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The Death of Ivan Ilyich Summary



I recently read this book, called The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy. This is the story of a judge in Moskov. Leo Tolstoy was one of the great spiritual teachers. A lot of people don’t realize it. They think he was just a great writer, but he was way more than that. Many say he was a divine spiritual avatar, a master. He was the most famous man alive on the planet in 1904 and 1905 before television, and radio, and considered a great seer. In his book, he has this young man who was a judge named Ivan Ilyich and he would go back and forth to work every day and he was doing everything that he was programmed to do. He was programmed on ambition, on achieving things, on accumulating things and he hated everything about what he was doing throughout the story. He not only hated what he was doing, but he hated his wife because she was the one that got him into this in the first place. And he felt she was responsible for him, not fulfilling a different destiny. You know the ending of the story by the title of the book, the death of Ivan Ilyich. You know this guy is gonna die in the end. So the last paragraph of the short story, he is lying there, holding his wife’s hand and he looks up into her eyes and the last message of that story is, that he says to her, “What if my whole life has been wrong?” and then he dies, closes his eyes. He was successful by every standard, he was a judge, and he was well respected. Yes sir, no sir, yeah your honor, all of that kind of thing, and yet his question as he died, what if my whole life has been wrong? This question makes my whole body shake. You know, I am a Ph.D. student and will graduate soon and I can go out and get a job and have a certain amount of income and benefits that go with working for somebody else, all that safety. But I have this thing inside of me that says that I will not feel fulfilled in my life if I do this. That my life will be wasted if I don’t follow my heart. I’ve decided to walk away from all of this and take the risk to do what my heart wants me to do, to find my true purpose in life and devote my whole life to it. My beloved teacher, Wayne Dyer says, “Don’t die with your music still in you.” This idea of not dying with your music still in you and realizing that you don’t have to follow what other people are doing. Instead going inside of you and trying to find out what is it that gives you joy and purpose in life. If you don’t do this, you might ask the same question Ivan Ilyich asked himself at the time of his death. So, don’t die with your music still in you.


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