Anthony De Mello Essays -3

Wisdom from Anthony de Mello 

To watch everything inside of you and outside, and when there is something happening to you, to see it as if it were happening to someone else, with no comment, no judgment, no attitude, no interference, no attempt to change, only to understand. As you do this, you'll begin to realize that increasingly you are disidentifying from "me".

St. Teresa of Avila says that toward the end of her life God gave her an extraordinary grace. She doesn't use this modern expression, of course, but what it really boils down to is disidentifying from her self. If someone else has cancer and I don't know the person, I'm not all that affected. If I had love and sensitivity, maybe I'd help, but I'm not emotionally affected. If YOU have an examination to take, I'm not all that affected.

I can be quite philosophical about it and say, "Well, the more you worry about it, the worse it'll get. Why not just take a good break instead of studying"? But when it's my turn to have an examination, well, that's something else, isn't it? The reason is that I've identified with "me" - with my family, my country, my possessions, my body, me. How would it be if God gave me grace not to call these things mine? I'd be detached; I'd be disidentified. That's what it means to lose the self, to deny the self, to die to self.


Somebody came up to me once during a conference and asked, "What about 'Our Lady of Fatima'"? What do you think of her? When I am asked questions like that, I am reminded of the story of the time they were taking the statue of Our Lady of Fatima on an airplane to a pilgrimage for worship, and as they were flying over the South of France the plane began to wobble and to shake and it looked like it was going to come apart. And the miraculous statue cried out, "Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us!" And all was well. Wasn't it wonderful, one "Our Lady" helping another "Our Lady"?

There was also a group of a thousand people who went on a pilgrimage to Mexico City to venerate the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe and sat down before the statue in protest because the Bishop of the Diocese had declared "Our Lady of Lourdes" patroness of the diocese! They were sure that Our Lady of Guadalupe felt this very much, so they were doing the protest in REPARATION for the offense. That's the trouble with religion, if you don't watch out.

When I speak to Hindus, I tell them, "Your priests are not going to be happy to hear this" (notice how prudent I am this morning), "but God would be much happier, according to Jesus Christ, if you were transformed than if you worshipped. He would be much more pleased by your loving than by your adoration". And when I talk to Moslems, I say, "Your Ayatollah and your mullahs are not going to be happy to hear this, but God is going to be much more pleased by your being transformed into a loving person than by saying, "Lord, Lord". It's infinitely more important that you be waking up. That's spirituality, that's everything.

If you have that, you have God. Then you worship "in spirit and in truth". When you become love, when you are transformed into love. The danger of what religion can do is very nicely brought out in a story told by Cardinal Martini, the Archbishop of Milan. The story has to do with an Italian couple that's getting married. They have an arrangement with the parish priest to have a little reception in the parish courtyard outside the church. But it rained, and they couldn't have the reception, so they said to the priest, "Would it be all right if we had the celebration in the church"?

Now Father wasn't one bit happy about having a reception in the church, but they said, "We will eat a little cake, sing a little song, drink a little wine, and then go home". So Father was persuaded. But being good life-loving Italians they drank a little wine, sang a little song, then drank a little more wine, and sang some more songs, and within a half hour there was a great celebration going on in the church. And everybody was having a great time, lots of fun and frolic. But Father was all tense, pacing up and down in the sacristy, all upset about the noise they were making. The assistant pastor comes in and says, "I see you are quite tense".

"Of course, I'm tense. Listen to all the noise they are making, and in the House of God!, for heaven's sake!"
"Well, Father, they really had no place to go".
"I know that! But do they have to make all that racket"?
"Well, we mustn't forget, must we, Father, that Jesus himself was once present at a wedding!"
Father says, "I know Jesus Christ was present at a wedding banquet, YOU don't have to tell me Jesus Christ was present at a wedding banquet! But they didn't have the Blessed Sacrament there!!!"

You know there are times like that when the Blessed Sacrament becomes more important than Jesus Christ. When worship becomes more important than love, when the Church becomes more important than life. When God becomes more important than the neighbor. And so it goes on. That's the danger. To my mind this is what Jesus was evidently calling us to -- first things first! The human being is much more important than the Sabbath.. Doing what I tell you, namely, becoming what I am indicating to you, is much more important than Lord, Lord. But your mullah is not going to be happy to hear that, I assure you.

Your priests are not going to be happy to hear that. Not generally. So that's what we have been talking about. Spirituality. Waking up. And as I told you, it is extremely important if you want to wake up to go in for what I call "self observation". Be aware of what you're saying, be aware of what you're doing, be aware of what you're thinking, be aware of how you're acting. Be aware of where you're coming from, what your motives are. The unaware life is not worth living.

The unaware life is a mechanical life. It's not human, it's programmed, conditioned. We might as well be a stone, a block of wood. In the country where I come from, you have hundreds of thousands of people living in little hovels, in extreme poverty, who just manage to survive, working all day long, hard manual work, sleep and then wake up in the morning, eat something, and start all over again. And you sit back and think, "What a life". "Is that all that life holds in store for them"? And then you're suddenly jolted into the realization that 99.999% of people here are not much better. You can go to the movies, drive around in a car, you can go for a cruise. Do you think you are much better off than they are? You are just as dead as they are. Just as much a machine as they are - a slightly bigger one, but a machine nevertheless. That's sad. It's sad to think that people go through life like this.

People go through life with fixed ideas; they never change. They're just not aware of what's going on. They might as well be a block of wood, or a rock, a talking, walking, thinking machine. That's not human. They are puppets, jerked around by all kinds of things. Press a button and you get a reaction. You can almost predict how this person is going to react. If I study a person, I can tell you just how he or she is going to react. With my therapy group, sometimes I write on a piece of paper that so-and-so is going to start the session and so-and-so will reply. Do you think that's bad? Well, don't listen to people who say to you, "Forget yourself! Go out in love to others". Don't listen to them! They're all wrong. The worst thing you can do is forget yourself when you go out to others in the so called helping attitude.

