Short Wisdom Stories by Anthony de Mello

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Every word, every image used for God is a distortion more than a description".

"Then how does one speak of God"?

"Through Silence".

"Why, then, do you speak in words"?

At that the Master laughed uproariously He said, "When I speak, you mustn't listen to the words, my dear. Listen to the Silence".

It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question. -- Decouvertes

The Master once told the story of a priceless antique bowl that fetched a fortune at a public auction. It had been used by a tramp who ended his days in poverty, quite unaware of the value of the bowl with which he begged for pennies. When a disciple asked the Master what the bowl stood for, the Master said, "Your self"!

Asked to elaborate, he said, "All your attention is focused on the penny knowledge you collect from books and teachers. You would do better to pay attention to the bowl in which you hold it".

Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten. --B.F. Skinner

The Master would often say that Silence alone brought transformation. But no one could get him to define what Silence was. When asked he would laugh, then hold his forefinger up against his tightened lips - which only increased the bewilderment of his disciples.

One day there was a breakthrough when someone asked, "And how is one to arrive at this Silence that you speak of"?

The Master said something so simple that his disciples studied his face for a sign that he might be joking. He wasn't. He said, "Wherever you may be, look when there is apparently nothing to see; listen when all is seemingly quiet".

The act of contemplation creates the thing contemplated. -- Isaac D'Israeli (1766-1848)

"What action shall I perform to attain God"?

"If you wish to attain God, there are two things you must know. The first is that all efforts to attain him are of no avail".

"And the second"?

"You must act as if you did not know the first".

Stillness is your essential nature. What is stillness? The inner space or awareness in which the words on this page are being perceived and become thoughts. Without this awareness, there would be no perception, no thoughts, no world. You are that awareness disguised as a person. -- Eckhart Tolle, Stillness Speaks


The Master was known to side with the revolutionaries, even at the risk of incurring the displeasure of the government. When someone asked him why he himself did not actively plunge into social revolution, he replied with this enigmatic proverb: "Sitting quietly doing nothing. Spring comes and the grass grows".

Serenity Isn't freedom from the storm, it is peace within the storm.

"What is the highest act a person can perform"?

"Sitting in meditation".

But the Master himself was rarely seen to sit in meditation. He was ceaselessly engaged in housework and fieldwork, in meeting people and writing books. He even took up the bookkeeping chores of the monastery.

"Why then, do you spend all your time in work"?

"When one works, one need not cease to sit in meditation".

MORSEL: Whoever seeks God . . . has already found God.
A traveler in quest of the divine asked the Master how to distinguish a true teacher from a false one when he got back to his own land.

Said the Master, "A good teacher offers practice; a bad one offers theories".

"But how shall I know good practice from bad"?

"In the same way that the farmer knows good cultivation from bad".

Life is a quarry, out of which we are to mold and chisel and complete a character. -- Goethe (1749-1832)

Said a disappointed visitor, "Why has my stay here yielded no fruit"?

"Could it be because you lacked the courage to shake the tree"? said the Master benignly.

"Don't be afraid to go out on a limb. . . That's where the fruit is".


"How shall we distinguish the true mystic from the false"? asked the disciples who had an inordinate interest in the occult.

"How do you distinguish the true sleeper from the one who is feigning sleep"? asked the Master.

"There's no way. Only the sleeper knows when he is feigning", said the disciples.

The Master smiled.

Later he said, "The feigning sleeper can delude others - he cannot delude himself. The false mystic, unfortunately, can delude both others and himself.

Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced - even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it. -- John Keats (1795-1821)

The Master had a childlike fascination for modern inventions. He could not get over his amazement at the pocket calculator when he saw one.

Later he said, good-naturedly, "A lot of people seem to have those little pocket calculators, but nothing in their pockets worth calculating"!

Weeks later, when a visitor asked him what he taught his disciples, he said,

"To get their priorities right: Better have the money than calculate it; better have the experience than define it".

Ours is a society that has perfected its means yet neglected its meaning. -- Albert Einstein

"Does God exist"? said the Master one day.

"Yes", said the disciples in chorus.

