A companion to Anthony De Mello's all-time bestselling work of inspiration, Awareness.
Anthony De Mello was one of the most important spiritual writers of the 20th century. Since his death in 1987, his stature has only increased. His books, including Song of the Bird, Sadhana, and the international bestselling Awareness are considered by many to be some of the most influential spiritual teachings of the last 50 years.
Now, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of his passing, Image Books is proud to present what may very well prove to be the last published work of this beloved spiritual teacher. Based on a lecture given just months before his death, Rediscovering Life invites us to unlock the deeper meaning of our lives. By becoming aware of the circuitous and habitual nature of our limiting thoughts, we can find simple solutions that will release us from feelings of isolation, anger, sadness and depression. In short, De Mello offers us a new way to look at the world and God that will transform our lives.
Rediscovering Life is a timeless and compassionate book that will awaken you to the beauty of human experience and increase your ability to see God in all things.
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June 12, 2012
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Excerpt from Rediscovering Life by Anthony De Mello
Let me begin by telling you what I plan to do. The theme is the rediscovery of life.
I discovered something about ten years ago, and it turned my life upside down. It revolutionized my life. I became a new man. This is what I'm going to share with you. I am happy to share it with you, in a special kind of way, though you might say to me, "How come you heard this just ten years ago? Hadn't you read the Gospels?" Of course I'd read the Gospels, but I hadn't seen it. It was right there, but I hadn't seen it.
Later, having discovered it, I found it in all the major religious writings, and I was amazed. I mean, I was reading it, but I hadn't recognized it. I wished to God I'd found this when I was younger. Oh, what a difference it would have made.
So, how long will it take to give it to you? A whole day? I'll be honest with you: I don't think it will take more than two minutes. Grasping it or get�ting it might take you twenty years, ﬁ fteen years, ten years, ten minutes, or one day, three days--who knows. That depends on you.
Various people have told me over the years, since my initial discovery, that their lives were pretty much revolutionized, too. But not too many people--I'm sorry to say, very few have. I tend to think that if out of the one thousand people who are listening to me, if one person hears it, that's a pretty good average. Is it difﬁcult to hear? Is it dif�ﬁcult to understand?
It's so simple that a seven-year-old child could understand it.
Isn't that amazing? And in fact, when I think of it today, I think, Why didn't I see it?
I don't know. I don't know why I didn't see it, but I didn't. Now, maybe one or another of you might see it today, or might see part of it. What would you need to see it? Just one thing: the ability to listen. That's all. Are you able to listen? If you can, you might get it.
Now, listening is not as easy as you might think it is. Why? Because we're always listening from ﬁ xed concepts, ﬁxed positions, ﬁxed prejudices. Listening does not mean swallowing, though. That's gullibil�ity. "Oh, he says it, so I take it."
I don't want any of you to have any spirit of faith while you're listening to me. I mean, you could take what the Church teaches on faith; you could take the Bible on faith, etc. Don't take me on faith. What I want you to do is to question everything I'm say�ing, think about it, come back at me. Feel free to do that even while I'm talking. Ask questions, raise your hands anytime.
But then, listening doesn't mean attacking, ei�ther, though I'm going to say something that is so new that some of you are going to think I'm crazy, that I'm out of my mind. So, then, you're going to be tempted to attack. If you tell a Marxist there's something wrong with Marxism, the ﬁ rst thing he's likely to do is attack you. If you tell a capitalist there's something wrong with capitalism, he's up in arms. If you tell an American, "Hey, you know, there's something wrong with the United States"-- and the same with the Indian person if you're at�tacking India, and so on.
It doesn't mean swallowing, it doesn't mean at�tacking. It doesn't mean agreeing.
Did you hear about the Jesuit superior who was a great success? People would ask him, "How come you're such a great success as a superior?"
He would reply, "Very simple. The formula is sim�ple: I agree with everyone. I just agree with everyone."
They would say, "Don't be absurd. How can you be a successful superior, agreeing with everybody?"
He would reply, "That's right. How could I be a successful superior, agreeing with everybody?"
