One Minute Nonsense

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Life at the greatest and best is but a froward child, that must be humored and coaxed a little till it falls asleep, and then all the care is over.
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One Minute Nonsense (1992) by Anthony de Mello

  • No one is exempt from talking nonsense. The great misfortune is to do it solemnly.
    • Introduction
  • 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.
    • Introduction
  • The Master was allergic to ideologies.
    "In a war of ideas," he said, "it is people who are the casualties." Later he elaborated: "People kill for money or for power. But the most ruthless murderers are those who kill for their ideas." (7)
  • You will seek for God in vain till you understand that God can't be seen as a 'thing'; he needs a special way of looking— similar to that of little children whose sight is undistorted by prefabricated doctrines and beliefs. (8)
  • "When you speak about Reality," said the Master, "you are attempting to put the Inexpressible into words, so your words are certain to be misunderstood. Thus people who read that expression of Reality called the Scriptures become stupid and cruel for they follow, not their common sense, but what they think their Scriptures say."
    He had the perfect parable to show this: A village blacksmith found an apprentice willing to work hard at low pay. The smith immediately began his instructions to the lad: "When I take the metal out of the fire, I'll lay it on the anvil; and when I nod my head you hit it with the hammer." The apprentice did precisely what he thought he was told. Next day he was the village blacksmith. (19)
  • Those who make no mistakes are making the biggest mistakes of all— they are attempting nothing new. (20)
  • "Tell me," said the atheist, "Is there a God— really?"
    Said the master, "If you want me to be perfectly honest with you, I will not answer."
    Later the disciples demanded to know why he had not answered.
    "Because the question is unanswerable," said the Master.
    "So you are an atheist?"
    "Certainly not. The atheist makes the mistake of denying that of which nothing may be said... and the theist makes the mistake of affirming it. (21)
  • "What is the secret of your serenity?
    Said the Master "Wholehearted cooperation with the inevitable." (22)
  • My commitment is not to consistency but to the Truth. (31)
  • To those who seek to protect their ego true Peace brings only disturbance. (33)
  • A disciple asked, "Who is a Master?"
    The Master replied, "Anyone to whom it is given to let go of the ego. Such a person's life is then a masterpiece." (47)
  • Wisdom can be learned. But it cannot be taught. (53)
  • "The law is an expression of God's holy will and as such must be honored and loved," said the preacher piously.
    "Rubbish," said the Master. "The law is a necessary evil and as such must be cut down to the barest minimum. Show me a lover of the law and I will show you a muttonheaded tyrant." (67)
  • Some people write to make a living; others to share their insights or raise questions that will haunt their readers; others yet to understand their very souls. None of these will last. That distinction belongs to those who write only because if they did not write they would burst... These writers give expression to the divine— no matter what they write about. (70)
  • One year of life is worth more than twenty years of hibernation. (73)
  • "Name one practical, down-to-earth effect of spirituality," said the skeptic who was ready for an argument.
    "Here's one," said the Master. "When someone offends you, you can raise your spirits to heights where offenses cannot reach." (80)
  • Look for competence not claims. (84)
  • "What is the work of a Master?" said a solemn-faced visitor.
    "To teach people to laugh," said the Master gravely. (85)
  • Before creation Love was. After creation love is made. When love is consummated, creation will cease to be, and Love will be forever. (91)
  • The master never let a statement about God go unchallenged. All God statements were poetic or symbolic expressions of the Unknowable; people, however, foolishly took them as literal descriptions of the divine. (95)
  • The Master once referred to the Hindu notion that all creation is "leela"— God's play— and the universe is his playground. The aim of spirituality, he claimed, is to make all life play.
    This seemed too frivolous for a puritanical visitor. "Is their no room then for work?"
    "Of course there is. But work becomes spiritual only when it is transformed into play." (96)
    • ("Leela" is more commonly spelled "Lila")
  • "What is my identity?"
    "Nothing," said the Master.
    "You mean that I am an emptiness and a void?" said the incredulous disciple.
    "Nothing that can be labeled." said the Master. (109)
  • The master enjoined not austerity, but moderation. If we truly enjoyed things, he claimed, we would be spontaneously moderate. Asked why he was so opposed to ascetical practices, he replied, "Because they produce pleasure-haters who always become people-haters— rigid and cruel." (111)
  • When God means you to be a healer he sends you patients; when he makes you a teacher he sends you pupils; when he destines you to be a Master he sends you stories. (112)
  • The best things in life cannot be willed into being. (114)
  • You can will an act of service but you cannot will love. (114)
  • A disciple, in his reverence for the Master, looked upon him as God incarnate.
    "Tell me, O Master," he said, "why you have come into this world."
    "To teach fools like you to stop wasting their time worshiping Masters."
    (127)
  • The Master persistently warned against the attempt to encompass Reality in a concept or a name. A scholar in mysticism once asked, "When you speak of BEING, sir, is it eternal, transcendent being you speak of, or transient, contingent being?"
    The Master closed his eyes in thought. Then he opened them, put on his most disarming expression, and said, "Yes!" (131)
  • The master made it his task to systematically destroy every doctrine, every belief, every concept of the divine, for these things, which were originally intended as pointers, were now taken as descriptions. He loved to quote the Eastern saying: "When the sage points at the moon, all that the idiot sees is the finger." (132)
  • A religious belief… is not a statement about Reality, but a hint, a clue about something that is a mystery, beyond the grasp of human thought. In short, a religious belief is only a finger pointing to the moon. Some religious people never get beyond the study of the finger. Others are engaged in sucking it. Others yet use the finger to gouge their eyes out. These are the bigots whom religion has made blind. Rare indeed is the religionist who is sufficiently detached from the finger to see what it is indicating— these are those who, having gone beyond belief, are taken for blasphemers. (134)
  • Said the self-righteous preacher, "What, in your judgment, is the greatest sin in the world?"
    "That of the person who sees other human beings as sinners," said the Master. (139)
  • "What can I do to see Reality as it is?"
    The master smiled and said, "I have good news and bad news for you, my friend."
    "What's the bad news?"
    "There's nothing you can do to see— it is a gift."
    "And what's the good news?"
    "There's nothing you can do to see— it is a gift." (152)
  • People who want to rise above a well-cooked meal and a well-tailored garment, are out of their spiritual minds. (157)
  • "My life is like shattered glass." said the visitor. "My soul is tainted with evil. Is there any hope for me?
    "Yes," said the Master. "There is something whereby each broken thing is bound again and every stain made clean."
    "What?"
    "Forgiveness"
    "Whom do I forgive?"
    "Everyone: Life, God, your neighbor —especially yourself."
    "How is that done?"
    "By understanding that no one is to blame," said the Master. "NO ONE."
    (169)
  • "I seek the meaning of existence." said the stranger.
    "You are of course, assuming." said the Master, "that existence has a meaning."
    "Doesn't it?"
    "When you experience existence as it is— not as you think it is— you will discover that your question has no meaning." (171)
  • Isn't there such a thing as social liberation?"
    "Of course there is," said the Master.
    "How would you describe it?"
    "Liberation from the need to belong to the herd." (172)
  • One always treads with a joyful step when one has dropped the burden called the ego. (177)
  • Ideas kill people. (180)