Anthony de Mello (1932 – 1987) was an Indian Jesuit priest, spiritual guide, psychotherapist, and mystic who achieved international fame for his writings and spiritual retreats. From his reading of the Gospels he discovered that Christ was not so much concerned with imparting doctrines to his listeners as in awakening them to new life and the offer of salvation that was in their midst. Anthony de Mello is now considered one of the foremost mystical theologians of the late Twentieth Century.
His simple and direct approach to life continues to untie all kinds of blockages preventing man’s acceptance of his spiritual nature, even decades after his unexpected death. De Mello’s radiated authenticity, love for all and his characteristic laughter tended to disarm any negative preconceived notions against his ideas. Those that knew him personally can attest to his sincere and friendly attitude to all as people from every religious persuasion felt comfortable and soulfully at home near him.
One writer, Patricia Carlson, said of de Mello: “It only takes about 30 seconds of reading Anthony de Mello’s writings — or a glance at his ebullient smile — to realize why he’s a gift to us. He doesn’t just speak about aliveness; he exudes its essence. He wakes us up to the Divine presence in the “ordinary,” which becomes extraordinary once we see and taste and feel every moment as God-in-our-midst. His perceptions of a spiritual Master aptly fit his own words: “Take hold of a sentence that he says. Shake it well till all the words drop off. What is left will set your heart on fire.”
His teachings were temporarily banned within the Roman Catholic Church by then future pope Ratsinger, but the ban has been lifted. Catholics are still advised to avoid his writings though. It is good to be reminded occasionally that the Roman Catholic Church still has a blacklist, where mystics can get their work listed. Although his teachings show the influence of many spiritual traditions, it is said that two main non-Christian influences on his work were the Theravada Buddhist teacher Chah Subhatto, as well as the philosopher J. Krishnamurti.
Through his books, Anthony de Mello still speaks about happiness and freedom by illuminating us on how to perceive conflicts and paradoxes differently, that is, by showing us that there’s an enlivening core of wisdom which is far more fundamental than our attachments to partial conceptual stances. Kindly and sagely de Mello often used stories which offered unexpected solutions to paradoxical situations we might be able to relate with. Each of these solutions recapitulated an essential intuition that apparently sprung spring from his direct awareness of non-relative Truth. As far as I know, this intuition was integrated into his whole being exulting joy, care and an unassuming attentive sympathy towards those that approached him.
De Mello’s own method of spiritual direction drew on an eclectic fund of stories — borrowed form Hasidic, Zen, and Sufi masters, as well as from Jesus and the mystics of the West — which he employed to awaken his listeners to the presence of God in their midst. The fact that his audience consisted of spiritual seekers did not make his task any easier. Most seekers were like the man who traveled all over the world on the back of a buffalo, seeking the definition of “buffalo”; or the fish who constantly sought to discover the meaning of the ocean. Just so, the person who constantly attended retreats and conferences to discover God.
De Mello’s teaching was often expressed in simple definitions. Theology: “The art of telling stories about the Divine.” Mysticism: “The art of tasting and feeling in your heart the inner meaning of such stories to the point that they transform you.” But someone who preferred to memorize such definitions was like a ravenous person in a restaurant who devoured the menu instead of the meal. Christian doctrines were simply a finger pointing to the moon; they were misunderstood if they became the final object of our attention. The gospel, for de Mello, pointed us to the Truth that lies behind words, concepts, and images — to what the mystics liked to call “the God beyond god.”
Enlightenment could not be received second hand. The most eloquent report of the taste of a peach was no substitute for one’s own experience of tasting the fruit. “In the land of the spirit, you cannot walk by the light of someone else’s lamp,” he said. “You want to borrow mine. I’d rather teach you how to make your own.” True knowledge, saving knowledge, was in any case “to be transformed by what one knows.”
DISCIPLE: “What’s the difference between knowledge and enlightenment?
MASTER: “When you have knowledge you use a torch to show the way. When you are enlightened, you become a torch.”
In his foundational years, Father de Mello originally learned with great discipline the spiritual practices of Ignatius of Loyola (founder of the Jesuit Order) and gradually became a master teacher in spiritual retreats which incorporating yoga, vipassana meditation and other oriental and multicultural spiritual practices. He was a man of much charisma and, after reaching beyond the confines of the Jesuit centers in Bombay, gradually became well known throughout the world. Through books, lectures and retreats and by taking at heart the humanitarian outreach recommendations of the Vatican II Council, Father de Mello showed the way for a possible renovation of Catholic ministry and for offering a deeper kind of understanding to individuals of all faiths or of no particular faith at all. Anthony de Mello, SJ used to call himself a “rolling stone” always available to move onto the challenges where Spirit took him. He expressed as a genuine brother to all and came to understand that the genuine Catholic Church encompasses all people: Christians and non-Christians.
