Porfiry Ivanov’s “Child” [Detka] consists of twelve points, less than half of which relate directly to the body, and more of which relate to the mind. The recommendations relating to the body are simple, although not very easy to perform. In fact, that’s the case with almost all the points of “Child” [Detka]. You have to pour cold water on yourself twice a day, not smoke, and not drink alcohol and keep a strict fast from Friday evening until Sunday afternoon, going without food or water. Furthermore, you must regularly – before pouring the water and after the end of the fast – stand barefoot on the ground or snow and mentally wish health to all people. And on the whole, the spiritual part of the “Child” [Detka] message consists of openness and kindness, and also riddance of egotistical manifestations. For example, one of Ivanov’s commandments: “Conquer in yourself greed, sloth, self-satisfaction, acquisitiveness, fear, hypocrisy, pride. Believe in people and love them. Do not speak unjustly about them and do not take close to heart unkind opinions about them.” And if the commandments concerning the body call on a person to become an ascetic, in the part that concerns the spiritual side of the matter, there is love toward people and nature. “Help people how you can, especially the poor, the sick, the injured, the needy. Do this with joy. Respond to his need with soul and heart. You will acquire in him a friend and help the cause of Peace!”
Ivanov’s commandments are categorical and require a serious internal effort from followers. Just try, for example, to up and conquer in yourself greed, sloth or fear. Porfiry Ivanov’s spiritual advice is not reinforced with practices – for example, exercises enabling one to rid himself of fear. The lack of practice is directly connected with the way the Teacher came to transformation. By virtue of the way it occurred, Porfiry simply didn’t know the way to victory over what he called for. However, he had a vision of what prevents a person from growing and changing. Thus, good wishes appeared that did not have anything specific supporting them, and few would manage to simply up and change – with a wish alone, conquering in themselves the power of mechanical reactions. Although, of course, the path of control still remains, the path of suppressing fear, greed and the other negative features of the personality. But it does not lead to spiritual progress, and understandably, Porfiry Ivanov had something different in mind.
There are two points in “Child” [Detka] that now seem somewhat inappropriate and even comical. In one, Porfiry asks to love the earth and never spit on it, and in the second, he advises wishing health to all people, since wishing them health will return to you the same health. As for spitting, that is likely the commandment that is now easiest of all to follow, because the pavement likely can’t be considered earth. Although Porfiry, of course, meant a respectful attitude toward the earth, as toward all of Nature as a whole. Spitting in his understanding is manifestation of contempt, and therefore should be avoided in every way.
You can wish good health to all passing people, and in some villages, this tradition is preserved to this day. Whether they know you or not, people wish you well and there is something pleasant and nice about this. But to behave this way in a city, you would have to be prepared to be taken as an eccentric, and maybe even as a crazy person. That is, if you exactly follow the way proposed by Ivanov – including undressing down to your underwear – even now, you might wind up being examined by a psychiatrist. As it is said: as the Teacher, so the way.
Even so, pouring cold water on themselves twice a day helped strengthen the health of many people. So even if not in the spiritual sense, in the physical sense, Porfiry Ivanov’s teaching brought certain fruits.