So, it doesn't mean agreeing with me. You could disagree with me and get it. Isn't that amazing? It means being alert. Be alert. Be watchful. Listen with a kind of a fresh mind. That's not easy, either-- listening with a fresh mind, without prejudices, without ﬁ xed formulas.
Just yesterday somebody told me a story. You know the famous saying, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away"? Well, this guy was having an affair with the doctor's wife and was eating an apple a day, so--he got it all wrong. He got it all wrong! He was living from a ﬁxed formula, see? A ﬁ xed position.
Someone also recently told me a story about a priest who was trying to convince an alcoholic pa�rishioner that he ought to give up drinking. So, the priest gets a glass of alcohol, pure alcohol, and he gets hold of a bug, a worm, and he drops it into the glass. And the poor worm begins to wriggle and dies. And he says to the parishioner, "You got the message, John?"
John says, "Yeah, Father, I got the message. I got the message. You know, you got a bug in your stom�ach, alcohol is the thing to kill it." So he got the message, yes. John wasn't listening, see? He wasn't listening.
I know a case where a Father wasn't listening, either. This man goes to see the parish priest. The parish priest was reading the newspaper, didn't want to be disturbed. He said, "Excuse me, Father." Father was irritated; he ignored him. "Excuse me, Father."
Father said, "What is it?"
He said, "Could you tell me what causes arthri�tis, Father?"
Father was irritated. "What causes arthritis? Drinking causes arthritis, that's what causes arthri�tis. Going about with loose women causes arthritis, that's what causes arthritis. Gambling causes arthri�tis, that's what causes arthritis. Why do you ask?"
He said, "Because it says in the paper here that the Holy Father has arthritis."
Father wasn't listening, see? If you are ready to hear something new, simple, or unexpected against almost everything you've been told 'til now--ready to hear that?--then, maybe you'll hear what I have to say.
Maybe you'll get it.
When Jesus taught the good news, I think he was attacked not only because what he taught was good but also because it was new. We hate anything new. I hated anything new. Give me the old stuff. We don't like the new. It's too disturbing. Too lib�erating. So, the ability to listen: Buddha formulated it beautifully. He said, "Monks and scholars must accept my words not out of respect, but must ana�lyze them, the way a goldsmith analyzes gold: by cutting, scraping, rubbing, melting." You must not accept my words out of respect, but should ana�lyze them by cutting--the way the goldsmith ana�lyzes gold, see? Cutting, scraping, rubbing, melting. Okay, so we've got that clear.
What's this thing we call life? Take a look at the world and then I'll invite you to take a look at your own life. Take a look at the world. Poverty every�where. I read in the New York Times recently that the bishops of the United States claim that there are thirty-three million people in the United States who are living below the poverty line, a distinction drawn by the government itself. If you think that is poverty, you ought to go to other countries and see the squalor, the dirt, the misery. You call that life?
Well, I've got news for you. I can show you life even there. About twelve years ago, I was intro�duced to a rickshaw puller in Calcutta. It's awful. I mean, a human being; riding in a rickshaw, you don't have a horse pulling you, you've got a human being pulling you. The life span of these poor men is from ten to twelve years once they begin pulling the rickshaw. They don't last very long. They get tuberculosis. They die quickly.
Now, Ramchandra--Ramchandra was his name-- Ramchandra had TB. At that time, there was a small group of people engaging in an illegal activ�ity involving exporting skeletons. The government eventually caught on to them. But you know what they used to do? They bought your skeleton while you were still alive. If you were very poor, you went to them and you sold your skeleton for the equiva�lent of about $10.
So, these people would ask the rickshaw pullers, "How long have you been working in the street?" Someone like Ramchandra would reply, "Ten years."
And these buyers would think: He doesn't have much longer to live. "All right, here's your money." Then, the moment one of these men died, they would pounce on the body, they would take it away, and then, when the body had decomposed through some process they have, they would take hold of the skeleton.
Ramchandra had sold his skeleton, that's how poor he was. He had a wife, he had kids, and he had the squalor, the poverty, the misery, the uncertainty. You'd never think to ﬁnd happiness there, right? Yet, nothing seemed to faze him. He was all right. Noth�ing seemed to upset him. I said to him, "Aren't you upset?"
He said, "About what?"
