George Gurdjieff was a mystic of Greek-Armenian descent born sometime during 1866-1877 (his exact birth date is not known like many other things about him and his work that are shrouded in mystery). His book ‘All and Everything’ is the main study tool for his ‘Fourth Way’ teaching. It is a notoriously complex book to read, but arguably the most convincing fusion of Eastern and Western thought ever seen. Gurdjieff’s second book ‘Meetings with Remarkable Men’ gives some insight about the influences that shaped his perspectives and became the foundation of his teachings. It was published after his death in 1963. Gurdjieff is understood to have compiled his experiences of travel to Central Asia, Egypt, Iran, India, Tibet and Rome during his early adult life. However, Gurdjieff himself never disclosed the influences that shaped his thinking and teaching. His third book, published privately in 1974, long after his death is titled ‘Life Is Real Only Then, When ‘I Am’’. His most famous pupil was P.D. Ouspensky who studied the Gurdjieff system directly under Gurdjieff’ for ten years (1915 to 1924). Ouspensky’s book ‘In Search of the Miraculous’ recounts what he learned from Gurdjieff during those years. Ouspensky taught ideas and methods based in the Gurdjieff system for 25 years in England and the United States.
Gurdjieff said that the religious and spiritual traditions that existed in his time had lost their original meaning and vitality and therefore could no longer serve humanity. He gave a new life and practical form to ancient teachings of both the East and the West. Osho calls Gurdjieff a pioneer, as with Gurdjieff began a totally new concept of spiritual life. Gurdjieff himself called his way “the fourth way”.
Osho explains Gurdjieff’s concept of “getting unidentified” which is equivalent to the eastern concept of renunciation but more contemporary and meaningful. Gurdjieff used to say that if you start getting disidentified from things, sooner or later you will fall upon your essential being. This dropping the idea of ownership is renunciation. Renunciation is not dropping the possessions, but possessiveness.
Osho says Gurdjieff was enormously misunderstood, because he was not interested in imparting knowledge, he was interested in transforming people. And that is an arduous process. He was helping people be reborn – he was a midwife.
WOULD YOU PLEASE SPEAK MORE ABOUT THE NEW PHASE OF YOUR WORK? SRI RAMAKRISHNA, SRI RAMAN, AND EVEN J. KRISHNAMURTI, APPEAR ONE-DIMENSIONAL. DID GURDJIEFF ATTEMPT A MULTIDIMENSIONAL APPROACH? WAS IT THE CAUSE OF HIS BEING SO GREATLY MISUNDERSTOOD?
Ajit Saraswati, it is but natural to be misunderstood if you really want to help people. If you don’t want to help them, you will never be misunderstood — they will worship you, they will praise you. If you only talk, if you only philosophize, then they are not afraid of you. Then you don’t touch their lives. And it is beautiful to know complex theories, systems of thought. It helps their egos, it nourishes their egos — they become more knowledgeable. And everybody likes to be more knowledgeable. It is the subtlest nourishment for the ego. But if you REALLY want to help them, then the problem arises. Then you start changing their lives, then you start trespassing on their egos; then you start interfering with their centuries and centuries old habits and mechanisms. Then you create antagonism: they are afraid of you, they are inimical towards you. And they will try in every possible way to misunderstand you, to misrepresent you.
One-dimensional people are beautiful flowers, but not of much use. Krishnamurti has been talking for forty or more years, and people listen. The same people have been listening to him for forty years…and not an iota of change in their consciousness. Certainly they have become very knowledgeable, argumentative, logical. If you discuss with them — they are the best people to discuss anything with — they go into the most subtle, delicate worlds of thought. They can analyze everything: awareness, meditation, consciousness…. They have become very efficient, very clever, but they remain as mediocre as ever, as stupid as ever, with only one difference: now their stupidity is garbed behind their so-called knowledge that they have gathered from J. Krishnamurti. Krishnamurti has remained just an intellectual phenomenon, because he never took the trouble to enter into people’s lives. It is dangerous to enter into people’s lives — you are playing with fire.
Sri Raman is perfectly okay: sitting silently in his temple, people can come, offer flowers, worship, and he will simply watch. And of course he has a beauty and a grace, but it is one-dimensional, it does not affect life in its totality. At the most, people can be moved by it emotionally. Just as J. Krishnamurti moves people intellectually, Sri Raman moves people emotionally. And the same was the case with Ramakrishna. Many people’s emotions were touched, and they would cry tears of joy. But it is not going to transform you. Those tears of joy are momentary; back home you will be the same.
Gurdjieff certainly is a pioneer. With Gurdjieff begins a totally new concept of spiritual life. He has actually called his way “the fourth way” — just as I call my way “the fourth way” he also calls his way “the fourth way.” He was immensely misunderstood, because he was not interested in imparting knowledge to you, he was not interested in consoling you. He was not interested in giving you beautiful theories, visions, hallucinations. He was not interested in your tears, in your emotions and sentiments. He was not interested in being worshipped by you, he was interested in transforming you.
