Maharashtra State Board Class 10 English Lesson The Three Questions Summary, Line by Line Explanation, along with difficult word meanings from English Kumarbharati Book


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The Three Questions Maharashtra State Board Class 10 English 

Leo Tolstoy

The Three Questions Introduction

“The Three Questions” is a short story about a king who sets off on a quest to find the answers he needs to be a great leader.

Theme / Central Idea of the Lesson The Three Questions

  1. The Importance of Living in the Present: The king spends his time obsessing about the future, seeking answers about the “right time” to do things. The story, however, emphasizes the value of focusing on the present moment and acting with kindness and good judgment in each situation that arises.


  1. True Wisdom: The learned advisors the king consults offer him complex answers and differing opinions. The true wisdom, however, comes from the hermit’s simple actions – helping the injured man and retrieving the stolen horse – demonstrating that good judgment and compassion are more important than bookish knowledge.


  1. Finding Answers Through Experience: The hermit never directly answers the king’s questions. Instead, by witnessing the hermit’s actions, the king learns the answers for himself. This reinforces the idea that true wisdom comes from experience and living a life guided by good principles.

The Three Questions Summary 

In Leo Tolstoy’s “The Three Questions,” a king believes knowing the answers to three life questions will ensure success:

  1. What is the right time to begin something?
  2. Who are the best people to listen to?
  3. What is the most important thing to do?

He sends messengers throughout the kingdom, offering a reward for the correct answers. However, the wise men all give different answers, leaving the king unsatisfied.

Determined, he seeks out a renowned hermit living in the forest. While there, the king witnesses the hermit tending to his garden and stopping a fight between two men. These seemingly trivial events become the key to the answers.

The hermit explains that the most important time is always now, because the present moment is the only time we can truly act. The most important person is whoever you are with, as you never know if you’ll encounter them again. And the most important thing is to do good, for that is the purpose of life.

The king realizes he missed the opportunity to learn these valuable lessons while searching for them elsewhere. The story emphasizes the importance of living in the present, treating everyone with kindness, and using every moment to do good.

The Three Questions Summary in Hindi 

एक राजा यह मानता है कि जीवन के तीन सवालों के जवाब जानने से उसे सफलता मिलेगी:

  1. कुछ शुरू करने का सही समय क्या है?
  2. किन लोगों की बात सुनना सबसे अच्छा है?
  3. सबसे महत्वपूर्ण काम क्या है?

राजा पूरे राज्य में दूत भेजता है, सही जवाब देने वाले को इनाम देने की पेशकश करता है। हालांकि, विद्वान सभी अलग-अलग जवाब देते हैं, जिससे राजा असंतुष्ट होता है।

अपने इरादे पर अडिग रहते हुए, वह जंगल में रहने वाले एक प्रसिद्ध साधू की तलाश करता है। वहां रहते हुए, राजा उस साधू को अपने बगीचे की देखभाल करते हुए देखता है.

साधू बताता है कि सबसे महत्वपूर्ण समय हमेशा अभी का होता है, क्योंकि वर्तमान क्षण ही वह समय है जब हम वास्तव में कार्य कर सकते हैं। सबसे महत्वपूर्ण व्यक्ति वही होता है जो आपके साथ है, क्योंकि आप नहीं जानते कि आप उनसे फिर कभी मिल पाएंगे या नहीं। और सबसे महत्वपूर्ण बात यह है कि अच्छा करना है, क्योंकि यही जीवन का उद्देश्य है।राजा को यह एहसास होता है कि वह इन बहुमूल्य प्रश्‍नों का जवाब कहीं और ढूंढ रहा था। 

यह कहानी वर्तमान में जीने, हर किसी के साथ दयालु व्यवहार करने और हर पल अच्छे काम करने के महत्व पर बल देती है।

The Three Questions Lesson Explanation 


Passage: Once a certain king had an idea. If he always knew the right time to begin everything, if he knew who were the right people to listen to and who to avoid the most important thing to do, he would never fail in anything that he would undertake and above all, if he always knew what was the most undertake. Since he was convinced that he was right in thinking this way, he had a proclamation made in his kingdom. He would give a great reward to anyone who would teach him what the right time was for every action, who the most necessary people were, and how he might know the most important thing to do.  


Word Meaning:

Proclamation: A public announcement, often made by a person in authority.

Convinced: Completely sure of something.

Undertake: To begin to do something that is difficult or important.


