So I cannot say that a saint can be a rascal, but I can say certainly that existence is very accommodating: a rascal can be a saint, and perhaps a greater saint than your so-called ordinary saints. Your ordinary saints are ordinary human beings. They fulfill your expectations; a rascal saint never fulfills your expectations. On the contrary he goes on destroying your expectations. He functions in such a way that you cannot define him, you cannot explain him. You cannot make sense of many things in his life.
George Gurdjieff, who died only in 1950, was a contemporary man but perhaps the most rare man in this whole century. One of his disciples, Nicoll, remembers traveling with him on a train in America, when Gurdjieff started behaving as if he was a drunkard. Nicoll knew that he had not touched any drink for years – he had been with him – but he started behaving like a drunkard…shouting, throwing things, disturbing the whole train.
Finally the conductor came, the guard came, and Nicoll was very embarrassed. He was trying to prevent Gurdjieff – “What are you doing?” – but Gurdjieff wouldn’t listen. He was making a fool of himself and making a fool of Nicoll.
Nicoll was even more embarrassed…because at least people thought Gurdjieff was drunk: “But you should take care of your master, and if he is drunk then you should not travel in the middle of the night. He has awakened the whole train!
“And he is not only throwing out his things, he is throwing out other people’s things. You stop him; otherwise we will have to call the police at the next station.”
Nicoll was trying to persuade Gurdjieff, and said, “Stop this game! Why are you unnecessarily…. I know perfectly well you are not drunk.”
And Gurdjieff said into Nicoll’s ear, “I know it too – don’t be worried! I have my own ways of working. You have to learn not to be embarrassed – whatever the situation. If you are to be with me, you have to learn one thing: not to be embarrassed. It is a teaching for you; I made this whole train a teaching class for you. Why does one feel embarrassed?”
And people gathered and started listening. Suddenly Gurdjieff was not drunk, and he was talking on embarrassment and its implications. If you can drop embarrassment, there is a certain spiritual growth in you. Why is one embarrassed? – because one wants respectability, deep down one wants everybody to think of one in nice ways, good respectable ways. When something happens which goes against respectability, there is embarrassment. It is the ego that is embarrassed.
And Gurdjieff said to Nicoll, “If you can drop embarrassment, you have dropped the ego. Now we can go to sleep.”
The whole train was wondering about the man. Whatever he said was absolutely right. Many people in the morning came to visit in his compartment. They said, “Forgive us, but you have made such an impression. We had never thought that a teacher, a spiritual master, will behave in this way just to give a lesson to his disciple. But we could not sleep the whole night – we thought about it again and again. It is true, we feel embarrassed. It is not our true self, it is just our idea of our prestige, of our status; of how people should see us, how people should know us.”