Osho on Gurdjieff’s Strange Methods
Gurdjieff was born near the Caucasus in Russia ― still there are nomads,
wandering tribes. Even sixty years of communist torture has not been able to
settle those nomads, because they consider wandering to be man's birthright,
and perhaps they are right. He started moving from one group to another. He
learned many languages of the nomads, he learned many arts of the nomads. He
learned many exercises that are not available to civilized people any more,
but nomads need them.
For example; it may be very cold and the snow is falling, and to live in a
tent.... Nomads know certain exercises of breathing that change the rhythm
of the breath, the temperature of your body increases. Or if it is too hot,
if you are passing through a desert, then change again to a different
rhythm...and your body has an automatic, inbuilt, air-conditioning system.
Gurdjieff learned his first lessons in hypnosis with these nomadic groups.
If the wife and the husband are both going to sell some things in the
market, in the village, what to do with the children, the small children?
These nomads have used hypnotism for centuries. They will just draw a circle
around the child and tell him, "Till we return you cannot get out of this
Now, this has been told for centuries to every child. From the moment he
could understand, he has heard it. He is hypnotized by it. The moment it is
uttered, the moment he sees the line being drawn around him, he simply
relaxes inside: there is no way to get out, he can't get out. Gurdjieff was
very puzzled, because he was ten or twelve years old then: And what nonsense
is this? And each child in every nomad camp is just surrounded by a line,
and that's all.
The father and mother disappear for the whole day to work in the town. By
the evening when they come the child is still inside the circle. Gurdjieff
started wondering how it happened, why it happened, and soon he was able to
figure out that it is just a question of your unconscious accepting the
idea. Once your unconscious accepts the idea, then your body and your
conscious mind have no power to go against it.
In his own exercises that he developed later on when he became a master,
Gurdjieff used all these nomad techniques that he had learned from those
strange people ― uncivilized, with no language, no written alphabet, but who
knew very primitive methods. And he was surprised to see that hypnotism
works not only on children but on grown men, because those children become
young adults; then too it works.
Then they become old, then too it works. It does not change with age.
Gurdjieff used to play with the old people, drawing a circle around them,
and the old person would shout, "Don't do that, don't do that," and before
the circle was complete he would jump out. If the circle was complete then
it was impossible, you were caught. And this boy ― who could know whether he
would be coming back again or not? When the circle was half completed,
something was open: you could escape.
Then you were saved, otherwise you were caught in it. And many times
Gurdjieff succeeded in making the circle complete. Then even the old man
would simply sit down, just like a small child, and would pray to him,
"Break your circle." Gurdjieff used that technique in many ways ― and many
other techniques that he learned from those people. He used to have an
exercise called the "stop exercise," and he exhibited it all over the world,
particularly in America and Europe.
He would teach dances, strange dances, because nobody knew those dances that
the Caucasian nomads dance... strange instruments and strange dances. They
had strange foods that Gurdjieff learned to make. His ashram near Paris was
something just absolutely out of this world. His kitchen was full of strange
things, strange spices that nobody had ever heard of, and he himself would
prepare outlandish foods.
He had learned it all from those nomads. And those foods had a certain
effect. Certain foods have certain effects; certain dances have certain
effects; certain drums, instruments, have certain effects. Gurdjieff had
seen that if a certain music is played and people are dancing a particular
dance, then it is possible for them to dance on red-hot, burning coals and
still not be burned.
The dance is creating a certain kind of energy in them so that they can
escape the law of fire ― which is a lower law. Certainly, if consciousness
knows something higher it can escape from lower laws. All the stories about
miracles are nothing but stories about people who have come to know certain
higher laws; naturally, then the lower laws don't function. Gurdjieff had
seen all these things, he had experienced them when he was a child, and
children are very curious.
There was no father, no mother to prevent him from doing anything, so he was
experimenting with everything, in every possible way. And once he was
finished with one nomad group, he would simply move to another because from
other groups he had other things to learn. He developed all his exercises
from these nomadic people. The stop exercise was tremendously significant,
perhaps one of the greatest contributions to the modern world ― and the
modern world is not even aware of it.
Gurdjieff would tell his disciples to be engaged in all kinds of activities:
somebody is digging in the garden, somebody is cutting wood, somebody is
preparing food, somebody is cleaning the floor. All kinds of activities are
going on, with the one condition that when he says "Stop!" then wherever you
are, in whatsoever posture you are, you stop dead. You are not to be
cunning, because then the whole point of the exercise is lost.
