from "The Inner Search in Everyday Life"
from a conference at the Gurdjieff Foundation in San Francisco.
Among the participants:
Linda Cutts, Green Gulch Zen Center
Barbara Hart, Gurdjieff Foundation of California
Wendy Johnson, Green Gulch Zen Center
Alan Jones, Dean, Grace Cathedral
Michael Murphy, Esalen Institute
Lobsang Rapgay, psychologist and Tibetan Buddhist
Vivian Snyder, Vipassana Meditation Center
Barbara Wright, Gurdjieff Foundation of California
OF THE THEME
practice brings the direct experience of another condition
of ourselves, a condition we know is closer to what human
beings are meant to be. In the practice of meditation or
contemplative prayer, the inner being begins to open toward
an energy and capacity that we deeply wish for and that
bring us closer to the power to see, love and serve the
good. But what, in fact, is our condition in the situations
of everyday lifein our jobs, with our families, in
the day-to-day dreams, frustrations and anxieties that come
to us all? Our everyday lives show us how far we are from
what we are called to be and what we may actually experience
in the quieter, sacred moments of spiritual practice. We
see that as soon as we move from our cushion, as it were,
we are taken by a more ordinary condition of ourselves.
What is it, precisely, that draws us away from what we wish
of us have rediscovered what the ancient spiritual traditions
have always knownthat there is a mystical reality
within ourselves, an unfathomable freedom that our science
and our psychology may not comprehend. But we have also
discovered that to know about this inner world and to touch
it only in the privileged conditions of meditation is not
enough. Surely, the next step of the spiritual search in
our culture is the capacity to search for this condition
concretely in the midst of the life that is common to so
many of us in the world today. What do we now understand
about this search in life? What difficulties are specific
to our present culture? How can we help each other understand
our next step?
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"Gurdjieff and the Metaphysics of Human Relationship,"
lack of connection to others is inseparable from our lack
of connection to the centers of perception within our organism.
Natural man is intrinsically relational; developed man is
intrinsically compassionatea truth which is attested
to by the lives of all authentically great men and women
throughout history. And so, our first aim is to be natural
men and women. The attainment of this first aim already
disposes of most of the suffering that characterizes our
mutual relations in the modern world. Another kind of suffering
takes its place, a suffering that builds something. In Christian
language, it means the passage from hell to purgatory. Hell
is meaningless suffering; purgatory is suffering that leads
to paradise. How to escape from hell?
Beelzebub's Tales we learn that Buddha brought the work
of "bearing the manifestations of others unpleasant
to oneself" as the means for man to free himself from
the forces that hold him in the state of hypnotic, waking
sleep. Accounts of Gurdjieff's work with his pupils show
how much weight he placed on this struggle. At the same
time, he warned his pupils of its immense difficulty-"the
last thing for a man." On another scale, in one of
the published exchanges between Ouspensky and his London
groups, a questioner complains about the kind of people
he is assigned to work with. Ouspensky tells him that such
reactions to others are the most mechanical thing in the
world, and are precisely what one needs to confront from
the very beginning of work on oneself.
aspects of inner work do not imply that difficulties occur
only between opposing types. But it may be that certain
kinds of difficulties-or, more generally, certain kinds
of relationships-are possible with types other than those
one prefers by association or by physico-chemistry. In any
case, the work asks the pupil to cultivate a new attitude
toward difficult relations between people-not immediately
trying to resolve these difficulties or explain them or
begrudgingly see them as a necessary evil. We need these
difficulties for our own awakening-precisely these difficulties
with other people.
why? It is understandable that working alongside others
exposes us to the need to see our emotions and to free ourselves
from their power to consume us. The conditions of the work
community support the difficult (in life it approaches the
impossible) voluntary effort to go on struggling with ourselves,
even if it just means staying in the same room with someone
who is in some way offensive to us.
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excerpt from Edwin Wolfe, Episodes with Gurdjieff:
rather young son of a former member of the Orage group asked
me to get permission for him to speak with Mr. Gurdjieff
about something personal. When I told Mr. Gurdjieff about
this he nodded, yes, bring him.
next evening I took the youth up to Mr. Gurdjieff's suite
in the Hotel Wellington. After greetings, the young man
said, "Mr. Gurdjieff, my grandmother gave me some money
not long ago. I'm going to buy a small piece of land in
the country with it. I'll build a log cabin and I'll put
in a vegetable garden so I can grow all my own food. I'll
live there like that. So I wanted to ask you, would that
be a good thing for me to do? Is that a good life?"
Mr. Gurdjieff answered, "that good life. For dog. For
man, no. You eat, you sleep, live in dream. How could this
ever be life for man?"
