Anthony de Mello
Anthony de Mello (1931–1987) was a Jesuit priest, psychotherapist, and writer.
The Master in these tales is not a single person. He is a Hindu Guru, a Zen Roshi, a Taoist Sage, a Jewish Rabbi, a Christian Monk, a Sufi Mystic. He is Lao-tzu and Socrates; Buddha and Jesus; Zarathustra and Mohammed. His teaching is found in the seventh century B.C. and the twentieth century A.D. His wisdom belongs to East and West alike. Do his historical antecedents really matter? History, after all, is the record of appearances, not Reality; of doctrines, not of Silence. ~ from the Introduction of One Minute Nonsense (1992)
- A disciple said to him, "I am ready, in the quest for God, to give up anything: wealth, friends, family, country, life itself. What else can a person give up?"
The Master calmly replied, "One's beliefs about God."
- A thought is a screen, not a mirror; that is why you live in a thought envelope, untouched by Reality.
- A zealous disciple expressed a desire to teach others the Truth and asked the Master what he thought about this. The Master said, "Wait."
Each year the disciple would return with the same request and each time the Master would give him the same reply: "Wait."
One day he said to the Master, "When will I be ready to teach?"
Said the Master, "When your excessive eagerness to teach has left you."
- All I did was sit on the riverbank handing out river water. After I'm gone, I trust you will notice the river.
- Any time you are with anyone or think of anyone you must say to yourself: I am dying and this person too is dying, attempting the while to experience the truth of the words you are saying. If every one of you agrees to practice this, bitterness will die out, harmony will arise.
- As soon as you look at the world through an ideology you are finished. No reality fits an ideology. Life is beyond that. That is why people are always searching for a meaning to life… Meaning is only found when you go beyond meaning. Life only makes sense when you perceive it as mystery and it makes no sense to the conceptualizing mind.
- As you identify less and less with the "me," you will be more at ease with everybody and with everything. Do you know why? Because you are no longer afraid of being hurt or not liked. You no longer desire to impress anyone. Can you imagine the relief when you don't have to impress anybody anymore? Oh, what a relief. Happiness at last! You no longer feel the need or the compulsion to explain things anymore. It's all right. What is there to be explained? And you don't feel the need or compulsion to apologize anymore. I'd much rather hear you say, "I've come awake," than hear you say, "I'm sorry." I'd much rather hear you say to me, "I've come awake since we last met; what I did to you won't happen again," than to hear you say, "I'm so sorry for what I did to you."
- Do you know what eternal life is? You think it's everlasting life. But your own theologians will tell you that that is crazy, because everlasting is still within time. It is time perduring forever. Eternal means timeless— no time. The human mind cannot understand that. The human mind can understand time and can deny time. What is timeless is beyond our comprehension. Yet the mystics tell us that eternity is right now. How's that for good news? It is right now. People are so distressed when I tell them to forget their past. They're crazy! Just drop it! When you hear "Repent for your past," realize it's a great religious distraction from waking up. Wake up! That's what repent means. Not "weep for your sins.": Wake up! understand, stop all the crying. Understand! Wake up!
- Every word, every image used for God is a distortion more than a description.
- "Help us to find God."
"No one can help you there."
"For the same reason that no one can help the fish to find the ocean."
- "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."
- If you just swallow everything I am telling you, I am brainwashing you.
- I'm going to write a book someday and the title will be I'm an Ass, You're an Ass. That's the most liberating, wonderful thing in the world, when you openly admit you're an ass. It's wonderful. When people tell me, "You're wrong." I say, "What can you expect of an ass?"
- Is it possible for the rose to say, "I will give my fragrance to the good people who smell me, but I will withhold it from the bad?" Or is it possible for the lamp to say, "I will give my light to the good people in this room, but I will withhold it from the evil people"? Or can a tree say, "I'll give my shade to the good people who rest under me, but I will withhold it from the bad"? These are images of what love is about.
- Is there life before death? —that is the question!
