New bottles for the old wine
THE OTHER NIGHT YOU SPOKE OF THE MYSTERY SCHOOL. AT THAT MOMENT I THOUGHT OF PYTHAGORAS. SINCE YOU STARTED SPEAKING AGAIN, I'VE WANTED TO ASK QUESTIONS ABOUT HIM -- HIS NAME COMES TO ME OFTEN. THE MAIN PART OF HIS TEACHINGS I LOVE ARE THE THREE P'S: PREPARATION, PURIFICATION, PERFECTION.
WOULD YOU SPEAK ON THEM AGAIN?
Pythagoras is a link between East and West, between a civilization that disappeared in the Atlantic and a civilization that we are living in; hence he has a significance of his own.
He traveled almost all his life in search of fragments of truth. Most of his time he was in Egypt, in Alexandria. In those days Alexandria had the biggest library in the whole world, particularly scriptures containing all the discoveries of consciousness made in the lost civilization of Atlantis -- a whole civilization drowned with the whole continent in the Atlantic ocean. The name Atlantic comes from the continent Atlantis, that went down into it. The only fragmentary knowledge available about it was in Alexandria -- and perhaps Pythagoras was the first and the last man of such integrity, intelligence, ingenuity, to look into those scriptures.
That library exists no more, so whatever we know about Atlantis we know through Pythagoras. That library was destroyed by Mohammedans. The man who destroyed it, Mahmud Gaznavi, destroyed many beautiful things in India, in Afghanistan, in Egypt.
But the most precious was the vast library that contained everything about that whole civilization, which had reached to the peaks of consciousness. The day this man destroyed the library, he took Koran Sharif in one of his hands and a burning torch in another, entered the library and asked the learned librarian, "Listen carefully -- the existence of your library depends on your answers. My first question is: Is there anything in your whole library which goes against the holy KORAN? And my second question is:
If there is nothing which goes against the holy KORAN, then the holy KORAN is enough; why bother about this big library?"
The librarian must have been in a dilemma -- whatever he says will be dangerous. If he says there are many things in the library which are not in the KORAN, Mahmud is going to burn the library, because that which is not in the KORAN is untrue -- the KORAN contains all and ultimate truth. And if he says that everything that is in the library is substantially and essentially contained in the KORAN, then too he is going to burn the library, saying, "Then it is useless; the KORAN has it all." And the library was so huge and so immense that you can only conceive... He burned it, and the fire continued for six months. For six months continuously books were burning; perhaps the greatest treasure of humanity was destroyed.
Pythagoras studied in that library for many years. He was a Greek, but he found in Greece itself only sophistry. Sophistry is something ugly. It comes from a very beautiful word `sophia', which means wisdom, but sophistry is only a pretension of wisdom. And the whole of Greece was so interested in sophistry. There were sophist teachers moving all over the country teaching people, and the basic teaching of sophistry was: There is no truth. It is all a question of better argument. Truth as such does not exist, it is a fallacy.
When two persons argue, whoever is better in argument seems to have the truth, but it is really the better argument and nothing else.
Their teaching was to give you all possible ways of arguing and to make you a great arguer, and then you can argue from any side -- it doesn't matter. When truth does not exist, what side you take and argue for does not matter. It is a question of convenience:
which side is going to declare you victorious? Which side do you have more arguments for?
I have been interested in sophistry, although the name sophistry has disappeared. Socrates was the cause of destroying it. He emphasized that truth is, and arguments do not prove it, they only discover it. They do not disprove it either; they can only prevent its discovery. One single man, Socrates, destroyed the whole tradition, hundreds of years old, of sophistry. But it has remained running underground. I see it in theologians, in religious philosophies, in political ideologies... no concern for truth, the only concern is to present a very solid argument.
There is a story: one very famous sophist teacher, Zeno... and he was not just a sophist, he was a genius. It is unfortunate that his genius became associated with sophistry because that was prevalent. You pay him money and he can prove anything -- anything in the world. You just say it, he has a price for it. He proved strange things which logicians have not been able to disprove even now, after two thousand years, and whatever he has proved goes against all common sense. But logic listens to the argument, and his arguments are so fine, so refined.
For example, he says that when you kill a bird with an arrow, the arrow does not move at all. This is absurd, because if the arrow does not move at all, then how does it reach the bird? From your bow to the bird there is a distance. The arrow reaches there, the bird is killed -- there is proof. This question was asked by one king, thinking that Zeno would not be able to prove this -- and he was ready to give any amount of money if Zeno should prove that the arrow does not move.
Zeno proved that the arrow does not move, and even up to now there is no way to disprove him. His argument is that for movement, the arrow has to go from point 1 to point 2 to point 3 to point 4; obviously it has to move from one place to another place, then only will it reach the bird.
