Death itself has no existence. What actually happens is the transformation of consciousness from one form into another form, or, finally and ultimately, into formlessness.
The whole question is whether one can die consciously, or the routine way - the unconscious way.
Nature has made a provision that before dying the person becomes completely unconscious, goes into a coma, so he knows nothing. It is simply the greatest surgery possible. If the surgeon is going to remove a small part of the body, he has to make the patient unconscious; otherwise there is every possibility that the pain will be too much and unbearable. And in pain and agony, the surgery may not be successful either.
What surgeons are doing, nature has been doing for millennia, and its surgery is far bigger. It takes the whole body away, not a part; it takes the consciousness to another form.
Only if you are almost enlightened - just on the border of enlightenment - can you remain conscious, because the whole process of enlightenment is creating distance between you and your body, you and your mind. If the distance is enough, then you can remain aware and anything can happen to the body - you can watch it, as if it is happening to somebody else. Then it is really an amazing, exciting phenomenon, but not before that.
To say it in other words: To die beautifully one has to live beautifully.
To die amazingly and in excitement, in ecstasy, one has to prepare one's whole life for ecstasy, excitement, amazement.
Death is simply the culmination point, the crescendo of your life. It is not against life. It does not destroy life.
That's why I said death does not exist as conceived. It really gives the body another chance to grow.
And if you have grown fully then there is no need for another chance; then your being moves into the ultimate being. You are no more a separate small dewdrop, but the whole ocean of existence.
P.D. Ouspensky, in his book Tertium Organum - one of the most significant books - has many statements that are beautiful, but this statement is the most significant of them all. In ordinary mathematics - and he was a mathematician - the part is part and the whole is whole; the part cannot become the whole, neither can the whole become the part.
But in the mathematics of consciousness the situation is totally different - here the part can become the whole, the whole can become the part, in fact they both are the same. Rather than using the word 'part', we should say, "You have a miniature being, a small image of the whole, and the body disappears: the small image becomes one with the greater image." Death is a great excitement but only for those who are working towards it, to make it so. The key is that you have to remain conscious.
I have heard that three friends - a surgeon, a politician, and a jurist, a magistrate - were just chitchatting on a morning walk. And talking of many things, they came to the point of whose profession was the oldest.
The judge said, "Of course mine, because as far as we know, the further back we go we find man more barbarous, more criminal, more animal. I must have been needed to keep the peace, to keep society together, to protect the innocent.
"And the way we see man even today, he is divided into religions, into nations, into races, and into smaller and smaller groups, and they are fighting: there are continuous riots all over the world.
Without the system of justice, it would have been impossible to avoid those riots and save humanity."
Appealing - but the politician laughed. He said, "You can befool others but not me. First, tell me if I was not there who would have created the riots? The politician is a must for every crime." Although no politician accepts it, what he said was right.
The surgeon said, "You all may be right, but you cannot compete with a surgeon. Surgery happened first. God took out a rib from Adam and made a woman out of it. That was a miraculous surgery.
And that has to be exactly in the beginning, you cannot go further back than that." But even God has to make Adam unconscious to take the bone.
From ancient times there are strange books - which should be known to the whole world. Nearabout five to seven thousand years ago, there was a man in India - Sushrut, and he has written a book on surgery. And the amazing part is that whatever we are doing now is all included in it - the instruments, the methods, everything - also anesthesia.
In the Himalayas there is found a small plant: just a few drops of its juice are enough to keep a man absolutely unconscious for hours. It is still available.
So if in our small surgery, from the very beginning, unconsciousness is absolutely necessary... death is the great surgery. Nothing can be greater: The whole body has to be taken away from the being which has become identified with it and clings to it. In unconsciousness it is possible to do it.
Very few people die consciously, hence the fear; because very few people live consciously, hence the fear. Whatever you want your death to be, let first your life be exactly the same - because death is not separate from life, it is not an end to life, but only a change. Life continues, has continued, will always continue. But forms become useless, old, more a burden than a joy - it is better to give life a new, fresh form.
Death is a blessing; it is not a curse.
The 1917 revolution in Russia disturbed Gurdjieff's whole work. His disciples got scattered. He himself had to escape out of Russia because the communists, who were coming into power, were materialists: they did not believe in any spiritual growth. They conceived of man just as a vegetable.
But Gurdjieff managed to take with him a small group of disciples who had developed and crystallized very much. His wife happened to be one of them. They remained in Constantinople waiting for some opportunity to settle somewhere. It was in Constantinople that they were found by Bennett and brought to Europe.
