Short Wisdom Stories by Anthony de Mello

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101 - 120


"Nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so", the Master said.

When asked to explain he said, "A man cheerfully observed a religious fast seven days a week. His neighbor starved to death on the same diet".

All that we are is the result of what we have thought.
-- Buddha

When the disciples asked for a model of spirituality that they could imitate, all that the Master said was: "Hush! Listen". And as they listened to the sounds of the night outside the monastery, the Master softly intoned the celebrated haiku: "Of an early death showing no awareness the cicada sings".

Silence at the proper season is wisdom, and better than any speech. -- Plutarch (46-120 A.D.)

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)

"Where shall I look for Enlightenment"?
" Here".
" When will it happen"?
"It is happening right now".
"Then why don't I experience it"?
"Because you do not look".
"What should I look for"?
"Nothing, just look".
"At what"?
"Anything your eyes alight upon".
"Must I look in a special kind of way"?
"No. The ordinary way will do".
"But don't I always look the ordinary way"?
" No".
"Why ever not"?
"Because to look you must be here. You're mostly somewhere else".

The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend. -- Henri L. Bergson

According to legend, God sent an Angel to the Master with this message:" Ask for a million years of life and they will be given you. Or a million million. How long do you wish to live"?

"Eighty years", said the Master without the slightest hesitation.

The disciples were dismayed. "But, Master, if you lived for a million years, think how many generations would profit by your wisdom".

"If I lived for a million years, people would be more intent on lengthening their lives than on cultivating wisdom".

And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years -- Abraham Lincoln

Sometimes even to live is an act of courage. -- Seneca


"Why is everyone here so happy except me"?

"Because they have learned to see goodness and beauty everywhere", said the Master.

"Why don't I see goodness and beauty everywhere"?

"Because you cannot see outside of you what you fail to see inside".

It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and impossible to find it elsewhere. -- Agnes Repplier

"I wish to become a teacher of the Truth".

"Are you prepared to be ridiculed, ignored and starving till you are forty-five"?

"I am. But tell me: What will happen after I am forty-five"?

"You will have grown accustomed to it".

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.

A visitor who was full of expectations was unimpressed by the commonplace words the Master addressed to him. "I came here in quest of a Master", he said to a disciple. "All I find is a human being no different from the others".

Said the disciple, "The Master is a shoemaker with an infinite supply of leather. But he does the cutting and stitching in accordance with the dimension of your foot".

Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world. -- Arthur Schopenhauer, philosopher

The Master insisted that what he taught was nothing, what he did was nothing. His disciples gradually discovered that Wisdom comes to those who learn nothing, unlearn everything. That transformation is the consequence not of something done but of something dropped.

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


A gambler once said to the Master, "I was caught cheating at cards yesterday, so my partners beat me up and threw me out of the window. What would you advise me to do"?

The Master looked straight through the man and said, "If I were you, from now on I would play on the ground floor".

This startled the disciples. "Why didn't you tell him to stop gambling"? they demanded.

"Because I knew he wouldn't", was the Master's simple and sagacious explanation.

We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office. -- Aesop, Greek fableist

While the Master seemed to relish life and live it to the full, he was also known to take great risks, as when he condemned the tyranny of the government, thereby courting arrest and death; and when he led a group of his disciples to serve a plague-stricken village. "The wise have no fear of death", he would say.

"Why would a man risk his life so easily"? he was once asked.

"Why would a person care so little about a candle being extinguished when day has dawned"?

He who knows Self as the enjoyer of
The honey from the flowers of the senses,
Ever present within, ruler of time,
Goes beyond fear. For this Self is Supreme!
-- Upanishads (c. B.C. 800)
"What did Enlightenment bring you"?


"And what is Joy"?

"The realization that when everything is lost you have only lost a toy".

God is not found in the soul by adding anything, but by a process of subtraction. -- Meister Eckhart
"Make a clean break with your past and you will be Enlightened", said the Master.

"I am doing that by degrees".

"Growth is achieved by degrees.
        Enlightenment is instantaneous".

Later he said, "Take the leap!
        You cannot cross a chasm in little jumps".

