This book was written by Leo Tolstoy in 1894, after most of his other major works, including War and Peace and Anna Karenina. In this book he comes to a solution to the moral dilemma and spiritual struggle which he discusses in his Confessions. Tolstoy finds his solution in the Gospel, especially in the sermon on the mount.

The book deals with Christ's teaching of non-resistance to evil, and loving all people. It criticizes the view that Christ was talking in an abstract sense, and that his ideals are too high and morally strenuous for the layman to adhere to. He then goes on to criticize government's use of violence to enforce its laws, and therefore Christians are obliged to renounce government (although he never used the word or claimed to be an anarchist), and work for the good of others. This is to be achieved, he said, not by a revolution of a certain group or class of individuals, but by the change of public opinion of the masses. For instance, it is the humble and oppressed which fight wars, perform executions, and in other ways kill or hurt their government’s enemies (who are usually also humble and oppressed). If the masses simply refused to take part in such violence, that self-same violence against themselves would halt by reciprocity.

This book was one of the major inspirational sources of Gandhi. In fact, Mahatma Gandhi and Leo Tolstoy had some correspondence and were deeply impressed by each other. Tolstoy does not refer to Gandhi's satyagraha (truth-force) by name, but it permeates through all of his writings involving ahimsa (non-violence). This book and its brother, Tolstoy's The Law of Love and the Law of Violence are pivotal books for anyone interested in peace studies. One of the two can be found at most local libraries, or as an etext (I read it from Project Gutenburg).

The final lines read:

The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity by contributing to the establishment of the kingdom of God, which can only be done by the recognition and profession of the truth by every man.

"The kingdom of God cometh not with outward show; neither shall they say, Lo here! or, Lo there! for behold, the kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17: 20, 21.)