Buddhism and Gurdjieff (notes and questions)

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Gerry T, modified 10 Years ago.

Buddhism and Gurdjieff (notes and questions)

Posts: 60 Join Date: 4/4/11 Recent Posts
In a recent post regarding AF the subject of Gurdjieff came up.
It may be of interest to do some comparisons and see what sort of questions arise.

Here are a few things that Gurdjieff is supposed to have said or pointed out.
(By the way, you must take the book Meetings with Remarkable Men and of course the great tome called All & Everything or Beezlebubs Tales to His Grandson as metaphors for something other than what they appear to be.)

Gurdjieff started his esoteric journey with a big question; "Why are we here?"
Buddha started his search (at least as Gotama) with the search to find a solution to suffering; old age, death, and maybe more than that.

Gurdjieff said that "We do not remember ourselves."
This is quite true and you can easily verify it by meditating and seeing your mind get swept up by thoughts, sensations, emotions. But the implication with his teachings is that "we can remember ourselves" on a continuous basis.

In Buddhism we are freeing ourselves from the sense of a self. Free from craving and delusion that a self is attached to which causes suffering.

Question: Since an arahant is free from craving (no "mine" issues) and is free from the delusion of a self (no "I" issues) inherent in anything that is impermanent (which means just about everything.) does that arahant "remember" him/her self" on a continuous basis? In other words, with no self there would be no self to not remember.

Gurdjieff also said that we have no soul but could create a soul. (He said that he has good leather for those who want to make shoes. I like this metaphor because the soul is also pronounced like sole of foot. And that is what we "touch" the earth (or life) with. Gurdjieff is saying that he has a way for you to meet life.)


To understand this you need to know that he believed we are made up of "centers" a moving center (sensation), emotional center (feeling), intellectual center (mind) and two other centers called "higher emotional" and "higher intellectual". He talked about them as "higher bodies"
Could the higher bodies be a soul?

In Buddhism it appears that our sense of self is wrapped up in the five Khandhas (aggregates) of Material, Feeling, Cognition, Volition and Consciousness.

Question: The Buddha did not say that a soul existed or did not exist. But does Buddhism point to anything that exists beyond death? There is the idea of Karma and that Karma is carried on beyond this life. Is there a stream of consciousness beyond the mind that I understand that is connected somehow with the next life? I guess I don't see what continues after death of the body.

When it comes to anything beyond this world or beyond our senses or understanding based on senses the Gurdjieff system gets into concepts of cosmology with a macrocosm and microcosm. A better and more thorough description that is very interesting is Rodney Collin's "Theory of Celestial Influence" which is based on Gurdjieffian concepts.

I am not very familiar with Buddhist cosmology or the deities so I cannot comment on this.

For a good overview and interesting read on Gurdjieff you might want to check out a book written by one of his students (who later split from Gurdjieff) P. D. Ouspensky's "In Search of the Miraculous"

Finally, I have one last question; Is there a "truth" that would be discovered if you followed a path different from Buddhism and would that "truth" match with the one found by following the Buddha? In other words, if two different people following two different paths (AF, Gurdjieff, Buddhism, whatever) to enlightenment became enlightened would they come upon the same realizations?

May everyone be free from suffering.

Gerry
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Olyver Mith, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Buddhism and Gurdjieff (notes and questions)

Posts: 143 Join Date: 6/10/11 Recent Posts
Gerry T:
Question: Since an arahant is free from craving (no "mine" issues) and is free from the delusion of a self (no "I" issues) inherent in anything that is impermanent (which means just about everything.) does that arahant "remember" him/her self" on a continuous basis? In other words, with no self there would be no self to not remember.


Interesting questions! I will only give my interpretations and experience, as the real man behind the teachings (Gurdjieff himself) is already dead. Gurdjieff had a couple of advanced practices. His students would start of with "Self Observation", which is essentially watching yourself and figuring yourself out over time. When a student has made certain progress he would assign the task of "Self Remembering", something which according to himself was "impossible until one has achieved a permanent 'I'", meaning the True Self (to read more on True Self/No Self check out the chapter in Daniel Ingram's book. It's a well described phenomena across different cultures and traditions, so I'm sure they both describe the same thing). When one attains MCTB 4th path there are still times when one falls prey to the old "I" that he has seen thru, and this practice is simply keeping awareness on his True Self.

