horses to pasture, I prayed. That was my bliss and consolation. I walked outside and found consolation in nature. I often thought about the Savior and nature taught me to love God and talk to him. I thought about the Savior with his apostles and the Queen of Heaven how she came to high places and asked God if she was ready for Him. Nature can teach us a lot and each tree means something. Spring is a great event for a spiritual person. The soul is blooming just as nature and you are waiting for Easter day. Nature reminds you of how a soul develops in its love for God. Spring brings happiness to non-religious people as well but they cannot comprehend its full meaning. I also read the Gospel every day a little and thought about it. Then for three years I was learning to wear chains but evil demons confused me. I struggled a lot and the chains did not do me good. Instead I found the chains of love. I loved everyone. I would see people leaving the temple and would love them. I had to struggle a lot and lived through many things. Once I thought to myself that God did not choose royal palaces for Himself and was born in poverty so I dug out a little cave for myself and went there every day to pray. Every free minute I had, I spent in there and often I slept there too. Evil demons drove me from there with fear and other things but I did not give in. I spent eight years like that but finally people banished me from there and I had to move. Generally I did not believe in any visions and God saved me from them. The only temptation I had was to rise against society. Visions should not be believed, they are above us. You should be very very careful with those visions. They could bring evil to you and you could waste days and hours and become arrogant like a Pharisee. It is hard for pilgrims to fight demons. When I was travelling to Kiev each morning I left without eating. That was my habit. Demons were envious of my good deeds and came before me as a beggar or someone else. I just crossed myself and he disappeared. Or it seemed to me that a village was far away and I looked and it was right there. What a demon! Or sometimes I had ungodly thoughts or suffered from fatigue, hunger or thirst. That was all devilís work. As soon as I reached a village I went to church. Demons whispered to me to ask for money as I would need a lot for my long trip or said to me to beg people to put me up and feed me. I had to struggle with these demons for years. I stopped thinking about it and went to church. I talked to local peasants and they fed me and helped me. Thatís what pilgrims must do. They must not complain of weather or anything else as it all comes from God. A pilgrimage should last for a certain time, for months but not years. I came across pilgrims who were travelling for many and many years but it did not do them any good. They became lazy and negligent and only one out of a hundred followed the Christ. We pilgrims are not good at struggling with demons. Tiredness brings evil. Thatís why you should not be a pilgrim for years and if you do, you should have strength and will, be deaf and sometimes dumb. If you follow all that you will find an inexhaustible source of life. It is hard to find it nowadays. God is the same but times are different. But God has His bliss and time will come. Pilgrims should take communion in each monastery as they have grief and various needs. Sacred secrets bring joy to pilgrims as spring brings it to the earth. I have been in many monasteries and I would not recommend such life – to leave your wife and become a monk. I have seen many people and they do not live as monks. Their wives do not keep what they promised and thatís why they will be in hell. You should get experience in your own village and then do that. And your wife should have enough experience to live through all that. Then you will be blessed. It is hard to find salvation nowadays. Everyone is watching those looking for salvation and is ready to mock them. The church is now the refuge and consolation but the clergy nowadays has no religious life. But we should not be sad. The Savior told us ętake your cross and follow MeĽ. We do not come to the clergy – we come to church. You can think he may not be good but he is still a priest. We have temptations and his brother-in-law attends balls and his mother-in-law flirts and his wife spends too much money on attires and he expects many guests for breakfast. He is still our father – our priest. Let us say some pomeshchik sent his servant for peas and the servant brought him radishes. What would the pomeshchik do? He would certainly punish his servant. Those who are illiterate and whose life pushed them to salvation, they are probably more gifted – whatever they do, they succeed! Here is an example. One landlord had two workers but then two others came and did a good job. The landlord thanked them and remembered them. The first two were hired and the others just came and did more than those hired. I have often seen how they disapprove of those who just live according to the Godís word and just talk about love and Sacred Secrets, sign hymns and read the New Testament chapter by chapter. Those disapproving have their position but they are far from God. We will not ask God to punish those. God will show them the way – the truth. Their laughter