The Merchant of Baghdad

“You cannot escape death and you cannot escape aloneness.” Osho would tell many fine stories to illustrate his talks. “The Merchant of Baghdad”, a Sufi parable, is one of my favourites and one that I have posted to Facebook on numerous occasions.

“The Merchant of Baghdad”
There was a merchant in Baghdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions, and in a little while the servant came back white and trembling and said, “Master, just now in the marketplace I was jostled by a man in the crowd, and when I turned I saw it was Death. He looked at me and made a threatening gesture. Now, lend me your fastest horse and I will go to Samarra, and there Death will not find me.”

The merchant lent his horse, and the servant mounted and as fast as the horse could gallop he went. Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and saw Death standing in the crowd, and he came to Death and said, “Why, why did you make a threatening gesture to my poor servant when you saw him this morning?”
“That was not a threatening gesture, sir,” Death replied. “It was merely a start of surprise; for I was astonished to see him here in Baghdad as I have an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.”

You cannot escape. If you are going to die in Samarra, you will reach there somehow!
You cannot escape death and you cannot escape aloneness. Try as you will—try, but all efforts fail. Nobody has ever succeeded in avoiding aloneness, because aloneness is your being. When you are avoiding aloneness you are avoiding yourself—how can you avoid yourself? How can you escape from yourself? In trying to escape, you miss—you miss the beauty of being alone. In fact, you start thinking of yourself as lonely because you have missed the beauty of aloneness.

Aloneness is tremendously beautiful; loneliness is ugly. They don’t mean the same, notwithstanding what the dictionaries say. Aloneness is such a beautiful experience. You ARE—pure, uncontaminated by anybody else’s presence; no shadow falling on you—a clarity, unclouded … your being pure, virgin—nobody has ever travelled in that territory………

An Osho story
origin unknown.

Everything Just Happens

For those who imagine that their ‘political opinions’ are superior to those of others, or that they have the ability ‘to make a difference’ by engaging in political action or going on various demonstrations etc., it is worth reflecting on the following words of Gurdjieff as recorded by Ouspensky:

“Man is a machine. All his deeds, actions, words, thoughts, feelings, convictions, opinions, and habits are the results of external influences, external impressions. Out of himself a man can’t produce a single action. Everything he says, does, thinks and feels, all this happens. Man cannot discover anything, invent anything: It all happens.

To establish this fact for oneself, to understand it, to be convinced of its truth, means getting rid of a thousand illusions about man, about his being creative, and being consciously organising his own life and so on. There is nothing of this kind. Everything happens ––popular movements, wars, revolutions, changes of government, all this happens. And it happens in exactly the same way as everything happens in the life of the individual man.

Man is born, lives, dies, builds houses and writes books, not as he wants to but as it happens. Everything happens. Man does not love, hate, desire –– all this happens. But no one will ever believe you if you tell him he can do nothing. This is the most offensive and the most unpleasant thing you can tell people. And it is particularly unpleasant and offensive because it is the truth and nobody wants to hear the truth.

It is one thing to understand with the mind and another thing to feel it with one’s whole mass, to be really convinced that it is so and never forget it”.
––– (G.I. Gurdjieff, as recorded by P. D. Ouspensky) –––


The Buddha, 2000 years earlier, was able to formulate this more elegantly as follows:
“Events happen, deeds are done, but there is no individual doer thereof”.