Short Wisdom Stories by Anthony de Mello

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041 - 060


A debate raged among the disciples as to which was the most difficult task of all: To write down what God revealed as Scripture, to understand what God had revealed in Scripture or to explain Scripture to others after one had understood it. Said the Master, when asked his opinion, "I know of a more difficult task than any of those three".

"What is it"?

"Trying to get you blockheads to see reality as it is".

Apprehend God in all things, for God is in all things. Every single creature is full of God and is a book about God. Every creature is a word of God! If I spent enough time with the tiniest creature - even a caterpillar -- I would never have to prepare a sermon, so full of God is every creature.
-- Meister Eckhart

"When will I be Enlightened"?

"When you see", the Master said

"See what"?

"Trees and flowers and moon and stars".

"But I see these every day".

"No. What you see is paper trees, paper flowers, paper moons and paper stars. For you live not in reality but in your words and thoughts".

And for good measure, he added gently, "You live a paper life, alas, and will die a paper death".

A man's true wealth is the good he does in the world. Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror. But you are eternity and you are the mirror. -- Kahlil Gibran

Sometimes there would be a rush of noisy visitors and the silence of the monastery would be shattered. This would upset the disciples; not the Master, who seemed just as content with the noise as with the silence. To his protesting disciples he said one day, "Silence is not the absence of sound, but the absence of self".

He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe. -- Marcus Aurelius

The Master was an advocate both of learning and of Wisdom. "Learning", he said when asked, "is gotten by reading books or listening to lectures".

"And Wisdom"?

"By reading the book that is you".

He added as an afterthought: "Not an easy task at all, for every minute of the day brings a new edition of the book"!

Your vision will become clear only when You can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes. -- Carl Jung


To the woman who complained that riches hadn't made her happy the Master said, "You speak as if luxury and comfort were ingredients of happiness; whereas all you need to be really happy, my dear, is something to be enthusiastic about".

We are no longer happy as soon as we wish to be happier.
-- Landor (1775-1864)

Happiness is the absence of the striving for happiness.
-- Chuang-tzu (fl. B.C. 350)

The Master became a legend in his lifetime. It was said that God once sought his advice: "I want to play a game of hide-and-seek with humankind. I've asked my Angels what the best place is to hide in. Some say the depth of the ocean. Others say the top of the highest mountain. Others still the far side of the moon or a distant star. What do you suggest"? Said the Master, "Hide in the human heart. That is the last place they will think of"!

Looking for God is like seeking a path in a field of snow; if there is no path and you are looking for one, walk across it and there is your path. -- Thomas Merton

Go to your bosom; Knock there, and ask your heart what it doth know. -- Shakespeare (1564-1616)

The following day the Master said, "It is, alas, easier to travel than to stop".

The disciples demanded to know why.

"Because as long as you travel to a goal, you can hold on to a dream. When you stop, you face reality".

"How shall we ever change if we have no goals or dreams"? asked the mystified disciples.

"Change that is real is change that is not willed. Face reality and unwilled change will happen".

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed. -- Einstein (1879-1955)

When one of the disciples announced his intention of teaching others Truth, the Master proposed a test: "Give a discourse that I myself shall be present at to judge if you are ready".

The discourse was an inspiring one. At the end of it, a beggar came up to the speaker, who stood up and gave the man his cloak -- to the edification of the assembly.

Later the Master said, "Your words were full of unction, son, but you are not yet ready".

"Why not"? said the dispirited disciple.

"For two reasons: You did not give the man a chance to voice his need. And you are not above impressing others with your virtue".

At the feast of ego, everyone leaves hungry.


One day the Master asked, "What, in your opinion, is the most important of all religious questions"?

He got many answers:
"Does God exist"?
"Who is God"?
"What is the path to God"?
"Is there a life after death"?

"No", said the Master. "The most important question is: 'Who am I?'"

The disciples got some idea of what he was hinting at when they overheard him talking to a preacher: Master: "So then, according to you, when you die your soul will be in heaven"?

Preacher: "Yes".

Master: "And your body will be in the grave"?

Preacher: "Yes".

Master: "And where, may I ask, will you be"?