First he wanted to settle in England, but it seems no country - because of its politicians' mediocre minds - wants any giant to settle there. They cannot accept anybody who knows more, who is more; and Gurdjieff was a very strong, powerful, charismatic man - whoever came into contact with him was changed. England refused. Country after country refused him.
It was just by chance that the prime minister of France had read a few of his books and was immensely impressed. He invited him, and gave him a beautiful place near Paris, a few miles away, where he established his commune.
In that commune there were two sections. One was the old-guard Russians who had come with him, who were far more developed than the new followers from the West - particularly from America. The difficulty was double.
First, the Russian group knew only Russian, so communication was impossible. Second, they were highly developed, and these new people were highly educated but spiritually not developed at all. Those Russians were not very educated. So there was another barrier of communication - intellectually they could not communicate, language prevented it, education prevented it, and on the plane of being also, communication was difficult because the Russian group was far more developed - Gurdjieff had been working for years with them.
The oldest disciple was his own wife. And it became troublesome to people, particularly the new group: "Why should Gurdjieff be so interested in his own wife?" It was not a question of being his wife; that was irrelevant. The question was that he had worked on the woman the most, and she was dying. And it was only a question of a few days - if he could manage to keep her alive her crystallization will happen. Otherwise one knows not into how many circles of birth and death she would have to move.
And he was capable of keeping her alive, because in his system, transfer of energy is one of the basic methods. It can be used to the extreme - that the dying person can live as much as the person who is transmitting his energy to him; if he transmits his whole energy he will die immediately, and the dying person can live long.
Gurdjieff was not trying to sacrifice anybody, but everybody could contribute a little bit of energy to his wife. And it was only a question of a few more days of good health, so she can continue the work. She had almost reached, just a step more and she would not be coming back.
But the Western group could not understand why he was so interested: a man who is enlightened should look equally towards everybody - whether one is his wife or not. But they were ignorant of the fact that he was not looking after his wife, he was looking after a human being who happened to be his wife, but who was in such a position that just a few days' health would release her forever from every imprisonment. It was worth doing. And he managed it - his wife died enlightened.
This is possible in a school. If we see that somebody has developed so much that there is no harm if everybody else contributes a little energy... so that the person can continue more in the body and come to fulfillment. Alone it is not possible: it is not the way of the monk, it is the way of a mystery school.
And Gurdjieff himself had learned all his techniques, all his experiences, in Sufi schools. He was never a monk; that's why no religious recognition has been given to him. And Sufi schools keep their techniques very secret. Gurdjieff was the first to bring them to light in the Western world.
Sufis were not happy, and the Western world was shocked because they were used to thinking of religion in a totally different way: "What he is talking about does not seem to be religion. He's talking almost as if it is a science" - and he was right, it is a science.
Just because of religious persecution, many mystery schools have kept themselves underground and have worked without anybody's knowledge. Even if the husband is part of a mystery school, his wife does not know about it - because the church, the orthodox religion, will immediately start persecuting him. So it is better to keep silent, and do what you want to do in a secret way.
Gurdjieff's intention was to make all those secrets available to a wider number of people - in which he failed, not because of himself but because of the masses. They are deaf; they cannot listen to anything that is so new and goes against their well-trodden path.
Of this caring for the wife, trying to keep her alive, the ordinary mediocre mind will think, "This is attachment. He's too much attached to his wife. And a man who is so much attached to his wife cannot be enlightened." These are the mediocre minds' logical standpoints; and other mediocre minds will agree perfectly all over the world. The wife has to be renounced! - but here it is something else. He's trying to keep her in the body, not letting her die.
In India I have seen the man - he was very much respected - Ganeshvarni. He was born a Hindu but became converted to Jainism. And whenever somebody becomes converted to some other religion he's very much respected in that religion. In his own religion nobody cared about him. But being converted into Jainism he brings to the Jaina's heart a satisfaction that "we are more right than Hindus. Look, a Hindu on his own..." - because Jainas are not missionaries; if somebody asks them, they can convert him, but they don't go out of their way to convert anybody - "... a man has come by himself."
And the man proved really of great strength to go through all the Jaina austerities - so that he defeated the born Jaina aesthetics. He became, unnominated, almost the head of the whole Jaina community.
After twenty-two years - he was in Varanasi - his wife died, whom he had left in the Hindu fold. In his autobiography he says, "I felt a great relief."
When I read this, where he says that he felt a great relief, I wrote a letter to him: "Your sentence has many implications. It means you still consider your wife your wife. It means that you feel guilty that you have left her poor, without any financial support, and escaped; that twenty-two years have not been able to make any change in you - your relationship with your wife is still intact."