will turn into tears. We will not look at them and ęwill continue singing hymns and love each other with all our heartsĽ and ęwill greet each other with sacred kissesĽ as the Apostle said. We should not all become grand. We must hear and listen to the one leading us to the truth and beware of demons. We should not believe in dreams except for the Theotokos and the cross. Demons bring pettifoggery even between brothers. They point at each otherís shortcomings and then brothers do not talk to each other till the end of their lives and at deathbed they do not want to forgive each other. We should forgive each otherís mistakes and should not judge others. We should note mistakes with patience and caress people as children like mothers do. Treat the fallen kindly and be careful yourself. You should be close to God in your heart and not by the book. Demons are always waiting to hurt the searching. Once in the winter I was riding and it was freezing. Demons told me, "Take off your hat and pray here – those searching can do anything". I took off my hat and started praying and I felt I was very close to God. What happened next? I had a very bad cold and a fever. After I got better I fasted and prayed a lot. You can pray outside but without taking off your hat if it is freezing. Those searching for God will use anything not as a sin but as an experience. After such temptations you should get stronger and act reasonably. You should be careful and remember the Lord when you work, in particular when you catch fish as the Lordís apostles. When you plow, remember that labor brings salvation. Once in a while read prayers to the Theotokos and in a thick forest think about the desert where our forefathers used to hide. In harvest time think of kind deeds and laborers. When you walk or ride by yourself, think about all these people living in the desert by themselves. If you are with someone, think of thousands of people following the Christ. Although all people are sinful, we are created by God. If you have any sensual desires, imagine the Cross and yell aloud: "Go with me to the cross, you were like an angel and I will be a saint and we will both suffer otherwise you bring sufferings to both of usĽ. If you are alone, say aloud, ęJesus Christ, save me by the prayers of the TheotokosĽ. If someone is close to you, say these prayers to yourself. Then take communion as often as you can and go to church whether the priests are good or bad. Consider the priests good. They also have families and they are just human. They would be glad to ask for advice but no one can give them any. Nowadays it is hard to find good advisors. Evil demons also send diseases. Pilgrims get sore feet and sore backs, they suffer from thirst and hunger. Those who cross themselves get cramps or their vision gets blurred. At night demons want us to sleep otherwise we hear noises and fear takes over our soul. To hardworking people they bring laziness. How can you struggle with all that? You should pray and hit yourself but make sure no one is around. Then you will be blessed as demons taught you to love God! That's how you can take over enemies. Thatís like a Jew who was selling things and cheating peopleĽ but eventually went broke. All my life I have been suffering from illnesses. Each spring I could not sleep for many nights in a row. Thatís how it was from the age of 15 to 38. Thatís what made me start a new life. Medicine did not help me. At nights I used to urinate in bed like a child. The holy people from Kiev healed me and Simeon Verkhotursky showed me the way to cure my sleeplessness. It was hard to survive all that but I did it myself. I worked a lot and slept little. When I started my pilgrimage to holy places, I found joy in the other world. I attended many places, suffered a lot and saw people serving God. I realized that peasants are also a part of this for even the Tsar uses the results of their work. All birds and even mice use the peasants' labor. With each breath we praise God and all our prayers to Him are for peasants – just do not let them swear! Peasants are great in front of God. They do not attend balls or theatres but they understand one thing – God ordered them to work hard. A peasant has a scythe in his hand and a plow in his heart. Instead of luxury clothes he has something simple on, instead of three fast horses – just a weary little horse. He rides along and prays to God to take him to his land or to town. Thatís where the Christ is with him! Sometimes it is hard for peasants but without God luxury has no meaning. They have nothing to be envious about. It is like a Jew selling rotten things which just look good. You pay money for them and they bring no good. Their happiness is just like hopes for spring ice. Their clothes are expensive but there is darkness in their souls. However it is not always the case. Diamonds were also created by God. We must just not get arrogant. Humbleness and love – only they bring true joy! Love is vital. When there are no more prophesies and no new knowledge, love will still be there. Do not strive for honors, just follow and search for God and everyone will listen to you. I have been to many bishops. I talked to them and they tested me in different ways. If you come with the humble heart and soul, their words remain vain and they listen