Explanation: There was a king who believed that knowing the ideal time to start things, whom to trust for advice, and what’s truly important would guarantee his success in any work. He was so convinced of this idea that he thought it to be the key to prevent failure. Due to his strong belief, the king announces a kingdom-wide search. He’s willing to offer a great reward to anyone who can answer these three crucial questions:

  • What is the right time for every action?
  • Who are the most important people?
  • How to identify the most important thing to do?

The king’s desire highlights a common human quest for certainty and a guaranteed path to success.


Passage: Many learned people came to the court but they all gave different answers. In reply to the first question, some said that to know the right time for every action, one must draw up in advance a table of days, months and years, and must live strictly according to it. Others declared that it was impossible to decide beforehand the right time for every action; but that, not letting oneself be absorbed in idle pastimes, one should always attend to all that was going on, and then do that which was most essential. Yet others said that it was impossible for one man to decide correctly the right time for every action and that the king should, instead, have a council of wise people, who would help him to fix the proper time for everything.


Word Meaning:

Court: The place where a king or queen holds their government and receives officials. 

Idle Pastimes: Activities that are done for amusement and have no real purpose.

Council: A group of people who meet to discuss and make decisions.


Explanation: This paragraph describes a situation where the king is seeking advice on the best way to know the “right time” for every action.

Some of the learned men believe in strict planning. They suggest creating a detailed schedule for everything, including days, months, and years, and following it. 

Some learned men disagree with planning everything. They argue that it’s impossible to predict the perfect timing for every situation. Instead, they suggest staying focused and alert, paying attention to what’s happening around you, and then prioritizing tasks based on importance.

The others believe the king can’t decide everything alone. They propose forming a council of wise advisors who can work together to determine the best timing for actions.


Passage: Equally varied were the answers to the second question. Some said, the people, the king most needed, were his councillors; others the priests; others the doctors while some said the warriors were the most necessary.


Word Meaning:

Varied: Diverse, different in many ways.

Councillors: Advisors, members of a king’s council who provide advice and support.

Priests: Religious leaders who perform rituals and offer spiritual guidance.

Warriors: Soldiers skilled in combat.


Explanation: Many different opinions were shared by the wise men. Some learned men said that the most important men that the King needed were his councillors. Others said that the Doctors were the most important men, while some other learned men suggested that the warriors were the most important men for the King. 


Passage: To the third question about what was the most important occupation, some replied that the most important thing in the world was science. Others said it was skill in warfare; and others, again, that it was religious worship. The king was convinced by none of these answers and gave the reward to none.


Word Meaning:

Warfare: The ability to fight effectively in a war.


Explanation: Moving forward to the third question, which is, what’s the most important profession in the world? Some believe scientific knowledge and progress is crucial. Others believe military strength and fighting skills are most important. Still others see religious faith and practices as the most important occupation. 

The answers to the all three questions did not convince the King. Hence, nobody was rewarded.


Passage: He decided, instead to go to a hermit who was widely renowned for his wisdom. The hermit lived in a small hut in a forest which he never left. He spoke only to common folk. So the king put on simple clothes and approaching the hermit’s cell, dismounted his horse and left his bodyguard behind.


Word Meaning:

Hermit: A person who lives alone and avoids contact with other people, often for religious reasons.

Renowned: Known by many people to be great or impressive.

Cell: A small, single room in a building, especially a monastery or prison.

Dismount: To get down from a horse or other animal that you are riding. 

Bodyguard: A person whose job is to protect someone important from danger. 

Common folk: Ordinary people, not members of the nobility or upper class. 


Explanation: Not being satisfied with the answers of his usual advisors, the King decided to visit the hermit, who was well known for his wisdom. This hermit lived in a tiny house deep in the woods and never went anywhere. He only talked to common people. So, the king dressed down in plain clothes, rode his horse to the hermit’s house, got off, and left his royal guards behind so he wouldn’t look like an important person.


Passage: When the king arrived, the hermit was digging the ground in front of his hut. He greeted the king but went on digging. The hermit was frail and weak, and each time he struck the ground with the spade and turned over a little earth, he breathed heavily. The king went up to him and said, “I have come to you, wise hermit, to ask you to answer three questions-How can I learn to do the right thing at the right time? Who are the people I most need, and to whom should I, therefore, pay most attention? And what affairs are the most important and need my first attention?”


Word Meaning:

Frail: Weak and delicate, especially because of old age or illness.

Spade: A tool with a flat blade used for digging.

Breathed heavily: To breathe with difficulty, often because of exertion or illness.


Explanation: The hermit was busy digging the ground, outside his little hut. The hermit was old and weak and got tired easily. The king politely explained that he wanted answers to three important questions:

  • How to make good decisions at the right moment?
  • Who are the most important people he should listen to?
  • What problems should he focus on first?