This was brought home to me very forcibly many years ago when I did my studies in psychology in Chicago. We had a course in counseling for priests. It was open only to priests who were actually engaged in counseling and who agreed to bring a taped session to class. There must have been about twenty of us. When it was my turn, I brought a cassette with an interview I had had with a young woman. The instructor put it in a recorder and we all began to listen to it. After five minutes, as was his custom, the instructor stopped the tape and asked, "Any comments"? Someone said to me, "Why did you ask her that question"? I said, "I'm not aware that I asked her a question.

As a matter of fact, I'm quite sure I did not ask any questions". He said, "You did". I was quite sure because at that time I was consciously following the method of Carl Rogers, which is person-oriented and non directive. You don't ask questions and you don't interrupt or give advice. So I was very aware that I mustn't ask questions. Anyway, there was a dispute between us, so the instructor said, "Why don't we play the tape again"? So we played it again and there, to my horror, was a whopping big question, as tall as the Empire State Building, a huge question. The interesting thing to me was that I had heard that question three times, the first time, presumably, when I asked it, the second time when I listened to the tape in my room (because I wanted to take a good tape to class), and the third time when I heard it in the classroom. But it hadn't registered! I wasn't aware.

That happens frequently in my therapy sessions or in my spiritual direction. We tape-record the interview, and when the client listens to it, he or she says, "You know, I didn't really hear what you said during the interview. I only heard what you said when I listened to the tape". More interestingly, I didn't hear what I said during the interview. It's shocking to discover that I'm saying things in a therapy session that I'm not aware of. The full import of them only dawns on me later. Do you call that human? "Forget yourself and go out to others", you say! Anyhow, after we listened to the whole tape there in Chicago, the instructor said, "Are there any comments"? One of the priests, a fifty year old man to whom I had taken a liking, said to me, "Tony, I'd like to ask you a personal question. Would that be all right"? I said, "Yes, go ahead. If I don't want to answer it, I won't". He said, "Is this woman in the interview pretty"?

You know, honest to goodness, I was at a stage of my development (or undevelopment) where I didn't notice if someone was good-looking or not. It didn't matter to me. She was a sheep of Christ's flock; I was a pastor. I dispensed help. Isn't that great! It was the way we were trained. So I said to him, "What's that got to do with it"? He said, "Because you don't like her, do you"? I said, "What?!"

It hadn't ever struck me that I liked or disliked individuals. Like most people, I had an occasional dislike that would register in consciousness, but my attitude was mostly neutral. I asked, "What makes you say that"? He said, "The tape". We went through the tape again, and he said, "Listen to your voice. Notice how sweet it has become. You're irritated, aren't you"? I was, and I was only becoming aware of it right there. And what was I saying to her non-directively? I was saying, "Don't come back". But I wasn't aware of that. My priest friend said, "She's a woman. She will have picked this up. When are you supposed to meet her next"? I said, "Next Wednesday". He said, "My guess is she won't come back". She didn't. I waited one week but she didn't come. I waited another week and she didn't come.

Then I called her. I broke one of my rules: Don't be the rescuer. I called her and said to her, "Remember that tape you allowed me to make for the class? It was a great help because the class pointed out all kinds of things to me" (I didn't tell her what!) "that would make the session somewhat more effective. So if you care to come back, that would make it more effective". She said, "All right, I'll come back". She did. The dislike was still there. It hadn't gone away, but it wasn't getting in the way. What you are aware of you are in control of; what you are not aware of is in control of you. You are always a slave to what you're not aware of. When you're aware of it, you're free from it. It's there, but you're not affected by it. You're not controlled by it; you're not enslaved by it. That's the difference.

Awareness, awareness, awareness, awareness. What they trained us to do in that course was to become participant observers. To put it somewhat graphically, I'd be talking to you and at the same time I'd be out there watching you and watching me. When I'm listening to you, it's infinitely more important for me to listen to me than to listen to you. Of course, it's important to listen to you, but it's more important that I listen to me. Otherwise I won't be hearing you. Or I'll be distorting everything you say. I'll be coming at you from my own conditioning. I'll be reacting to you in all kinds of ways from my insecurities, from my need to manipulate you, from my desire to succeed, from irritations and feelings that I might not be aware of. So it's frightfully important that I listen to me when I'm listening to you. That's what they were training us to do, obtaining awareness.

You don't always have to imagine yourself hovering somewhere in the air. Just to get a rough idea of what I'm talking about, imagine a good driver, driving a car, who's concentrating on what you're saying. In fact, he may even be having an argument with you, but he's perfectly aware of the road signals. The moment anything untoward happens, the moment there's any sound, or noise, or bump, he'll hear it at once. He'll say, "Are you sure you closed that door back there"? How did he do that? He was aware, he was alert. The focus of his attention was on the conversation, or argument, but his awareness was more diffused. He was taking in all kinds of things.

What I'm advocating here is not concentration. That's not important. Many meditative techniques inculcate concentration, but I'm leery of that. They involve violence and frequently they involve further programming and conditioning. What I would advocate is awareness, which is not the same as concentration at all. Concentration is a spotlight. You can be distracted from that, but when you're practicing awareness, you're never distracted. Awareness is a floodlight. You're open to anything that comes within the scope of your consciousness. When awareness is turned on, there's never any distraction, because you're always aware of whatever happens to be.

