If I may, I would like to point out some considerable differences between Mr. Gurdjieff and the Buddha, both in their actions and in their teachings.
First I should talk about the Buddha, whose name was Siddhārtha Gautama. When he was born his father who was a ruler of a small kingdom had an astrologer throw his horoscope which told that Siddhartha could have either of two paths in life; either he would be a great political king or or he would become a great spiritual teacher.
His father, wanting to install him as his heir, had a large wall built around the entire palace, which saved Siddhartha from viewing any of the world's calamities. After he was married and had a child, he became curious and snuck out and had his charioteer drive him through town. First he saw a leper, and couldn't understand until his charioteer explained that he had a terrible disease. Then he came across a man tattered in rags who was begging. Again, always having plenty, Siddhartha needed the charioteer to explain poverty. They passed a prostitute cutting a deal with a customer, and again, the charioteer had to explain that man had vices which needed gratification. Everywhere he looked he saw suffering, and decided that he would run away from the palace and seek a solution to this pervasive unhappiness which seemed to run the world.
After kissing his wife and son, he climbed over the wall never to return. He traded his valuable clothing for the vestments of a "forest dweller" and obtained a begging bowl, and began to practice yoga and visiting holy men and listening to their various teachings. He gathered a group of about five other young man who practiced very strenuous austerities for several years. At the end of 5 years, and dying of starvation, Siddhartha separated from his friends and allowed himself to be nurtured back to health by a woman who spent 6 weeks feeding him and tending to his sores and self-inflicted wounds, which the group had decided would aid them in their aim of release from suffering and the attainment of permanent bliss.
Siddhartha, soon to be the Buddha, found a nice Bodhi tree to rest his back against and to begin his contemplations. The first question he asked himself was if he could remember a time when he was perfectly happy. In fact, he remembered himself sitting under a similar tree when he was nine years old with no unhappiness in him to be found. Instead he found four virtues that arose within him and radiated outward, having no outward cause:
Buddhism's four brahmavihara ("Divine States") can be more properly regarded as virtues in the European sense. They are:
- 1 Metta/Maitri: loving-kindness towards all; the hope that a person will be well; loving kindness is "the wish that all sentient beings, without any exception, be happy.
- Karuṇā: compassion; the hope that a person's sufferings will diminish; compassion is the "wish for all sentient beings to be free from suffering."
- Mudita: altruistic joy in the accomplishments of a person, oneself or other; sympathetic joy - "the wholesome attitude of rejoicing in the happiness and virtues of all sentient beings."
- Upekkha/Upeksha: equanimity, or learning to accept both loss and gain, praise and blame, success and failure with detachment, equally, for oneself and for others. Equanimity means "not to distinguish between friend, enemy or stranger, but to regard every sentient being as equal. It is a clear-minded tranquil state of mind - not being overpowered by delusions, mental dullness or agitation."[
Siddhartha also came to the realization that all existence experiences suffering, but by practicing these four virtues so that nothing is based on impressions coming from the outside, but that these virtues are inherent and invested in the human being, they may be radiated outwardly in all directions, thus bringing happiness, joy, bliss and contentment.
The Buddha, as he was now known, is directly translatable from the Pali or Sanskrit as "One Who Is Awake", being derived from the root "Chitta", which is most simply translated as awareness. There is an apocryphal story of the other Gurus who were losing students to the Buddha going to him and ask him a series of questions:
" Are you a God?" Reply: "No"
“Are you an Avatar? (An incarnation of an attribute of the Godhead). Reply: “No"
“Are you then a Saint?" Reply: “No”
“What are you then, that all our disciples are flocking to you and abandoning us?”
Reply: “I AM ONE WHO IS AWAKE”. This is the literal transliteration of the word Buddha into English.
The significant difficulty I find in the Buddhas subsequent teachings is that he advocated what he called “The Middle Way", Containing 8 Right Methods such as “right vocation, right this, right that and so on–right attitude etc.
But this is not the path that the Buddha himself took. He may have thought that he was doing his disciples a favor by giving them a shortcut past the austerities, and studies and yoga, and this is where the Buddha and myself find ourselves separating paths.
Now let's study the path of Mr. Gurdjieff. It also recognizes that all of existence is suffering, but instead of radiating happiness right off the bat (when we probably can't really find any within ourselves), he advocates studying ourselves as we actually are without changing anything except to look, through a separation of an acting self and a witnessing self.
And he claims that this seeing of ourselves as we actually are, while deconstructing the imaginary perfect self which we have generated in our ability to lie to ourselves and hopefully to other people; he claims that this seeing, which he equates to light, produces changes–real chemical changes in the structuring of the organism. In its blood will change the hormones and neurotransmitters. It also brings the clarity of our own suffering of ourselves as we actually into a focus which attenuates or ceases the sieve - like leaking of energies which we need for our work, but which otherwise are squandered–wasted.