"Wrong", said the Master.

"No", said the disciples.

"Wrong again", said the Master.

"What's the answer"? asked the disciples.

"There is no answer".

"Why ever not"?

"Because there is no question", said the Master.

Later he explained: "If you cannot say anything about Him who is beyond thoughts and words, how can you ask anything about Him"?

A person desperately searching for God is like a fish desperately searching for water.

To a woman who complained about her destiny the Master said, "It is you who make your destiny".

"But surely I am not responsible for being born a woman"?

"Being born a woman isn't destiny. That is fate. Destiny is how you accept your womanhood and what you make of it".

Strange is our situation upon earth.
Each of us comes for a short visit,
Not knowing why, yet sometimes
Seemingly to a divine purpose.-- Albert Einstein


For all his holiness, the Master seemed vaguely opposed to religion. This never ceased to puzzle the disciples who, unlike the Master, equated religion with spirituality.

"Religion as practiced today deals in punishments and rewards. In other words, it breeds fear and greed - the two things most destructive of spirituality".

Later he added ruefully, "It is like tackling a flood with water; or a burning barn with fire".

If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed. -- Albert Einstein

It intrigued the disciples that the Master who lived so simply would not condemn his wealthy followers. "It is rare but not impossible for someone to be rich and holy", he said one day.


"When money has the effect on his heart that the shadow of that bamboo has on the courtyard".

The disciples turned to watch the bamboo's shadow sweep the courtyard without stirring a single particle of dust.

The self-controlled soul, who moves amongst sense objects, free from either attachment or repulsion, he wins eternal Peace. -- Bhagavad Gita (c. B.C. 400)

To a disciple who complained of his limitations the Master said, "You are limited indeed. But have you noticed you can do things today that you would have thought impossible fifteen years ago? What changed"?

"My talents changed".

"No. You changed".

"Isn't that the same thing"?

"No. You are what you think you are. When your thinking changed, you changed".

Destroying pride -- man becomes endearing;
Destroying anger -- man gets rid of sorrow;
Destroying desire -- man acquires peace;
Destroying greed -- man achieves happiness.
-- Satya Sai Baba

To a disciple who strained after Enlightenment till he became physically weak the Master said, "A ray of light can be grasped -- but not with your hands. Enlightenment can be attained -- but not by your efforts".

The puzzled disciple said, "But did you not tell me to strive to become empty? That is what I am attempting to do".

"So now you are full of effort to be empty"! said the Master through his laughter.

All things in the world come from being. And being comes from non-being. -- Lao-Tzu (fl. B.C. 600)


To a visitor who asked to become his disciple the Master said, "You may live with me, but don't become my follower".

"Whom, then, shall I follow"?

"No one. The day you follow someone you cease to follow Truth".

If you use your mind to study reality, you won't understand either your mind or reality. If you study reality without using your mind, you'll understand both. People capable of true vision, know that the mind is empty. -- Bodhidharma
To the disciples who wanted to know what sort of meditation he practiced each morning in the garden the Master said, "When I look carefully, I see the rose bush in full bloom".

"Why would one have to look carefully to see the rose bush"? they asked.

"Lest one see not the rose bush", said the Master, "but one's preconception of it".

Those who are awake live in a state of constant amazement. -- Buddha

The discussion among the disciples once centered on the usefulness of reading. Some thought it was a waste of time, others disagreed. When the Master was appealed to, he said, "Have you ever read one of those texts in which the notes scrawled in the margin by a reader prove to be as illuminating as the text itself"?

The disciples nodded in agreement.

"Life", said the Master, "is one such text".

Even with its hassles, life seems to be the best thing they've come up with yet. -- Alan Harris

The owner of a Fun Park commented on the irony of the fact that while the kids had a great time at his park he himself was habitually depressed.

"Would you rather own the park or have the fun"? said the Master.

"I want both".

The Master made no reply.

When questioned about it later, the Master quoted the words of a tramp to a wealthy landowner: "You own the property. Others enjoy the landscape".

The childlike innocence deep within you is God -- Ammachi ( The living saint )

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