The 24 hour wait

When Gurdjieff’s father died Gurdjieff was only nine years old. The father was poor. He called Gurdjieff close to him and told him, “I have nothing to give you as your inheritance. I am poor, and my father was also poor, but he gave me one thing that made me the richest man in the world, although the outside poverty remained the same. I can only transfer the same to you.

“It is some advice. Perhaps you are too young and you may not be able to do it right now, but remember it. When you are able to act according to the advice, act according to it. And the advice is simple. I will repeat it, and because I am dying, listen carefully and repeat before me what I have said so I can die satisfied that I have transferred the message that may have come down from father to son for centuries.”

The message was simple. The father said, “If somebody insults you, irritates you, annoys you, just tell him, ‘I have received your message, but I have promised my father that I will answer only after twenty-four hours. I know you are angry, I have understood it. I will come after twenty-four hours and answer you.’ And the same with anything. Give a gap of twenty-four hours.”

A nine-year-old boy repeated what the father had said, and the father died. But because it was such a moment the message became engraved. As he repeated the message, the father said, “Good. My blessings will be with you, and now I can die peacefully.” He closed his eyes and died. And Gurdjieff, even though he was nine, started practicing what was given to him.

Somebody will insult him, and he will say, “I will come after twenty-four hours to answer you because that’s what I have promised my dying father. Right now I cannot answer you.” Somebody may beat him, and he would say, “You can beat me right now, but I cannot answer. After twenty-four hours I will come and answer you, because I have promised my dying father.”

And later on he used to say to his disciples, “That simple message transformed me totally. The person was beating me but I was not going to react at that moment so there was no question except to watch. I had nothing to do: now the person was beating me, I just had to be a spectator. For twenty-four hours there was nothing to do. And watching the man created a new kind of crystallization in me. And after twenty-four hours I could see more clearly. At the moment when he was beating me it was impossible to see clearly. My eyes were full of anger. If I was going to answer at that moment I would have wrestled with the man, I would have hit the man, and everything would have been an unconscious reaction.

“But after twenty-four hours I could think about it more calmly, more quietly. Either he was right – I had done something wrong and I needed, deserved, to be beaten, to be insulted – or he was absolutely wrong. If he was right, there was nothing to say to him except to go and give him thanks. If he was absolutely wrong, there was no point at all fighting with a man who is utterly stupid and goes on doing such wrong things. It is meaningless, is wasting time. He does not deserve any answer.”

So after twenty-four hours everything settled down and a clarity was there. And with that clarity and the watchfulness of the moment, Gurdjieff changed into one of the most unique beings of this age.

This is an excerpt from Osho’s book titled “The Fire of Truth”.

 I have nothing more to say except that am trying to implement it in my life and it is SO hard !! Especially for someone like me who is quick-tempered. The value of giving a gap before responding to any situation is enormous – so many blunders could be avoided. This advise is especially needed for the corporate world and those people who live in the limelight.

In the corporate world, it helps to cool off and sleep over the decision – new data might come forward or new perspectives might come up and a good decision this minute might not look that good the next day. In negotiations one can’t be in a hurry to conclude, you might just miss out on the deal or overpay. Remember the late Stephen Covey’s message “the tiny gap between stimulus and response” and mind that gap always.

For folks in public life, with social media and everything else that’s making the world shrink, whatever you utter, stays forever in the public space. Uttering something that you regret later does not help much. Better is to follow Gurdjieff’s father’s advise and wait before responding. Apparently Michelle Obama said something similar about tweeting. The former first lady said: “You don’t just say what’s on your mind. You don’t tweet every thought. Most of your first initial thoughts are not worthy of the light of day.” And she is spot on.

Wait for a few minutes, a few hours, a day …. before responding and see the quality of your response becoming so much better.

Also read my other posts on this topic –

Please mind the gap!

Failing Goleman’s test

7 thoughts on “The 24 hour wait”

  1. This seems like really excellent advice. I generally don’t get impulsively angry – maybe once every decade or so someone completely pushes my buttons, but as I think about those times now, one about 5 years ago, the other 15 years ago, I realize how useful this would have been then.

    • Hey you are lucky Todd and keep it up. You can reverse the situation with me – there would be some incident every 5 or 15 years when I haven’t lost my cool 😂😂. Am the poster girl for a short fuse. Learning to get off that poster though.

  2. I must admit that my temper also has a very small fuse.

    It happened back in my Army days. I was very furious about some issue and I had taken a rather strongly worded reply to that issue to be signed by my boss. I was disappointed and getting restless when he was not taking me seriously and was not signing it for the entire day. Next day the issue solved by itself. if that letter had gone, it would have been a big disaster for our unit.

    And that is when he called me and gave me this wonderful advice, not to react instantaneously, react only after a gap of time. it was very hard in the beginning for me to follow but I see a hell of a sense in that advice. Though I don’t claim much success in it , since quick temper is in my DNA, but that advice had popped up appropriately many times in my subsequent life and saved me from embarrassment.

  3. Hi Hindu
    I was (and in my better moments perhaps sometimes still am) the pupil of a pupil of Georges Ivanovich Gurdjieff. I am interested to see that Osho, Baghwan Rajneesh, attributed this story to the life of Gurdjieff and wrote to his followers that Gurdjieff himself told this tale.
    In 38 years of contact with the work Mr Gurdjieff founded, I have never heard an account of a similar tale and I want to take the time to do what I can towards sharing some information with you and your followers.
    There was always some (deliberate?) public clouding of the date of Gurdjief’s birth but it’s reasonably safe to say this was between the years of 1866 and 1877. Gurdjieff’s then pupil, P.D.Ouspensky, wrote of spending time with Gurdjieff and Gurdjieff’s father, “still a robust old man” , in Alexandropol in 1917. (‘In Search Of The Miraculous. – fragments of an unknown teaching” 1949 p342). Gurdjieff himself ‘authorised’ Ouspensky’s account of his work as it then was, being reported as saying on reading it, “He good journalist” ( ”Idiots in Paris” John and Elizabeth Bennett).
    Gurdjieff’s own second series of writings include a truly evocative account of his relationship with his father. (“Meetings With Remarkable Men” 1963, chapter 2 ‘My Father’).
    I can only think that Osho may have confused some separate tales he was told. This particular mistake could stem from Gurdjieff’s own account in the opening chapter of his truly remarkable book “Beelzebub’s Tales To His Grandson” – All And Everything First Series, An Objectively Impartial Criticism Of The Life Of Man (G I Gurdjieff 1950).
    Here Gurdjieff tells how, when he was still a “chubby mite”, his dying grandmother placed her hand on his head and whispered to him, “Eldest of my grandsons! Listen and always remember my strict injunction to you. In life never do as others do”.
    It is probably inevitable that confusion and misattribution grow around the historical and ‘ folk’ memory of the real teachers of mankind. Isn’t this part of our problem? Never the less, I am happy to take this little time to offer what I can to clear up this particular bit.
    I hope that my words are welcome. I liked the sound of your responses to your followers.
    You might like to know that Mr. Gurdjieff was often quoted by his followers as having said these words to them, the same words spoken to me by my own teacher, Rina Hands ( his pupil)on the day I met her :

    “(Oh and by the way) Don’t believe anything anyone tells you”.

    Best wishes to you

    Tim Hindle


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