Moving from A to B or from 1 to 2, it has to pass a passage between A and B; it cannot simply reach from A to B, so you have to make another point between the two. So where there were two points, now there are three points -- and you have got into difficulty. Now he has to reach not only three points but five, because these two gaps are there, and this goes on growing. If you fill these two gaps, then there are five points and there are gaps.
And you go on filling ad infinitum... the arrow will never reach the bird.
The argument is very solid. What he is saying makes sense -- but it is absolute nonsense:
the arrow goes and kills the bird.
Zeno is not interested in the arrow or the bird. He says, "My argument proves that nothing moves, nothing can move; there is no movement in the world."
These kinds of people were all over Greece. They dominated the mind; they were constantly debating. Pythagoras was not interested at all in this kind of stupid game. It sharpens your intellect, but it does not lead you to any truth, to any discovery, to any realization. And even the greatest sophists were getting into trouble, because Zeno himself -- who had many arguments which go against reality but could not be disproved - - was defeated by his own student.
This was the routine: he was so confident, and he had the genius to be confident, that he used to take half the fees in the beginning, and half when the student won his first argument. This student was strange: he gave half the fee but he told him that he would never give him the other half. Zeno said, "How?" He said, "I am never going to argue! I will accept defeat without arguing. I may lose everything that I have but I am not going to give you the other half of your fee."
Zeno waited, but the man would not even talk about the weather, because some argument may start and there may be trouble. And he was determined not to pay the fees so as to teach Zeno: "You may be a great logician, but there is a possibility of going higher than you."
But Zeno was not going to sit silently. He put a case in the court against the student: "He has not paid me half the fee." His idea was that if he wins the case, then he will tell the court, "Force that student to pay the fee." If he loses the case, no harm -- outside the court he will catch the student and will say, "You have won your first argument -- my fee!" So whether he wins or whether he loses, he is going to get half the fee.
But he forgot that it was his own student who knew all his techniques and arguments.
From the opposite side the student was thinking, "That's good: if I win in the court, I will appeal to the court that this man should not bother me outside the court, because that will be a contempt of court. And if I lose the case, then there is no problem. Outside I will catch hold of Zeno and say, "Master, I have lost my first argument -- you cannot get the fee."
The whole genius of Greece was involved in that, in that atmosphere. Pythagoras is very unique. He got out of Greece -- it was not the right place. People were simply arguing and arguing, but nobody was concerned in evolving consciousness. He was coming to India. On the way he remained a few years in the library of Alexandria, where he picked up knowledge about the lost continent of Atlantis.
We have only that proof; no other proof exists -- although recently scientists have started looking into the matter. What they have been finding in the Atlantic ocean suggests that there must have been a great civilization; whole cities are drowned there. The whole continent simply went down into the ocean. Such changes happen on the earth: new islands come up, new mountains come up.
The Himalayas are a new mountain range -- the newest. It was not there when RIG VEDA was written, because it is impossible that RIG VEDA should not mention such beautiful mountains -- the highest and the most glorious. But there is no mention about them. And the people who wrote RIG VEDA had come from Mongolia. Certainly there was no mountain on the way; otherwise to cross the Himalayas and to come to India would have been impossible. Even today, there are only two places from where you can cross the Himalayas; otherwise it is uncrossable. Changes go on happening on the earth.
Pythagoras reached India, but he got caught again -- in the Buddhist atmosphere. It was so real; although Buddha was dead, the whole country was throbbing. His impression, his impact, had been very deep. When Pythagoras reached India, whatever he learned was learned in Buddhist universities. You will be surprised to know that Buddhist universities are the oldest universities in the world. Oxford is only one thousand years old. Nalanda, a Buddhist university, and Takshila, a Buddhist university, existed twenty-three hundred years ago. They were destroyed by Hindus and Mohammedans both.
But they were rare universities -- they fulfilled the real meaning of the word. Not everybody was allowed to be in the university. Outside the university campus there were places where people could live for preparation. At the gate the gatekeepers were no ordinary people but very qualified Buddhist bhikkhus, and they had to give people an examination at the gate. When you had passed those examinations, you could enter into the university campus; otherwise it was not even possible to enter it. Even just to see it was not possible; it was so sacred. Wisdom was thought so sacred -- it was not everybody's thing, only those who could put their whole life into the search.
These three P's -- Purification, Preparation, Perfection -- come from the Buddhist sources of wisdom. Of course, Pythagoras made them more logical -- he had a Greek mind -- made them more systematic. But those words are really significant.
Preparation does not mean preparing for a verbal examination or a written examination.
Preparation means preparing for an existential examination; it means going deeper into meditation. Unless you were meditative you could not enter those universities. And they had big campuses: Takshila had ten thousand scholars in it, Nalanda had twelve thousand scholars in it. Even today the greatest universities don't have more than that number, but their quality is very ordinary; students have simply passed the school examinations and they are ready to enter. No existential preparation is needed.
