Rama Prem, George Gurdjieff is one of the most significant masters of this age.
He is unique in many ways -- nobody has said things in the contemporary world the way Gurdjieff has said them. He is almost like another Bodhidharma or Chuang Tzu, apparently absurd but in reality giving great indications towards the liberation of human consciousness.
You are asking about one of his significant statements. He often used to say, "You are in prison." Sometimes he was even deeper into the reality, and instead of saying, "You are in prison," he would say, "You are the prison." That is more true.
If you wish to get out of prison -- or better to say, if you don't want to be a prison -- the first thing you must do is realize that you are in prison... or you are the prison. This is something to be always remembered as one of the first principles for any seeker of truth.
The tendency of the human mind is to deny those things which are ugly, to hide those things which he does not want others to know -- to hide in such a way, in such depths of the unconscious that even he himself becomes unaware of them. This way he maintains his superficial personality.
Gurdjieff had a story about it...
There was a magician who used to live in faraway deep forests, and he had many sheep because that was his only food. In those deep forests he was keeping all those sheep just to kill them every day, one by one. Naturally, the sheep were very afraid of the man, and they used to run into the forest being afraid that any day can be their day. Their friends are gone, there is no reliability... tomorrow they may be gone. Out of fear they used to go far away, deep into the forest. And to find them was a tedious job every day.
Finally, the magician did a trick. He hypnotized all the sheep, and told every sheep, "You are an exception; everybody may be killed but you can never be killed. You are no ordinary sheep; you have a divine privilege." To some he said, "You are not sheep at all; you are lions, you are tigers, you are wolves. Only sheep are killed. You need not hide yourself in the forest; that is very embarrassing, because a lion hiding himself in the forest in the fear that he will be killed... only sheep are killed." And in this way, he managed to hypnotize all the sheep in different ways.
He even said to a few sheep, "You are men, human beings, and human beings don't kill each other. You are just like me. Never be afraid and never escape out of fear." Since that day, no sheep escaped and hid in the forest, although they all saw every day that one sheep was being killed, slaughtered. But naturally everybody thought, That must be a sheep; I am a tiger, a lion, a human being. I am special and exceptional, I have a divine privilege.... So many different stories he put in their minds.
Gurdjieff says that unless you realize the first thing -- that you are in prison, that you are the prison -- then there is no hope for freedom. If you already believe that you are free, you are a hypnotized sheep which believes himself to be a lion -- exceptional, there is no need to be afraid -- which even believes he is a human being. He goes on seeing other sheep being killed, and still remains in a hypnotized state, never being aware of his actuality. To be free, if you already know that you are free, there is no problem.
All the religions together, perhaps unintentionally, have created a tremendous hypnotic state. People believe they have immortal souls. I am not saying that they don't have, I am simply saying that they don't know what they are believing. And because they believe they have an immortal soul, they never discover that they already have it. They have been told, "You are the very kingdom of God"... and it is so comfortable and so consoling to believe. But then there is no way to seek and search and find whether your hypothetical belief has any truth in it, or is just a hypnotic trick used by the society to keep you unafraid of death, to keep you unafraid of disease, old age, to keep you unafraid of your loneliness.
Your God may be just a psychological hypnosis. It is not your discovery. That is true -- that much is absolutely true. It has been implanted in your mind, and because you go on believing in it, your belief prevents any adventure in seeking the truth.
Ordinarily, you have been told continually that unless you believe, you will not find. But the truth is just the contrary. Belief is a barrier, it is not a bridge. Those who believe never find, because they never even begin the search; there is no need.
You are in prison and you think you are free.
You are in chains but you think they are ornaments. You are a slave but you have been told that you are humble, that you are simple, that this is the way a religious person should be. You are surrounded by many hypnotic strategies developed by society down the ages. And those hypnotic strategies are the root cause of your ignorance, of your misery, of your unenlightened state.