Anthony de Mello also stands next to other important pioneers behind the emerging fertile integration connecting East and West wisdom traditions. His works also corresponds (in their own subtle and profound ways) with an emerging Integral Catholicism contributed by Catholic creatives such as Trappist monk Thomas Merton, Fr. Thomas Keating O.C.S.O., and Fr. Thomas Berry C.P. It’s the way of the future: Out with prejudiced rigidity; in with embrace through an integrally expressed love!
De Mello was director of the Sadhana Institute of Pastoral Counseling in Poona, India. His books were originally published in India, and for many years he was little known outside Jesuit circles. In the 1980s, however, foreign editions of his books began to appear, and he was in much demand as a retreat leader and spiritual director. Those who experienced his retreats often spoke of his authority, his extraordinary combination of peacefulness and energy, and his ability to make the familiar lessons of the gospel appear like startling revelations.
Anthony de Mello was born on September 4, 1931 in an Indian family that was seriously steeped in the Catholic tradition. His family consisted of mother, father, an older and a younger sister and a younger brother. He was born at the outskirts of Bombay and his parents (Frank and Louisa) were natives of a Portuguese territory called Goa. Anthony’s father was a railroad worker and since Anthony was the eldest son, there were great expectations for him to work in the same business or –better- to become a professional studying at a university so as to be able to take care of his parents in later years. According to a biography written by Anthony’s younger brother Bill, he showed great intelligence and social skills in school (Stanislaus High School) and an early desire (a true vocation) to become a Jesuit priest. Interestingly, the opposite could be said of Bill who showed no particular interest in religiosity, spirituality or academic achievement and, rather, excelled in physical prowess.
During a time of great economic uncertainty because World War II was raging (along with a growing collective desire for national independence led by Mahatma Gandhi), Anthony told his mother that he would pray to God for her to conceive (in her 40’s) a brother that would replace him so that he would be able to join the priesthood. When this improbable event happened he said “So now I can become a Jesuit priest.” According to Bill, Anthony also had a sweet romantic side and had promised a young local girl that “someday he would marry her and that he would take all the stars in the sky to make her a wedding dress.”
During his last year in high school, Anthony attended a career counseling course and re-announced his resolution at home. As his mother rightfully feared that he would not be able to visit home for long periods, she asked him to join a secular order and he would have sadly agreed if she had remained firm about it but she understood that he would have been very unhappy. Thus, in July of 1947, Anthony de Mello joined the Society of Jesus in the seminary of Vinalaya, at the outskirts of Bombay. Anthony quickly blossomed in his new life, studying abroad and becoming rector of the seminary between 1968 and 1972. Then, in 1973 he founded the (still operating) Sadhana Institute to assist many more people of various persuasions by conducting spiritual retreats.
According to his friend, Fr. Carlos Vallés, he had “an exact memory, a warm spontaneity and a capacity to live in the present (nothing existed before or after). He directed his attention to each person in a differently appropriate manner and, thus, everyone was able to understand him. Vallés mentions that “he learned by ‘helping others to learn’ fully giving himself to his own contributions and always perfecting his qualities as a communicator.” According to Vallés, Anthony said that he “grew with each of the courses given because with them he ‘developed himself,’ (the courses) helped him to clarify his ideas, to deepen his feelings, to strengthen his mind.” Vallés also declares that, furthermore, Anthony had immense fun, a great sense of humor and that he was characterized by being unpredictable. Vallés remarks that Anthony was “an individual capable of changes without caring about criticisms. He possessed unlimited generosity and this probably led to his early demise.”
According to his biographies, not long after his inclusion in the seminary, Anthony de Mello showed what seemed like a strong dogmatic conviction a certain day when one of his sisters visited him at the seminary and he strongly vented his views at her all inflamed saying “our mother church is just and you are guilty. You must not doubt that and don’t forget that the pope is infallible.” The reason for firing away with this strong statement is not revealed.