- Johnny goes to modeling class in his school for special children and he gets his piece of putty and he's modeling it. He takes a little lump of putty and goes to a corner of the room and he's playing with it. The teacher comes up to him and says, "Hi, Johnny." And Johnny says, "Hi." And the teacher says, "What's that you've got in your hand?" And Johnny says, "This is a lump of cow dung." The teacher asks, "What are you making out of it?" He says, "I'm making a teacher."
The teacher thought, "Little Johnny has regressed." So she calls out to the principal, who was passing by the door at that moment, and says, "Johnny has regressed."
So the principal goes up to Johnny and says, "Hi, son." And Johnny says, "Hi." And the principal says, "What do you have in your hand?" And he says, "A lump of cow dung." "What are you making out of it?" And he says, "A principal."
The principal thinks that this is a case for the school psychologist. "Send for the psychologist!"
The psychologist is a clever guy. He goes up and says, "Hi." And Johnny says, "Hi." And the psychologist says, "I know what you've got in your hand." "What?" "A lump cow dung." Johnny says, "Right." "And I know what you're making out of it." "What?" "You're making a psychologist." "Wrong. Not enough cow dung!"
- My experience is that it's precisely the ones who don't know what to do with this life who are all hot and bothered about what they are going to do with another life.
- Never complain about what you permit.
- Nobody can be said to have attained the pinnacle of Truth until a thousand sincere people have denounced him for blasphemy.
- People who want a cure, provided they can have it without pain, are like those who favour progress, provided they can have it without change.
- Spirituality means waking up. Most people, even though they don’t know it, are asleep. They’re born asleep, they live asleep, they marry in their sleep, they breed children in their sleep, they die in their sleep without ever waking up. They never understand the loveliness and the beauty of this thing that we call human existence. You know— all mystics— Catholic, Christian, non-Christian, no matter what their theology, no matter what their religion— are unanimous on one thing: that all is well, all is well. Though everything is a mess, all is well. Strange paradox, to be sure. But, tragically, most people never get to see that all is well because they are asleep. They are having a nightmare.
- Suffering is a sign that you're out of touch with the truth. Suffering is given to you that you might open your eyes to the truth, that you might understand that there's falsehood somewhere, just as physical pain is given to you so you will understand that there is disease or illness somewhere. Suffering points out that there is falsehood somewhere. Suffering occurs when you clash with reality. When your illusions clash with reality when your falsehoods clash with the truth, then you have suffering. Otherwise there is no suffering.
- 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 what the words meant.
Said the master, "Which of you knows the fragrance of a rose?"
All of them indicated that they knew.
Then he said, "put it into words."
All of them were silent.
- The genius of a composer is found in the notes of his music; but analyzing the notes will not reveal his genius. The poet's greatness is contained in his words; yet the study of his words will not disclose his inspiration. God reveals himself in creation; but scrutinize creation as minutely as you wish, you will not find God, any more than you will find the soul through careful examination of your body.
- The important thing is not to know who "I" is or what "I" is. You'll never succeed. There are no words for it. The important thing is to drop the labels.
- The Master never ceased to attack the notions about God that people entertain.
- 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?"
- The Master would frequently assert that holiness was less a matter of what one did than of what one allowed to happen.
- The Master would insist that the final barrier to our attaining God was the word and concept "God."
- The sun and its light, the ocean and the wave, the singer and his song— not one. Not two.
- There were rules in the monastery, but the Master always warned against the tyranny of the law. "Obedience keeps the rules," he would say. "Love knows when to break them."
- These things will destroy the human race: politics without principle, progress without compassion, wealth without work, learning without silence, religion without fearlessness, and worship without awareness.
- This is what Wisdom means: To be changed without the slightest effort on your part, to be transformed, believe it or not, merely by waking to the reality that is not words, that lies beyond the reach of words. If you are fortunate enough to be Awakened thus, you will know why the finest language is the one that is not spoken, the finest action is the one that is not done and the finest change is the one that is not willed.
- Thought can organize the world so well that you are no longer able to see it.