Hence the first thing to realize is that you are in prison. The moment you recognize that you are in prison, you cannot tolerate the prison. Nobody can tolerate it; it goes against human dignity. You will start finding ways to get out of it. You will start finding people who have already got out of it. You may start seeking and searching outside help beyond the walls, because there are people beyond the walls ready with every kind of help. But they are absolutely helpless if you believe that you are living in absolute freedom.
If you believe this imprisonment is your home, then of course it is absolute nonsense even to think of getting rid of it. The wall that keeps you a prisoner, you think is a protection. Then there is no question of making a hole in the wall and getting out, or finding a ladder, or taking some help from the outside. A rope can be thrown from the outside, a ladder can be arranged from the outside, but this is possible only if the basic thing, that you are in prison, is recognized. George Gurdjieff was consistently insisting, "This is a basic realization. Without it, there is no progress towards enlightenment. If you think you are free, you can't escape."
"What are the prisons that I call 'home'?" Rama Prem, all the so-called homes are nothing but prisons, because they don't give you freedom, they only give you security, safety, and in place they take away your very being, your freedom, your joy, your dance. But certainly they give you security, safety -- and naturally you have to pay for it.
The price that one has to pay is immensely great in comparison to what you get. You have to sell your very soul. But then what is the point of safety and security? You were searching for security and safety for your being, and in the very search you have sold your being. Now you are secure and safe, but what is the point? For whom is the safety and security? It does not serve you, it serves those who have managed to convince you that "If you give your soul, your being, we will take care -- then you need not be worried, then we are responsible for your safety and security."
The moment you give up your responsibility, you give up everything.
Then you are just an empty shell, without any meaning and without any essence. Your homes are nothing but beautiful prisons made by you, decorated by you. You think they are protecting you; they are destroying you. Certainly they protect you from the rains and they protect you from the winds and they protect you from the sun, but for these trivia they destroy you completely. You lose all joy, you lose all freedom, you lose all sense of direction.
You lose the very purpose you are here for.
You get lost in your own home.
You become too much concerned about the furniture and about the decorations, and you forget yourself completely. This forgetfulness is a kind of deep psychological sleep.
Your wife, your husband, your children -- nobody is yours. All are man-made, arbitrary relationships -- even your own children are not your own. They come through you; they don't belong to you. You belong to the past; they belong to the future. There is no connection, there is no relationship; hence, as man has become more and more intelligent there has come a great generation gap.
One great Russian novelist, Turgenev, has written a book -- perhaps his best, his masterpiece -- FATHERS AND SONS. The whole book is about the struggle between the fathers and the sons, because the fathers would like the sons just to be their replicas.
Naturally, they will not allow the sons any freedom. Obedience they expect; they expect their sons to be their carbon copies.
Even God the Father was expecting obedience and nothing else; what to say about ordinary fathers? He was angry because of disobedience, and his anger was too great in comparison to the disobedience. The disobedience was created by him. He provoked it; he created the curiosity in the children, Adam and Eve, to eat from certain trees, by preventing them -- that is the easiest way.
I lived in a place; just next to me was a very beautiful house, with a very big garden and compound, with a big wall surrounding it. And in India, such places are used as urinals.
A good wall... and immediately you feel the urge. And the man was very angry. He was a retired general. He asked me what to do: "It is strange, because there are so many houses, but people go on urinating around my house."
I said, "The reason is that you have not put up any notice."
He said, "What kind of notice?"
I said to him, "Just put a few notices around, all over the wall: Don't Urinate Here."
He said, "That's a good idea!"
He called a painter and wrote all over the wall, with big letters: Don't Urinate Here. And from that day, anybody who passed from that road had to urinate! It was such an invitation; otherwise, one might not have been reminded. But, "Don't Urinate"... and suddenly you feel that this is the right place. And you can see so many marks where people have already urinated. And the boards on the wall certainly show that the owner knows that people urinate here; otherwise, what is the need of putting such boards?
