Treasure Chest

A possible way to illumination

Recognition of human selfishness and unreliability — disillusionment with ourselves and others and the beginnings of awakening — observation and self-observation — growing acceptance and love for the reality as it is, without the desire for further illusions or fixing — more observation and self-observation — understanding and deepening of awakening — living in the here and now = illumination – I.L. –

To me, selfishness seems to come out of an instinct for self-preservation, which is our deepest and first instinct. (…) What does this do to your relationship with people? What are you complaining about? A young man came to complain that his girlfriend had let him down, that she had played false. What are you complaining about? Did you expect any better? Expect the worst, you’re dealing with selfish people. You’re the idiot—you glorified her, didn’t you? You thought she was a princess, you thought people were nice. They’re not! They’re not nice. They’re as bad as you are—bad, you understand? They’re asleep like you. And what do you think they are going to seek? Their own self-interest, exactly like you. No difference.

Can you imagine how liberating it is that you’ll never be disillusioned again, never be disappointed again? You’ll never feel let down again. Never feel rejected. Want to wake up? You want happiness? You want freedom? Here it is: Drop your false ideas. See through people. If you see through yourself, you will see through everyone. Then you will love them. Otherwise you spend the whole time grappling with your wrong notions of them, with your illusions that are constantly crashing against reality.

It’s probably too startling for many of you to understand that everyone except the very rare, awakened person can be expected to be selfish and to seek his or her own self-interest whether in coarse or in refined ways. This leads you to see that there’s nothing to be disappointed about, nothing to be disillusioned about. If you had been in touch with reality all along, you would never have been disappointed. But you chose to paint people in glowing colors; you chose not to see through human beings because you chose not to see through yourself. So you’re paying the price now.

When you’re ready to exchange your illusions for reality, when you’re ready to exchange your dreams for facts, that’s the way you find it all. That’s where life finally becomes meaningful. Life becomes beautiful. All of a sudden, life is no longer the nightmare that it has seemed. Wake up!

Somebody came up to me with a question. What do you think the question was? He asked me, “Are you enlightened?” What do you think my answer was? What does it matter! You want a better answer? My answer would be: “How would I know? How would you know? What does it matter?” You know something? If you want anything too badly, you’re in big trouble. You know something else? If I were enlightened and you listened to me because I was enlightened, then you’re in big trouble. Are you ready to be brainwashed by someone who’s enlightened? You can be brainwashed by anybody, you know. What does it matter whether someone’s enlightened or not?

But see, we want to lean on someone, don’t we? We want to lean on anybody we think has arrived. We love to hear that people have arrived. It gives us hope, doesn’t it? What do you want to hope for? Isn’t that another form of desire? You want to hope for something better than what you have right now, don’t you? Otherwise you wouldn’t be hoping. But then, you forget that you have it all right now anyway, and you don’t know it. Why not concentrate on the now instead of hoping for better times in the future? Why not understand the now instead of forgetting it and hoping for the future? Isn’t the future just another trap?

The only way someone can be of help to you is in challenging your ideas. If you’re ready to listen and if you’re ready to be challenged, there’s one thing that you can do, but no one can help you. What is this most important thing of all? It’s called self-observation. No one can help you there. No one can give you a method. No one can show you a technique. The moment you pick up a technique, you’re programmed again.

But self-observation—watching yourself—is important. It is not the same as self-absorption. Self-absorption is self-preoccupation, where you’re concerned about yourself, worried about yourself. I’m talking about self-observation. What’s that? It means to watch everything in you and around you as far as possible and watch it as if it were happening to someone else. What does that last sentence mean? It means that you do not personalize what is happening to you. It means that you look at things as if you have no connection with them whatsoever.

The reason you suffer from your depression and your anxieties is that you identify with them. You say, “I’m depressed.” But that is false. You are not depressed. If you want to be accurate, you might say, “I am experiencing a depression right now.” But you can hardly say, “I am depressed.” You are not your depression.

That is but a strange kind of trick of the mind, a strange kind of illusion. You have deluded yourself into thinking— though, you are not aware of it—that you are your depression, that you are your anxiety, that you are your joy or the thrills that you have. “I am delighted!” You certainly are not delighted. Delight may be in you right now, but wait around, it will change; it won’t last: it never lasts; it keeps changing: it’s always changing.

Clouds come and go: some of them are black and some white, some of them are large, others small. If we want to follow the analogy, you would be the sky, observing the clouds. You are a passive, detached observer. That’s shocking, particularly to someone in the Western culture. You’re not interfering. Don’t interfere. Don’t “fix” anything. Watch! Observe!

The trouble with people is that they’re busy fixing things they don’t even understand. We’re always fixing things, aren’t we? It never strikes us that things don’t need to be fixed. They really don’t. This is a great illumination. They need to be understood. If you understood them, they’d change.

– Anthony de Mello