Say I'm looking at those trees and I'm worrying. Am I distracted? I am distracted only if I mean to concentrate on the trees. But if I'm aware that I'm worried, too, that isn't a distraction at all. Just be aware of where your attention goes. When anything goes awry or anything untoward happens, you'll be alerted at once. Something's going wrong! The moment any negative feeling comes into consciousness, you'll be alerted. You're like the driver of the car.

I told you that St. Teresa of Avila said God gave her the grace of disidentifying herself with herself. You hear children talk that way. A two-year-old says, "Tommy had his breakfast this morning". He doesn't say "I", although he is Tommy. He says "Tommy" - in the third person. Mystics feel that way. They have disidentified from themselves and they are at peace. This was the grace St. Teresa was talking about. This is the "I" that the mystic masters of the East are constantly urging people to discover. And those of the West, too! And you can count Meister Eckhart among them. They are urging people to discover the "I"..


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 dropped 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 truth, then you have suffering. Otherwise there is no suffering.


What I'm about to say will sound a bit pompous, but it's true. What is coming could be the most important minutes in your lives. If you could grasp this, you'd hit upon the secret of awakening. You would be happy forever. You would never be unhappy again. Nothing would have the power to hurt you again. I mean that, nothing. It's like when you throw black paint in the air, the air remains uncontaminated. You never color the air black. No matter what happens to you, you remain uncontaminated. You remain at peace. There are human beings who have attained this, what I call being human. Not this nonsense of being a puppet, jerked about this way and that way, letting events or other people tell you how to feel. So you proceed to feel it and you call it being vulnerable. Ha! I call it being a puppet. So you want to be a puppet? Press a button and you're down; do you like that? But if you refuse to identify with any of those labels, most of your worries cease.

Later we'll talk about fear of disease and death, but ordinarily you're worried about what's going to happen to your career. A small-time businessman, fifty-five years old, is sipping beer at a bar somewhere and he's saying, "Well, look at my classmates, they've really made it". The idiot! What does he mean, "They made it"? They've got their names in the newspaper. Do you call that making it? One is president of the corporation; the other has become the Chief Justice; somebody else has become this or that. Monkeys, all of them.

Who determines what it means to be a success? This stupid society! The main preoccupation of society is to keep society sick! And the sooner you realize that, the better. Sick, every one of them. They are loony, they're crazy. You became president of the lunatic asylum and you're proud of it even though it means nothing. Being president of a corporation has nothing to do with being a success in life. Having a lot of money has nothing to do with being a success in life. You're a success in life when you wake up! Then you don't have to apologize to anyone, you don't have to explain anything to anyone, you don't give a damn what anybody thinks about you or what anybody says about you. You have no worries; you're happy. That's what I call being a success.

Having a good job or being famous or having a great reputation has absolutely nothing to do with happiness or success. Nothing! It is totally irrelevant. All he's really worried about is what his children will think about him, what the neighbors will think about him, what his wife will think about him. He should have become famous. Our society and culture drill that into our heads day and night. People who made it! Made what?! Made asses of themselves. Because they drained all their energy getting something that was worthless. They're frightened and confused, they are puppets like the rest. Look at them strutting across the stage. Look how upset they get if they have a stain on their shirt. Do you call that a success?

Look at how frightened they are at the prospect they might not be reelected. Do you call that a success? They are controlled, so manipulated. They are unhappy people, they are miserable people. They don't enjoy life. They are constantly tense and anxious. Do you call that human? And do you know why that happens? Only one reason: They identified with some label. They identified the "I" with their money or their job or their profession. That was their error.

Did you hear about the lawyer who was presented with a plumber's bill? He said to the plumber, "Hey, you're charging me two hundred dollars an hour. I don't make that kind of money as a lawyer". The plumber said, "I didn't make that kind of money when I was a lawyer either!" You could be a plumber or a lawyer or a business man or a priest, but that does not affect the essential "I". It doesn't affect you. If I change my profession tomorrow, it's just like changing my clothes. I am untouched. Are you your clothes? Are you your name? Are you your profession? Stop identifying with them. They come and go.

When you really understand this, no criticism can affect you. No flattery or praise can affect you either. When someone says, "You're a great guy", what is he talking about? He's talking about "me", he's not talking about "I". "I" is neither great nor small. "I" is neither successful nor a failure. It is none of these labels. These things come and go. These things depend on the criteria society establishes. These things depend on your conditioning. These things depend on the mood of the person who happens to be talking to you right now. It has nothing to do with "I". "I" is none of these labels. "Me" is generally selfish, foolish, childish - a great big ass. So when you say, "You're an ass", I've known it for years! The conditioned self - what did you expect? I've known it for years. Why do you identify with him? Silly! That isn't "I", that's "me".

Do you want to be happy? Uninterrupted happiness is uncaused. True happiness is uncaused. You cannot make me happy. You are not my happiness. You say to the awakened person, "Why are you happy"? and the awakened person replies, "Why not"? 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!


The first thing you need to do is get in touch with negative feelings that you're not even aware of. Lots of people have negative feelings they're not aware of. Lots of people are depressed and they're not aware they are depressed. It's only when they make contact with joy that they understand how depressed they were. You can't deal with a cancer that you haven't detected. You can't get rid of boll weevils on your farm if you're not aware of their existence. The first thing you need is awareness of your negative feelings. What negative feelings? Gloominess, for instance. You're feeling gloomy and moody. You feel self-hatred or guilt. You feel that life is pointless, that it makes no sense; you've got hurt feelings, you're feeling nervous and tense. Get in touch with those feelings first.

The second step (this is a four-step program) is to understand that the feeling is in you, not in reality. That's such a self-evident thing, but do you think people know it? They don't, believe me. They've got Ph.D.s and are presidents of universities, but they haven't understood this. They didn't teach me how to live at school. They taught me everything else. 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.