In one of the capital cities of India, Bhopal, I was surprised to know that people have to put small boards even in their sitting rooms -- "Don't Spit Here" -- because that is the only city in India where people spit anywhere. Even in your sitting room, it is common practice. And those boards don't prevent anybody from doing it. When I saw this I told the doctor with whom I was staying, "I have never seen anywhere in India such instructions. And here in your city, in every house... How did it start?"
He said, "I don't know."
I said, "Somebody must have first put up a board; spitting must have come afterwards." It is a temptation.
In the Garden of Eden, so many trees... and God indicated to a particular tree: "This is the tree of knowledge. Never eat the fruit from it." There was no need of any serpent to convince Eve, God convinced her himself; he is the serpent. And then the punishment for it is unbelievable. Even today we are suffering because Adam and Eve disobeyed!
Religions have created all kinds of crimes in the mind of man, just by prohibiting them.
They have also created ideas which prevent man from any search. They say, "Believe" -- and belief is cheap. You don't have to do anything. Gurdjieff had to go to such extents that he started saying to people, "You don't have souls. It is a wrong idea, implanted within you by religions, that everybody has a soul."
He had to say such a thing just to wake you up to search whether it is true or not; otherwise, everybody was perfectly asleep. What is the need to search? You already have it; God is within you! So do other things which, if you don't do, you will not get -- become a president, prime minister, become the richest man in the world, conquer the world -- because these things will not happen on their own. As far as God is concerned you already have him; he is within you, you don't have to go anywhere. Any day, any rainy day when you can't go anywhere to conquer the world, and you don't have anything else to do -- to correct the mechanism of your car, or to open your wall clock, or to open your radio or television even though they are functioning perfectly well, but you don't have anything else to do.... Any day, when you don't have anything to do, you can find God. He is within you, in your pocket.
Gurdjieff is perhaps the only man in the whole of history who insisted against all religions that you don't have a soul -- that a soul has to be created, then you have it. You are not born with it, you are born only with the possibility. If you make a great effort, perhaps you may achieve it. Otherwise most people are born and die; there is no soul that survives.
He was telling a compassionate lie. He was not right, but I cannot say that he was telling the lie for any other reason than compassion. It is true you are born with the soul, but it has become such an accepted fact that you don't even look within yourself. Somebody needs to shatter your idea that you are born with a soul, to tell you that inside you are just empty, hollow. Perhaps this may shake you up, wake you up. Perhaps this may give you the idea to look inside at least one time, whether there is a soul or you have been deceived.
And George Gurdjieff helped more people in this century than anybody else, because he created a great longing:
"Don't die before you have created a soul; otherwise nothing will survive the death.
Crystallize your being so that death cannot destroy it. But you are not born with it, you have to create it."
The idea of all the religions, although true, has not been helpful; it has become a hindrance. Gurdjieff's compassion is great. All the religions were against him, obviously, because that is the one point they all agree on -- that everybody is born with a soul. But Gurdjieff's point is more psychological, and more effective in creating liberation. He says you are just empty, and you will remain empty unless you make the effort, with a determined will, to create a center within you. There is possibility, potential, but you have to make it an actuality.
His insight was great.
And since Gurdjieff, people have forgotten it completely. He was alive just thirty years ago and just within thirty years people have forgotten the great teacher who was compassionate enough even to lie, just to make you shocked; just to create an opening in you so that you can start searching whether what all the religions have been saying has any truth in it or not.
The first thing he says is to realize you are in prison. The first thing that can also be said is, you have to realize that you are not yet. You have to be. You are a seed, but you have to find the right soil, and nobody else can do it for you. If you go on depending on priests and your so-called saints, you will miss this great opportunity that life has given to you.
And one does not know whether a second chance is being given or not. It has to be made emphatically clear to you that there is a possibility -- once missed, you have missed it forever.
Gurdjieff created a great turmoil in a few intelligent people, and he put them to great work in finding themselves. I don't agree with George Gurdjieff as far as his methods are concerned, but as far as this statement is concerned I agree totally. It is simply a psychological fact.
