The real Sick

Who is the sick?

the sick heart

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.


Anthony de Mello

The way the world is!

Water world Fish Magic'

A little boy was walking along the bank of a river.

He sees a crocodile that 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.”


Anthony de Mello

Finding Yourself!


The great masters tell us that the most important question in the world is:

“Who am I?” Or rather: “What is ‘I’?” What is this thing I call “I”? What is this thing I call self?

You mean you understood everything else in the world and you didn’t understand this?

You mean you understood astronomy and black holes and quasars and you picked up computer science, and you don’t know who you are?

My, you are still asleep. You are a sleeping scientist.

You mean you understood what Jesus Christ is and you don’t know who you are? How do you know that you have understood Jesus Christ?

Who is the person doing the understanding? Find that out first. That’s the foundation of everything, isn’t it?

It’s because we haven’t understood this that we’ve got all these stupid religious people involved in all these stupid religious wars – Muslims fighting against Jews, Protestants fighting Catholics, and all the rest of that rubbish. They don’t know who they are, because if they did, there wouldn’t be wars.

Like the little girl who says to a little boy, “Are you a Presbyterian?” And he says, “No, we belong to another abomination!”


Anthony de Mello



“Henry, how you’ve changed!

You were so tall and you’ve grown so short.

You were so well built and you’ve grown so thin.

You were so fair and you’ve become so dark.

What happened to you, Henry?”

Henry says, “I’m not Henry. I’m John.”

“Oh, you changed your name too!”

How do you get people like that to listen?

The most difficult thing in the world is to listen, to see. We don’t want to see.


Anthony de Mello


The sheep-lion

Paula Rego – auto portrait in red

There’s a famous story about the lion who came upon a flock of sheep and to his amazement found a lion among the sheep.

It was a lion who had been brought up by the sheep ever since he was a cub.

It would bleat like a sheep and run around like a sheep.

The lion went straight for him, and when the sheep lion stood in front of the real one, he trembled in every limb.

And the lion said to him, “What are you doing among the sheep?”

And the sheep-lion said, “I am a sheep.”

And the lion said, “Oh no, you’re not.

You’re coming with me.”

So he took the sheep-lion to a pool and said, “Look!”

And when the sheep-lion looked at his reflection in the water, he let out a mighty roar, and in that moment he was transformed.

He was never the same again.


Anthony de Mello

What is awakening like?

What is awakening like?

eye awareness

There’s a story about Ramirez.

He is old and living up there in his castle on a hill.

He looks out the window (he’s in bed and paralyzed) and he sees his enemy.

Old as he is, leaning on a cane, his enemy is climbing up the hill – slowly, painfully.

It takes him about two and a half hours to get up the hill.

There’s nothing Ramirez can do because the servants have the day off.

So his enemy opens the door, comes straight to the bedroom, puts his hand inside his cloak, and pulls out a gun.

He says, “At last, Ramirez, we’re going to settle scores!”

Ramirez tries his level best to talk him out of it.

He says, “Come on, Borgia, you can’t do that.

You know I’m no longer the man who ill-treated you as that youngster years ago, and you’re no longer that youngster. Come off it!”

“Oh no,” says his enemy, “your sweet words aren’t going to deter me from this divine mission of mine. It’s revenge I want and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

And Ramirez says, “But there is!”

“What?” asks his enemy.

“I can wake up,” says Ramirez. And he did; he woke up!

That’s what enlightenment is like.

When someone tells you, “There is nothing you can do about it,”

you say, “There is, I can wake up!”


Anthony de Mello


sacrifice at Full moon

A woman once told me that when she was a child her Jesuit cousin gave a retreat in the Jesuit church in Milwaukee.

He opened each conference with the words:

“The test of love is sacrifice, and the gauge of love is unselfishness.”

That’s marvelous!

I asked her, “Would you want me to love you at the cost of my happiness?”

“Yes,” she answered.

Isn’t that delightful? Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

SHE would love me at the cost of HER happiness

and I would love her at the cost of MY happiness,

and so you’ve got two unhappy people,



Anthony de Mello




underwater garden

If I had a dollar for every time I did things that gave me a bad feeling,

I’d be a millionaire by now.