In any case, Anthony soon broaden his state of mind and understanding when in 1952 he was sent for three years to study philosophy in Barcelona, Spain and was also sent to study psychology and counseling at Loyola University in Chicago. He was soon inspired by the psychology of Carl Rogers which later helped him to “lead (spiritual retreats) without leading.” According to Mr. Malcolm Nazareth, a former Jesuit that trained under the guidance of de Mello, “Before and after his 1962 priestly ordination Tony worked in diverse capacities in the land of his birth. He is best remembered in South Asian Catholic circles as a spiritual mentor to countless persons of scores of nationalities and languages especially those who had embraced religious life and the priesthood. Tony’s first language was English. However, he mastered Spanish and was fluent also in Latin. Tony also knew Marathi, French, and other languages. This may in part account for his popularity as a teacher of healing and of spiritual insight in English and Spanish-speaking parts of the world among Christians, non-Christians, and no-religionists as well.”
Mr. Malcolm Nazareth in his November 3, 2001 workshop presentation “Here & Now with Anthony de Mello,” given at the Call to Action Conference tells us that we could divide Anthony’s life in two basic stages: Sadhana One and Sadhana Two. Mr. Nazareth (who eventually left the Jesuit Order, married and founded the Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research and the Center for Interfaith Encounter) also attests to have been a broad minded spiritual seeker when studying under Anthony’s spiritual guidance. He tells us that during Anthony’s life in Sadhana One “Tony’s theology of religion was primitive at that time. Having made my preliminary explorations into Hindu religion and spirituality, I approached him with my questions about Christology. The Tony of Sadhana One provided me with a set of answers that were most unsatisfactory. I told him so. I walked away from him knowing that Tony hadn’t dared to encounter any non-Christian religion with openness and vulnerability. His Catholic Christian conditioning was blocking his spiritual progress, if I may presume to say so.”
Later on, Mr. Nazareth goes on explaining that “It was sometime in the mid-70’s that Tony opened his heart and mind to vipassana meditation practice. I’m inclined to think that this was a major turning point for Tony as he slowly began to move into Sadhana Two phase. After seriously practicing vipassana and thus exposing himself to Buddhist spirituality, Tony dared to confront the theology which he had learnt in theological school with, what now seemed to me to be the vital existential questions of our time: What is our human situation? What are the various religious responses to the human predicament? Is the response of Jesus Christ to the human predicament substantially different than the responses of Krishna, the Buddha, Moses? If the spiritual response of Jesus Christ was qualitatively different than theirs or Confucius’, Lao Tzu’s, Muhammad’s, or Baha’ullah’s how or why is Christ different? Why should I as a catholic care about such differences? And finally, from the point of view of ultimate reality, do the similarities and differences between the various religious paths matter at all? In a nutshell, what is spirituality?”
Mr. Nazareth then leads us to Anthony’s conceptual response to the important question “what is spirituality?” by saying that “In his 1982 Song of the Bird we find Tony’s terrific reply: Spirituality is that which succeeds in bringing a person to inner transformation. Question: ‘If one applies the traditional methods handed over by the masters, isn’t that spirituality?’ Tony’s response: ‘It isn’t spirituality if it doesn’t function for you. A blanket is no longer a blanket if it fails to keep you warm.’ Question: So spirituality does change?’ Tony wrote: ‘People change and needs change. So what was spirituality once is spirituality no more. What generally goes under the name of spirituality is merely the record of past methods.’”
Regarding Anthony’s continuously expanding shifts in understanding, he reportedly had one or more eye-opening mystical experiences in the early 50’s. In Bill de Mello’s biography of his brother, he writes that “In 1952 Tony was sent to Spain to study Philosophy for three years during which time some personal evolution took place. He gained charisma that made him a leader of men”. During that Calveras’ retreat, de Mello had a very powerful mystical experience which gave him profound insight into the spirituality of St. Ignatius. After that, de Mello himself was much sought after for his skill as a retreat master. He conducted 30 days retreats but he also conducted weeklong retreats.
Mr. Malcolm Nazareth also mentioned in his workshop presentation at the Call to Action Conference on November 3, 2001 that “His 1985 book One Minute Wisdom, in my view, makes Tony an incipient heretic (a la Ratzinger). Because here Tony dares to come up with bold statements that only mystics can utter so brazenly. Here he sounds now Buddhist, now Sufi, now Taoist, now Hindu, now Jewish. The master in Tony’s book is clearly an interfaith master. The Christian is hidden, but absolutely there. Tony has begun to point out that theological formulas, including theological and spiritual ones are no more or less than formulas, intellectual concepts, fabrications of the human brain that cannot but think in terms of binaries. Tony’s final expressions of spirituality in his posthumous “One Minute Nonsense” (Loyola, 1993) are basically supplements to his One Minute Wisdom.”