When he received my letter he was very angry. One of my friends used to be with him - edit his books and do other kinds of work. He wrote to me that he was very angry.
I said, "That shows that whatever I have written is right. His anger is an agreement. Tell him; otherwise what is there to be angry about? If what I had written was wrong, he could have simply laughed - and he has not replied to me. And from you I hear that he was very angry; and he's supposed to be nonviolent, gone beyond anger, but he has gone nowhere. He has simply forced a certain discipline upon himself because so much respect is being given, his ego is being fulfilled, and people are saying, 'What a great man.' The wife dies, and he does not feel sadness; on the contrary he says, 'What a great relief.'"
And when I pointed it out to these people who were saying that this shows freedom from attachment, I said, "This is not the case. It shows he was attached, and he was waiting for her death. In fact, perhaps in his own mind he has murdered her many times; otherwise, why should he feel relief?
"For twenty-two years that poor woman has been cleaning other people's houses and somehow managing to live. He has never cared about her. And he has become a great saint, but unconsciously those words 'what a relief' show that he is feeling good that the wife is dead. The wife was still his wife."
Now these people - this kind of atmosphere - are all over the world in all religions.
So Gurdjieff was suspected.... "Is he enlightened or not? He's trying to keep his wife alive longer; an enlightened man is supposed to be detached - whether one dies or lives does not matter."
But they don't understand that he is functioning under a totally different system, and to him it is not a question of his wife; to him it is a question of a growing soul which is just on the border of entering into the whole. If those few days are missed, one cannot say how many more lives she will have to suffer, and whether she will be able to get a master like Gurdjieff - which is difficult.
So if you understand it without prejudice then things are very clear, but if you have already a prejudice - because it was not only his wife, he tried the same with other disciples. Then again too the problem arose, because all those disciples whom he tried, at their deathbed, to help live a little longer happened to be Russians; because they were the most developed, he had worked on them.
Now that too was thought by the Westerners to be discrimination. How reason can create almost valid-looking arguments, "He has never done that with any Westerner; but about the Russians he has a different attitude because he himself is a Russian."
Now this is nonsense, that a man of the qualities of Gurdjieff should make a discrimination. But certainly if the man is developed - and those Russians continued to develop better than the Westerners for the simple reason that they were confined to the campus. Their language would not allow them to go out. And they had known Gurdjieff for a long time and had understood the man in deeper ways.
The Westerners came like a fashion. To be with Gurdjieff was fashionable; they came, and after a few days they left him - because to be with him was not an easy job. He was a difficult man, and very irrational in his methods; but his methods are very valid under his system.
So your logic may think that it is absolutely wrong. For example, to Bennett he said, "Today you dig a trench twenty feet long, four feet deep, two feet wide, non-stop." - not even a coffee break, no food - "You cannot go anywhere, not even to the toilet. You have to dig the ditch non-stop."
So he tried hard: "The quicker it is done the better, so I am freed." By the evening it was complete.
Gurdjieff came and he said, "Good. Now fill it up exactly the same as it was before you started digging. Then you will be free."
He said, "My God, this is stupid. If it was to be filled exactly as it was, then it was exactly as it was in the morning. Why this whole torture?" The logical mind cannot understand it.
But Bennett remained with him a long time, and understood a little bit later on what he was doing - because he felt it himself. When he came to a point digging the ditch where he felt so tired that it seemed he would fall down, suddenly at that very moment there was a great rush of energy, a fresh energy became available. And he was surprised - from where? He had not even taken his tea. And with this fresh energy he started digging again.
By the evening he was exhausted, was again on the verge of falling down, and then a second release within his own being - the strongest that he had ever felt in his whole life. But unless you listen to his inner experience, the exercise seems to be absolutely absurd. No sane person is going to remain around Gurdjieff if he has to do such a thing.
Only later on when Bennett was lying down in his bed - he could not sleep the whole night because the second release of energy was so much that it kept him awake, it wanted to do something - he said, "This is absolute madness. The whole day I have been doing. I have never done such work. I am a writer, not a grave digger."
Next day he asked Gurdjieff. He said, "That's what I wanted you to understand, that there are layers of energy in you. The first layer is the routine daily work. It is enough for your routine daily work.
If you go beyond it, you will come to a point where you will feel exhausted, almost feeling that you will die if you continue; but that is the point to continue, because only then will the second layer start functioning.
"It functions only when you are stubborn enough to provoke it, to challenge it to function. That is your emergency layer. You are tired and you are going to sleep and your house catches fire, and suddenly all tiredness is gone and the whole night you are putting the fire out, and you don't feel tired at all. The emergency layer has taken over.