You know how it goes.

“Could I meet you tonight, Father?”

“Yes, come on in!”

I don’t want to meet him and I hate meeting him.

I want to watch that TV show tonight, but how do I say no to him?

I don’t have the guts to say no.

“Come on in,” and I’m thinking,

“Oh God, I’ve got to put up with this pain.”

It doesn’t give me a good feeling to meet with him and it doesn’t give me a good feeling to say no to him, so I choose the lesser of the two evils and I say, “O.K., come on in.”

I’m going to be happy when this thing is over and I’ll be able to take my smile off,

but I start the session with him: “How are you?”

“Wonderful,” he says, and he goes on and on about how he loves that workshop,

and I’m thinking, “Oh God, when is he going to come to the point?”

Finally he comes to the point, and I metaphorically slam him against the wall and say, “Well, any fool could solve that kind of problem,” and I send him out.

“Whew! Got rid of him,” I say.

And the next morning at breakfast (because I’m feeling I was so rude)

I go up to him and say, “How’s life?”

And he answers, “Pretty good.”

And he adds, “You know, what you said to me last night was a real help.

Can I meet you today, after lunch?” Oh God!


Anthony de Mello

“What is enlightenment like?”

The Tramp

“What is enlightenment like? What is awakening like?”

It’s like the tramp in London who was settling in for the night.

He’d hardly been able to get a crust of bread to eat.

Then he reaches this embankment on the river Thames.

There was a slight drizzle, so he huddled in his old tattered cloak.

He was about to go to sleep when suddenly a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce pulls up.

Out of the car steps a beautiful young lady who says to him,

“My poor man, are you planning on spending the night here on this embankment?”

And the tramp says, “Yes.”

She says, “I won’t have it. You’re coming to my house and you’re going to spend a comfortable night and you’re going to get a good dinner.”

She insists on his getting into the car.

Well, they ride out of London and get to a place where she has a sprawling mansion with large grounds.

They are ushered in by the butler, to whom she says,

“James, please make sure he’s put in the servants’ quarters and treated well,” which is what James does.

The young lady had undressed and was about to go to bed when she suddenly remembers her guest for the night.

So she slips something on and pads along the corridor to the servants’ quarters.

She sees a little chink of light from the room where the tramp was put up.

She taps lightly at the door, opens it, and finds the man awake.

She says, “What’s the trouble, my good man, didn’t you get a good meal?”

He said, “Never had a better meal in my life, lady.”

“Are you warm enough?”

He says, “Yes, lovely warm bed.”

Then she says, “Maybe you need a little company. Why don’t you move over a bit?”

And she comes closer to him and he moves over and falls right into the Thames.


Anthony de Mello

Being supported

Being supported

There was a woman in a therapy group I was conducting once.

She was a religious sister.

She said to me, “I don’t feel supported by my superior.”

So I said, “What do you mean by that?”

And she said, “Well, my superior, the provincial superior, never shows up at the novitiate where I am in charge, never.

She never says a word of appreciation.”

I said to her, “All right let’s do a little role playing.

Pretend I know your provincial superior.

In fact, pretend I know exactly what she thinks about you.

So I say to you (acting the part of the provincial superior),

‘You know, Mary, the reason I don’t come to that place you’re in is because it is the one place in the province that is trouble-free, no problems.

I know you’re in charge, so all is well.’

How do you feel now?”

She said, “I feel great.”

Then I said to her, “All right, would you mind leaving the room for a minute or two?

This is part of the exercise.”

So she did.

While she was away, I said to the others in the therapy group,

“I am still the provincial superior, O.K.?

Mary out there is the worst novice director I have ever had in the whole history of the province.

In fact, the reason I don’t go to the novitiate is because I can’t bear to see what she is up to.

It’s simply awful. But if I tell her the truth, it’s only going to make those novices suffer all the more.

We are getting somebody to take her place in a year or two; we are training someone.

In the meantime I thought I would say those nice things to her to keep her going.

What do you think of that?”

They answered, “Well, it was really the only thing you could do under the circumstances.”

Then I brought Mary back into the group and asked her if she still felt great.

“Oh yes,” she said.


Anthony de Mello