Short Wisdom Stories by Anthony de Mello

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"Is there a God"? asked the Marxist.

"Certainly not the kind people are thinking of", said the Master.

"Whom are you referring to when you speak of people"?


The seed of God is in us. Given an intelligent and hard-working farmer, it will thrive and grow up to God, whose seed it is; and accordingly its fruits will be God-nature. Pear seeds grow into pear trees, nut seeds into nut trees, and God seed into God. -- Meister Eckhart

When a new disciple came to the Master, this is the catechism he was usually subjected to: "Do you know the one person who will never abandon you in the whole of your lifetime"?
"Who is it"?
"And do you know the answer to every question you may have"?
"What is it"?
"And can you guess the solution to every one of your problems"?
"I give up".

The nature of God is a circle of which the center is everywhere and the circumference is nowhere. -- Empedocles

This is how the Master once explained the fact that Enlightenment came not through effort but through understanding: "Imagine all of you are hypnotized to believe there is a tiger in this room. In your fear you will try to escape it, to fight it, to protect yourselves from it, to placate it. But once the spell is broken there is nothing to be done. And you are all radically changed:

"So understanding breaks the spell, the broken spell brings change, change leads to inaction, inaction is power: You can do anything on earth, for it is no longer you who do it".

To live a single day and hear a good teaching is better than to live a hundred years without knowing such teaching.
-- Buddha (B.C. 568-488)

Said a traveler to one of the disciples, "I have traveled a great distance to listen to the Master, but I find his words quite ordinary".

"Don't listen to his words. Listen to his message".

"How does one do that"?

"Take hold of a sentence that he says. Shake it well till all the words drop off. What is left will set your heart on fire".

In the depth of my soul there is a wordless song. -- Kahlil Gibran


A man traversed land and sea to check for himself the Master's extraordinary fame. "What miracles has your Master worked"? he said to a disciple.

"Well, there are miracles and miracles. In your land it is regarded as a miracle if God does someone's will. In our country it is regarded as a miracle if someone does the will of God".

The highest reward for a man's toil is not what he gets for it but what he becomes by it. -- John Ruskin

There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, "Thy will be done", and those to whom God says, "All right, then, have it your way". -- C.S. Lewis

Again and again the Master would be seen to discourage his disciples from depending on him, for this would prevent them from contacting the inner Source. He was often heard to say:

"Three things there are that when too close are harmful, when too far are useless and are best kept at middle distance: fire, the government and the guru".

The more faithfully you listen to the voice within you, the better you hear what is sounding outside of you. -- Dag Hammarskjold

To the disciples who were always asking for words of wisdom the Master said, "Wisdom is not expressed in words. It reveals itself in action".

But when he saw them plunge headlong into activity, he laughed aloud and said, "That isn't action. That's motion".

Spirituality lies in regarding existence merely as a vehicle for contemplation, and contemplation merely a vehicle for joy. -- George Santayana, [Three Philosophical Poets]

Each day the Master would be inundated with questions that he would reply to seriously, playfully, gently, firmly. One disciple always sat through each session in silence. When someone questioned her about it, she said, "I hardly hear a word he says. I am too distracted by his Silence".

Under all speech that is good for anything there lies a silence that is better, Silence is deep as Eternity; speech is shallow as Time. -- Carlyle (1795-1881)


At a discussion on the God experience, the Master said, "When God is experienced, the self disappears. So who will do the experiencing"?

"Is the God experience, then, a non-experience"?

"It is like sleep", said the Master. "The sleep experience is only known when sleep is over".

It is ever the invisible that is the object of our profoundest worship. With the lover it is not the seen but the unseen that he muses upon. -- Bovee (1820-1904)

"What does your Master teach"? asked a visitor.
"Nothing", said the disciple.
"Then why does he give discourses"?
"He only points the way -- he teaches nothing".

The visitor couldn't make sense out of this, so the disciple made it clearer: "If the Master were to teach, we would make beliefs out of his teachings.

The Master is not concerned with what we believe - only with what we see".