to your simple words as you come by Godís bliss. You say one word and they picture something completely different if only you do not come out of covetousness. They want to test you and search for anything. But you come not with just simple words, then they get silent and cannot say anything against you. I have been to many ecclesiastical academies in Kiev, Moscow, Kazan and Petersburg. Now during these times of ill temper in 1907 you cannot help everyone. Even God did not influence everyone and prepared hell and darkness for them. I talked a lot there about these difficult times but more about love, love from my experience. If you do nothing out of covetousness and just try to console and pray to God in your soul, demons will stay away from you and you will heal people. If you look to fill your gut or want honors and money, you wonít get anything here or there. If you work hard, God will give you what you truly need. The devil is waiting to say to look for fame and money. The devil is sly and has many traps. I have lived through all that! You should not look for honors for yourself. That brings nothing but trouble – it will not be given to you neither on earth nor in heaven. If you strive for things, you will be like a living corpse as the New Testament says. Knowledge is nothing for godliness! I do not say that you should not learn but the learned do not go to God. They study everything by books and that knowledge confuses them. The whole Russia is confused and does not accept its Father – the Tsar, the Lordís Anointed. I have been to many places and have seen a lot. I have been to officials and officers and dukes. I have even seen the Romanovs and the Tsar. Everywhere humbleness and love is required. All learned people and noble boyars and dukes listen to your word of truth for you have love and lies do not go with love. But in fact when you deal with High people, you must be really careful and ready for anything for they can take your simple words for the best education. I am sinful and have been to many places. Most important if you live poor but with the Christ, you have more happiness than those living in palaces. There are those people who live with faith among the noble but those waiting for honors and awards from the Tsar are standing on sand. The smallest water will take away everything from them. A small mistake and they either kill themselves or get drunk. They did not look for heavenly truth, they were just after carnal pleasures. It is like they bought God in a store like an emerald but their emerald rusted. Those who serve God and Tsar, do not look for honors and work hard will be rewarded. I remembered another experience from my life. During the fast of St. Peter and St. Paul I went to the islands to get bast and then took it to the lake to soak. I ate little bread and did not repel mosquitoes and flies from myself. At five oíclock every night I took off my shirt, made a hundred bows and said prayers to Jesus. The evil demons were very envious of my good deeds and brought depression and discontent on me. I hardly managed to get through that but realized that I annoyed them a lot. They taught me a lot and left with nothing. Their role was sacrilege and it resulted from the miracle I asked for. So do not ask for miracles or strive for heroic things. Do one thing at a time. That really did me good and I learned a lot from numerous mosquitoes and flies. They taught me patience and in general to endure pain and fatigue. If I have to sleep on a soft bed, that will be good but sleep is even sweeter outside on the ground next to a beautiful birch treeÖso you will not sleep through dawn. During these nights I also started plowing and did not wave off gad-flies – I let them have my bad blood. I thought they were also Godís creatures just like me. If there was no summer, there would be no mosquitoes. Peasantsí labor is like gold and everything is done with consideration. Peasants even serve mosquitoes. They are wise and experienced with a bright soul which has been through a lot. Too bad their mind is sleeping for they did not go to school. No one knows however what would come out of that. The only true thing is the knowledge and love in God and for God. If you keep all that, you will be attacked and persecuted by others and priests will test you but God will give you power. When the priest is in church, you must worship him. If he dances with young ladies, remind yourself that this is not him – this is the demonsí work. If you see that he serves sweet meals and invites ladies, thatís because his sister-in-law and brother-in-law are young and eager for entertainment. He just felt sorry for them. Thatís what you must think. I also want to talk about doubt. I have come across many people from 16 to 33 who doubt themselves. This doubt becomes so deep that they think they are not worthy of going to church and looking at icons. Their doubts are so deep, it is confusing. The Holy Lives say that you need to learn about yourself and research everything. I agree with that, you should always test and research yourself but not to the extremes. Then people start thinking that no true love has been given to them. They think that they love people just because they see their shortcomings and feel sorry for them. True love is far from me, they think. God has not