A Great Paradox

from Rediscovering Life by Anthony DeMello

The Japanese have a powerful tale about a man running away from a tiger, who comes to a precipice. Unable to stop his momentum, he stumbles and goes over the edge, sliding down helplessly, until he slides into a bush and manages to grab hold of one of its branch . When he looks up through the bush, he sees the tiger waiting for him at the top. When he looks below, he sees that it’s a 10,000 foot drop to the bottom. He realizes that in a few minutes the tenuous branch he’s clutching to is going to break and he will fall to his death.

What does he do?

He looks at that bush and discovers that it’s full of ripe, juicy berries. So, he holds to the branch with one hand and begins plucking berries with the other, savoring each berry that he drops into his mouth, and he marvels at the incredible sweetness of the berries and thinks, “Nothing in my life has ever tasted so sweet.”

Isn’t that marvelous?

I had two friends in the past who were dying and both said to me that it wasn’t until they were dying that they fully realized how sweet life was. A great paradox, to be sure.

We’re doing all the wrong things to be happy. We’ve been programmed to be unhappy. Anything we’re doing to be happy is going to make us more unhappy. What are you going to do? Are you going to change yourself ? Are you going to change others? Are you going to acquire something? You don’t have to do anything. You have to understand. Drop the obstruction. Drop the false belief. The attachment will drop, and then you’ll know what happiness is.

So easily said. If you would meditate on that for days, and you would experience some of its truth, then you won’t need to listen to me or to anyone else. You will have it. You will have learned it. You will have seen it. You’re attached now only because you falsely believe that without this thing or that person or situation or event, you will not be happy. You falsely believe that. See its falseness, and you will be free. How simple.

And here we are, scouring the earth, running everywhere in search of happiness. Yet we had it right here at home and did not understand it. And we listened to all kinds of sermons, and we stud- ied all kinds of books, and we went to all kinds of churches—but we never heard it. We never recog- nized the Messiah, even though he was right there. Happiness was right there staring at us, right under our nose. We didn’t see it.