Preparation means that you drop all your conditionings, you drop your prejudices, you drop what you think you know and you do not know: you get as innocent as possible.
Your innocence will be the preparation -- that will allow you to enter into the university campus.
Then purification... In preparation you drop the conditionings which were given by the society, prejudices which were given to you or caught by you from the surroundings; it was borrowed knowledge in some way or other. You go like a child -- but even the child is not pure. That is something very significant to understand, because people take it for granted that the child is pure.
He is certainly innocent, but his innocence is equivalent to ignorance, and behind his innocence are all his feelings: anger, hatred, greed, jealousy. You can see, children are very jealous. If one child has a doll, the other becomes so jealous that they will start fighting. If some child has something, then the other child also wants to have it. They are very competitive. Even in the family children have a hierarchy, and they are constantly fighting to be higher than others. Whatever is needed to be done... if obedience makes them the most loved in the family, they will follow obedience. But they are not following obedience; they are really trying a power strategy.
So preparation simply takes away the layers that society has put on your mind. But you have brought with nature, with your birth, so many ugly instincts, that a purification is needed.
You have to understand that competition is meaningless. You have to meditate deeply and recognize that you are not like anybody else. And competition can be only among similar people -- and everybody is dissimilar, unique.
Once the competitive mind disappears, many things change in you; then you are not jealous. If somebody has a beautiful face and somebody has more money, and somebody has a more powerful body, you simply accept the fact that a few trees are tall and a few trees are small. But existence accepts them all.
The disappearance of competitiveness will also help you to get rid of greed. People go on accumulating -- they want to be in a better position than you, with more money than you, with everything better than you. And their whole life is wasted in that.
Purification is almost going through a fire of understanding in which all that is instinctive and ugly burns down. And it is a great experience that only the ugly burns. That which is beautiful blossoms. In purification you lose all trace of hate, and instead, suddenly a spring of love bursts forth -- as if the rock of hate was preventing the spring.
Once the cruelty... and children are very cruel. The idea that they are angels is just stupid.
They are very cruel; they will beat dogs, they will beat cats. A small insect passing by -- and a child will simply kill it for no reason, he just enjoys destruction. There is a destructiveness in him. Once that is gone, creativity arises.
So purification is a deeper meditation than preparation. Preparation was very simple, but purification is going deeper into meditation -- the deepest possible -- so everything that is not worthy of human beings is transformed. Everything has energy in it -- hate, jealousy, greed -- and when these things change, their energy becomes available to you in its purified form. And they can turn: greed can turn into compassion, sharing; hate can turn into love. Everything will turn into something which makes your heart a garden.
And when the purification is complete, utterly complete, not a corner of your being remains in the dark, everything is light and fragrant, fresh... What we have called the awakened man, the enlightened man, Pythagoras calls perfection. It is simply a different name: the perfect man.
The first two you have to do; the third is the ultimate outcome of it. In these three simple words he has condensed the whole alchemy of human transformation.
Pythagoras is one of the most important people that Greece has given to the world. But strangely enough, nothing much is talked about all the best geniuses that Greece has given to the world. Pythagoras, Socrates, Heraclitus, Epicurus -- these are the ones who should be talked about. But instead of them, in the universities Plato is studied, Aristotle is studied.
Plato is simply a record-keeper -- he has not a single idea of his own! He is a devoted lover of Socrates, and whatever Socrates says, he goes on recording it, writing it. Socrates has not written anything -- just as no great master has ever written anything. And Plato is certainly a great writer; perhaps Socrates may not have been able to write so beautifully.
Plato has made Socrates' teachings as beautiful as possible, but he himself is no one. Now the same work can be done by a tape recorder. And Aristotle is merely an intellectual, with no understanding of being, or even a desire to search for it. These people are taught in the universities.
I was constantly in a fight with my professors. When they started teaching Plato, I said, "This is absolute nonsense, because Plato has nothing to say of his own. It is better to teach about Socrates. Plato can be referred to -- he has compiled it all. But Socrates' name has become almost a fiction, and Plato has become the reality -- just the way I was saying to you last night that Ouspensky has become the master, because he has written the books, beautiful books. One day Gurdjieff will be forgotten -- he is already forgotten -- and Ouspensky will be remembered for centuries. And sooner or later what he has written will be thought to be his own ideas. None of it is his own ideas.
Pythagoras is not at all bothered about any university in the world, for the simple reason that he is not a routine scholar; he is an original seeker, and he is ready to go anywhere.
He traveled all his life to find people who may have had a little glimpse and may be able to impart something to him. He was collecting pieces, and he managed beautifully.