Basically, the king wants the wise man’s advice on how to be a good ruler.


Passage: The hermit listened to the king but said nothing. He just spat on his hand and resumed digging. The king watched in silence for a while. Then, feeling sorry for the hermit, he said, “You are tired, let me take the spade and work a while for you.” The hermit silently handed over the spade and sat down on the ground. When he had dug two beds, the king stopped and repeated his questions. The hermit again gave no answer, but rose, stretched out his hand for the spade, and said, “Now rest a while and let me work a bit”. But the king did not give him the spade and continued to dig.


Word Meaning:

Spade: A tool with a flat blade used for digging.

Resumed: Continued doing something that had been stopped for a short time.

Stretched out: Extended one’s arm or leg to its full length.

Spat: Throw out saliva. Spitting on one’s hands is a common action for manual labor, especially digging, as it can help improve grip.


Explanation: The hermit listened to the King’s questions but didn’t answer them. Instead, he just spit saliva on his hand and kept digging. The king watched him silently for a bit, then felt bad for the tired hermit. So, he offered to help by taking the shovel and digging. After digging two garden beds, the king stopped and asked his question again. The King still did not get any answer. The hermit just got up, reached for the shovel, and said with a gesture (like stretching his hand), “Take a break, it’s my turn to dig now.” But the king didn’t return it and kept digging.


Passage: One hour passed and another. The sun began to sink behind the trees and the king at last stuck the spade into the ground and said, “I came to you, wise one, for an answer to my questions. If you can give me none, please say so, and I will go home”. “Here comes someone running,” said the hermit, “let us see who it is.”


Word Meaning:

Stuck: Pushed something firmly into something else.

Sink: Here, sun going down below the horizon.


Explanation: A lot of time passed and it started getting late in the day. The King reminded the hermit the purpose of his visit. The King asked the hermit if he had no answers, he could just tell so and then the king would leave. The hermit then changed the subject and seemed to notice someone approaching.


Passage: The king turned round and saw a bearded man come running out of the forest. The man held his hands pressed against his stomach, and blood was flowing from under them. When he reached the king, he fainted and fell to the ground, moaning feebly. The king and the hermit unfastened the man’s clothing. There was a large wound in his stomach. The king washed it as well as he could, and bandaged it with his handkerchief and a towel the hermit had. But the blood would not stop flowing, and the king again and again removed the bandage soaked with warm blood and washed and rebandaged the wound. When at last the blood stopped flowing, the man revived and asked for something to drink. The king brought some fresh water and gave it to him.


Word Meaning:

Fainted: Lost consciousness briefly due to shock, pain, or lack of oxygen.

Moaning: Making low, sad sounds of pain or discomfort.

Feebly: Weakly, with little strength.

Unfastened: Undid the fastenings of the man’s clothing, like buttons or ties.

Bandaged: Covered the wound with a strip of cloth to protect it and stop bleeding.

Revived: Regained consciousness, woke up from fainting.


Explanation: The King saw a man with a beard who came running out of the forest. The man was badly hurt – he had a big wound on his stomach and he was bleeding a lot. He collapsed in front of the king and barely made a sound.

The king and the hermit together helped the wounded man. They took off his clothes to see the wound better. The king cleaned it as best he could and used his handkerchief and a towel from the hermit to try and stop the bleeding. The blood kept coming out, so the king had to keep cleaning and bandaging the wound until finally, the bleeding stopped. The man woke up and felt thirsty, so the kind king gave him some fresh water to drink.


Passage: Meanwhile the sun had set and it had become cool. So the king, with the hermit’s help, carried the wounded man into the hut. The man lay there quietly with his eyes closed. By now, the king was so tired after his walk and the work he had done, that he lay down himself and also fell asleep. When he awoke in the morning, it took him some time to remember where he was and who was the strange bearded man lying by his side and gazing intently at him. “Forgive me !” said the bearded man in a weak voice, when he saw that the king was awake and was looking at him. ‘‘I do not know you, and I’ve nothing to forgive you for,” said the king.


Word Meaning:

Lay: To rest or recline in a horizontal position.

By now: By this point in time.

Intently: In a focused and concentrated way.

Gazing: Looking at something for a long time. It implies focus and concentration.


Explanation: It got nighttime and a little chilly. The king, with the help of the hermit, took the hurt person inside a small house. The king felt worn out after the long walk and helping the man. The king went to sleep too. When the king opened his eyes in the morning, he couldn’t remember anything at first. He noticed the wounded man next to him, looking at him closely. The wounded man said sorry in a weak voice. The King didn’t recognise the old man or why he was apologising to him. 