"Beyond Beauty," an interview with Paul Reynard:
for Thought: In everyday life we find ourselves so bombarded
with artistic imagery, from the merely decorative to the
intentionally offensive, that it's no wonder, I suppose,
that we are so rarely moved by it. We seem to have lost
an understanding of what art can bring to our lives. As
an artist who has worked and exhibited both in the United
States and abroad, and who is also in touch with young artists
through teaching, how do you see the place of art in contemporary
Reynard: This is a complex question, since the word "art"
is used nowadays to denote a myriad of creative activities
requiring varying degrees of skill. To add to the confusion,
there is a tremendous difference in attitude between the
Western world and other cultures or traditions in which
the notion of art as we understand it today has no meaning
at all. On the other hand, this creative activity has taken
place since the beginning of humanity. It seems to respond
to a specifically human need that finds its source in the
a way, your question could as well be formulated as "What
is the place of love in our society?"
final purpose of a work of art is not entertainment, but
the transmission of, or an opening to, an inner mystery
that the painter, the composer, or sculptor feels compelled
to explore through his own craft. Something is then expressed
in a language without words that speaks directly to your
heart, and you feel yourself "in question," as
so many people have felt when looking at the Lascaux paintings
or the Mona Lisa.
You mentioned love. How do you see the relationship between
love and art?
One is contained within the other, you might say. When viewing
a great work of art, you respond to the call of a concealed,
invisible vibration which is beyond the notion of beauty.
You feel invited to share this vision, even to participate
in a process where the center of gravity is in the feelings.
It is very much like being in love.
"An Invitation Declined"
1973, Far West hosted a series of public lectures in San
Francisco under the title "Sacred Tradition and Present
Need," in which representatives of several spiritual
traditions agreed to speak to an audience of some 300 people.
The following notes were made at the time by an editor of
Material for Thought seeking to invite the participation
of the renowned Japanese Zen master, Soen Roshi. Reverend
S. was at that time Soen Roshi's assistant in New York.
was ushered into Reverend S.'s reception room, shook hands
warmly, and sat down on the couch. I began to explain about
the lecture series we were planninghow there was now
so much spiritual seeking going on in America and yet so
much difficulty hearing the message of the great traditions.
I read to him from the brochure announcing our series and
said that for Zen Buddhism we had been advised to approach
S. immediately said it was impossible. I asked why. He said
it was not the sort of thing Soen would dobut he was
under the impression that we wanted Soen to speak about
some general academic subject. Reverend S. paused for a
moment when I explained that Soen would be asked to speak
about Zen. I tried to explain that the interest was not
you must forget about Soen Roshi. I can understand why you
were advised to ask him, but it is out of the question.
This is like the A&P supermarket-not the traditional
Zen way. A&P is all right, I am not condemning your
project, but that is not the way for us. Soen comes to America
and speaks to people here who are ready to receive. We are
not interested in persuading people who come shopping for
this thing and that. We are here. If someone comes to us,
the doors are open. But we do not go out."
is not a question of persuading," I said, "but
of speaking to an important question from the point of view
of the Zen tradition. If the traditional teachers are not
willing to speak out in this way, how will the rest of us
understand about mixing and diluting the teachings?"
are books," he said. "Student reads these books
and finds his way here. Put Soen Roshi out of your mind.
I said, "it is as you say, like a supermarket. But
that's our situation. Is it not possible to speak within
is not the Rinzai way."
you are already part of the supermarket."
are here; two blocks away there is a yogi . . ."
you saying the whole world is a supermarket?"
on both sides.
"Where Is Buddhism Now?" Stuart Smithers
the rumors of Zen were heard in the 1950s, few people had
any idea what Zen really was, but these strange and incomprehensible
teachings seemed to feed a mysterious hunger. Had something
truly new arrived in America again? In the 1950s Zen lived
behind unmarked doors in Manhattan and Cambridge. But behind
the doors that proclaimed nothing there was the life of
another world. For a short timein the thirties and
again in the fiftiesBuddhism lived in America as an
almost invisible force. Buddhism in the 1950s was an underground
movement living at the edge of universities, attracting
poets, philosophers, graduate students, and artists. News
traveled by word of mouth that a fantastic-looking Japanese
man with legendary bat-wing eyebrows would be speaking about
Zenwhatever that was. Listeners gathered to hear D.
T. Suzuki speak of strange and unknown things: zazen, karma,
Zen masters, satori, emptiness, no-mind, and no-self.
people couldn't walk through walls, but if anybody could
maybe it was this curious man from Kyoto. Something in the
intensity of the experience attracted and repelled us, and
put us deeply into question. What did he mean when he told
us not to think, or when he asked us where our minds were?
