Short Wisdom Stories by Anthony de Mello

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121 - 140


The Master had an allergy for people who protracted their stay at the monastery. Sooner or later each disciple would hear the difficult words: "The time has come for you to go. If you do not get away, the Spirit will not come".

What was this "Spirit",
one particularly smitten disciple wished to know.

Said the Master:
"Water remains alive and free by flowing. You will remain alive and free by going. If you do not get away from me, you will stagnate and die - and be contaminated".

Loyalty to a petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul. - Mark Twain, (1835-1910)

"Calamities can bring growth and Enlightenment", said the Master. And he explained it thus:

"Each day a bird would shelter in the withered branches of a tree that stood in the middle of a vast deserted plain. One day a whirlwind uprooted the tree, forcing the poor bird to fly a hundred miles in search of shelter - til it finally came to a forest of fruit-laden trees".

And he concluded: "If the withered tree had survived, nothing would have induced the bird to give up its security and fly".

Life can only be understood backwards It must be lived forwards. -- Soren Kierkegaard

The Master would frequently assert that holiness was less a matter of what one did than of what one allowed to happen. To a group of disciples who had difficulty understanding that - he told the following story:

There was once a one-legged dragon who said to the centipede, "How do you manage all those legs? It is all I can do to manage one".

"To tell you the truth", said the centipede, "I do not manage them at all. "

What a curious phenomenon it is that you can get men to die for the liberty of the world who will not make the little sacrifice that is needed to free themselves from their own individual bondage. -- Bruce Barton (1886-1967)

"How shall I get the grace of never judging my neighbor"?
"Through prayer".
"Then why have I not found it yet"?
"Because you haven't prayed in the right place".
"Where is that"?
"In the heart of God".
"And how do I get there"?
"Understand that anyone who sins does not know what he is doing and deserves to be forgiven".

Forgiveness is the answer to the child's dream of a miracle by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is made clean again. -- Dag Hammarskjöld


A man of spiritual repute came to the Master and said, "I cannot pray, I cannot understand the Scriptures, I cannot do the exercises that I prescribe to others.

"Then give it all up", said the Master cheerfully.

"But how can I? I am supposed to be a holy man and have a following in these parts".

Later the Master said with a sigh: "Holiness today is a name without a reality. It is only genuine when it is a reality without a name".

I believe in God -- this is a fine, praiseworthy thing to say, but to acknowledge God wherever and however he manifest Himself, that in truth is heavenly bliss on earth. -- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The Master frequently reminded his disciples that holiness, like beauty, is only genuine when unselfconscious. He loved to quote the verse:

"She blooms because she blooms,
the Rose:
Does not ask why,
nor does she preen herself
to catch my eye".

And the saying:
"A saint is a saint until he knows that he is one".

It is not what we do that makes us holy, but we ought to make holy what we do. -- Meister Eckhart

The Master was always teaching that guilt is an evil emotion to be avoided like the very devil -- all guilt.

"But are we not to hate our sins"? a disciple said one day.

"When you are guilty, it is not your sins you hate but yourself".

Fear is the tax that conscience pays to guilt.
-- George Sewell

It always pleased the Master to hear people recognize their ignorance.

"Wisdom tends to grow in proportion to one's awareness of one's ignorance", he claimed.

When asked for an explanation, he said, "When you come to see you are not as wise today as you thought you were yesterday, you are wiser today".

The significant problems we face can never be solved at the level of thinking that created them. -- Albert Einstein


"How shall I help the world"?
"By understanding it", said the Master.
"And how shall I understand it"?
"By turning away from it".
"How then shall I serve humanity"?
"By understanding yourself".

I am not what I ought to be.
I am not what I want to be.
I am not what I hope to be.
But still, I am not what I used to be.
And by the grace of God, I am what I am.
John Newton (1725-1807)

The Haji who lived at the outskirts of the town was said to perform miracles, so his home was a center of pilgrimage for large crowds of sick people. The Master, who was known to be quite uninterested in the miraculous, would never reply to questions on the Haji. When asked point-blank why he was opposed to miracles, he replied,

"How can one be opposed to what is taking place before one's eyes each moment of the day"?

Look! Here am I right within you.
Not in temple, nor in mosque,
Not in Kaaba nor Kailas,
But here right within you am I. -- Kabir

The disciples were absorbed in a discussion of Lao-tzu's dictum:

"Those who know do not say;
Those who say do not know".