Passage: “You do not know me, but I know you. I am that enemy of yours who swore to revenge himself on you because you executed his brother and seized his property. I knew you had gone alone to see the hermit, and I resolved to kill you on your way back. But the day passed and you did not return. So I came out of my ambush to find you. Your bodyguards recognised me and wounded me. I escaped from them but would have bled to death had you not dressed my wound. I wished to kill you but you have saved my life. Now if I live, and if you wish it, I’ll serve you all my life.”


Word Meaning:

Enemy: A person who actively opposes or fights against someone or something.

Swore: Made a solemn promise

Seized: Took possession of something forcefully.

Ambush: A surprise attack from a hidden position.


Explanation: The stranger reveals himself as the person who wants revenge on the king for executing his brother and taking their property. The stranger knew the king was travelling alone and planned to kill him. Things didn’t go according to plan, and the stranger got injured during a fight with the king’s bodyguards.

The King had treated the stranger’s wounds and this unexpected act of kindness changed the stranger’s perspective. He offered to serve the king for life. 


Passage: The king was very glad to have made peace with an enemy so easily and to have gained him for a friend. He not only forgave him but said he would send his men and his own physician to attend to him. The king then took leave of him and went out of the hut to look for the hermit. Before going away he wished once more to beg for an answer to the questions he had asked. The hermit was outside, on his knees, sowing seeds in the beds that had been dug the day before.


Word Meaning:

physician: a doctor


Explanation: The king was happy to have achieved peace with his enemy without a fight. The king offers not just forgiveness but also assistance. He wanted to ensure his former enemy recovered from the injuries.

The king then prepares to leave but decides to ask the hermit for answers one last time before departing. 

The hermit was outside his hut, sowing seeds on the ground which he and the king had dug the day before.


Passage: The king approached him and said, “For the last time, I pray you to answer my questions, wise man.” “You have already been answered!” said the hermit still crouching on his thin legs and looking up at the king who stood before him. “What do you mean?” asked the king. 


Word Meaning:

Approached: Came closer.

Crouching: Bending low with the knees bent and body close to the ground. 


Explanation: The king is determined to get answers. He approached the hermit, and asked his questions for the last time. Instead of directly answering, the hermit claims the king has already been answered. This confuses the king and he asks for clarification. 


Passage: “Do you not see ?” replied the hermit. “If you’d not pitied my weakness yesterday and stayed to dig these beds for me, you would have gone back and been killed by that man. So the most important time was when you were digging the beds, and I was the most important man and to do me good was your most important business. Afterwards, the most important time was when you were attending to that man, for if you’d not bound his wounds, he would have died without having made peace with you. So he was the most important man and what you did for him was your most important business. Remember then, there is only one time that is important-now! It is the most important time because it’s the only time when we have any power. The most necessary person is the one with whom you are, for you do not know whether you will ever have dealings with anyone else; and the most important thing is to do this person good, because for that purpose alone were you sent into this life !”


Word Meaning:

Pitied: Felt sorry for someone in a way that makes you want to help them.

Weakness: Lack of physical or mental strength.

Afterwards: Following a particular event or time.

Bound: Secured or fastened something, here referring to dressing the wounds.

Dealings: Interactions or communication with someone.


Explanation: The hermit explains to the King that if he (the king) didn’t help him dig yesterday, the king would have been killed. So, in that present moment, digging was the most important action, he(the hermit) was the most important man. 

The hermit says that if he (the king) hadn’t treated the man’s wounds, the man would have died without making peace. Therefore, attending to a wounded man was the most important thing at that time.

The hermit says that the most important time is now, the present moment. This is because it’s the only time you have any control over your actions and their consequences. The past is done, and the future is uncertain.

The hermit emphasizes that the most important person is whoever you are with right now. You don’t know if you’ll ever meet them again, so it’s crucial to focus on them. He stresses that the most important thing one can do is to do good for the person one is with. This is the core purpose of one’s existence, according to the hermit’s philosophy.

Characters in The Three Questions

There are three main characters in Leo Tolstoy’s story “The Three Questions”:

  1. The King: You, the reader, take on the role of the king. He is consumed by three questions about the ideal time to act, the most important people, and the most important thing to do. He embarks on a quest to find the answers from wise men.
  2. The Hermit (Stranger): This old and wise man lives in seclusion in the woods. The king seeks his guidance on the three questions. The hermit ultimately provides the king with profound insights through his actions and words.
  3.  The Wounded Man: This character appears towards the end of the story. He is a stranger who is attacked and left for dead. The king, following the hermit’s unspoken lesson, chooses to help the wounded man instead of continuing his quest.