Even though the Buddha never advocated that there is no real Self (the doctrine of annata) but only constituent desires and aversions, Nirvana does not translate as “nonexistence”. Nirvana directly translates into English as “No Wind”, meaning that the authentic individual Self is no longer subject to any Push or Pull from the outer world and its sense–objects. It is the exact same thing as Carl Jung's
"Individuation" or Gurdjiefff's "Higher being Bodies".
However, in Mr. Gurdjieff cosmogony he is closer to Orthodox Esoteric Christianity than to any other belief system, agreeing with St. Paul's assessment that the entire Creation as from the beginning until now, has groaned as if in the sufferings the pangs of childbirth, eagerly awaiting the birth of the sons of men"
The "Sons of Men" being a highly charged phrase, essentially meaning the perfect man such as the Adam Kadmon, or Christ Jesus, and Gurdjieff not only advocates a conscious and laborious suffering of oneself without any illusions, vanity, or self–love, but he places in the teachings of Ashiata Shiemash what are known as the "Five Strivings", which place man in a position of responsibility not only to himself and his physical well-being, but to the promise of an endless study of the laws which govern Creation, as well as being willing and able to shoulder some of the Suffering of the Creator himself, and thereby lightening his burden.
And the last or 5th striving brings us human beings into a relationship of reciprocal help, to attain the necessary degree of objective reasoning which would allow us to serve the needs of each other at the same time as shouldering some of the burden of the creator. Mr. Gurdjieff lays great emphasis on utilizing consciousness to unearth the divine spark of conscience which lay embedded in our subconscious and unconscious parts, having been covered over by the incredibly incorrectly named “education”, which has more to do with babysitting and surrogate parenting with no harmonious educational aim having been designed, and leaving the children to learn useless competition with no moral rectitude.
Whereas Buddhism acknowledges all existence as forms of suffering, in its dogma of the “4 Noble Truths” It alleges that this suffering can be attenuated and eliminated through the following activities:
1): all existence is suffering
2): it is craving disguised as desire or aversion which create this suffering.
3): suffering can be alleviated by renouncing craving, desire or aversions
4): cessation of suffering is accomplished by 8 noble paths, right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.
Mr. Gurdjieff, on the other hand, advocates intentional or volitional suffering, and relates trying to avoid suffering as simply another mechanical suffering which intensifies this suffering itself, which being mechanical, it is quite useless.
He advocates conscious labors and intentional sufferings as a methodology for increasing consciousness so that it renders the subconscious and unconscious to a retrieval of conscience, which Gurdjieff defines as a spark of the Divine Creator Father Endlessness. Gurdjieff is very careful to delineate ordinary conscience, which is changeable in different cultures, and which is also malleable, with true conscience, which is the same in all men – the surety of what is right and wrong.
While Gurdjieff does not describe consciousness as a light switch, but rather in degrees or along the lines of a rheostat, conscience never changes. Being divine in origin, it participates in the certainty of creation itself and the phenomenological Cosmos we find ourselves in.
In addition, Gurdjieff describes the conscience of the common or ordinary man as one which is filthy, taken for granted and abused. It thus needs cleansing, and Mr. Gurdjieff hints that a man with a clean conscience can experience all of his emotions at once, with no buffers between opposites, and which open the flood gates of positive emotions, which have no opposites. So that in fact, the beginning of the work being on self observation and self remembering and enlarging the faculties of consciousness are all designed for the single purpose of retrieving and cleansing the true conscience which exists in all men except those unfortunates who have either sullied their own conscience, or as sociopaths, have an atrophied or dead conscience, so that these what are called Hasmanuss (several languages together which roughly translate as "Soul of Shit") have lost their chance at rehabilitation altogether.
When Mr. Gurdjieff talked about conscience he stated that the possibilities for mankind are nearly unbelievable, because whereas consciousness can the horizontal, conscience is nearly always vertical and acts as a conduit for signals and instructions and revelations from above, which begin to set the man's house in order. The house is given him so long as he cares for it as though it were belonging to some far more important person who, being away on business, has left the house and equipage (horse and buggy) in the care of this servant.
Whereas all the major spiritual dispensations which have emerged during the history of mankind, all of them, with perhaps the goals of Buddhism, have recognized that human beings are rightfully servants; whether of above or below matters not. What is important is to recognize our servitude and the existence of absolute and permanent abiding RELATIONSHIP in creation. Everything in CREATION IS IN RELATIONSHIP,
THE SOONER WE LEARN THIS FACT THE BETTER THE EARTH WILL BE.