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Anthony de Mello

From the writings of a Jesuit Priest named Anthony de Mello, SJ. (died 1987)
Each spiritual anecdote is a conversation between the Master and his disciples.

De Mello explains that: "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.

"It will only take a minute to read each one. You will probably find the Master's language baffling, exasperating, even downright meaningless."

As DeMello says of his work: "This, alas, is not an easy book! It was written not to instruct but to Awaken. Concealed within its pages (not in the printed words, not even in the tales, but in its spirit, its mood, its atmosphere) is a Wisdom which cannot be conveyed in human speech. As you read the printed page and struggle with the Master's cryptic language, it is possible that you will unwittingly chance upon the Silent Teaching that lurks within . . . and be Awakened and transformed. 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."

HE THEN CAUTIONS: "Take the tales in tiny doses one or two at a time. An overdose will lower their potency."

(Introduction from 'Awareness')


Lotus
Affirmation
Emptiness
Exercises
Growth
Holiness
Identity
Inaction
Insanity
Irrelevance
Motion
Perception
Projection
Receptivity
Trust
Words
Quotes from One Minute Wisdom
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AFFIRMATION

A woman in great distress over the death of her son came to the Master for comfort.
He listened to her patiently while she poured out her tale of woe.
Then he said softly, "I can not wipe away your tears, my dear. I can only teach you how to make them holy."




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EMPTINESS

Sometimes there would be a rush of noisy visitors and the Silence of the monastery would be shattered.
This would upset the disciples; not the Master, who seemed just as content with the noise as with the Silence.
To his protesting disciples he said one day,
"Silence is not the absence of sound, but the absence of self."




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EXERCISES

In keeping with his doctrine that nothing be taken too seriously, not even his own teachings, the Master loved to tell this story on himself:
"My very first disciple was so weak that the exercises killed him. My second disciple drove himself crazy from his earnest practice of the exercises I gave him. My third disciple dulled his intellect through too much contemplation. But the fourth managed to keep his sanity."
"Why was that?" someone would invariably ask.
"Possibly because he was the only one who refused to do the exercises."
The Master's words would be drowned in howls of laughter.




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GROWTH

"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 -- till 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."




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HOLINESS

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."




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IDENTITY

"How does one seek union with God?"
"The harder you seek, the more distance you create between Him and you."
"So what does one do about the distance?"
"Understand that it isn't there."
"Does that mean that God and I are one?"
"Not one. Not two."
"How is that possible?"
"The sun and its light, the ocean and the wave, the singer and his song -- not one. Not two."




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INACTION

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."




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INSANITY

On the question of his own Enlightenment the Master always remained reticent, even though the disciples tried every means to get him to talk.
All the information they had on this subject was what the Master once said to his youngest son who wanted to know what his father felt when he became Enlightened.
The answer was: "A fool."
When the boy asked why, the Master had replied,
"Well, son, it was like going to great pains to break into a house by climbing a ladder and smashing a window and then realizing later that the door of the house was open."




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IRRELEVANCE

All questions at the public meeting that day were about life beyond the grave.
The Master only laughed and did not give a single answer.
To his disciples, who demanded to know the reason for his evasiveness, he later said,
"Have you observed that it is precisely those who do not know what to do with this life who want another that will last forever?"
"But is there life after death or is there not?" persisted a disciple.
"Is there life before death? that is the question!" said the Master enigmatically.




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MOTION

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."




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PERCEPTION

A writer arrived at the monastery to write a book about the Master.
"People say you are a genius. Are you?" he asked.
"You might say so," said the Master, none too modestly.
"And what makes one a genius?"
"The ability to recognize."
"Recognize what?"
"The butterfly in a caterpillar; the eagle in an egg; the saint in a selfish human being."




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PROJECTION

"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."




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RECEPTIVITY

"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:"




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TRUST

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.'"




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WORDS

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.




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