And to transform a person means you have to take a hammer in your hands, because many chunks of that person’s being have to be cut.
The person is so topsy-turvy that everything is wrong as it is, and it has to be put right. And he has invested so much in his wrong way of life that anybody who wants to change his style of life — not only the circumference but the center too — he becomes afraid of, he is scared of.
Only a few courageous people can enter into the world of a man like Gurdjieff. Tremendous courage is needed, a courage to die, because only then is one reborn.
Gurdjieff was a midwife. He was not a teacher, he was a master. Krishnamurti remained a teacher. Raman remained a beautiful individual — enlightened, but just a faraway, distant star. You could watch and you could appreciate and you could write poetry about it, but that’s all. It remained a distant phenomenon. You could never hope to reach him, the distance was vast. And there was no effort from his side to bridge it. And what could you do? How could YOU bridge it? If you had been capable of bridging yourself with a man like Raman, there would have been no need to make the bridge. A man of that capacity would be able to transform himself on his own; he would not need a master. Unless Raman tried to make the bridge, the bridge was not possible.
And he was aloof, distant, cool. He was not involved. He knew all misery is false. And, certainly, it is so — but not for those who are in misery. The man who is awake knows that the person who is crying and weeping in his sleep is seeing a dream, true. As far as the man who is awake is concerned, it’s perfectly true. But even though it is a dream, a nightmare, for the person who is fast asleep it is a truth. And the man who is fast asleep cannot make any effort to connect himself with the awakened man. Obviously, it is impossible. He cannot even be aware that somebody is awake; he is so much engrossed in his nightmare. Only the awakened can make the effort. But to disturb somebody’s sleep, even though he is in a nightmare, is dangerous. Nobody wants to be disturbed, nobody wants to be interfered with.
People have strange ideas — sleepy people, idiotic people, but they have strange ideas of freedom. They have no freedom; they can’t have. They can’t afford it in their sleep. How can a sleepy man have any freedom? But they have ideas, great ideas of freedom, and a man like Gurdjieff interferes. His compassion is far greater than the compassion of J. Krishnamurti, Raman, and Ramakrishna. Ramakrishna is beautiful — singing the praise of God, praying, worshipping, dancing. He is something of the beyond. He reminds you that much more is possible in life than is happening to you — but that’s all. Through him just a little remembrance can reach you. But your life is such that that remembrance is not going to create any mutation; it will be forgotten. You will enjoy it. Again and again you would like to go to the man and see him dancing and singing and praying…and you will feel good.
This is what Buddha calls “counting the sheep of others.” He is a beautiful flower, but by looking at a rose you cannot become the rose; neither can you become a Ramakrishna by looking at Ramakrishna. Great effort is needed. You have to climb the mountain against all hazards. Unless a master tries to approach you in your deep sleep, unless he stirs your being, holds you hard and takes you out of your ignorance, it is impossible, it is almost impossible. But you will be angry at this man — who wants to be disturbed? One has become accustomed to a certain way of life; mind always likes the old, the known, the familiar. Even though it is miserable, still the mind is afraid of the new, because with the new you have to learn again how to behave, how to be. And who wants to learn? You are so efficient with the old, your ego is so satisfied with the old — why bother? And when you come across a man like Gurdjieff, he shatters all the nonsense that you have gathered. He shatters mercilessly! Sometimes he has to say things which are not really true, but just to shatter your ideas he has to say them.
A friend has asked, “How was it possible that a man like Gurdjieff, a man of such great understanding, did not understand the idea of kundalini energy?” He called it kundabuffer. He was very much against the idea of kundalini. He used to say that the worst thing that could happen to a person in life is the arousal of kundalini. The questioner, naturally, is bewildered. But you don’t understand the real meaning of Gurdjieff. He called it kundabuffer because of the nonsense that theosophists have created in the world. They talked so much about kundalini, the serpent power, and it was all gibberish; they knew nothing about it. They were just fabricating, they were just inventing theories and ideas. It was all guesswork.
In fact, out of a hundred books that are written about kundalini, ninety-nine are absolute nonsense. And the people who had gathered around Gurdjieff had come through theosophical philosophy, hypotheses, doctrines. He was shattering their knowledge; he was not saying anything against kundalini. How could he say that? He knew far better than Blavatsky, Annie Besant, Alcott, Leadbeater — he knew far better than these people. These people were only experts in creating doctrines, and really they were great experts. They had created almost a world movement — about auras and colors and kundalini…new words from the ancient spiritual lore. And they created worlds, imaginary worlds, around those words.