"And the third layer is the cosmic layer, which is inexhaustible; once you have touched it, you know it, and you can reach it. Then you can work miracles - which will look like miracles to others, but not to you because you know that you have these possible layers."
Almost everybody dies working in the first layer.
So Gurdjieff has a system of his own which is not of the routine, traditional religions - they don't have anything. And he should not be judged by other peoples' criteria; he should be judged by his own criteria. So first try to understand his system and then judge - if you are bent upon judging.
He was one of the most misunderstood men in the world, for the simple reason that everybody was judging according to his prejudiced mind, and here was a man who was trying to bring a secret doctrine into the open for the first time; but he could not succeed.
He failed utterly, not because of himself - you cannot conceive a better man than him.
But the thick skulls of the mediocre men who inhabit the earth are really too thick.
You are brought up not to show need, not to show your helplessness, not to show your reality, but to pretend that you are a strong character, that you need nothing, that nobody's help is needed, that you can manage your life yourself. This upbringing goes deep into your fiber. And almost everybody is working as in your story.
I have heard, two beggars were lying down under a tree on a beautiful summer night, at the full moon. One beggar said, "I would like to purchase the moon, whatever the cost."
The second beggar said, "It is not possible because I am not going to sell it - whatever the price."
And nobody purchases the moon. Both know it, but nobody wants to recognize it.
Everybody is trying to be stronger than the other. The first was trying to purchase the moon whatever the cost. The second did not say, "What nonsense are you talking? - the moon is not for sale." No.
He said, "I'm not going to sell it whatever the price."
People are prepared to be hypocrites because the whole of society has masks on their faces. You don't see the real face of anybody. And if you find somebody who has no mask, who is authentic, not a hypocrite, he disturbs everybody because he reminds you of your own original face.
And you are so rooted in hypocrisy, you have so much invested in hypocrisy, that you cannot pull yourself out. The only way is to condemn this man who has no mask, who simply says the truth as it is.
But in this wide world truth does not pay, is not respected. On the contrary, lies pay, and are respected. You have to be very articulate in lying so that every lie looks as if it is the truth.
But truth itself remains condemned; therefore, very few people manage to have the courage to say the truth and suffer the consequences.
My mother's brother was getting married for the third time; he was fifty-two. He had already killed two wives - not really, they died themselves - but he was a great lady killer. And he was marrying a girl who was fourteen years old.
And when I came to know about it I said, "I will protest."
My mother said, "Are you mad? He's your uncle, he's my brother."
I said, "That does not matter. In fact, because he is your brother and he's my uncle, it is more of a duty for me that I should protest."
Now the whole community tried to persuade me, "Don't do this to your own uncle."
I said, "I am not doing anything. I am simply making it clear that a fifty-two-year-old man should not marry a fourteen-year-old girl. He can marry a fifty-year-old woman and I am perfectly in favor. He can marry a widow. But a fourteen-year-old girl....
"By the time she is twenty-eight he may pop off. This time he is not going to kill the woman; he will be killed. And what is the need? His sons are married, his daughters are married; and this girl is just like a daughter to him, the age difference is so much."
And do you know what they did? They locked me in a room, thinking that I am going to create trouble. And whatever I was saying had some truth - they all understood it, that it was true. But nobody wanted to disturb the smoothness of things. "He is a rich man and he is a powerful man, and he may take revenge. And why should you stick your neck out unnecessarily? - it is not your concern."
I said, "Then whose concern is it? - nobody's concern! The girl belongs to a poor family. The father is selling the girl - because she is getting married to a fifty-two-year-old man. He's getting thousands of rupees, so he's happy. But nobody is worried about the girl, about what she will think - a fourteen-year-old girl getting married to a man who will leave her a widow soon, when she will be at the prime of her life."
They said, "It is not a time for argument." This was the time when the procession was going. On the horse was sitting my uncle as a bridegroom. And I wanted to stop it on the road and collect the whole town.... "This should be stopped,,it is criminal." They locked me in. I tried hard, but nobody would listen to me; everybody had gone to the marriage.
And actually what I had said happened, not many years afterwards, just after two years. The girl was only sixteen and the man died. And then I told them, "Now lock me in the room."
They said, "We never knew that he would die so soon."
I said, "One thing was simply clear: the difference of age was so much that he would die, and the girl will remain a widow almost half of her life. And now she will remain a widow her whole life. So now my proposal is that she should be married."
They said, "How can it be? Nobody can marry her. Widows are not married again."
At that time there was no law. Even now that the law has come onto the books, widows remain widows because it is so insulting. If a widow marries, she has lost her honor - and she has to live in the society. So the law gives the opportunity now, but at that time even the law was not giving any opportunity.