Gerry T:
Gurdjieff also said that we have no soul but could create a soul. (He said that he has good leather for those who want to make shoes. I like this metaphor because the soul is also pronounced like sole of foot. And that is what we "touch" the earth (or life) with. Gurdjieff is saying that he has a way for you to meet life.)


To understand this you need to know that he believed we are made up of "centers" a moving center (sensation), emotional center (feeling), intellectual center (mind) and two other centers called "higher emotional" and "higher intellectual". He talked about them as "higher bodies"
Could the higher bodies be a soul?


Without pulling out my copy of Beelzebub's Tale's and trying to decipher an answer that would be most accurate to Gurdjieff's beliefs (as that would take a while, as anyone would know who has read this book), I do believe that by soul he meant that which perceives impermanence. Once people have passed certain points of no return on the insight path it is very hard to remember what it was like beforehand, so many people may not remember or agree with this, but I think that everyone before their first A&P event, all the way from birth, was permanently stuck in the "I" which is seen thru in MCTB 4th path. It is only after that that people can slowly start to develop their ability to perceive impermanence in the present moment, culminating in what Daniel Ingram call's "formations".

Formations are a universal phenomena, as in everybody who follows the insight path comes to see them and they become important in later stages of the path (the real, whole name of the 11th nana is called "Knowledge of Equanimity Regarding Formations" ) and I believe that it is this dimension of experience that Gurdjieff is talking about when he talks about the "higher emotional" center.

The "higher intellectual center" I have a few theories on, but I can't say what it is for sure. It's probably best if I don't go into it.
Same thing for a more exact definition of "Soul". Silly answers and mapping things out can do wonders for a practitioner, but it brings real satisfaction when one truly know's oneself and doesn't have to doubt anymore .



Gerry T:
In Buddhism it appears that our sense of self is wrapped up in the five Khandhas (aggregates) of Material, Feeling, Cognition, Volition and Consciousness.

Question: The Buddha did not say that a soul existed or did not exist. But does Buddhism point to anything that exists beyond death? There is the idea of Karma and that Karma is carried on beyond this life. Is there a stream of consciousness beyond the mind that I understand that is connected somehow with the next life? I guess I don't see what continues after death of the body.


Well, lets say there is an old grandpa who is nearing the end of his days. All of a sudden, two weeks before his death, he turns all pessimistic and lashes out at people. Even after he dies, what will the people who knew him think? They'll think something like "What happened to him?", "Remember that time he said these awful things?" and yadda, yadda. Now all these people have an image in their head of this old man who was once innocent, but turned cruel, and they'll end up carrying that around with them.

In a way, he's certainly living on past his death, isn't he? Even if it's just his image in the mind of others. How does this image cause the witnesses to act in the future? Because when someone you love acts cruel, it leaves an impression, right? He could have caused those people who loved him to lose a bit of faith in the world. This is the most rational way I can think of living beyond your death without pulling out a lot of controversial/mythical stuff.

Gerry T:
Finally, I have one last question; Is there a "truth" that would be discovered if you followed a path different from Buddhism and would that "truth" match with the one found by following the Buddha? In other words, if two different people following two different paths (AF, Gurdjieff, Buddhism, whatever) to enlightenment became enlightened would they come upon the same realizations?


Ah! See, this is something I love hearing! There are common phenomena that penetrate thru different religions and cultures and time periods. And that is amazing! MCTB 4th path seems common enough, I've met many people who have achieved this state, some even without guidance. Like I said above, formations also seem to be a common experience, as do many other things such as witnessing the dissolving of internalized structures, habits, and old impressions, the samatha jhanas, chakras, and so on. And what is also great is that there are already volumes that describe masses of these phenomena in great detail, such as Patanjali's Yoga Sutra, and AH Almaas' work, which has a psychological twist and that I greatly admire.


Gerry T:

May everyone be free from suffering.

Gerry


Amen!

Olyver Mith

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