But Greeks don't talk about him because he is not talking about Greek philosophy; he is bringing foreign ideas, strange ideas from Alexandria, from Nalanda, from Takshila -- he is almost not a Greek. They are not interested in what he is bringing, although what he is bringing has nothing to do with Greeks or Indians or Egyptians. But he is ignored -- one of the most significant men, utterly ignored.
The same has happened to Diogenes. He is ignored because he looks embarrassing to the Greeks. And he is very original -- not only in thoughts but in life. In everything that he does he is original and very sincere -- a man of tremendous courage, who could say to Alexander the Great, "You are behaving like a fool. The very idea of conquering the world is nonsense. For what do you want to conquer the world? What will you do after it?"
He said, "After it? I am going to relax and enjoy." And Diogenes looked at his dog -- they were friends, they used to live together -- and he told the dog, "Did you hear? He is planning to relax and enjoy after conquering the world, and we are enjoying right now, without conquering anything! Why take so much trouble?" A naked man who can say to Alexander, "You are behaving like a fool," must have guts -- and Alexander had to recognize it. And he was a man of tremendous power himself, of great intelligence. He had to recognize it -- that he has never met a man of the quality of Diogenes.
But Greeks go on avoiding, the same way they have done with Epicurus. It is very strange, but perhaps this is the way of humanity to behave with its own greatest sons -- to ignore them, not to take any note of them.
But amongst all these, Pythagoras has created a complete system to create a Buddha. He himself became an enlightened man -- it was not only theoretical. When he came back to Greece, he was not the same Pythagoras who had left; he was a new man. And that was one of the greatest difficulties -- his own country could not recognize him. In fact they had no category of enlightenment, awakening, buddhahood, so where to put Pythagoras?
The category just does not exist in their mind, so he remains uncategorized, and for two thousand years nobody has commented upon him.
I am the first man to have commented on the great genius and realization of this unique individual. He has a more perfect way of presentation than you will find in Indian scriptures, because Indian scriptures are more poetic, and he is, after all, a Greek! He is very logical and very scientific.
YOU ARE FAMOUS FOR YOUR CONTRADICTIONS. BUT IT SEEMS THAT ONE OF THE MOST POWERFUL CONFIRMATIONS THAT YOU ARE WHO YOU ARE -- FOR THE WORLD IN GENERAL AND POSTERITY -- IS THAT, IN ALL THOSE MILLIONS AND MILLIONS OF WORDS, SPOKEN SPONTANEOUSLY OVER SEVERAL DECADES, YOU REALLY NEVER EVER CONTRADICTED YOURSELF AT ALL.
I have never contradicted myself. I cannot do it. In the first place I don't remember anything that I have said before -- how to contradict it?
Secondly, it is not my thinking, it is my experience. Contradictions happen in thinking, but not in experience. I have said things which may appear to people contradictory, but they are really evolutionary. My experience I have expressed in different ways; that may create the idea that I am contradictory. I was expressing it in different ways so if you have missed one way, perhaps the other way you may get it.
I have tried to describe it from all aspects possible, just to help people, because sometimes it happens that one aspect does not reach you but the other aspect is more in tune with you. I have used all possible, multi-dimensional expressions, but there is no way for me to contradict. It is my experience. I am not taking about others' experience.
Even if I am talking about others, it is always according to my experience. They may agree with it, they may not agree with it -- but I cannot go against my experience.
During the years, talking to you, I have been sharpening my arrows, my words, so that they can penetrate directly to your heart. But contradiction is not there at all. And you are right: the day all of my words will be understood, there will be found an undercurrent running through all of them and joining them. They are like flowers of a garland -- a thin thread, invisible, is running through all the flowers -- and that is my consistency, that is my experience.
It is true, I don't think anybody else has spoken so much. Much of it is lost because it was not recorded; almost half of it is lost, but whatever remains is still more than anyone else has ever tried to convey.
The reason is simple: I enjoy it, I love it. When I see a word settling in your heart, my joy knows no bounds. When I see a glimpse in your eyes that you have caught the meaning, I am immensely happy.
And I had to speak so much because nobody before me has addressed the whole world.
They were addressing small fragments of humanity. Jesus remained confined to Judea, Buddha remained confined to Bihar, Socrates remained confined to Athens. Fortunately they don't let me remain in one place, so I have to be all over the world. And I have to speak again and again through different angles about the same experience, because in that also my life has been unique: people have been coming to me and leaving me -- new people coming, old people going. It has been beautiful. It has not been like a dead pond where the water only evaporates, and soon there is left nothing but muddy mess.
It is almost as if I have been speaking by the side of a river, which is running so fast that each time I look at it there are new faces to whom I have to speak again. In thirty years so many people have changed. It was not true about Socrates or Buddha or Lao Tzu, they worked with a group their whole life. I have been working with so many new people, and I have always to find out a new mode, a new phase, new expressions, new bottles for the old wine... but the wine is old, and it is the same wine that I have been offering to all.