Iosaph said to him in reply:
“I am possessed, O venerable sire, by an ardent desire to hear of new, worthy worlds, and within my heart there burns a fire, that impels me to gain knowledge of important and essential things. But until now I have not found such a man, who could explain that which is in my mind and designate to me the right path. But should I find such person never would I cast his words, to the birds nor beasts, nor would my heart be of stone or full of thorns, but each word I would cultivate within my heart. And should you yourself know of something, please do not hide it from me, but teach me. For when I heard that you were from a distant land, my soul rejoiced and I became full of hope to receive from you that which I desired to know: this was why I asked you to enter immediately and why I received you with joy, as if you were long known to me or my peer.”
So Varlaam explained the teaching in parables and allegories adorning his speech with many beautiful narratives and precepts. As wax, the heart of the prince softened and the more the old sage told him the more eager became the prince to listen to him. Finally the prince began to realize that the precious stone was the wonderful Light of the Spirit, which opens the eyes of the mind, and he believed without the slightest doubt everything which Varlaam taught him. And rising from his throne and going up to the old wise man, he embraced him and said:
“O, Thou most worthy of all men! This is, I believe, the precious stone, which you keep in secret and which you do not wish to show to every one, but only to the worthy, whose spiritual feelings are sound and healthy. For as soon as your words reached my ears, a sweet light entered my heart and the heavy cover of grief which so long burdened my soul dispersed into naught. So tell me, am I correct in my reason, and if you know anything further, please teach me!”
And Varlaam continued, telling him of the wise and of the evil death, of one resurrection, of an eternal life, of the beautiful consequences of good deeds and of the sufferings of sinners. And the words of Varlaam moved the prince deeply, so that his eyes filled with tears and he wept long. Varlaam also explained the emptiness and inconstancy of this world and told him about renunciation and about the solitary life of monks in the desert.
Like jewels in a shrine, Iosaph gathered all these words in his heart, and he began to love Varlaam so greatly that he wanted to be with him forever to listen to his teaching. He asked him of the solitary life, of their food and clothing, saying:
“Tell me, what do you and those with you, wear in the desert, and what is your food and where does it come from?”
Varlaam replied: “For food we gather the fruit of the trees and the roots that grow in the desert. If, however, a believer brings us bread, we accept it as God-sent; our clothing is of hair and of the skins of sheep and goats, worn and patched, and the same in summer and winter. The additional clothing that you see on me, has been borrowed from a worthy layman, so that none may know that I am a monk. Should I have come in my own clothing, they would not have permitted me to see you.”
Iosaph asked Varlaam to show him his own garments and when Varlaam took off the merchant’s garments, Iosaph saw a terrible sight: the body of the old man was quite dry and black from the rays of the sun, the skin hung on his bones. Around the loins and legs, down to the knee, was a ragged prickly hair-cloth and a mantle of the same hung on his shoulders. losaph was amazed at such hardship and at the great endurance of the aged man and he sighed and wept, asking the sage to take him with him into the lonely life.
Varlaam said: “Do not ask this now, for then the anger of your father may fall on us all. Better remain here, growing in the knowledge of the great truths. I will go back alone. Later on, when the Lord so wishes, you will come to me, for I believe that in this life, as well as in the future life, we will live together.”
Iosaph replied in tears: “If such is the higher will, I will remain. Take with you plenty of gold to bring to your brethren in the desert, for food and clothing.”
“The rich give to the poor,” retorted Varlaam, “and not the poor to the rich. How is it that you want to give us, the rich, when you yourself are poor? Even the least of our brethren is incomparably richer than yourself. I hope that you also will soon acquire these true riches; but when you will become rich in this way, then you will turn miserly and incommunicative.”
Iosaph did not understand him, and Varlaam explained his words to the effect, that he who renounces all earthly goods, acquires heavenly riches and the smallest heavenly gift is more valuable than all riches of this world. And he added:
“Gold is often the cause of sin, and therefore we do not keep it. But you wish, that I should bring to my brethren this snake, which they have already vanquished.”
And for a long time, Varlaam visited the prince daily and taught him the wonderful path to the light.
One day Varlaam told him of his intention to leave, losaph could hardly bear the separation from his teacher and wept bitterly. As a last token he asked Varlaam to give him his mantle. The wise old man gave Iosaph the mantle and Iosaph valued it more than his royal purple robes.
Once Iosaph, praying long with tears in his eyes, wearied, fell asleep on the ground. In his dream he suddenly saw himself taken by some strangers through most wonderful lands into a large field covered with beautiful and fragrant flowers. Here he saw a large variety of gorgeous trees, bearing unknown and strange fruits, pleasant to look at and inviting to the taste; the leaves of the trees were swaying softly in the light breeze and a sublime aroma filled the air. Under the trees there were altars of pure gold, laid with precious stones and pearls, shining most brilliantly. He further noticed many couches bedecked with covers of untold beauty and luster. In the center, a spring flowed, its clear and lovely waters caressing the eye. The strangers led Iosaph through these fields into a city, glowing in a most brilliant light. All the walls were of pure gold and of precious stones, hitherto unseen and the pillars and gates were of pearl in one piece. But who can describe the full beauty and glory of that city?! A light in abundant rays shone from the heights, and filled all the streets of the city, and winged and brilliant warriors walked in the streets and sang sweet songs, such as the ear of man has never heard. And Iosaph heard a voice:
“This is the resting place of the virtuous! Here you see the happiness of those who in their lifetime have pleased the Lord!”
The unknown men then intended to bring Iosaph back, but he, captured by the beauty and the glory of the city, said:
“I beg of you, please do not take from me this indescribable joy and permit me to dwell in some corner of this beautiful city!”
“Now you cannot remain here,” he was told. “But for your many heroic deeds and aspirations, you shall in time enter this place, if only you will apply all your strength. For those who strive shall take possession of the kingdom of heaven.” . . .