Short Wisdom Stories by Anthony de Mello

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To a disciple who was always at his prayers the Master said, "When will you stop leaning on God and stand on your own two feet"?

The disciple was astonished. "But you are the one who taught us to look on God as Father"!

"When will you learn that a father isn't someone you can lean on but someone who rids you of your tendency to lean"?

All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882)

A woman in great distress over the death of her son came to the Master for comfort. He listened to her patiently while she poured out her tale of woe.

Then he said softly: "I can not wipe away your tears, my dear. I can only teach you how to make them holy".

The mark of your ignorance is the depth of your belief in injustice and tragedy. What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly. -- Richard Bach

A zealous disciple expressed a desire to teach others the Truth and asked the Master what he thought about this. The Master said, "Wait".

Each year the disciple would return with the same request and each time the Master would give him the same reply: "Wait".

One day he said to the Master, "When will I be ready to teach"?

Said the Master, "When your excessive eagerness to teach has left you".

You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips. -- Oliver Goldsmith

The Master always frowned on anything that seemed sensational. "The divine", he claimed, "is only found in the ordinary".

To a disciple who was attempting forms of asceticism that bordered on the bizarre the Master was heard to say, "Holiness is a mysterious thing: The greater it is, the less it is noticed".

God has no religion. -- Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948)


"Is the path to Enlightenment difficult or easy?'

"It is neither".

"Why not"?

"Because it isn't there".

"Then how does one travel to the goal"?

"One doesn't. This is a journey without distance.

Stop traveling and you arrive".

In the pursuit of learning, every day something is acquired. In the pursuit of Tao, every day something is dropped.
-- Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching

"Of what use is a Master"? someone asked.

Said the disciple, "To teach you what you have always known, to show you what you are always looking at".

When this confused the visitor, the disciple exclaimed:

"An artist, by his paintings, taught me to see the sunset. The Master, by his teachings, taught me to see the reality of every moment".

If you have knowledge, let others light their candles at it.
-- Margaret Fuller

When a man whose marriage was in trouble sought his advice, the Master said, "You must learn to listen to your wife".

The man took this advice to heart and returned after a month to say that he had learned to listen to every word his wife was saying.

Said the Master with a smile, "Now go home and listen to every word she isn't saying".

A pair of good ears will drink dry a hundred tongues.
-- Benjamin Franklin

To the disciples' delight the Master said he wanted a new shirt for his birthday. The finest cloth was bought. The village tailor came in to have the Master measured, and promised, by the will of God, to make the shirt within a week. A week went by and a disciple was dispatched to the tailor while the Master excitedly waited for his shirt. Said the tailor, "There has been a slight delay. But, by the will of God, it will be ready by tomorrow".

Next day the tailor said, "I'm sorry it isn't done. Try again tomorrow and, if God so wills, it will certainly be ready".

The following day the Master said, "Ask him how long it will take if he keeps God out of it".

Expectation is the greatest impediment to living. In anticipation of tomorrow, it loses today. -- Seneca


One disciple said:
"I have no idea of what tomorrow will bring, so I wish to prepare for it".

The master answered:
"You fear tomorrow - not realizing that yesterday is just as dangerous".

Don't let yesterday use up too much of today. -- Will Rogers

The Master seemed quite impervious to what people thought of him. When the disciples asked how he had attained this stage of inner freedom, he laughed aloud and said:

"Till I was twenty I did not care what people thought of me.

After twenty I worried endlessly about what my neighbors thought.

Then one day after fifty I suddenly saw that they hardly ever thought of me at all".

If you don't run your own life, somebody else will.
-- John Atkinson

A tourist looking at the portraits of former Masters in the temple said: "Are there any Masters left on earth"?

"There is one", said the guide.

The tourist solicited an audience with the Master and started with the question: "Where are the great Masters to be found today"?

"Traveler"! Cried the Master.

"Sir"! The tourist answered reverently.

"Where are YOU"?

He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened.

"Please tell me, is salvation obtained through action or through meditation"?

"Through neither. Salvation comes from seeing".

"Seeing what"?

"That the gold necklace you wish to acquire is hanging round your neck. That the snake you are so frightened of is only a rope on the ground".

All That Is - is the result of what we have thought. -- Buddha


"What must I do to attain holiness"? said a traveler.

"Follow your heart", said the Master.

That seemed to please the traveler.

Before he left, however, the Master said to him in a whisper, "To follow your heart you are going to need a strong constitution".

The intelligent man who is proud of his intelligence is like the condemned man who is proud of his large cell.
-- Simone Weil

The Master had quoted Aristotle: "In the quest of truth, it would seem better and indeed necessary to give up what is dearest to us". And he substituted the word "God" for "truth".

Later a disciple said to him, "I am ready, in the quest for God, to give up anything: wealth, friends, family, country, life itself. What else can a person give up"?

The Master calmly replied, "One's beliefs about God".

The disciple went away sad, for he clung to his convictions. He feared "ignorance" more than death.

Your vision will become clear
only when you look into your heart ...
Who looks outside, dreams.
Who looks inside, awakens. -- Carl Jung

"May I become your disciple"?

"You are only a disciple because your eyes are closed. The day you open them you will see there is nothing you can learn from me or anyone".

"What then is a Master for"?

"To make you see the uselessness of having one".

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. -- Marcel Proust

To a fearful religious visitor the Master said, "Why are you so anxious"?

"Lest I fail to attain Salvation".

"And what is Salvation"?

"Moksha. Liberation. Freedom".

The Master roared with laughter and said, "So you are forced to be free? You are bound to be liberated"?

At that minute the visitor relaxed and lost his fear forever.

And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. -- Kahlil Gibran


An alcoholic said to the Master:

"What would spirituality give me"?

"Nonalcoholic intoxication", was the answer.

Happiness is intrinsic, it's an internal thing. When you build it into yourself, no external circumstances can take it away. That kind of happiness is a twenty-four-hour thing. -- Leo F. Buscaglia
The visiting historian was disposed to be argumentative. "Do not our efforts change the course of human history"? he demanded.

"Oh yes, they do", said the Master.

"And have not our human labors changed the earth"?

"They certainly have", said the Master.

"Then why do you teach that human effort is of little consequence"?

Said the Master, "Because when the wind subsides, the leaves still fall".

While everything around me is every changing, ever dying, there is underlying that change a living power that is changeless, that holds all together, that creates, dissolves and recreates....For I can see in the midst of death, life persists, in the midst of untruth, truth persists, in the midst of darkness light persists -- Mohandas K. Gandhi

The disciple was a Jew. "What good work shall I do to be acceptable to God"?

"How should I know"? said the Master. "

"Your Bible says that Abraham practiced hospitality and God was with him. Elias loved to pray and God was with him. David ruled a kingdom and God was with him too".

"Is there some way I can find my own allotted work"?

"Yes. Search for the deepest inclination of your heart and follow it".

All the fish needs to do is get lost in the water.
All man needs to do is get lost in the Tao. -- Chuang Tzu

When it was certain that the Master was going to die, his disciples wished to give him a worthy funeral. The Master heard of this and said, "With the sky and the earth for my coffin; the sun and moon and stars for my burial regalia; and all creation to escort me to the grave -- could I desire anything more ceremonious and impressive"?

He asked to be left unburied, but the disciples wouldn't hear of it, protesting that he would be eaten by the animals and birds.

"Then make sure you place my staff near me that I might drive them away", said the Master with a smile.

"How would you manage that? You will be unconscious".

"In which case it will not matter, will it, that I be devoured by the birds and beasts".

The free man is he who does not fear to go to the end of his thought. -- Leon Blum

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