Book Review: The Song of the Bird, by Anthony de Mello

spiritedStarred Page By spirited, 30th Jun 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Reviews>Books>Religion & Spirituality

This article is a review of a book by an author who became well-known in spiritual circles for his writings, until his untimely death, at only 55 years of age.

At the time of his death, Tony was running a very popular spiritual centre in India. His sudden and unexpected death is seen to be a suspicious one by some people. Tony's dead body was found on the floor of his room. He had supposedly died of a heart attack.

A little about the author of this book

The author of this book, Anthony "Tony" de Mello (4/9/1931 to 2/06/1987) was an Indian Jesuit Catholic priest, and psychotherapist.

The Jesuits are a society, or religious order, within the Roman Catholic Church, who were founded by Saint Ignatius of Loyola (1491 to 1556). It is made up of males only.

Tony was a spiritual teacher, a writer, and a public speaker.

Anthony de Mello SJ, (the "SJ" stands for Society of Jesus, another name for the Jesuits) wrote quite a few other books other than this one on spirituality too.

At the time of his death he had written five books or so, but more were published posthumously. I have counted nearly twenty titles, all-in all. Some were compiled from his various lectures and conferences.

This book reaches past the teachings of the Catholic church though. It includes stories, fables, and anecdotes, from many different faiths, including the Jewish, Sufi faiths, and even Zen Buddhism too.

This reaching past traditional Catholic beliefs and their teachings got Anthony de Mello into trouble with the Catholic church though.

They even issued a Vatican "notification" which outlined some of the ways his radical ideas estranged him from traditional Catholic teachings.

Anthony's teaching moved away from the idea of a personal God, more to the idea of God being more now just an impersonal force within the Cosmos.

His writings, this "notification" states, are considered to be incompatible with the Catholic faith.

The book none-the-less is an interesting one for anyone to read.

My next three sections give some sample stories from this book being reviewed here.

Photo Credit:

The photo used in this section belongs to myself, the author of this article.

A typical tale from the book

The Spiritual Heart Attack

Uncle Tom had a weak heart, so when the family learnt that he had inherited a billion dollars, they feared to tell him lest the news gave him a stroke. So they sought the help of the priest who assured them he would do the needful.

"Tell me, Tom," said Father Murphy, "If God, in his mercy, were to send you a billion dollars, what would you do with them?"

"I'd give you half of it for the church, Father."

Father Murphy got the stroke!

Tony de Mello, says that we should always put God first, not ourselves first. We should not try to push ourselves against God. God does not need any pushing along!

Tony says that when we push God or anything else onto someone else, we are being selfish, when we do this. God need not be pushed towards, or onto, anyone!

Heaven could be said to be like a dewdrop on the end of your nose. It hangs on there for a long time before finally falling off.

You worry about where it will fall, and even whilst it still hangs there, but the truth is that all of this is just a part of living, and so, even this you must allow to tread the path with you, until you tread the paths within heaven once more again.

We must realise too though that as we walk on Earth, another part of us also walks still within heaven. It can be no other than this, because your God part always walks with God.

You can always hear God walking in your garden, or within yourself, even as the bible says in the Old Testament book of Genesis.

Here is the verse from Genesis, chapter 3, and verse 8 that I am talking about here.

"The man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day."

Another tale from this book

The Question

Said the monk,

"All these mountains and rivers and earth and stars--
where do they come from?"

Said the Master,

"Where does your question come from?"

Tony is telling us here that all of the answers to our questions can only be ever found by searching within.

How do we really ever learn to search within, who is really the real searcher anyway?

Where are we searching into, what is within?

The innerness of inner space connects to all of oneness.

This is why real and complete answers can be only found within.

Outside, there is only separation, and so the outside answers can never fully satisfy you, and these answers will always only ever be partial answers, at best, anyway.

"Obedience keeps the rules. Love knows when to break them."

This is one quote that I really like from, Anthony de Mello.

Love lives by its own rules in other words, but it also can make them as it goes along!

Love has no restrictions on its loving. Restricted loving is not full loving, and so no man-made laws can ever prevent one from loving. God himself is oneness and oneness can have no laws or rules in its being of oneness. It is just forever itself.

Oneness when it becomes separated requires laws otherwise it might never be put back together again. When we love, we leave these laws all behind though, and only then do we re-join this oneness then, complete, completely.

This is the paradox of oneness having no laws, and needing none, but allowing them to exist just the same.

Love allows laws to allow itself to travel done different tributaries of itself, and to leave its ocean at times to explore its greater oneness of itself.

Oneness can flow like this in infinite ways, but it always remains the same oneness as a whole. The same love flows though-out everything, be it a small stream or the ocean.

The tale that contains the title of his book

The Song of the Bird

The disciples were full of questions about God.

Said the Master,

"God is Unknown, the Unknowable. Every statement about Him, every answer to your questions, is a distortion of the Truth."

The disciples were bewildered.

"Then why do you speak about Him at all?"

"Why does the bird sing?" said the Master.

God cannot be understood from answering questions about him. Questions keep you as a scholar.

The words of a Master are not said to be understood. They are to be listened to not with your ears, but with your heart.

Those who have ears do not hear, unless they have opened their real ears.

"Whoever has ears, let them hear."

Jesus said this. The above words are recorded in Saint Matthew's gospel, chapter 11, verse 15.

One listens to the wind blowing through the trees. One listens to the song of the bird.

When we listen to the words of a master in this way too, his words will awaken something deep within your heart, and this something is deeper than all knowledge. You will have found truth, and it will have set you free.

Jesus Christ said this in the book of John in the New Testament of the bible. This quote is from chapter 8, verse 32.

"You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

Photo credits:

All photos used in this article have been sourced from the free media site, Wikimedia Commons, apart from where otherwise mentioned.

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author avatar GV Rama Rao
30th Jun 2015 (#)

Thanks for an excellent review. I'll try and get a copy of the book. Second, I admire Jesuits for they are bound to give 10% of their income to the church to look after the poor. Third, the anecdote about the lottery and the stroke is an old popular joke doing the rounds for long.
Sermons that transcend a particular faith always sound interesting and show the wisdom of the speaker.

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author avatar spirited
30th Jun 2015 (#)

Thanks GV Rama Rao,

I love books such as this. I like to read short stories, with a message in them.

Most of these stories have done the rounds, but the author here first tells the story then explains the principles of spiritual truth within them.

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author avatar Carol Roach
1st Jul 2015 (#)

hey I missed you, how have you been?

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author avatar spirited
1st Jul 2015 (#)

Thanks for missing me! Carol.

I've been feeling a bit out of sorts.

Hopefully, I will be feeling better soon.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
1st Jul 2015 (#)

Thanks Spirited for a nice review.

Tony De Mello seems to have stepped beyond strict boundaries set by his belief, but I feel no harm in sharing what he feels with others. After all, one need not parrot what others have been saying generations after generations - siva

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author avatar spirited
2nd Jul 2015 (#)

Thanks siva,

I like parrots, but not that sort...LOL...I prefer free thinkers.

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author avatar Kingwell
2nd Jul 2015 (#)

Tony De Mello could not be kept within the bounds of the church. Good review. Blessings.

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author avatar spirited
2nd Jul 2015 (#)

thanks Kingwell,

some of us are like that!!

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author avatar Retired
2nd Jul 2015 (#)

Excellent review, Spirited.

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author avatar spirited
2nd Jul 2015 (#)

thanks Joyesh

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author avatar KaraSkinner
2nd Jul 2015 (#)

Great review. The book sounds fascinating.

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author avatar spirited
2nd Jul 2015 (#)

thanks KaraSkinner

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