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


"I wish to learn. Will you teach me"?
"I do not think that you know how to learn", said the Master.
"Can you teach me how to learn"?
"Can you learn how to let me teach"?
To his bewildered disciples the Master later said: "Teaching only takes place when learning does. Learning only takes place when you teach something to yourself:"

The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we shall have discovered fire.
-- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
The Master always insisted that we must learn by ourselves - teach ourselves - rather than depend on other people's authority. This had its limits, of course, as when a bright young fellow was convinced he ought to try drugs as a means to mysticism - and "take the risk, for one can only learn by trial and error".

That moved the Master to tell the old story of the nail and the screw: "Here is one way to find out whether what you need in a plank is a nail or a screw: Drive the nail in. If it splits the plank, you know you needed the screw".

Mistakes live in the neighborhood of truth and therefore delude us.
-- Rabindranath Tagore, Indian Poet (1861-1941)

As the Master grew old and infirm, the disciples begged him not to die. Said the Master, "If I did not go, how would you ever see"?

"What is it we fail to see when you are with us"? they asked.

But the Master would not say.

When the moment of his death was near, they said, "What is it we will see when you are gone"?

With a twinkle in his eye, the Master said, "All I did was sit on the riverbank handing out river water. After I'm gone, I trust you will notice the river".

Better than power over all the earth, better than going to heaven and better than dominion over the worlds is the joy of the man who enters the river of life that leads to Non-Being. -- The Dhammapada (c. B.C. 300)

"What kind of a person does Enlightenment produce"?
The Master said:
"To be public-spirited and belong to no party,
to move without being bound to any given course,
to take things as they come,
have no remorse for the past,
no anxiety for the future,
to move when pushed,
to come when dragged,
to be like a mighty gale,
like a feather in the wind,
like weeds floating on a river,
like a mill stone meekly grinding,
to love all creation equally
as heaven and earth are equal to all
- such is the product of Enlightenment".
On hearing these words, one of the younger disciples cried, "This sort of teaching is not for the living but for the dead", and walked away, never to return.

All Spiritual being is in man. A wise old proverb says, "God comes to see us without bell", that is, as there is no screen or ceiling between our heads and the infinite heavens, so is there no bar or wall in the soul where man, the effect, ceases, and God, the cause, begins. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays "The Over-Soul".


The governor on his travels stepped in to pay homage to the Master. "Affairs of state leave me no time for lengthy dissertations", he said. "Could you put the essence of religion into a paragraph or two for a busy man like me"?

"I shall put it into a single word for the benefit of your highness".

"Incredible! What is this most unusual word"?
"And what is the way to silence"?
"And what, may I ask, is meditation"?

Silence is the great revelation. -- Lao Tzu

The Master had been on his deathbed in a coma for weeks. One day he suddenly opened his eyes to find his favorite disciple there. "You never leave my bedside, do you"? he said softly.
"No, Master. I cannot".
"Because you are the light of my life.''
The Master sighed. "Have I so dazzled you, my son, that you still refuse to see the light in you"?

Within man is the soul of the whole;
the wise silence; the universal beauty;
to which every part and every particle
is equally related; the eternal One.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Master set out on a journey with one of his disciples. At the outskirts of the village they ran into the governor, who, mistakenly thinking they had come to welcome him to the village, said, "You really didn't have to go to all this trouble to welcome me".

"You are mistaken, your highness", said the disciple. "We're on a journey, but had we known you were coming we would have gone to even greater pains to welcome you".

The Master did not say a word. Toward evening he said, "Did you have to tell him that we had not come to welcome him? Did you see how foolish he felt"?

"But had we not told him the truth, would we not have been guilty of deceiving him"?

"We would not have deceived him at all", said the Master. "He would have deceived himself".

Our minds are like crows. They pick up everything that glitters, no matter how uncomfortable our nests get with all that metal in them. -- Thomas Merton

The Master was exceedingly gracious to university dons who visited him, but he would never reply to their questions or be drawn into their theological speculations. To his disciples, who marveled at this, he said,

"Can one talk about the ocean to a frog in a well - or about the divine to people who are restricted by their concepts"?

MORSEL: The soul is created in a place between Time and Eternity: with its highest powers it touches Eternity, with its lower Time. -- Meister Eckhart (1260-1327)

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