Negative feelings are in you, not in reality. So stop trying to change reality. That's crazy! Stop trying to change the other person. We spend all our time and energy trying to change external circumstances, trying to change our spouses, our bosses, our friends, our enemies, and everybody else. We don't have to change anything. Negative feelings are in you. No person on earth has the power to make you unhappy. There is no event on earth that has the power to disturb you or hurt you. No event, condition, situation, or person. Nobody told you this; they told you the opposite. That's why you're in the mess that you're in right now. That is why you're asleep. They never told you this. But it's self-evident.

Let's suppose that rain washes out a picnic. Who is feeling negative? The rain? Or YOU? What's causing the negative feeling? The rain or your reaction? When you bump your knee against a table, the table's fine. It's busy being what it was made to Be - a table. The pain is in your knee, not in the table. The mystics keep trying to tell us that reality is all right. Reality is not problematic. Problems exist only in the human mind. We might add: in the stupid, sleeping human mind. Reality is not problematic. Take away human beings from this planet and life would go on, nature would go on in all its loveliness and violence. Where would the problem be? No problem. You created the problem. You are the problem. You identified with "me" and that is the problem. The feeling is in you, not in reality.

The third step: Never identify with that feeling. It has nothing to do with the "I". Don't define your essential self in terms of that feeling. Don't say, "I am depressed". If you want to say, "It is depressed", that's all right. If you want to say depression is there, that's fine; if you want to say gloominess is there, that's fine. But not: I am gloomy. You're defining yourself in terms of the feeling. That's your illusion; that's your mistake. There is a depression there right now, there are hurt feelings there right now, but let it be, leave it alone. It will pass. Everything passes, everything. Your depressions and your thrills have nothing to do with happiness. Those are the swings of the pendulum. If you seek kicks or thrills, get ready for depression. Do you want your drug? Get ready for the hangover. One end of the pendulum swings to the other.

This has nothing to do with "I"; it has nothing to do with happiness. It is the "me". If you remember this, if you say it to yourself a thousand times, if you try these three steps a thousand times, you will get it. You might not need to do it even three times. I don't know; there's no rule for it. But do it a thousand times and you'll make the biggest discovery in your life. To hell with those gold mines in Alaska. What are you going to do with that gold? If you're not happy, you can't live. So you found gold. What does that matter? You're a king; you're a princess. You're free; you don't care anymore about being accepted or rejected, that makes no difference. Psychologists tell us how important it is to get a sense of belonging. Baloney! Why do you want to belong to anybody? It doesn't matter anymore.

A friend of mine told me that there's an African tribe where capital punishment consists of being ostracized. If you were kicked out of New York, or wherever you're residing, you wouldn't die. How is it that the African tribesman died? Because he partakes of the common stupidity of humanity. He thinks he will not be able to live if he does not belong. It's very different from most people, or is it? He's convinced he needs to belong. But you don't need to belong to anybody or anything or any group. You don't even need to be in love. Who told you you do? What you need is to be free. What you need is to love. That's it; that's your nature. But what you're really telling me is that you want to be desired. You want to be applauded, to be attractive, to have all the little monkeys running after you. You're wasting your life. WAKE UP! You don't need this. You can be blissfully happy without it.

Your society is not going to be happy to hear this, because you become terrifying when you open your eyes and understand this. How do you control a person like this? He doesn't need you; he's not threatened by your criticism; he doesn't care what you think of him or what you say about him. He's cut all those strings; he's not a puppet any longer. It's terrifying. "So we've got to get rid of him. He tells the truth; he has become fearless; he has stopped being human.'' HUMAN! Behold! A human being at last! He broke out of his slavery, broke out of their prison.

No event justifies a negative feeling. There is no situation in the world that justifies a negative feeling. That's what all our mystics have been crying themselves hoarse to tell us. But nobody listens. The negative feeling is in you. In the Bhagavad-Gita, the sacred book of the Hindus, Lord Krishna says to Arjuna, "Plunge into the heat of battle and keep your heart at the lotus feet of the Lord". A marvelous sentence.

You don't have to do anything to acquire happiness. The great Meister Eckhart said very beautifully, "God is not attained by a process of addition to anything in the soul, but by a process of subtraction". You don't do anything to be free, you drop something. Then you're free. It reminds me of the Irish prisoner who dug a tunnel under the prison wall and managed to escape. He comes out right in the middle of a school playground where little children are playing. Of course, when he emerges from the tunnel he can't restrain himself anymore and begins to jump up and down, crying, "I'm free, I'm free, I'm free! A little girl there looks at him scornfully and says, "That's nothing. I'm four".

The fourth step: How do you change things? How do you change yourselves? There are many things you must understand here, or rather, just one thing that can be expressed in many ways. Imagine a patient who goes to a doctor and tells him what he is suffering from. The doctor says, "Very well, I've understood your symptoms. Do you know what I will do? I will prescribe a medicine for your neighbor!" The patient replies, "Thank you very much, Doctor, that makes me feel much better". Isn't that absurd? But that's what we all do. The person who is asleep always thinks he'll feel better if somebody else changes. You're suffering because you are asleep, but you're thinking, "How wonderful life would be if somebody else would change; how wonderful life would be if my neighbor changed, my wife changed, my boss changed".

We always want someone else to change so that we will feel good. But has it ever struck you that even if your wife changes or your husband changes, what does that do to you? You're just as vulnerable as before; you're just as idiotic as before; you're just as asleep as before. You are the one who needs to change, who needs to take medicine. You keep insisting, "I feel good because the world is right". Wrong! The world is right because I feel good. That's what all the mystics are saying.