"You know, your future, the future of the kids."
He said, "Well, I'm doing the best I can, but the rest is in the hands of God."
I said, "Hey, but what about your sickness? That causes suffering, doesn't it?"
He said, "A bit. We gotta take life as it comes." I never once saw him in a bad mood. But as I was talking to this guy, I suddenly realized I was in the presence of a mystic. I suddenly realized I was in the presence of life. It was right there. He was alive. I was dead.
Remember those lovely words of Jesus? Look at the birds of the air. Look at the ﬂowers of the ﬁ eld. They don't sow, they don't spin. They don't have a moment of anxiety for the future. Not like you. He was right here. I know that rickshaw puller must be dead by now. I met him very brieﬂy in Calcutta and then went on to where I live now, farther south in India. What happened to that guy, I don't know. But I know I'd met a mystic. Extraordinary person. He discovered life. He rediscovered it.
The human mind is such an extraordinary thing. It has invented the computer. It has split the atom. It has sent ships into space. It has not, however, solved the problem of human suffering, of anguish, loneli�ness, emptiness, despair. You're pretty young, most of you, but I honestly don't think you're strangers to loneliness, heartache, emptiness, depression, de�spair. How come we haven't found the answer to those?
We've made all kinds of technological advances. Has that raised the quality of our living by one inch? Want to know my opinion? No, not one inch. Oh, we have more comfort. More speed. Pleasures, en�tertainment--that's right. More erudition. Greater technological advances. What I'm saying is, has there been any improvement on ending that lone�liness and emptiness and heartache? Any improve�ment on eliminating that greed and hatred and conﬂict? Less ﬁghting? Less cruelty? If you want my opinion, I think it's worse.
And the tragedy is, as I discovered about ten years ago, the secret has been found. But why don't we use it? We don't want it, that's why. Would you believe that? We don't want it. We don't want it. Can you imagine my saying to somebody, "Look, I'm going to give you a formula that will make you happy for the rest of your life. You'll enjoy every single minute of the rest of your life." Imagine my saying that to you.
Okay, I'm going to say that to you today. I'm go�ing to give you that formula. You know what most of you are going to do? Sorry for insulting you in advance, okay? But if you're anything like the au�diences I've had until now, you know what most of you are going to do? You'll say, "Stop it. Don't tell me. Stop it. I don't want to hear it." They don't want to hear it, and you don't even have to take that on faith; I'm going to prove it to you.
Falling into Happiness by Letting Go
Six months ago, I was in St. Louis, Missouri, giving a workshop. There was a priest there who came to see me. He said, "You know, I accept every single word you've said over these three days, every sin�gle word of it. And you know why? Not because I've done what you encouraged us to do--to cut and rub and scrape and analyze. No, about three months ago I assisted an AIDS victim on his death�bed. And the man told me the following. He said, 'Father, six months ago the doctor told me I had six months to live.' " The man was dying, see.
" 'He said I had exactly six months to live, and I believed him. And you know something, Father? These have been the six happiest months of my whole misspent life. Happiest. In fact, I've never been happy till these six months. I discovered hap�piness.' He said, 'As soon as the doctor told me that, I dropped tension, pressure, anxiety, hope, and fell, not into despair, but into happiness at last.' " And the priest said, "You know, many is the time I've been reﬂecting on the words of that man. When I heard you this weekend, I thought, The guy's come alive again. You're saying exactly what he said." Here's a guy who had it. Here was a man who found it.
The formula's here; you've got it right here. It can be found in Philippians: "For whatever the situation I ﬁ nd myself in, I have learned to be self- sufﬁ cient. I am experienced in being brought low, and I have known what it meant to have abundance. I have learned how to cope with every circumstance: how to eat well or to go hungry; to be well provided for, or to do without."
That is, "I have learned to cope with every circumstance: how to eat well or to go hungry; to be well provided for, or to do without." A little ear�lier, Paul says, "Rejoice always. Rejoice in the Lord. Again I say it: Rejoice." I think of Ramchandra in Calcutta. I think of that AIDS victim in St. Louis. That's what Paul is talking about. I had read it all my life and had never understood it. I mean, it was staring me in the face. I didn't grasp it.