Mr. Nazareth tells us that “Tony’s charisma was compelling. He very easily charmed and convinced his audience to radically sacrifice their earthly possessions to favor the poor. He magnetically drew his admirers to commit themselves to the making and conducting of 30-day Ignatian exercises. Tony strongly encouraged his audience to become practitioners of vipassana and to go study this form of Buddhist meditation under Burmese master Goenka. In his earlier years Tony had delved deeply into Ignacian spirituality which he mastered in Spanish under the guidance of Father Calveras, SJ. Later on, Tony had been gripped by the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi. Tony had also come for a while under the spell of Bertrand Russell. Tony had been taken by the British philosopher’s brutal honesty. In Tony’s final years, however, he was quite captivated by J. Krishnamurti. In my estimate this was when the Tony of Sadhana Two reached the zenith of his achievement as an East-West healer-and-guru.”
Among his writings, de Mello left many meditations on the theme of his own death. Such thoughts encouraged, simultaneously, a spirit of detachment and an appreciation of the preciousness of earthly existence. Thus, he was well prepared when he died suddenly of a heart attack on June 2, 1987, while preparing to deliver a series of conferences in New York. He was fifty-six.
A large website dedicated to Anthony de Mello (and containing a number of his essays) can be found here:
Websites featuring a number of Anthony de Mello quotes and links can be found here:
Additional quotes from Anthony de Mello:
“Perfect love casts out fear. Where there is love there are no demands, no expectations, no dependency. I do not demand that you make me happy; my happiness does not lie in you. If you were to leave me, I will not feel sorry for myself; I enjoy your company immensely, but I do not cling.”
“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.”
“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.”
”I have no fear of losing you, for you aren’t an object of my property, or anyone else’s. I love you as you are, without attachment, without fears, without conditions, without egoism, trying not to absorb you. I love you freely because I love your freedom, as well as mine.”
“You see persons and things not as they are but as you are. ”
“People mistakenly assume that their thinking is done by their head; it is actually done by the heart which first dictates the conclusion, then commands the head to provide the reasoning that will defend it.”
“Wisdom tends to grow in proportion to one’s awareness of one’s ignorance.”
“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.”
“Happiness is our natural state. Happiness is the natural state of little children, to whom the kingdom belongs until they have been polluted and contaminated by the stupidity of society and culture. To acquire happiness you don’t have to do anything, because happiness cannot be acquired. Does anybody know why? Because we have it already. How can you acquire what you already have? Then why don’t you experience it? Because 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. Do you know where these things come from? From having identified with all kinds of labels!”
“When you get rid of your fear of failure, your tensions about succeeding… you can be yourself. Relaxed. You’ll no longer be driving with your brakes on.”
“The tragedy of an attachment is that if its object is not attained it causes unhappiness. But if it is attained, it does not cause happiness – it merely causes a flash of pleasure followed by weariness, and it is always accompanied, of course, by the anxiety that you may lose the object of your attachment.”
“When you come to see you are not as wise today as you thought you were yesterday, you are wiser today.”
“There is only one cause of unhappiness: the false beliefs you have in your head, beliefs so widespread, so commonly held, that it never occurs to you to question them.”
“Every word, every image used for God is a distortion more than a description.”
“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.”
“Enlightenment is: absolute cooperation with the inevitable.”
“Thought can organize the world so well that you are no longer able to see it.”
“The greatest learning of the ages lies in accepting life exactly as it comes to us.”
“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 Rose does not preen herself to catch my eye. She blooms because she blooms. A saint is a saint until he knows he is one.”
“You are so proud of your intelligence,” said the master. “You are like a like a condemned man, proud of the vastness of his prison cell.”
“There are two ways to wash dishes: One is to wash them in order to make them clean; the other is to wash them in order to wash them.”
“Certainty is the culprit. The spiritual person knows uncertainty—a state of mind unknown to the religious fanatic.”
“The only way someone can be of help to you is in challenging your ideas. If you’re ready to listen and if you’re ready to be challenged, there’s one thing that you can do, but no one can help you. What is this most important thing of all? It’s called self-observation.”
