Years ago Vimalkirti and I met Count Durkheim, who at that time was eighty and one of the most influential so-called spiritual leaders of Europe. He called us for a visit to warn us against you. He said that your picture on the mala reminded him of Mr. Gurdjieff whom he met in Paris. He told us how dangerous men like Gurdjieff and you are. Then he said, “I have brought Zen to Europe. Have you got my books?”
How is it possible that a man who claims to have done lots of Zen sittings in Japan with various Zen masters, and has written so many books of Zen, is so unable to recognize you?
Turiya, the man, Durkheim, whom you have met in Europe, and you think he did not recognize me…. The moment he compared me with his meeting with George Gurdjieff was the moment of recognition. He absolutely recognized: I am certainly dangerous, far more dangerous than George Gurdjieff was.
But Durkheim was only a man of knowledge, learning, scholarship. He was a great intellectual. I have gone through all his works; I can see that he has heard only the words of the Zen masters, but he has not heard their silences. He has met their skeletons, but he has not encountered their presence, their existential essence. Durkheim certainly has introduced Zen to Europe, but his Zen is just like a paper boat: you call it a boat, but don’t start using it as a boat.
He has been in the East. And he is right when he says that he has been sitting under many Zen masters, and he has brought Zen to Europe. He has brought only echoes. He has brought only a bird in the cage, not the bird with open wings in the sky. He has brought it very accurately – about his accuracy I have no doubt – and he has done his best to present Zen to people who have never known anything like it. But he himself does not know anything about it, as far as experience is concerned. As far as knowledge is concerned, he knows much; perhaps much more than the Zen masters he is talking about.
If he had understood Zen he would have understood George Gurdjieff. If you have seen the full moon, you have seen all the full moons that have passed and all the full moons that will appear in the future. If he could not understand George Gurdjieff, naturally, seeing my picture and seeing you as my disciples he warned you that you were moving on a dangerous path. And if a man is afraid of moving into the path of aloneness, silence…. he may understand the word silence, but he has not tasted it. He has not looked into the eyes of George Gurdjieff.
Durkheim may have introduced the word zen, but it is George Gurdjieff who introduced the East to the West, without even mentioning it, without even claiming it – because the very claim that, “I have introduced Zen” comes from the ego. Gurdjieff never talked about Zen, and he was living Zen. Certainly he had his own individuality – of the same caliber as Bodhidharma, and as colorful and as unique. He was not a carbon copy of anybody else; he was himself – so much so that perhaps if Durkheim could not understand him it is understandable.