When you awaken, when you understand, when you see, the world becomes right. We're always bothered by the problem of evil. There's a powerful story about a little boy walking along the bank of a river. He sees a crocodile who is trapped in a net. The crocodile says, "Would you have pity on me and release me? I may look ugly, but it isn't my fault, you know. I was made this way. But whatever my external appearance, I have a mother's heart. I came this morning in search of food for my young ones and got caught in this trap!" So the boy says, "Ah, if I were to help you out of that trap, you'd grab me and kill me".

The crocodile asks, "Do you think I would do that to my benefactor and liberator"? So the boy is persuaded to take the net off and the crocodile grabs him. As he is being forced between the jaws of the crocodile, he says, "So this is what I get for my good actions". And the crocodile says, "Well, don't take it personally, son, this is the way the world is, this is the law of life". The boy disputes this, so the crocodile says, "Do you want to ask someone if it isn't so"? The boy sees a bird sitting on a branch and says, "Bird, is what the crocodile says right"? The bird says, "The crocodile is right. Look at me. I was coming home one day with food for my fledglings.

Imagine my horror to see a snake crawling up the tree, making straight for my nest. I was totally helpless. It kept devouring my young ones, one after the other. I kept screaming and shouting, but it was useless. The crocodile is right, this is the law of life, this is the way the world is". "See", says the crocodile. But the boy says, "Let me ask someone else". So the crocodile says, "Well, all right, go ahead". There was an old donkey passing by on the bank of the river. "Donkey", says the boy, "this is what the crocodile says. Is the crocodile right"? The donkey says, "The crocodile is quite right. Look at me. I've worked and slaved for my master all my life and he barely gave me enough to eat.

Now that I'm old and useless, he has turned me loose, and here I am wandering in the jungle, waiting for some wild beast to pounce on me and put an end to my life. The crocodile is right, this is the law of life, this is the way the world is". "See", says the crocodile. "Let's go!" The boy says, "Give me one more chance, one last chance. Let me ask one other being. Remember how good I was to you"? So the crocodile says, "All right, your last chance". The boy sees a rabbit passing by, and he says, "Rabbit, is the crocodile right"? The rabbit sits on his haunches and says to the crocodile, "Did you say that to that boy?

The crocodile says, "Yes, I did". "Wait a minute", says the rabbit. "We've got to discuss this". "Yes", says the crocodile. But the rabbit says, "How can we discuss it when you've got that boy in your mouth? Release him; he's got to take part in the discussion, too". The crocodile says, "You're a clever one, you are. The moment I release him, he'll run away". The rabbit says, "I thought you had more sense than that. If he attempted to run away, one slash of your tail would kill him". "Fair enough", says the crocodile, and he released the boy. The moment the boy is released, the rabbit says, "Run!" And the boy runs and escapes. Then the rabbit says to the boy, "Don't you enjoy crocodile flesh?

Wouldn't the people in your village like a good meal? You didn't really release that crocodile; most of his body is still caught in that net. Why don't you go to the village and bring everybody and have a banquet". That's exactly what the boy does. He goes to the village and calls all the men folk. They come with their axes and staves and spears and kill the crocodile. The boy's dog comes, too, and when the dog sees the rabbit, he gives chase, catches hold of the rabbit, and throttles him. The boy comes on the scene too late, and as he watches the rabbit die, he says, "The crocodile was right, this is the way the world is, this is the law of life".

There is no explanation you can give that would explain away all the sufferings and evil and torture and destruction and hunger in the world! You'll never explain it. You can try gamely with your formulas, religious and otherwise, but you'll never explain it. Because life is a mystery, which means your thinking mind cannot make sense out of it. For that you've got to wake up and then you'll suddenly realize that reality is not problematic, you are the problem.


The scriptures are always hinting of that, but you'll never understand a word of what the scriptures are saying until you wake up. Sleeping people read the scriptures and crucify the Messiah on the basis of them. You've got to wake up to make sense out of the scriptures. When you do wake up, they make sense. So does reality. But you'll never be able to put it into words. You'd rather do something? But even there we've got to make sure that you're not swinging into action simply to get rid of your negative feelings. Many people swing into action only to make things worse.

They're not coming from love, they're coming from negative feelings. They're coming from guilt, anger, hate; from a sense of injustice or whatever. You've got to make sure of your "being" before you swing into action. You have to make sure of who you are before you act. Unfortunately, when sleeping people swing into action, they simply substitute one cruelty for another, one injustice for another. And so it goes. Meister Eckhart says, "It is not by your actions that you will be saved" (or awakened; call it by any word you want), "but by your being. It is not by what you do, but by what you are that you will be judged". What good is it to you to feed the hungry, give the thirsty to drink, or visit prisoners in jail?

Remember that sentence from Paul: "If I give my body to be burned and all my goods to feed the poor and have not love . . ". It's not your actions, it's your being that counts. Then you might swing into action. You might or might not. You can't decide that until you're awake. Unfortunately, all the emphasis is concentrated on changing the world and very little emphasis is given to waking up. When you wake up, you will know what to do or what not to do. Some mystics are very strange, you know. Like Jesus, who said something like "I wasn't sent to those people; I limit myself to what I am supposed to do right now. Later, maybe". Some mystics go silent. Mysteriously, some of them sing songs. Some of them are into service. We're never sure. They're a law unto themselves; they know exactly what is to be done. "Plunge into the heat of battle and keep your heart at the lotus feet of the Lord", as I said to you earlier.

Imagine that you're unwell and in a foul mood, and they're taking you through some lovely countryside. The landscape is beautiful but you're not in the mood to see anything. A few days later you pass the same place and you say, "Good heavens, where was I that I didn't notice all of this"? Everything becomes beautiful when you change. Or you look at the trees and the mountains through windows that are wet with rain from a storm, and everything looks blurred and shapeless. You want to go right out there and change those trees, change those mountains. Wait a minute, let's examine your window. When the storm ceases and the rain stops, and you look out the window, you say, "Well, how different everything looks". We see people and things not as they are, but as we are. That is why when two people look at something or someone, you get two different reactions. We see things and people not as they are, but as we are.