For example, if your mouth is open and you see that Gurdjieff is not there
to notice, and you just close your mouth and rest, you have missed the
point. One of your legs was up ― you were just moving ― and one leg was
down; now suddenly the "Stop!" call comes. You have to stop, knowing
perfectly well that soon you will fall down; you cannot stand on one foot
for long. But that is the whole point of the exercise: whatever the
consequence you simply stop as you are, you just become a statue.
You will be surprised that such a simple exercise gives you so much release
of awareness. Neither Buddha, nor Patanjali, nor Mahavira was aware of it,
that such a simple exercise...it is not complex at all. When you become just
a statue, you are not even allowed to blink an eye; you stay exactly as you
are at the moment you hear the word "Stop!" It simply means stop and nothing
You will be surprised that you suddenly become a frozen statue ― and in that
state you can see yourself transparently. You are constantly engaged in
activity ― and with the activity of the body, the mind's activity is
associated. You cannot separate them, so when the body completely stops, of
course, immediately the mind also stops then and there.
You can see the body, frozen, as if it is somebody else's body; you can see
the mind, suddenly unmoving, because it has lost its association with the
body in movement. It is a simple psychological law of association that was
discovered by another Russian, Pavlov. Gurdjieff knew it long before Pavlov,
but he was not interested in psychology so he never worked it out that way.
Pavlov also got the idea from the same nomads, but he moved in a different
direction ― he was a psychologist. He started working on the lines of the
law of association. Pavlov would give food to his dog, and while he was
giving the food, he would just go on ringing a bell. Now the bell and the
bread had nothing to do with each other, but to the dog they were becoming
associated. Whenever Pavlov gave the dog some bread, he would ring the bell
After fifteen days he would simply ring the bell and the dog's tongue would
start hanging out ready for the bread. Now, somewhere in the dog's mind, the
bell and the bread were no longer two separate things. Gurdjieff was doing
far higher work. He found a simple way of stopping the mind. In the East
people have been trying for centuries to concentrate the mind, to visualize
it, to stop it ― and Gurdjieff found a way through physiology.
But it was not his discovery, he had just found what those nomads had been
doing all along. Gurdjieff would shout "Stop!" and everybody would freeze.
And when the body suddenly freezes, the mind feels a little weird: What
happened? ― because the mind has no association with the frozen body, it is
just shocked. They are in cooperation, in a deep harmony, moving together.
Now the body has completely frozen, what is the mind supposed to do? Where
can it go?
For a moment there is a complete silence; and even a single moment of
complete silence is enough to give you the taste of meditation. Gurdjieff
had developed dances, and during those dances suddenly he would say "Stop!"
Now, while dancing you never know in what posture you are going to be.
People would simply fall on the floor. But even if you fall, the exercise
If your hand is in an uncomfortable position under your body, you are not to
make it comfortable because that means you have not given a chance for the
mind to stop. You are still listening to the mind. The mind says, "It is
uncomfortable, make it comfortable." No, you are not to do anything.
In New York when he was giving his demonstration of the dance, Gurdjieff
chose a very strange situation. All the dancers were standing in a line, and
at a certain stage in the dance when they came dancing forwards and were
just standing in a queue with the first person just at the edge of the
stage, Gurdjieff said "Stop!" The first person fell, the second fell, the
third fell ― the whole line fell on each other. But there was dead silence,
One man in the audience just seeing this got his first experience of
meditation. He was not doing it, he was just seeing it. But seeing so many
people suddenly stop and then fall, but falling as if frozen, with no effort
on their own to change their position or anything.... It was as if suddenly
they had all become paralyzed. The man was just sitting in the front row,
and without knowing he just stopped, froze in the position he was in: his
eyes stopped blinking, his breath had stopped.
Seeing this scene ― he had come to see the dance, but what kind of dance was
this? ― suddenly he felt a new kind of energy arising within him. And it was
so silent and he was so full of awareness, that he became a disciple. That
very night he reached Gurdjieff and said, "I can't wait." It was very
difficult to be a disciple of Gurdjieff; he made it almost impossible. And
he was really a hard taskmaster.
