Thursday, June 10, 2010

Anthony de Mello: Three stories

Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao
A friend recently tipped me onto Father Anthony de Mello, a Jesuit priest and psychotherapist, born in Mumbai, India.
Yes, he was an Indian Catholic.
While I’ve broken the de Mello’s words into three stories here, they are actually an excerpt from the essay, “Losing Yourself to Find Yourself.”
That some of his writings were banned by Pope Benedict (when he was Cardinal Ratzinger) adds poignancy to the final lines of the last story.

Suppose somebody walks into my room one day.
I say, "Come right in. May I know who you are?"
And he says, "I am Napoleon."
And I say, "Not the Napoleon . . ."
And he says, "Precisely. Bonaparte, Emperor of France."
"What do you know!" I say, even while I'm thinking to myself, "I better handle this guy with care."

''Sit down, Your Majesty," I say.
He says, "Well, they tell me you're a pretty good spiritual director. I have a spiritual problem. I'm anxious, I'm finding it hard to trust in God. I have my armies in Russia, see, and I'm spending sleepless nights wondering how it's going to turn out."
So I say, "Well, Your Majesty, I could certainly prescribe something for that. What I suggest is that you read chapter 6 of Matthew: "Consider the lilies of the field . . . they neither toil nor spin."

By this point I'm wondering who is crazier, this guy or me.
But I go along with this lunatic.
That's what the wise guru does with you in the beginning.
He goes along with you; he takes your troubles seriously.
He'll wipe a tear or two from your eye.
You're crazy, but you don't know it yet. The time has to come soon when he'll pull the rug out from under your feet and tell you, "Get off it, you're not Napoleon."
In those famous dialogues of St. Catherine of Siena, God is reported to have said to her, "I am He who is; you are she who is not."

Have you ever experienced your is-not-ness?
In the East we have an image for this. It is the image of the dancer and the dance.
God is viewed as the dancer and creation as God's dance.

It isn't as if God is the big dancer and you are the little dancer.
Oh no. You're not a dancer at all.
You are being danced!

Did you ever experience that?
So when the man comes to his senses and realizes that he is not Napoleon, he does not cease to be.
He continues to be, but he suddenly realizes that he is something other than what he thought he was…

How do you change yourself?
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."

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.
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?

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