Remember that sentence from scripture about everything turning into good for those who love God? When you finally awake, you don't try to make good things happen; they just happen. You understand suddenly that everything that happens to you is good. Think of some people you're living with whom you want to change. You find them moody, inconsiderate, unreliable, treacherous, or whatever. But when you are different, they'll be different. That's an infallible and miraculous cure. The day you are different, they will become different. And you will see them differently, too.

Someone who seemed terrifying will now seem frightened. Someone who seemed rude will seem frightened. All of a sudden, no one has the power to hurt you anymore. No one has the power to put pressure on you. It's something like this: You leave a book on the table and I pick it up and say, "You're pressing this book on me. I have to pick it up or not pick it up". People are so busy accusing everyone else, blaming everyone else, blaming life, blaming society, blaming their neighbor. You'll never change that way; you'll continue in your nightmare, you'll never wake up.

Put this program into action, a thousand times: (a) identify the negative feelings in you; (b) understand that they are in you, not in the world, not in external reality; (c) do not see them as an essential part of "I"; these things come and go; (d) understand that when you change, everything changes.


Do I do anything to change myself? I've got a big surprise for you, lots of good news! You don't have to do anything. The more you do, the worse it gets. All you have to do is understand. Think of somebody you are living with or working with whom you do not like, who causes negative feelings to arise in you. Let's help you to understand what's going on. The first thing you need to understand is that the negative feeling is inside you. You are responsible for the negative feeling, not the other person. Someone else in your place would be perfectly calm and at ease in the presence of this person; they wouldn't be affected. You are. Now, understand another thing, that you're making a demand.

You have an expectation of this person. Can you get in touch with that? Then say to this person, "I have no right to make any demands on you". In saying that, you will drop your expectation. "I have no right to make any demands on you. Oh, I'll protect myself from the consequences of your actions or your moods or whatever, but you can go right ahead and be what you choose to be. I have no right to make any demands on you".

See what happens to you when you do this. If there's a resistance to saying it, my, how much you're going to discover about your "me". Let the dictator in you come out, let the tyrant come out. You thought you were such a little lamb, didn't you? But I'm a tyrant and you're a tyrant. A little variation on "I'm an ass, you're an ass". I'm a dictator, you're a dictator. I want to run your life for you; I want to tell you exactly how you're expected to be and how you're expected to behave, and you'd better behave as I have decided or I shall punish myself by having negative feelings. Remember what I told you, everybody's a lunatic.

A woman told me her son had gotten an award at his high school. It was for excellence in sports and academics. She was happy for him, but was almost tempted to say to him, "Don't glory in that award, because it's setting you up for the time when you can't perform as well". She was in a dilemma: how to prevent his future disillusionment without bursting his bubble now. Hopefully, he'll learn as she herself grows in wisdom. It's not a matter of anything she says to him. It's something that eventually she will become. Then she will understand. Then she will know what to say and when to say it. That award was a result of competition, which can be cruel if it is built on hatred of oneself and of others. People get a good feeling on the basis of somebody getting a bad feeling; you win over somebody else. Isn't that terrible? Taken for granted in a lunatic asylum!

There's an American doctor who wrote about the effect of competition on his life. He went to medical school in Switzerland and there was a fairly large contingent of Americans at that school. He said some of the students went into shock when they realized that there were no grades, there were no awards, there was no dean's list, no first or second in the class at the school. You either passed or you didn't. He said, "Some of us just couldn't take it. We became almost paranoid. We thought there must be some kind of trick here". So some of them went to another school.

Those who survived suddenly discovered a strange thing they had never noticed at American universities: students, brilliant ones, helping others to pass, sharing notes. His son goes to medical school in the United States and he tells him that, in the lab, people often tamper with the microscope so that it'll take the next student three or four minutes to readjust it. Competition. They have to succeed, they have to be perfect. And he tells a lovely little story which he says is factual, but it could also serve as a beautiful parable.

There was a little town in America where people gathered in the evening to make music. They had a saxophonist, a drummer, and a violinist, mostly old people. They got together for the company and for the sheer joy of making music, though they didn't do it very well. So they were enjoying themselves, having a great time, until one day they decided to get a new conductor who had a lot of ambition and drive. The new conductor told them, "Hey, folks, we have to have a concert, we have to prepare a concert for the town".

Then he gradually got rid of some people who didn't play too well, hired a few professional musicians, got an orchestra into shape, and they all got their names in the newspapers. Wasn't that wonderful? So they decided to move to the big city and play there: But some of the old people had tears in their eyes. They said, "It was so wonderful in the old days when we did things badly and enjoyed them". So cruelty came into their lives, but nobody recognized it as cruelty. See how lunatic people have become!

Some of you ask me what I meant when I said, "You go ahead and be yourself, that's all right, but I'll protect myself, I'll be myself". In other words, I won't allow you to manipulate me. I'll live my life; I'll go my own way; I'll keep myself free to think my thoughts, to follow my inclinations and tastes. And I'll say no to you. If I feel I don't want to be in your company, it won't be because of any negative feelings you cause in me. Because you don't anymore. You don't have any more power over me. I simply might prefer other people's company. So when you say to me, "How about a movie tonight"? I'll say, "Sorry, I want to go with someone else; I enjoy his company more than yours". And that's all right.