Teachers open the door... You enter by yourself.
-- Chinese Proverb

A snake in the village had bitten so many people that few dared go into the fields. Such was the Master's holiness that he was said to have tamed the snake and persuaded it to practice the discipline of nonviolence. It did not take long for the villager to discover that the snake had become harmless. They took to hurling stones at it and dragging it about by its tail. The badly battered snake crawled into the Master's house one night to complain. Said the Master, "Friend, you have stopped frightening people - that's bad"!

"But it was you who taught me to practice the discipline of nonviolence"!

"I told you to stop hurting - not to stop hissing"!

When the solution is simple, God is answering.
-- Albert Einstein

An anxious couple complained to the Master that their son had abandoned the religious traditions of the family and proclaimed himself a freethinker. Said the Master, "Not to worry. If the lad is really thinking for himself, the Mighty Wind is bound to arise that will carry him to the place where he belongs".

Do not fear the winds of adversity. Remember: A kite rises against the wind rather than with it.


To a pioneering spirit who was discouraged by frequent criticism the Master said, "Listen to the words of the critic. He reveals what your friends hide from you".

But he also said, "Do not be weighed down by what the critic says. No statue was ever erected to honor a critic. Statues are for the criticized".

Happiness does not depend on outward things, but on the way we see them. -- Leo Tolstoy

The Master always left you to grow at your own pace. He was never known to "push". He explained this with the following parable: "A man once saw a butterfly struggling to emerge from its cocoon, too slowly for his taste, so he began to blow on it gently. The warmth of his breath speeded up the process all right. But what emerged was not a butterfly but a creature with mangled wings.

"In growth", the Master concluded, "you cannot speed the process up. All you can do is abort it".

In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins - not through strength but by perseverance. -- H. Jackson Brown

It was the disciple's birthday. "What do you want for a birthday gift"? said the Master.

"Something that would bring me Enlightenment", she said.

The Master smiled. "Tell me, my dear", he said, "when you were born, did you come into the world like a star from the sky or out of it like a leaf from a tree"?

All day long she pondered that strange question of the Master. Then she suddenly saw the answer and fell into Enlightenment.

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all art and science.
-- Albert Einstein

A disciple was one day recalling how Buddha, Jesus, and Mohammed were branded as rebels and heretics by their contemporaries. Said the Master,

"Nobody can be said to have attained the pinnacle of Truth until a thousand sincere people have denounced him for blasphemy".

Every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute rejection of authority.
-- Thomas Huxley (1825-1895)


The Master was in a mellow mood and the disciples were inquisitive. Did he ever feel depressed? they asked.

He did.

Wasn't it also true that he was in a continual state of happiness? They persisted.

It was.

What was the secret? They wanted to know.

Said the Master, "This: Everything is as good or as bad as one's opinion makes it".

Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. -- Abraham Lincoln

The disciple was planning her wedding banquet and declared that out of love for the poor she had gotten her family to go against convention by seating the poor guests at the head of the table and the rich guests at the door. She looked into the Master's eyes, expecting his approval. The Master stopped to think, then said,

"That would be most unfortunate, my dear. No one would enjoy the wedding. Your family would be embarrassed, your rich guests insulted and your poor guests hungry, for they would be too self-conscious at the head of the table to eat their fill".

There is no king who has not had a slave among his ancestors, and no slave who has not had a king among his. -- Helen Adams Keller (1880-1968)

The Master never ceased to attack the notions about God that people entertain. "If your God comes to your rescue and gets you out of trouble", he would say, "it is time you started searching for the true God".

When asked to elaborate, this is the story he told:
"A man left a brand-new bicycle unattended at the marketplace while he went about his shopping. He only remembered the bicycle the following day and rushed to the marketplace, expecting it would have been stolen. The bicycle was exactly where he had left it. Overwhelmed with joy, he rushed to a nearby temple to thank God for having kept his bicycle safe only to find, when he got out of the temple, that the bicycle was goner"

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts. -- Bertrand Russell

The Master welcomed the advances of technology, but was keenly aware of its limitations.When an industrialist asked him what his occupation was, he replied, "I'm in the people industry".

"And what, pray, would that be"? said the industrialist.

"Take yourself", said the Master. "Your efforts produce better things; mine, better people".

To his disciples he later said, "The aim of life is the flowering of persons. Nowadays people seem concerned mostly with the perfectioning of things".

There is more to life than increasing its speed.
-- Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948)

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