given me love. What happens then? They complain that God has not been fair to them. In such case you should not think love is not given to you. Ask God and He will teach you! You can ask God to give you pure love, love to honor the Christ. Do not go to the extremes. You should be aware of evil demons telling you not to be happy as you have not learned true love yet. God did not refuse the happy from the paradise but your happiness should be to honor God. Evil demons say, ędesert fathers prayed and fasted and Jesus fasted for 40 days and you should fast and come closer to GodĽ. So we start fasting and praying for weeks without asking ourselves or holy people for advice. What do we get then? That leads to self-opinion and there are visions and other things. Evil demons then come so close but you cannot tell. Then you get pains and aches and your nerves are shattered from fasting and you do not want to talk to anyone. Everyone seems a sinner to you, you feel giddy and fall on the ground from weakness and often turn insane. Thatís where we got in the trap made by evil spirits. We should take animals as an example. Letís see – if you take a full horse, it wonít go too fast, if you take a hungry one, it will be tired. So take a middle horse and you get where you want. You should pray a little and think more. During Lent you should pray to God so that He mentions your name in His kingdom. Withdraw with your spirit as if to a desert and pray to Jesus to save your sinful soul. If you do that, you will always be with God. In church you should stand when praying and if you get lazy you should not be ashamed in church as it is the home for our prayers. If a merchant is lazy to take out his goods, then he will get no money. We should follow a middle course and pray. Those who live a spiritual life are being mocked at. Then you should not be ashamed and follow Godís words. Evil demons will whisper to your ear: ęDo not go to church. All people, psalmists, deacons and priests are laughing at you. Stay at home and make 200 bowsĽ. You should go to church for thatís where your sins are released. Once I had an idea which rooted deep in my heart. I wanted to build a church. How can I do that? I am myself illiterate and most importantly have no money. I prayed to the Queen of Heaven and She gave me power not to give in and hope. It is easy to say, ęGive me 20 thousand for a churchĽ, but who will give you that? I needed to think, pray to God and ask for His generosity and blessing. I will not talk long about benefactors. If I start telling everything it will take me too long. As the Holy Writ says God will hear prayers and Tsar will reward service. I was blessed by God. I, just a simple peasant, with very little money went from Tobolsk to Petersburg. Everything was new to me in Petersburg. The first thing I came to the Alexander Nevsky Lavra to honor the relics and left a big sack with my clothing outside. I said prayers for 3 kopeks with a candle for 2 kopeks. I left the Lavra and asked for Bishop Sergy of the ecclesiastical academy. The police came up to me and said that I was a ruffian. By Godís blessing I managed to escape from them and came to the Bishopís house. The doorman did not want to show me in. I knelt and started praying. Something must have touched him in my manner and he told the Bishop. The Bishop invited me in and we started talking. He told me about Petersburg, its streets and other things. Finally I was able to meet the noble and the Tsar which understood me and gave money for a church. I was happy, came back home and addressed the priests about building a new church. The evil demons envious of good deeds were way ahead of me. I wanted to assist them in building a church and they blamed me for heresy, said things which I could never even imagine. Thatís how strong they are, they dig under a good person and do not see his good deeds. They said I belonged to the vilest sects. But love is the most important thing in life. Life is like gold, it is priceless but few can understand it. Those who do are very wise people. Many of us, we all talk about love but we just hear about it and we are far away from it. Love is with experienced people and it will not come to people who live well even if they are priests. There are two kinds of priests – those just doing their job and others with a true devotion. Those selected by God feel true love. You can go and listen to them and they will tell you things out of their own experience and not just from books. Thatís where evil spirits try to keep people from true love but they cannot do that. Love is like a fortune for your spiritual life. Love often lives in outcasts who have suffered a lot. It is hard even to talk about love. You must have someone experienced for such conversation. Those who have not known love will take it the wrong way. There are those selected who understand love and live according to the New Testament. They have true love and they pray together day and night for each other. They have the true treasure of love. Brother, beware of evil spirits. Sisters, think about the true and pure love. Sing psalms and religious songs. Evil demons are always looking for a chance to do their evil deeds. Let us not be afraid of evil demons, let us continue to praise God, love church and take communion more often.