When the Master entered, they asked him exactly what the words meant. Said the Master, "Which of you knows the fragrance of a rose"? All of them knew. Then he said, "Put it into words". All of them were silent.

Though we are God's sons and daughters, we do not realize it yet. -- Meister Eckhart

A young man squandered all his inherited wealth. As generally happens in such cases, the moment he was penniless he found that he was friendless too. At his wit's end, he sought the Master out and said, "What is to become of me? I have no money and no friends".

"Don't worry, son. Mark my words: All will be well with you again".

Hope shone in the young man's eyes. "Will I be rich again"?

"No. You will get used to being penniless and lonely".

Superfluous wealth can buy superfluities only. Money is not required to buy one necessity of the soul. -- Henry David Thoreau


The young disciple was such a prodigy that scholars from everywhere sought his advice and marveled at his learning. When the governor was looking for an adviser, he came to the Master and said, "Tell me, is it true that the young man knows as much as they say he does"?

"Truth to tell", said the Master wryly, "the fellow reads so much I don't see how he could ever find the time to know anything".

The heart is wiser than the intellect.
-- Josiah Holland (1819-1881)

The Master gave his teaching in parables and stories, which his disciples listened to with pleasure - and occasional frustration, for they longed for something deeper. The Master was unmoved. To all their objections he would say, "You have yet to understand, my dears, that the shortest distance between a human being and Truth is a story".

Another time he said, "Do not despise the story. A lost gold coin is found by means of a penny candle; the deepest truth is found by means of a simple story".

People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the seas, at the long course of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering. -- St. Augustine of Hippo


"I am in desperate need of help - or I'll go crazy. We're living in a single room - my wife, my children and my in-laws. So our nerves are on edge, we yell and scream at one another. The room is a hell".

"Do you promise to do whatever I tell you"? said the Master gravely.
"I swear I shall do anything".
"Very well. How many animals do you have"?
"A cow, a goat and six chickens".
"Take them all into the room with you. Then come back after a week".

The disciple was appalled. But he had promised to obey! So he took the animals in. A week later he came back, a pitiable figure, moaning, "I'm a nervous wreck. The dirt! The stench! The noise! We're all on the verge of madness"! "Go back", said the Master, "and put the animals out".

The man ran all the way home. And came back the following day, his eyes sparkling with joy. "How sweet life is! The animals are out. The home is a Paradise, so quiet and clean and roomy"!

Most of us are just about as happy as we make up our minds to be. -- Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

Second addition to the files in existence.
What has been added is not in alphabetical order.


To a visitor who claimed he had no need to search for Truth because he found it in the beliefs of his religion the Master said: "There was once a student who never became a mathematician because he blindly believed the answers he found at the back of his math textbook —and, ironically, the answers were correct".

Half of what I say is meaningless; but I say it so that the other half may reach you. -- Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931)


A disciple fell asleep and dreamed that he had entered Paradise. To his astonishment he found his Master and the other disciples sitting there, absorbed in meditation.

"Is this the reward of Paradise"? he cried. "Why, this is exactly the sort of thing we did on earth"!

He heard a Voice exclaim, "Fool - You think those meditators are in Paradise? It is just the opposite Paradise is in the meditators".

Enlightenment is understanding that there is nowhere to go, nothing to do, and nobody you have to be except exactly who you're being right now. -- Neale Donald Walsch

The disciple couldn't wait to tell the Master the rumor he had heard in the marketplace.

"Wait a minute", said the Master. "What you plan to tell us, is it true"?
"I don't think it is".
"Is it useful"?
"No, it isn't".
"Is it funny"?
"Then why should we be hearing it"?

Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth. -- Henry David Thoreau

The disciples were involved in a heated discussion on the cause of human suffering. Some said it came from selfishness. Others, from delusion. Yet others, from the inability to distinguish the real from the unreal.

When the Master was consulted, he said,
"All suffering comes from a person's inability to sit still and be alone".

Happiness is permanent. It is always there.
What comes and goes is unhappiness.
If you identify with what comes and goes, you will be unhappy. If you identify with what is permanent and always there, you are happiness itself. -- Poonjaji

The Master demanded seriousness of purpose from those who sought discipleship. But he chided his disciples when they strained themselves in spiritual endeavor.

What he proposed was lighthearted seriousness or serious lightheartedness -- like that of a sportsman in a game or an actor in a play.

And much, much patience. "Forced flowers have no fragrance", he would say, "Forced fruit will lose its taste".

People cannot live gracefully or peacefully, joyfully or justly, without celebration in their lives, . . . without awe.
-- Matthew Fox

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