I'm a fan of Anthony de Mello, a free-thinking Jesuit priest.
In a 2015 post, "Anthony de Mello -- a heretic Catholic spiritual rebel," I shared links to eight other blog posts I'd written about de Mello's writings.
Recently I finished reading what probably will be the last published book of his. "Rediscovering Life: Awaken to Reality" is based on a lecture de Mello gave a few months before he died in 1987. Excerpts from the book can be read below.
On the whole, I agree with what de Mello says here. It's a tough love sort of message. But after at first resisting the idea that we create our feelings of being upset, not anything outside of us, I've come around to thinking that he's right.
This is the core of de Mello's message in Rediscovering Life.
It's so simple. As I told you, I could put it down for you in two minutes. Whether you'll hear it, though, is another matter. That depends on your own heart. So here it is.
The world is full of sorrow. The root of sorrow is attachment/desire. The uprooting of sorrow is the dropping of attachment.
How does one drop attachment? You only look and see that it is based on a false belief -- the belief that, without this, I cannot be happy. That's false.
The moment you see that belief is false, you're free. Good luck to you. It may take you one minute, it may take you twenty-five years. But the day you see it, you're free. You're free as a bird.
...All right. Does it mean that we withdraw from the human endeavor, having no attachment? No. Plunge into the din of battle.
And you know, you have so much more energy, believe me, when you have no attachments. You've got all of your energy available to you.
The great Chinese sage Tranxu puts it marvelously:
"When the archer shoots for nothing, he has all his skill. When he shoots for a brass buckle, he is already nervous. When he shoots for a prize of gold, he goes blind. He's out of his mind. He sees two targets. His skill has not changed. But the prize divides him. He cares. He thinks more of winning than of shooting. And the need to win drains him of power."
Isn't that sublime? The need to win drains us of power. If we don't need to win, we have so much more energy.
So, no one joins in the human enterprise of human dreams and visions and goals so marvelously and so creatively as the person who is unattached.
Unfortunately, we've come to associate nonattachment with not caring, with not enjoying, with asceticism. No, I'm not talking about that at all. You'll see this as we go on.
...Get your soul ready for a shock. Here it comes. I say it just like it is; I'm going to lob the bomb right into your midst. Listen to this:
Nothing in reality, nothing in life, nothing in the world, upsets you. Nothing has the power to upset you. Did anyone tell you that?
All upset exists in you, not in reality. You can underline the word all. All of it. All of it. All of it. All upset is in you, not in life. Not in reality. Not in the world. It's in you.
Just understanding this has changed the lives of people, I mean, 180 degrees. Just understanding this and no more. Reality is not upsetting. Reality is not problematic. If there were no human mind, there would be no problems.
All problems exist in the human mind. All problems are created by the mind.
...You're planning a picnic on Sunday and the picnic gets rained out. Where do you think the upset is -- in the rain or in you? In the rain -- or in your reaction to the rain?
The upset feeling is not caused by the rain, but by your reaction to the rain. Someone else would react differently: no upset.
...Are you getting some inkling of what it would mean if you really grasped this? You'd be above it all. That's one nice definition of spirituality.
Spirituality means no longer being at the mercy of an event, or a person, or anything else.
I didn't say not to love people. I said, you're not at their mercy anymore. You're no longer at the mercy of an event, or of a person, or of anything else. In other words, no matter what happens, you no longer upset yourself.
...The world is full of sorrow. The root of sorrow is attachment. The uprooting of sorrow is the dropping of attachment. The understanding that attachment is a false belief -- the false belief that anything or any person can make you happy.
True happiness is caused by nothing. True happiness is uncaused. If you ask the mystic why he or she is happy, the answer will be, "Why not?" No block, no obstruction. Why not?
Have you ever thought that if something causes your happiness, when you lose that something then your happiness will be destroyed? Has it ever occurred to you that if something causes your happiness you will become possessive of that thing? That you will become anxious lest you lose it?
Whatever that thing be -- learning, reputation, good health, life itself. Yet how interesting: the rediscovery of life.
You will never live unless you stop clinging to life. Let go. When you cling, happiness dies. If your happiness depends on anyone or anything, that's not happiness. That's anxiety. That's tension. That's pressure. That's fear.
...Do you know what it means to be with people and to have no tension? Because you don't give a damn whether they like you or not, don't care what they think of you. Do you know what that means?
Freedom. Joy. They can think what they want, they can say what they want. That's all right. You're not affected. You've gotten the drug out of your system.