There are people who believe they are intelligent. In fact, it is very difficult to find somebody who believes he is unintelligent. If you can find somebody who believes he is unintelligent, there is a possibility for him to be intelligent. But for all those who already believe they are intelligent, you can't help them. And certainly this whole humanity is not intelligent. Their actions show it, their behavior shows it, their misery shows it -- it shows nothing but their retardedness.
But their belief is that they are geniuses -- life is just not giving them the right opportunities to show their talents; otherwise, they could have been Picasso, or Sartre, or Bertrand Russell, or Martin Buber; there is no problem. It is just because life is preventing them; otherwise, they have everything. It is not so.
Now education is universal, particularly in advanced countries, but even universal education does not create universal geniuses. Everybody is educated but even that does not give you the same talent. Man is living in a kind of half-awake and half-asleep state, and it is very easy to believe that you are great -- great in intelligence, great in beauty, great in everything -- rather than finding greatness, creating greatness, because that will require effort, tremendous effort. And enlightenment is the ultimate intelligence. If you already believe you are intelligent, you have stopped yourself from growing.
Just watch exactly where you are.
Be very impartial about judging yourself.
See exactly, even if it hurts, that you are a slave -- of some political ideology, of some religious theology, of some racial stupidity. Just watch and be very impartial and objective about yourself, and you will find what Gurdjieff calls your prisons. And once you recognize your prisons, it is not difficult to get out, because they are your own creations.
Bernstein died and went to hell. The receptionist asked, "Where do you want to go?"
"Do I have a choice?" asked the surprised Bernstein.
"Certainly! This anteroom is surrounded by closed doors. Just listen at each one and decide which you want to enter."
Bernstein listened at the first door and heard horrible shrieks of agony. He went to the second, then the third -- always hearing screams, cries, and yells. Finally, at the seventh door, he heard nothing but gentle murmuring.
He said quickly, "I'll take this one."
The door was flung open and he was propelled inside. He found himself up to his lower lip in a vast sea of shit. With him were millions of others, standing on tiptoe, muttering, "Don't make waves! Don't make waves!"
Whatever you have made your life is your own choice. Even in hell you have a choice -- everywhere you have a choice. Your life is your own creation. Once you recognize it, then every change is possible.
Churchill's commentary on man was: "Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of the time he will pick himself up and continue on." Man is a very strange animal, strangest of all the animals you see. He goes on believing in things which are not, he goes on believing in things which he has not. He never makes any effort, even in finding one very fundamental thing: who he is, from where he comes, and what is his destiny, where he is going.
People discuss all kinds of things, and people read about all kinds of things, but generally they never bother about themselves. It seems they take themselves for granted, and that's what Gurdjieff wants to stop: Don't take yourself for granted. Look inside, search for who you are, and whether you are or if there is just emptiness and something has to be done to bring the seed to sprout, to take care of the seed so that one day it can blossom.
Sinking uneasily into the depths of the psychiatrist's couch, the patient sighed, "Doctor, I have a problem." He loosened his collar and continued, "I've got one son in Harvard and another at Yale. I've just gifted them with twin Ferraris. I have a townhouse on upper Fifth Avenue, and a summer home at East Hampton, and a sprawling ranch in Venezuela."
"Well," smiled the psychiatrist, obviously impressed, "either I missed something or you really don't have a problem."
"Doc," the harried chap croaked, "I only make seventy-five dollars a week."
Naturally you will have problems! You make seventy-five dollars a week, and you imagine all these things: two Ferraris, two sons -- one in Harvard, one in Yale -- a townhouse, a house in the hills, a big ranch in Venezuela, and seventy-five dollars a week! People create their problems. People are utterly poor in their consciousness, and go on believing that the kingdom of God is within. In your poor consciousness, you can have only a very poor God -- seventy-five dollars a week. Your God is as rich as your consciousness is, because the God is another name for your consciousness.