Master Tung Kwo asked Chuang: "Show me where the Tao is to be found". Chang Tzu replied, "There is nowhere it is not to be found". -- The Way of Chuang Tzu

"What is the greatest enemy of Enlightenment"?


"And where does fear come from"?


"And what is delusion"?

"To think that the flowers around you are poisonous snakes".

"How shall I attain Enlightenment"?

"Open your eyes and see".


"That there isn't a single snake around".

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven? -- Kahlil Gibran, mystic, poet, and artist (1883-1931)

"What is love"?

"The total absence of fear", said the Master.

"What is it we fear"?

"Love", said the Master.

There are only two emotions: love - our natural inheritance, and fear - an invention of our minds which is illusory.
-- Gerald G. Jampolsky, MD, [Teach Only Love]

"What is it you seek"? asked the Master of a scholar who came to him for guidance.

"Life", was the reply.

Said the Master, "If you are to live, words must die".

When asked later what he meant, he said, "You are lost and forlorn because you dwell in a world of words. You feed on words, you are satisfied with words when what you need is substance. A menu will not satisfy your hunger. A formula will not slake your thirst".

There is a tricycle in man.
He knows, he feels and acts.
He has emotion, intellect and will.
He must develop head, heart and hand.
-- Sivananda [born 1887]


"What shall I do to love my neighbor"?

"Stop hating yourself".

The disciple pondered those words long and seriously and came back to say, "But I love myself too much, for I am selfish and self-centered. How do I get rid of that"?

"Be friendly to yourself and your self will be contented and it will set you free to love your neighbor".

The more faithfully you listen to the voice within you, the better you will hear what is sounding outside. And only she who listens can speak. -- Dag Hammerskjold

The disciples could not understand the seemingly arbitrary manner in which some people were accepted for discipleship and others were rejected. They got a clue one day when they heard the Master say, "Don't attempt to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time -- and irritates the pig".

I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet. -- Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948)

A writer arrived at the monastery to write a book about the Master.

"People say you are a genius. Are you"? he asked.

"You might say so", said the Master, none too modestly.

"And what makes one a genius"?

"The ability to recognize".

"Recognize what"?

"The butterfly in a caterpillar; the eagle in an egg; the saint in a selfish human being".

Sincerity is a transparent diamond through which the light of God shines in our lives.

A young man came to the Master and said, "I wish to be Wise. How can I achieve my wish"?

The Master sighed and said, "There was once a young man just like you. He wished to be Wise and his wish had great power to it. One day he found himself sitting exactly where I am. In front of him sat a young man on the exact spot where you are now. And the young man was saying, 'I wish to be Wise!'"

Awakening is dynamic,
Constantly evolving in accordance with life's realities;
Unfolding from ego-self to compassionate self,
From enclosed self to open self,
From foolish self to enlightened self. -- Taitetsu Unno


"The trouble with the world", said the Master with a sigh, "is that human beings refuse to grow up".

"When can a person be said to have grown up"? asked a disciple.

"On the day he does not need to be lied to about anything".

As long as a man stands in his own way, everything seems to be in his way. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 -1882)

For all his traditional ways, the Master has scant respect for rules and for traditions. A quarrel once broke out between a disciple and his daughter because the man kept insisting that the girl conform to the rules of their religion in the choice of her prospective husband. The Master openly sided with the girl. When the disciple expressed his surprise that the holy man would do this, the Master said, "You must understand that life is just like music, which is made more by feeling and by instinct than by rules".

Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

To a distressed person who came to him for help the Master said, "Do you really want a cure"

"If I did not, would I bother to come to you"?

"Oh yes Most people do".

"What for"?

"Not for a cure. That's painful. For relief".

To his disciples the Master said, "People who want a cure, provided they can have it without pain, are like those who favor progress, provided they can have it without change".

If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging. -- Will Rogers
To a disciple who was obsessed with the thought of life after death the Master said, "Why waste a single moment thinking of the hereafter"?

"But is it possible not to"?


"How"? "By living in heaven here and now".

"And where is this heaven"?

"In the here and now".

Heaven means to be one with God.
-- Confucius (B.C. 551-479)

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