And one can tolerate things if one can see some meaning in them, but with
Gurdjieff the problem was that there was no obvious meaning. This man's name
was Nicoll. Gurdjieff said, "It is not so easy to become my disciple."
Nicoll said, "It is not so easy to refuse me either. I have come to become a
disciple, and I will become a disciple. You may be a hard Master, I know; I
am a hard disciple!"
Both men looked into each other's eyes and understood that they belonged to
the same tribe. This man was not going to leave. Nicoll said, "I am not
going. I will be just sitting here my whole life until you accept me as a
disciple" and Nicoll's case is the only case in which Gurdjieff accepted him
without bitching; otherwise, he used to be so difficult. Even for a man like
P.D. Ouspensky, who made Gurdjieff world-famous ― even with him Gurdjieff
Ouspensky remembers that they were traveling from New York to San Francisco
in a train, and Gurdjieff started making a nuisance of himself in the middle
of the night. He was not drunk, he had not even drunk water, but he was
behaving like a drunkard ― moving from one compartment to another
compartment, waking people and throwing people's things about. And Ouspensky,
just following him, said, "What are you doing?" but Gurdjieff wouldn't
Somebody pulled the train's emergency chain, "This man seems to be mad!" ―
so the ticket-checker came in and the guard came in. Ouspensky apologized
and said, "He is not mad and he is not drunk, but what to do? It is very
difficult for me to explain what he is doing because I don't know myself."
And right in front of the guard and ticket-checker, Gurdjieff threw
somebody's suitcase out of the window."
The guard and the ticket-checker said, "This is too much. Keep him in your
compartment and we will give you the key. Lock it from within, otherwise we
will have to throw you both out at the next station." Naturally Ouspensky
was feeling embarrassed on the one hand and enraged on the other hand that
this man was creating such a nuisance. He thought, "I know he is not mad, I
know he is not drunk, but." Gurdjieff was behaving wildly, shouting in
Russian, screaming in Russian, Caucasian he knew so many languages and the
moment the door was locked, he sat silently and smiled.
He said to Ouspensky, "How are you?"
Ouspensky said, "You are asking me, 'How are you?'! You would have forced
them to put you in jail, and me too because I couldn't leave you in such a
condition. What was the purpose of all this?"
Gurdjieff said, "That is for you to understand. I am doing everything for
you, and you are asking me the purpose? The purpose is not to react, not to
be embarrassed, not to be enraged. What is the point of feeling embarrassed?
What are you going to get out of it? You are simply losing your cool and
"But," Ouspensky said, "You threw that suitcase out of the window. Now what
about the man whose suitcase it is?"
Gurdjieff said, "Don't be worried it was yours!"
Ouspensky looked down and saw that his was missing. What to do with this
master! Ouspensky writes: "l felt like getting down at the next station and
going back to Europe... because what else would Gurdjieff do?"
And Gurdjieff said, "I know what you are thinking you are thinking of
getting down at the next station. Keep cool!"
"But," Ouspensky said, "how can I keep cool now that my suitcase is gone and
my clothes are gone?"
Gurdjieff said, "Don't be worried your suitcase was empty. Your clothes I've
put in my suitcase. Now just cool down."
But later, when he was in the Caucasus and Ouspensky was in London,
Gurdjieff sent Ouspensky a telegram: "Come immediately!" ― and when
Gurdjieff says "Immediately," it means immediately! Ouspensky was involved
in some work, but he had to leave his job, pack immediately, finish
everything and go to the Caucasus. And in those days, when Russia was in
revolution, to go to the Caucasus was dangerous, absolutely dangerous.
People were rushing out of Russia to save their lives, so to enter Russia
and for a well-known person like Ouspensky, well-known as a mathematician,
world famous.... It was also well-known that he was anti-communist, and he
was not for the revolution. Now, to call him back into Russia, and that too,
to the faraway Caucasus.... He would have to pass through the whole of
Russia to reach to Gurdjieff who was in a small place, Tiflis, but if
Gurdjieff calls.... Ouspensky went.
When he arrived there he was really boiling, because he had passed by
burning trains, stations, butchered people and corpses on the platforms. And
how he had managed ― he himself could not believe that he was going to reach
Gurdjieff, but somehow he managed to. And what did Gurdjieff say? He said,
"You have come, now you can go: the purpose is fulfilled. I will see you
later on in London."