Prem Ila, you have the simplest problem -- you are making too much out of it. "Like thousands of wild horses running" -- that much anger would have burned you! From where do you bring thousands of wild horses?
I have heard that Mulla Nasruddin was having an interview to be employed on a ship, and there were three officials interviewing. One officer said, "A great cyclone, tidal waves, and the ship is almost sinking... what will you do?"
Mulla said, "No problem. I will do what is technically right -- I will stop the ship and lower down a heavy support."
The other officer said, "But another tidal wave is coming, and the ship is just going to sink. What are you going to do?"
Mulla said, "The same -- I will lower down another heavy support; every ship carries them."
The third officer said, "But another tidal wave..."
And Mulla said, "You are unnecessarily wasting my time. I will do the same -- lower down a heavy support to make the ship stable against the tidal wave."
The first official asked, "From where are you getting all these heavy supports?"
Mulla said, "It is strange. From where are you getting these tidal waves? -- from the same source! If you can imagine, why can't I imagine? You go on bringing as many tidal waves as you want, and I will go on lowering heavier and heavier supports. Anyway, the ship has to be saved. It is not a question from WHERE... you know from where you are bringing those tidal waves."
Prem Ila, anger is a very small thing. If you can just wait and watch, you will not find "thousands of wild horses." If you can find even a small donkey, that will be enough! Just watch it and it will go, slowly. It will enter from this side and will go out from the other side. You just have to keep a little patience not to ride on it.
Anger, jealousy, envy, greed, competitiveness... all our problems are very small, but our ego magnifies them, makes them as big as it can. The ego cannot do otherwise; its anger has also to be great. By its great anger, and great misery, and great greed, and great ambition it becomes great.
But you are not the ego, you are only a watcher. Just stand by the side and let all the thousands of horses pass -- let us see how long it takes for them to pass. There is no need to be worried. As they come -- they are wild -- they will go. But we don't miss even a small donkey; we immediately jump on it! You don't need thousands of wild horses. Just a small thing, and you are full of anger and fire. You will laugh about it later on, at how stupid you were.
If you can watch, without getting involved, as if it is something on the screen of a movie house or of a TV screen... something is passing; watch it. You are not supposed to do anything to prevent it, to repress it, to destroy it, to pull out a sword and kill it, because from where will you get the sword? -- from the same source as the anger is coming. It is all imagination.
Just watch, and don't do anything -- for or against. And you will be surprised: that which was looking very big, becomes very small. But our habit is to exaggerate.
A small boy comes home running, and tells his mother -- he is not more than three years old -- "Mum, a great lion, roaring loudly, was running after me for miles! But somehow I managed to escape. Many times he came very close. He was just about to attack me when I started running faster."
The mother looked at the boy and said, "Tommy, I have told you a million times not to exaggerate! How can you find a lion in the city... and you have been running for miles?
And where is the lion?"
The boy looked outside the door. He said, "He is standing there. But, to tell you the truth, it is just a small dog -- very small! But when it was running after me, it appeared.... You tell me not to exaggerate, and right now you have been exaggerating that you have told me millions of times."
Our minds are very exaggerating. You have small problems, and if you can stop exaggerating and just see, then by the door a poor small dog is standing. And there is no need to run miles; your life is not in danger.
When anger comes to you, Ila, it is not going to kill you. It has been with you many times before, and you have survived perfectly well. It is the same anger that you have been through before. Just do one thing new -- which you have never done; every time you get involved with it, fighting. This time just watch, as if it does not belong to you, as if it is somebody else's anger. And you are in for a great surprise: it will disappear within seconds. And when anger disappears without any struggle, it leaves behind it a tremendously beautiful and silent and loving state.
The same energy that could have become a fight with the anger is left within you. Pure energy is delight -- I am quoting William Blake: "Energy is delight" -- just energy, without any name, without any adjective.... But you never allow energy to be pure. Either it is anger, or hate, or love, or greed, or desire. It is always involved in something; you never allow it in its purity.
