A Changed Person
The following is the 29th chapter in AWARENESS: A de Mellow Spirituality Conference in His Own Words
by Fr. Anthony de Mello, S.J. edited by J. Francis Stroud, S.J., Copyright © 1990 by the Center for Spiritual Exchange
“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 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 ‘I,’ 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 cannot 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’s 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.”