- To a disciple who was forever complaining about others the Master said, "If it is peace you want, seek to change yourself, not other people. It is easier to protect your feet with slippers than to carpet the whole of the earth."
- 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."
- To a visitor who described himself as a seeker after Truth the Master said, "If what you seek is Truth, there is one thing you must have above all else."
"I know. An overwhelming passion for it."
"No. An unremitting readiness to admit you may be wrong."
- Understand the obstructions you are putting in the way of love, freedom, and happiness and they will drop. Turn on the light of awareness and the darkness will disappear. Happiness is not something you acquire; love is not something you produce; love is not something you have; love is something that has you.
- "What, concretely, is Enlightenment?"
"Seeing Reality as it is," said the Master.
"Doesn't everyone see Reality as it is?"
"Oh, no! Most people see it as they think it is."
"What's the difference?"
"The difference between thinking you are drowning in a stormy sea and knowing you cannot drown because there isn't any water in sight for miles around."
- "What is love?"
"The total absence of fear," said the Master.
"What is it we fear?"
"Love," said the Master.
- Whatever is truly alive must die. Look at the flowers; only plastic flowers never die.
- When you come to see you are not as wise today as you thought you were yesterday, you are wiser today.
- "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."
- Wisdom tends to grow in proportion to one's awareness of one's ignorance.
- "You are only a disciple because your eyes are closed. The day you open them you will see there is nothing you can learn from me or anyone."
"What then is a Master for?"
"To make you see the uselessness of having one."
- You know you are a Mystic when you wake up one day and ask, am I crazy or are they?
- You've got to drop something. You've got to drop illusions. You don't have to add anything in order to be happy; you've got to drop something. Life is easy, life is delightful. It's only hard on your illusions, your ambitions, your greed, your cravings.
- "Contrary to what your culture and religion have taught you, nothing, but absolutely nothing, can make you happy. The moment you see that you will stop moving from one job to another, one friend to another, one place, one spiritual technique, one guru to another. None of these things, can give you a single minute of happiness. They can only offer you a temporary thrill, a pleasure that initially grows in intensity then turns into pain if you lose them and into boredom if you keep them."
Quotes of others about de Mello
- He considers Jesus as a master alongside others. The only difference from other men is that Jesus is "awake" and fully free, while others are not. Jesus is not recognized as the Son of God, but simply as the one who teaches us that all people are children of God.
- Vatican Notification condemning many of the writings, ideas, and purported ideas of Anthony de Mello (June 24, 1998)
- Consistent with what has been presented, one can understand how, according to the author, any belief or profession of faith whether in God or in Christ cannot but impede one's personal access to truth. The Church, making the word of God in Holy Scripture into an idol, has ended up banishing God from the temple. She has consequently lost the authority to teach in the name of Christ.
With the present Notification, in order to protect the good of the Christian faithful, this Congregation declares that the above-mentioned positions are incompatible with the Catholic faith and can cause grave harm.
- Vatican Notification condemning many of the writings, ideas, and purported ideas of Anthony de Mello (June 24, 1998)
- The books of Father Anthony de Mello were written in a multi-religious context to help the followers of other religions, agnostics and atheists in their spiritual search, and they were not intended by the author as manuals of instruction of the Catholic faithful in Christian doctrine or dogma.
- Note of caution added to the books of de Mello, after a censure of his works by the Vatican.
- I must confess that I feel grateful for the banning, or the temporary withdrawal, of de Mello's books. I had heard of him, but never read his writings. Excommunication, somehow, has far more news value than beatification. So also the suppression of a book attracts greater publicity than its publication. ~ T.K. Thomas
- Concerning the power of story, William Dych, S.J. writes in his introduction to selected writings of Anthony De Mello, "A master was once unmoved by the complaints of his disciples that, though they listened with pleasure to his parables and stories, they were also frustrated for they longed for something deeper. To all their objections he would simply reply: 'You have yet to understand, my friends, that the shortest distance between a human being and truth is a story.'"
- Anthony De Mello, William Dych, ISBN 1-57075-283-4, Orbis Books, 1999, pp. 8-9