To say no to people - that's wonderful; that's part of waking up. Part of waking up is that you live your life as you see fit. And understand: That is not selfish. The selfish thing is to demand that someone else live their life as YOU see fit. That's selfish. It is not selfish to live your life as you see fit. The selfishness lies in demanding that someone else live their life to suit your tastes, or your pride, or your profit, or your pleasure. That is truly selfish. So I'll protect myself. I won't feel obligated to be with you; I won't feel obligated to say yes to you. If I find your company pleasant, then I'll enjoy it without clinging to it. But I no longer avoid you because of any negative feelings you create in me. You don't have that power anymore.

Awakening should be a surprise. When you don't expect something to happen and it happens, you feel surprise. When Webster's wife caught him kissing the maid, she told him she was very surprised. Now, Webster was a stickler for using words accurately (understandably, since he wrote a dictionary), so he answered her, "No, my dear, I am surprised. You are astonished!"

Some people make awakening a goal. They are determined to get there; they say, "I refuse to be happy until I'm awakened". In that case, it's better to be the way you are, simply to be aware of the way you are. Simple awareness is happiness compared with trying to react all the time. People react so quickly because they are not aware. You will come to understand that there are times when you will inevitably react, even in awareness. But as awareness grows, you react less and act more. It really doesn't matter.

There's a story of a disciple who told his guru that he was going to a far place to meditate and hopefully attain enlightenment. So he sent the guru a note every six months to report the progress he was making. The first report said, "Now I understand what it means to lose the self". The guru tore up the note and threw it in the wastepaper basket. After six months he got another report, which said, "Now I have attained sensitivity to all beings". He tore it up. Then a third report said, "Now I understand the secret of the one and the many". It too was torn up.

And so it went on for years, until finally no reports came in. After a time the guru became curious and one day there was a traveler going to that far place. The guru said, "Why don't you find what happened to that fellow". Finally, he got a note from his disciple. It said, "What does it matter"? And when the guru read that, he said, "He made it! He made it! He finally got it! He got it!" And there is the story about a soldier on the battlefield who would simply drop his rifle to the ground, pick up a scrap of paper lying there, and look at it. Then he would let it flutter from his hands to the ground. And then he'd move somewhere else and do the same thing. So others said, "This man is exposing himself to death. He needs help". So they put him in the hospital and got the best psychiatrist to work on him.

But it seemed to have no effect. He wandered around the wards picking up scraps of paper, looking at them idly, and letting them flutter to the ground. In the end they said, "We've got to discharge this man from the army". So they call him in and give him a discharge certificate and he idly picks it up, looks at it, and shouts, "This is it? This is it". He finally got it. So begin to be aware of your present condition whatever that condition is. Stop being a dictator. Stop trying to push yourself somewhere. Then someday you will understand that simply by awareness you have already attained what you were pushing yourself toward.


In your pursuit of awareness, don't make demands. It's more like obeying the traffic rules. If you don't observe traffic rules, you pay the penalty. Here in the United States you drive on the right side of the road; in England you drive on the left; in India you drive on the left. If you don't, you pay the penalty; there is no room for hurt feelings or demands or expectations; you just abide by the traffic rules. You ask where compassion comes in, where guilt comes in all this. You'll know when you're awake. If you're feeling guilty right now, how on earth can I explain it to you? How would you know what compassion is? You know, sometimes people want to imitate Christ, but when a monkey plays a saxophone, that doesn't make him a musician. You can't imitate Christ by imitating his external behavior. You've got to be Christ.

Then you'll know exactly what to do in a particular situation, given your temperament, your character, and the character and temperament of the person you're dealing with. No one has to tell you. But to do that, you must be what Christ was. An external imitation will get you nowhere. If you think that compassion implies softness, there's no way I can describe compassion to you, absolutely no way, because compassion can be very hard. Compassion can be very rude, compassion can jolt you, compassion can roll up its sleeves and operate on you. Compassion is all kinds of things. Compassion can be very soft, but there's no way of knowing that. 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". Why would anyone demand an apology? You have something to explore in that. Even when someone supposedly was mean to you, there is no room for apology. Nobody was mean to you. Somebody was mean to what he or she thought was you, but not to you. Nobody ever rejects you; they're only rejecting what they think you are. But that cuts both ways. Nobody ever accepts you either. Until people come awake, they are simply accepting or rejecting their image of you.

They've fashioned an image of you, and they're rejecting or accepting that. See how devastating it is to go deeply into that. It's a bit too liberating. But how easy it is to love people when you understand this. How easy it is to love everyone when you don't identify with what they imagine you are or they are. It becomes easy to love them, to love everybody. I observe "me", but I do not think about "me". Because the thinking "me" does a lot of bad thinking, too. But when I watch "me", I am constantly aware that this is a reflection. In reality, you don't really think of "I" and "me". You're like a person driving the car; he doesn't ever want to lose consciousness of the car.

It's all right to daydream, but not to lose consciousness of your surroundings. You must always be alert. It's like a mother sleeping; she doesn't hear the planes roaring above the house, but she hears the slightest whimper of her baby. She's alert, she's awake in that sense. One can not say anything about the awakened state; one can only talk about the sleeping state. One hints at the awakened state. One cannot say anything about happiness. Happiness cannot be defined. What can be defined is misery. Drop unhappiness and you will know. Love cannot be defined; unlove can. Drop unlove, drop fear, and you will know. We want to find out what the awakened person is like. But you'll know only when you get there.

Am I implying, for example, that we shouldn't make demands on our children? What I said was: "You don't have a right to make any demands". Sooner or later that child is going to have to get rid of you, in keeping with the injunction of the Lord. And you're going to have no rights over him at all. In fact, he really isn't your child and he never was. He belongs to life, not to you. No one belongs to you. What you're talking about is a child's education. If you want lunch, you better come in between twelve and one or you don't get lunch. Period. That's the way things are run here. You don't come on time, you don't get your lunch. You're free, that true, but you must take the consequences.