Every time anything arises in you, is a great chance to experience pure energy. Just watch, and the donkey will go. It may raise a little dust, but that dust also settles on its own; you don't have to settle it. You simply wait. Don't move from waiting and watching, and soon you will find yourself surrounded by a pure energy which has not been used in fighting, in repressing, or in being angry.
And energy is certainly delight. Once you know the secret of delight, you will enjoy every emotion; and every emotion arising in you is a great opportunity.
Just watch, and bring a shower of delight on your being. Slowly, slowly all these emotions will disappear; they will not come any more -- they don't come uninvited.
Watchfulness, or alertness, or awareness, or consciousness, are all different names of the same phenomenon: witnessing. That is the key word.
Miss Johnson, the English teacher said, "Today we are going to do definitions. When you define something, you say what it is. Now, Wesley, will you define 'unaware'?"
Wesley replies "It's the last thing I take off at night!"
We are all living in such a situation! The poor boy must have heard 'underwear'. Nobody is conscious; nobody is listening to what is being said....
A young child was asked by the teacher, "What was the Polack pope's first miracle?"
A little boy said, "He made a lame man blind."
The Communist Party in Russia had a membership drive. The rules were as follows: Any communist who could recruit a new member would no longer have to pay dues. If he got two members he would be permitted to leave the party. And if he recruited three members, he would receive a certificate stating that he had never belonged to the party in the first place.
It is such a strange world. If you are aware, then everywhere miracles are happening. But you don't see miracles because rarely are you aware, very rarely. Most of the time you keep your eyes open; most of the time you don't snore. But that does not mean that you are awake. It simply means that you are pretending to be awake. But deep inside are so many thoughts, so much confusion, so many wild horses, that how can you see anything?
How can you hear anything? So although your eyes are open, they don't see. And although your ears are open, they don't hear.
It is a strange phenomenon that God made eyes in a different way from ears. You cannot close your ears; you can close your eyes. You have eyelids to close, to open, but what about your ears? God never bothered to give little earlids, because he knew you are so much involved in the mind, you don't need them. Your ears are always deaf; you don't hear, or you hear only what you want to hear.
Bedfellows Rule: The one who snores will fall asleep first. Naturally!
I have heard...
A bishop was very angry at a man who was snoring loudly. He caught hold of him later on and told him, "It is not right! While I was giving the sermon, you were snoring."
The man said, "I am sorry. Next time I will take care."
The bishop said, "You have to take care, because there were so many people asleep and you were disturbing them all. I am not worried about my sermon, I am worried about my congregation which was fast asleep. And you were snoring so fast, you might have woken people up. They were having a morning nap after a tiring night, and I don't want to disturb anybody. It is also a great help to me, because I go on repeating the same sermon every Sunday. Otherwise I would have to prepare again and again, and it is unnecessarily tedious. I have been using the same sermon for years -- nobody objects, because nobody has heard it."
You go into any church and you will find people fast asleep; it is a place to sleep, to have a little rest from the worldly affairs, from the world and its tensions. Man is twenty-four hours asleep as far as spirituality is concerned. And in your sleep you see anger and you see greed, and they become so magnified, so big that you get caught into their net very easily.
A man who has a simple art of watchfulness has a golden key. Then it does not matter whether it is anger, or greed, or sensuality, or lust, or infatuation. It may be any kind of disease, it doesn't matter -- the same medicine functions. Just watch, and you will be free of it. And watching, slowly, slowly as the mind becomes more and more contentless, one day mind itself disappears. It cannot remain without anger, without fear, without love, without hate -- all these are absolute necessities for mind to exist.
By watching, you are not only getting rid of anger, you are getting rid of part of the mind.
And slowly, slowly... one day you are suddenly awake -- there is no mind at all. You are just a watcher, a watcher on the hills. That is the most beautiful moment, the most glorious dawn. Only from then your real life begins.