“What is love?”; “The total absence of fear,” said the Master; “What is it we fear?”; “Love,” said the Master.”
“Have you ever attempted to organize something like peace? The moment you do, you have power conflicts and group wars within the organization. The only way to have peace is to let it grow wild.”
“As one man said, “I got a pretty good education. It took me years to get over it.” That’s what spirituality is all about, you know: unlearning. Unlearning all the rubbish they taught you.”
“The trouble with your ideals is that if you live up to all of them, you become impossible to live with.”
“It isn’t falling in that causes you to drown, it’s staying in.”
“Because left to its own devices life would never produce love, it would only lead you to attraction, from attraction to pleasure, then to attachment, to satisfaction, which finally leads to wearisomeness and boredom. Then comes a plateau. Then once again the weary cycle: attraction, pleasure, attachment, fulfillment, satisfaction, boredom. All of this mixed with the anxieties, the jealousies, the possessiveness, the sorrow, the pain, that make the cycle a roller coaster. When you have gone repeatedly around and around the cycle, a time finally comes when you have had enough and want to call a halt to the whole process. And if you are lucky enough not to run into something or someone else that catches your eye, you will have at least attained a fragile peace. That is the most that life can give you; and you can mistakenly equate this state with freedom and you die without ever having known what it means to be really free and to love.”
“The important religious distinction is not between those who worship and those who do not worship but between those who love and those who don’t.”
“What we need is not just action that will bring about change but sight that will bring about love.”
“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.”
“A man found an eagle’s egg and put it in a nest of a barnyard hen. The eaglet hatched with the brood of chicks and grew up with them. All his life the eagle did what the barnyard chicks did, thinking he was a barnyard chicken. He scratched the earth for worms and insects. He clucked and cackled. And he would thrash his wings and fly a few feet into the air.
Years passed and the eagle grew very old. One day he saw a magnificent bird above him in the cloudless sky. It glided in graceful majesty among the powerful wind currents, with scarcely a beat on his strong golden wings. The old eagle looked up in awe. “Who’s that?” he asked. “That’s the eagle, the king of the birds,” said his neighbour. “He belongs to the sky. We belong to the earth – we’re chickens.” So the eagle lived and died a chicken, for that’s what he thought he was.”
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a world where everybody said, ‘We don’t know?’ The fact is that you’re surrounded by God and you don’t see God, because you KNOW ABOUT God. The final barrier to the vision of God is your God concept. You miss God because you think you know. The highest knowledge of God is to know God as unknowable. All revelations, however divine, are never any more than a finger pointing at the moon. As we say in the East, ‘When the sage points to the moon, all the idiot sees is the finger’.”
“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. As the Japanese Zen masters say, “Don’t seek the truth; just drop your opinions.” Drop your theories; don’t seek the truth. Truth isn’t something you search for. If you stop being opinionated, you would know. Something similar happens here. If you drop your labels, you would know. What do I mean by labels? Every label you can conceive of except perhaps that of human being. I am a human being. Fair enough; doesn’t say very much. But when you say, “I am successful,” that’s crazy. Success is not part of the “I”.
Success is something that comes and goes; it could be here today and gone tomorrow. That’s not “I”. When you said, “I was a success,” you were in error; you were plunged into darkness. You identified yourself with success. The same thing when you said, “I am a failure, a lawyer, a businessman.” You know what’s going to happen to you if you identify yourself with these things. You’re going to cling to them, you’re going to be worried that they may fall apart, and that’s where your suffering comes in. That is what I meant earlier when I said to you, “If you’re suffering, you’re asleep.” Do you want a sign that you’re asleep? Here it is: You’re suffering. 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.”
“You have within yourself the answer to every question you propose — if you only knew how to look for it. In the Land of the spirit, you cannot walk by the light of someone else’s lamp. You want to borrow mine. I’d rather teach you how to make your own.”
“To relate is to react. To react is to understand oneself. To understand oneself is to be enlightened. Relationships are schools for enlightenment.”
“Waking up is unpleasant, you know. You are nice and comfortable in bed. It is irritating to be woken up. That’s the reason the wise guru will not attempt to wake people up. I hope I’m going to be wise here and make no attempt whatsoever to wake you up if you are asleep. It is really none of my business, even though I say to you at times, “Wake up!” My business is to do my thing, to dance my dance. If you profit from it fine; if you don’t, too bad! As the Arabs say, “The nature of rain is the same, but it makes thorns grow in the marshes and flowers in the gardens.”