Now this kind of man.... He has his purpose ― there is no doubt about it ―
but has strange ways of working. Ouspensky, even Ouspensky, missed. He got
so angry that he dropped all his connections with Gurdjieff after this
incident, because this man had pulled him into the very mouth of death for
nothing! But Ouspensky missed the point. If he had gone back as silently as
he had come, he may have become enlightened by the time he reached London ―
but he missed the point.
A man like Gurdjieff ― may not always do something that is apparently
meaningful, but it is always meaningful.
Nicoll became his disciple, and he
had to make it through so many strange tasks, strange in every possible way.
No Master before Gurdjieff had tried such strange ways. For example, he
would force you to eat, to go on eating; he would go on forcing you, "Eat!"
― and you could not say no to the Master. While tears were coming to you he
was saying "Eat!"... and those spices, Caucasian spices ― Indian spices are
Your whole throat was burning, you could feel the fire even in your stomach,
in your intestines, and he was saying "Eat! Go on eating until I say stop."
But he had some hidden meaning in it. There is a point for the body.... I
said just the other day to you that a point comes for the body, if you fast,
when after five days it changes its system. That is, the body starts
absorbing its own fat, and then there is no more hunger.
That is one method that has been used. This is also a similar method ― in
the opposite direction. There is a point beyond which you cannot eat, but
the master says, "Go on." He is trying to bring you to the brink of the
capacity of your whole physiology, and you have never touched that. We are
always in the middle. Neither are we fasting, nor are we feasting like
Gurdjieff; we are always in the middle.
The body is in a settled routine; hence, the mind is also settled in its way
of movement. Fasting destroys that. That's why fasting became so important
in all religions. It brings you to a moment after fifteen days when you
simply start forgetting thoughts. Bigger gaps start appearing: for hours
there is not a single thought, and after twenty-one days your mind is empty.
It's strange that when the stomach is totally empty it creates a
synchronicity in the mind ― the mind becomes totally empty.
Fasting is not a goal in itself. Only idiots have followed it as a goal in
itself It is simply a technique to bring you to a stage where you can
experience a state of no-mind. Once that is experienced, you can go back to
food. Then there is no problem, you know the track. And then, eating
normally also you can go into that state any time you want. Gurdjieff was
doing just the opposite because that's what he had learned from the nomads.
Those are a totally different kind of people. They don't have any
scriptures. They don't have any people like Buddha, Mahavira, or any others,
but they have passed on by word of mouth, from generation to generation,
certain techniques that were given by the father to the son. This technique
Gurdjieff learned from those nomads. They eat too much, and go on eating,
and go on eating, and go on eating.
A moment comes when it is not possible to eat anymore ― and that is the
point when Gurdjieff would force you to eat. If you say yes even then,
suddenly there is an immediate state of no-mind because you have broken the
whole rhythm of body and mind.
Now it is inconceivable for the mind to grasp what is happening. It cannot
work any longer in this situation. It has not known it before because ―
always remember ― mind is exactly like a computer.
It is a bio-computer, it functions according to its program. You may be
aware of it, you may not be aware of it, but it functions according to a
program. Break the program somewhere.... And you can break the program only
at the ends, only at the boundary, where you are facing an abyss. Gurdjieff
would force people to drink so much alcohol ― and all kinds of alcoholic
beverages ― that they would go almost crazy; so drunk that they would forget
completely who they were.
And he would go on giving it to them. If they fell he would shake them, sit
them up and pour them some more, because there is a moment when the person
has come to a point where his whole body, his whole consciousness is
completely overtaken by the intoxicant. In that moment his unconscious
starts speaking. Freud took three years, four years, five years of
psychoanalysis to do this.
Gurdjieff did it in a single night! Your unconscious would start speaking,
would give all the clues about you of which you have not even been aware.
And you would not know that you had given those clues to Gurdjieff ― but he
would know. And then he would work according to those clues: what exercises
would be right for you, what dances would be suitable for you, what music
was needed for you.
All the clues have been given by your unconscious. You were not aware of it
because you were completely intoxicated. You were not present when he worked
on the unconscious and persuaded it to give all the clues about you. Those
were the secrets about you ― then he had the keys in his hands. So if
somebody refused, "Now I cannot drink any more," he would throw him out. He
would say, "Then this is not the place for you." - Osho
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