When I talk about not having expectations of others, or not making demands on them, I mean expectations and demands for my well-being. The President of the United States obviously has to make demands on people. The traffic policeman obviously has to make demands on people. But these are demands on their behavior - traffic laws, good organization, the smooth running of society. They are not intended to make the President or traffic policeman feel good.


Everyone asks me about what will happen when they finally arrive. Is this just curiosity? We're always asking how would this fit into that system, or whether this would make sense in that context, or what it will feel like when we get there. et started and you will know; it cannot be described. It is said widely in the East, "Those who know, do not say; those who say, do not know". It cannot be said; only the opposite can be said.

The guru cannot give you the truth. Truth cannot be put into words, into a formula. That isn't the truth. That isn't reality. Reality cannot be put into a formula. The guru can only point out your errors. When you drop your errors, you will know the truth. And even then you cannot say. This is common teaching among the great Catholic mystics. The great Thomas Aquinas, toward the end of his life, wouldn't write and wouldn't talk; he had seen. I had thought he kept that famous silence of his for only a couple of months, but it went on for years.

He realized he had made a fool of himself, and he said so explicitly. It's as if you had never tasted a green mango and you ask me, "What does it taste like"? I'd say to you, "Sour", but in giving you a word, I've put you off the track. Try to understand that. Most people aren't very wise; they seize upon the word - upon the words of scripture, for example - and they get it all wrong. "Sour", I say, and you ask, "Sour like vinegar, sour like a lemon"?

No, not sour like a lemon, but sour like a mango. "But I never tasted one", you say. Too bad! But you go ahead and write a doctoral thesis on it. You wouldn't have if you had tasted it. You really wouldn't. You'd have written a doctoral thesis on other things, but not on mangoes. And the day you finally taste a green mango, you say, "God, I made a fool of myself. I shouldn't have written that thesis". That's exactly what Thomas Aquinas did.

A great German philosopher and theologian wrote a whole book specifically on the silence of St. Thomas. He simply went silent. Wouldn't talk. In the prologue of his Summa Theologica, which was the summary of all his theology, he says, "About God, we cannot say what He is but rather what He is not. And so we cannot speak about how He is but rather how He is not". And in his famous commentary on Boethius' De Sancta Trinitate he says there are three ways of knowing God (1) in the creation, (2) in God's actions through history, and (3) in the highest form of the knowledge of God - to know God tamquam ignotum (to know God as the unknown).

The highest form of talking about the Trinity is to know that one does not know. Now, this is not an Oriental Zen master speaking. This is a canonized saint of the Roman Catholic Church, the prince of theologians for centuries. To know God as unknown. In another place St. Thomas even says as unknowable. Reality, God, divinity, truth, love are unknowable; that means they cannot be comprehended by the thinking mind. That would set at rest so many questions people have because we're always living under the illusion that we know. We don't. We cannot know.

What is scripture, then? It's a hint, a clue, not a description. The fanaticism of one sincere believer who thinks he knows causes more evil than the united efforts of two hundred rogues. It's terrifying to see what sincere believers will do because they think they know. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we had a world where everybody said, "We don't know"? One big barrier dropped. Wouldn't that be marvelous?

A man born blind comes to me and asks, "What is this thing called green"? How does one describe the color green to someone who was born blind? One uses analogies. So I say, "The color green is something like soft music". "Oh", he says, "like soft music". "Yes", I say, "soothing and soft music". So a second blind man comes to me and asks, "What is the color green"? I tell him it's something like soft satin, very soft and soothing to the touch. So the next day I notice that the two blind men are bashing each other over the head with bottles.

One is saying, "It's soft like music"; the other is saying, "It's soft like satin". And on it goes. Neither of them knows what they're talking about, because if they did, they'd shut up. It's as bad as that. It's even worse, because one day, say, you give sight to this blind man, and he's sitting there in the garden and he's looking all around him, and you say to him, "Well, now you know what the color green is". And he answers, "That's true. I heard some of it this morning!"

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. That's the terrible thing about religion. That's what the gospels were saying, that religious people "knew", so they got rid of Jesus. The highest knowledge of God is to know God as unknowable. There is far too much God talk; the world is sick of it.

There is too little awareness, too little love, too little happiness, but let's not use those words either. There's too little dropping of illusions, dropping of errors, dropping of attachments and cruelty, too little awareness. That's what the world is suffering from, not from a lack of religion. Religion is supposed to be about a lack of awareness, of waking up. Look what we've degenerated into.

Come to my country and see them killing one another over religion. You'll find it everywhere. "The one who knows, does not say; the one who says, does not know". All revelations, however divine, are never any more than a finger pointing to the moon. As we say in the East, "When the sage points to the moon, all the idiot sees is the finger". Jean Guiton, a very pious and orthodox French writer, adds a terrifying comment "We often use the finger to gouge eyes out". Isn't that terrible? Awareness, awareness, awareness! In awareness is healing; in awareness is truth; in awareness is salvation; in awareness is spirituality; in awareness is growth; in awareness is love; in awareness is awakening. Awareness.

I need to talk about words and concepts because I must explain to you why it is, when we look at a tree, we really don't see. We think we do, but we don't. When we look at a person, we really don't see that person, we only think we do. What we're seeing is something that we fixed in our mind. We get an impression and we hold on to that impression, and we keep looking at a person through that impression.

And we do this with almost everything. If you understand that, you will understand the loveliness and beauty of being aware of everything around you. Because reality is there; "God", whatever that is, is there. It's all there. The poor little fish in the ocean says, "Excuse me, I'm looking for the ocean. Can you tell me where I can find it"? Pathetic, isn't it? If we would just open our eyes and see, then we would understand.