“Loneliness is not cured by human company. Loneliness is cured by contact with reality.”
“Most people don’t live aware lives. They live mechanical lives, mechanical thoughts — generally somebody else’s — mechanical emotions, mechanical actions, mechanical reactions.”
“All that you give to others you are giving to yourself.”
“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.”
“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!”
“It’s only when you become love — in other words, when you have dropped your illusions and attachments — that you will “know.” 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.”
“Before enlightenment, I used to be depressed; after enlightenment, I continue to be depressed. You don’t make a goal out of relaxation and sensitivity. Have you ever heard of people who get tense trying to relax? If one is tense, one simply observes one’s tension. You will never understand yourself if you seek to change yourself. The harder you try to change yourself the worse it gets. You are called upon to be aware.”
“Step by step, let whatever happens happen. Real change will come when it is brought about, not by your ego, but by reality. Awareness releases reality to change you.”
“Can one be fully human without experiencing tragedy? The only tragedy there is in the world is ignorance; all evil comes from that. The only tragedy there is in the world is unwakefulness and unawareness. From them comes fear, and from fear comes comes everything else, but death is not a tragedy at all. Dying is wonderful; it’s only horrible to people who have never understood life. It’s only when you’re afraid of life that you fear death. It’s only dead people who fear death.”
One of your American authors put it so well. He said awakening is the death of your belief in injustice and tragedy. The end of the world for a caterpillar is a butterfly for the master. Death is resurrection. We’re talking not about some resurrection that will happen but about one that is happening right now. If you would die to the past, if you would die to every minute, you would be the person who is fully alive, because a fully alive person is one who is full of death. We’re always dying to things. We’re always shedding everything in order to be fully alive and resurrected at every moment. The mystics, saints, and others make great efforts to wake people up. If they don’t wake up, they’re always going to have these other minor ills like hunger, wars, and violence. The greatest evil is sleeping people, ignorant people.”
“Don’t ask the world to change — you change first. Then you’ll get a good enough look at the world so that you’ll be able to change whatever you think ought to be changed. Take the obstruction out of your own eye. If you don’t you have lost the right to change anyone or anything. Till you are aware of yourself, you have no right to interfere with anyone else or with the world.”
“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.”
“If you want to know what it means to be happy, look at a flower, a bird, a child; they are perfect images of the kingdom. For they live from moment to moment in the eternal now with no past and no future. So they are spared the guilt and anxiety that so torment human beings and they are full of the sheer joy of living, taking delight not so much in persons or things as in life itself. As long as your happiness is caused or sustained by something or someone outside of you, you are still in the land of the dead. The day you are happy for no reason whatsoever, the day you find yourself taking delight in everything and in nothing, you will know that you have found the land of unending joy called the kingdom.
To find the kingdom is the easiest thing in the world but also the most difficult. Easy because it is all around you and within you, and all you have to do is reach out and take possession of it. Difficult because if you wish to possess the kingdom you may possess nothing else. That is, you must drop all inward leaning on any person or thing, withdrawing from them forever the power to thrill you, or excite you, or to give you a feeling of security or well-being. For this, you first need to see with unflinching clarity this simple and shattering truth: 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.
If you search within your heart, you will find something there that will make it possible for you to understand: a spark of disenchantment and discontent, which if fanned into flame will become a raging forest fire that will burn up the whole of the illusory world you are living in, thereby unveiling to your wondering eyes the kingdom that you have always lived in unsuspectingly.
It is the desire for “the more” that prevents clear thinking, whereas if we are discontent, not because we want something, but without knowing what we want; if we are dissatisfied with our jobs, with making money, with seeking position and power, with tradition, with what we have and with what we might have; if we are dissatisfied, not with anything in particular but with everything, then I think we shall find that our discontent brings clarity. When we don’t accept or follow, but question, investigate, penetrate, there is an insight out of which comes creativity, joy.
Mostly the discontent that you feel comes from not having enough of something — you are dissatisfied because you think you do not have enough money or power or success or fame or virtue or love or holiness. This is not the discontent that leads to the joy of the kingdom. Its source is greed and ambition and its fruit is restlessness and frustration. The day you are discontented not because you want more of something but without knowing what it is you want; when you are sick at heart of everything you are pursuing so far and you are sick of the pursuing itself, then your heart will attain a great clarity, an insight that will cause you mysteriously to delight in everything and in nothing.”