Who wasn't bewildered by the idea that there was an "original
face before our mothers and fathers"? People began
to feel the shock that life might be lived on another level,
that some unknown transformation of oneself could be possible.
seminar rooms at Columbia University, in churches and borrowed
flats in Berkeley, Buddhism in America was being bornquietly,
respectfully, patiently, and unpretentiously. The mystery
of a process of transmission had already begun, and without
anyone particularly knowing it. How is a great teaching
transmitted? What was acting on us?
"The Presence of Life," Mary Stein
Dagara people of Africa consider plants the most intelligent
of all earth's creatures because they communicate entirely
without speech. Animals rank lower than plants because they
sometimes use their voices to convey meaning. Least intelligent
of all are human beings because their communication relies
so heavily on the spoken word.
peculiar hierarchy made little sense until I happened to
be standing in a grove of magnificent redwoods a few miles
north of San Francisco. Out of the green stillness, quite
unexpectedly, there entered into me a quality of listening
so intense that it pierced through habits of perception
that usually imprison me in a relatively lifeless world.
For a few moments it seemed clear that I was in the presence
of beings able to communicate their intensely contemplative
statea state capable of transforming my own.
"From the Mat to the Street," Richard Hodges
are ways of moving, ways of responding to challenge, ways
of relating to people, that the student of Judo discovers
creeping into his whole life. He is likely even to take
pride in this. A Judo student may have the experience of
being flattered by others who notice the way he moves "from
his center." In relationships of emotion the problem
is even more complex. It takes years of repeated practice
under a watchful teacher to learn how to bow to an opponent
in a way that expresses the right respect. Toward a peer,
this respect includes the willingness to attack vigorously,
acknowledging an opponent's ability to profit from being
attacked. But what happens when business colleagues, or
one's domestic partner, feel the half-conscious expression
of this attitude toward themselves? What kind of discipline,
and for how long, would it take to refine this attitude
until it would be experienced by others as an expression
of love, in life as it is in Judo? What really can be taken
from the mat to the street?
"Hadji Gholamreza Rahimpour of Shiraz," James
July of 1970 I found my first mentor in the carpet business,
Hadji Gholamreza Rahimpour of Shiraz. Until the 1979 Islamic
revolution and the American embargo ended my annual trips
to Iran, the Hadji and I conducted business that gradually
formed the foundation for a career-long specialty in Persian
tribal rugs, as well as a strong mutual friendship. Throughout
all of this long process he guided me in learning the techniques,
the pleasures and the responsibilities attendant to being
a carpet dealer. . . .
of the basis of his reputation was that "the Hadji,"
as he was widely known in the bazaar, combined a good-hearted
willingness to grant the other party what was truly needed
in a transaction with prodigious and finely-honed bargaining
skills. Looming above all of his activities were principles
well removed from the struggle to negotiate a better price.
Following the dictates of the Koran in the conduct of business,
especially in keeping one's word, brought principles into
play that elevated his outlook to the sphere of universal
spiritual principles. Honest to his very core, he was not
soft. His greatest bargaining tool was the force of his
own character. There were unspoken depths to his methods,
and to him as an individual, which included a natural reluctance
to be "known" in a casual, familiar way. Unless
he was engaged in the throes of a bargaining session, he
tended toward an undemonstrative reserve that bordered on
silence. After I had known him for several years I asked
him about this aspect of quietness, which was so obvious
when we were alone. He only said, "Flies never enter
a closed mouth."
his work often induced him to act out various guises, which
involved feigning a spectrum of negative moods and contrived
reactions, the Hadji never evidenced the slightest hint
of true slipperiness. He was always and most thoroughly
himself. Those close to him never doubted who was behind
the act of the moment. He was there, and the slightest glance
from him, if he saw fit to look your way, told you so. These
continual hints of an underlying foundation, of something
solid within, made the days and weeks spent in his company
deeply appealing for me.
body of Persian folklore he had absorbed, which often flavored
his speech, especially in his use of local proverbs, matched
his deep knowledge of the merchandise that passed through
his hands. When working with other dealers in the bazaar,
he had a proverb for nearly every occasion. Mohammed Kashef,
our mutual friend and at times our translator, suggested
once that the Hadji made up some of these proverbs as he
went along. Kashef, an educated man, had never heard many
of them before. Whether he invented some or tapped into
a deeper, older level of folk wisdom that had largely evaporated
during the 20th century hardly matters. If someone accused
him of devising his own proverbs he might well have said,
as he did many times, "God forgive youand me,
as well." Which left the matter in doubt
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