But I said, "I will try to persuade her."
They said, "You should not do such a thing. It is a sin if a widow marries somebody."
I said, "I don't see it as a sin. I see it as a sin that now a sixteen-year-old girl may live at least sixty years or more just as a widow. This is one of the root causes of perverted sexuality."
And they said, "Even if she agrees with you - and in the first place she cannot agree, because it is so dishonorable - where are you going to find a man? No man will be ready to marry a widow."
I said, "She is only sixteen. What does it matter whether she is a widow or a virgin? It is better to marry a widow - a little experience, two years experience - than marry a virgin who has no experience."
They said, "Your mind is simply upside down. Just find a man!"
I tried many people. Whomever I spoke to, he said, "Forget all about it. Why should I get involved in trouble?"
But I managed to persuade one of my servants, because I told him, "You see, she has so much money. The husband has left much money. You cannot earn that money in many lives. Money, a ready-made beautiful girl, experienced - what else do you want?"
The servant said, "You sound right, but if anybody knows that I have said yes, they will kill me. I am a poor servant. If your father comes to know, my service is finished."
I said, "Don't worry, you will not need the service. Once you get married you will not need the service."
He said, "What is the guarantee? The whole society will prevent me. And you don't know these people. I am a poor man; I know these people. On any excuse they can lock me up in the police station - that I am a thief or I am anything. And I am a poor man, I cannot even afford an advocate to fight for me."
I said, "You simply say it to me, and keep quiet - so I know that I have a man in my pocket; then I can approach the other client."
He said, "If you promise you will not say anything to anybody."
I promised him, "I will not say, but you will have to marry if the girl is ready."
He said, "I can marry - but in another town, not in this town."
And when I reached the girl, she was so angry at me: "You are taking me onto the path of sin." She closed the doors in my face, and she said, "Never come back again to this house."
I said, "I will come. I will not come in; I will stand just on the steps in case you change your mind - you can just give two knocks from the inside. And I have a man in my pocket!"
And I would go there every day. And I knew that she was standing behind the door, but not gathering courage to give two knocks. Finally she gave the two knocks and opened the door.
I said, "It is a simple thing. Sixty, seventy years you may live in this empty house, and you have not known anything. That man was sick, old, dying; and I wanted to tell these people, 'Don't destroy the poor girl's life.' Now you be ready. Don't be worried."
She said, "Who is the man?"
And as I told her the name she said, "No, because he is not of my caste."
I said, "My God, now I have to find a man of your caste! Is it your life or my life? And what has marriage to do with caste? You need a man and I will give you a young, healthy man. What has caste to do with it but prejudices?"
So I told her the name of the man, but she was not willing: "He is just a servant."
I said, "You belong to a poor family. Don't think that just by getting married to this rich man you have become rich. Don't forget, just two years before you were almost a beggar. He was earning then - he was never a beggar."
And from her somehow my grandfather managed to get the name, and the servant was gone. When I tried to ask where he had gone, where he had been sent, nobody answered. I have never again seen the servant. They must have just given him some money and told him to leave the town. And I could not manage to find another man.
It is a society which lives with prejudices, and it wants everybody to accommodate to its prejudices.
So even a small child behaves in the ways of the elder ones. And this creates so much misery in life that you cannot conceive it.
You want love from your man or from your woman, but you cannot say it. You simply sit reading your newspaper - which you have read three times - just waiting so that the woman should say it, that she should come to you. It is below the dignity of your being a man to go after her. And, of course, a woman always thinks that the man should follow her.
I was just telling one woman - because she is feeling alone, she has no lover. I said, "There are so many people, just catch hold of somebody."
She said, "But that has never been my way. I love the game - that somebody should chase me. And nobody is chasing me."
I said, "Now, this is a difficult thing. Then you chase somebody."
She said, "That is against my whole life. Men have been chasing me, and I have been running - knowing perfectly well that I will be caught, going slow, stopping to see whether the man is coming or not. But unless somebody chases me, I don't feel the joy of it."
I said, "This is very difficult. Now I will have to find some man and tell him to chase you. I have found the man, but he is so dull that he's not chasing, nothing."
On the contrary, he told the girl, "I have gone beyond sex. I am no more interested in love, etcetera; it is unnecessary misery." And that is not true. But a man has to be strong enough; and this is the strongest point when a man says, "I have gone beyond sex, beyond love."
So I asked the girl, "And what happened?"
She said, "Nothing, we just cuddled each other."
I said, "Go on cuddling. Something may happen! One never knows."