Gurdjieff is right to call it kundabuffer. And Gurdjieff is right in saying that the worst thing that can happen to a man is the arousal of kundalini. But remember always that he was talking to his disciples, in a particular context. He was shattering the knowledge of his disciples about kundalini power — because the first step of a master is to destroy your knowledge, because your knowledge is basically false, borrowed.
Before you can be made familiar with the truth, the untrue has to be taken away. Sometimes the master has to be very merciless, and sometimes the master has to say things which are not really so. Kundalini is not a wrong idea, but for ninety-nine percent of people, Gurdjieff is right…The knowledge that is floating around about kundalini is all nonsense, and Gurdjieff was right to condemn it. He was condemning the whole theosophical movement. Theosophists were very much against Gurdjieff. They knew nothing, but they created a great movement. They were more or less political people, scholars, logic-choppers, but not in any way realized souls.
Gurdjieff shattered many beliefs. He shattered one of the most fundamental beliefs of the whole of humanity. He said, “There is no soul. You are not born with a soul — the soul has to be created by great effort. And only very rare people have been able to create it. The millions of people walking on the earth are all soulless.” Now, can you create a greater shock? — just telling people, “You are soulless. There is nothing inside you — hollow, nobody inside you. You are not yet born; you are just a body, a mechanism. Yes, you have a possibility, a potentiality to become a soul, but then you have to do much work for it, great work for it, and only then is it possible to have a soul. It is the ultimate luxury to have a soul.”
Now, down the ages priests have been telling you that you are born with a soul. That has created a very wrong state of affairs. Because everybody has been told he is born with a soul, he thinks, “Then why bother? I am already a soul. I am immortal. The body will die but I am going to live.” Gurdjieff said, “You are nothing but the body, and when the body dies YOU will die. Only once in a while does a person survive — one who has created soul in his life survives death — not all. A Buddha survives, a Jesus survives, but not you! You will simply die, not even a trace will be left.”
What was Gurdjieff trying to do? He was shocking you to the very roots; he was trying to take away all your consolations and foolish theories which go on helping you to postpone work upon yourself. Now, to tell people, “You don’t have any souls, you are just vegetables, just a cabbage or maybe a cauliflower” — a cauliflower is a cabbage with a college education — “but nothing more than that.” He was really a master par excellence. He was taking the very earth away from underneath your feet. He was giving you such a shock that you had to think over the whole situation: are you going to remain a cabbage? He was creating a situation around you in which you would have to seek and search for the soul, because who wants to die?
And the idea that the soul is immortal has helped people to console themselves that they are not going to die, that death is just an appearance, just a long sleep, a restful sleep, and you will be born again. Gurdjieff says, “All nonsense. This is all nonsense! Dead, you are dead forever — unless you have created the soul….” Now see the difference: you have been told you are already a soul, and Gurdjieff changes it totally. He says, “You are not already a soul, but only an opportunity. You can use it, you can miss it.”
And I would like to tell you that Gurdjieff was just using a device. It is not true. Everybody is born with a soul. But what to do with people who have been using truths as consolations? A great master sometimes has to lie — and only a great master has the right to lie — just to pull you out of your sleep. For example, you are fast asleep and I shake you and shake you and you don’t budge. And then I start shouting, “Fire! Fire!” and you start running out of the house. Outside we will settle the matter. I will say that there is no fire…but this was the only way to wake you up. Once you have known the soul, Gurdjieff will whisper in your ear, “Now don’t be worried. Forget all about what I was telling you. But it was needed. It was a device. I had to shout ‘Fire!’ otherwise you were not going to get out of your sleep.”
But these people are bound to be misunderstood.
To understand a man like Gurdjieff is an almost impossible job. You can understand him only if you go with him, if you go along with him. And the work that Gurdjieff did was a very secret work — it can’t be otherwise. Real work can be done only in a mystery school. It is hidden, it is underground. It is not public and it cannot be public.
This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune.
Discourse series: The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha, Vol 2
Chapter title: Drink to the full and dance
2 July 1979 am in Buddha Hall
Osho has spoken on Western Mystics and Masters such as Gurdjieff, Rumi, Socrates, Zarathustra, Heraclitus, Pythagoras, Diogenes and many more in His discourses. Some of these can be referred to in the following books/discourses:
- Sermons in Stones
- Philosophia Perennis, Vol 1, 2
- Zarathustra: A God That Can Dance
- Zarathustra: The Laughing Prophet
- Beyond Psychology
- Socrates Poisoned Again After 25 Centuries
- Sufis: The People of the Path, Vol 1, 2
- The Hidden Splendour
- Beyond Enlightenment
- The New Dawn
- The Sword and The Lotus
- The Path of the Mystic
- Nansen: The Point of Departure
- Om Shantih Shantih Shantih
- Light on the Path