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Not- Knowing

“When we sit in silence, we make contact with the reality of not knowing. This is the place where we have the opportunity to let go of resistance, where we have the opportunity to stop fighting the truth of what is. Most of us have been conditioned to fear not knowing, but in Zen teaching this is the hallmark of the awakened mind.” Claude Anshin Thomas (Bringing Meditation to Life)

In Buddhism, the concept of "not knowing" is closely related to the idea of "beginner's mind" or "don't-know mind." It is a fundamental aspect of Buddhist teachings and encourages practitioners to approach life and spiritual practice with an open and receptive attitude, free from preconceptions and fixed views.

Buddhism recognizes that our minds are often clouded by biases, attachments, and the illusion of certainty. This can hinder our ability to see things as they truly are and prevent us from experiencing genuine insight and awakening. The practice of "not knowing" in Buddhism involves letting go of our assumptions, beliefs, and judgments, and cultivating a state of receptive openness.

The renowned Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki emphasized the importance of "beginner's mind" in his teachings. He encouraged students to approach their practice with the innocence and curiosity of a beginner, even if they have been practicing for many years. By letting go of fixed ideas and being open to each moment's possibilities, practitioners can experience the freshness and richness of life directly.

The practice of "not knowing" also cultivates humility and non-attachment. It encourages practitioners to let go of the need to control, grasp, or cling to fixed views and ideas. By acknowledging our inherent limitations and embracing the uncertainty of life, we create the space for new insights, growth, and transformation.

In Zen Buddhism, the concept of "not knowing" holds great significance. It is an essential aspect of Zen practice and is closely related to the idea of "don't-know mind" or "empty mind." Zen teachings generally emphasize the direct experience of reality beyond conceptual thinking and intellectual understanding.

In Zen, "not knowing" refers to a state of open awareness and profound questioning. It is the recognition that our ordinary, conceptual thinking often limits our understanding and prevents us from directly experiencing the true nature of reality. By letting go of our fixed ideas, judgments, and attachments to certainty, we create the space for a direct and intuitive apprehension of the present moment.

The practice of "not knowing" is closely related to the concept of emptiness or "mu." Emptiness is not a nihilistic or void state but refers to the interdependent and impermanent nature of all phenomena. It is the recognition that nothing has inherent, fixed existence. By letting go of preconceptions and fixed views, practitioners can directly experience the dynamic and interconnected nature of reality.

In Zen, the practice of "not knowing" is not a passive state of ignorance or confusion. It is an active engagement with the present moment, characterized by deep inquiry, curiosity, and a willingness to let go of fixed views. By embracing "not knowing," practitioners open themselves up to the boundless possibilities of each moment, allowing insights and wisdom to arise naturally.

Ultimately "not knowing" is not a negation of knowledge or understanding. It is an invitation to go beyond conceptual thinking and directly experience the interconnectedness and profound mystery of existence. Through the practice of "not knowing," practitioners aim to cultivate a mind that is open, receptive, and free from the limitations of intellectual understanding, leading to awakening and liberation. In a world filled with relentless noise, constant information bombardment, and a never-ending pursuit of certainty, Anshin invites us to embrace the power and wisdom that can be found in the realm of "not knowing."

The human experience is one of constant seeking—a ceaseless quest for answers, knowledge, and understanding. We yearn to make sense of the world around us, to decipher its mysteries, and to find solid ground upon which to stand. We are driven by the desire to possess certainty, to hold tightly onto our beliefs and convictions. Yet, in our relentless pursuit, we often overlook the profound beauty and potential that reside within the realm of uncertainty.

Anshin teaches us that "not knowing" is not a state of ignorance or helplessness, but rather a gateway to profound insights and true freedom. It is a humble acknowledgment that our understanding of the world is limited and that there is always more to learn. By embracing "not knowing," we open ourselves up to the vast expanse of possibilities, allowing new perspec>ves and revelations to enter our lives.

In a world that glorifies certainty and fixed beliefs, Anshin encourages us to question the very foundations upon which our knowledge is built. He invites us to cultivate a sense of curiosity and wonder, to remain open-minded and receptive to the ever- changing nature of reality. In "not knowing," we create the space for growth, transformation, and the expansion of our consciousness.

But what does it mean to truly embrace "not knowing"? It means seeing aside our preconceived notions and biases, humbling ourselves before the vastness of existence. It requires the willingness to step outside the comfort zones of our beliefs and explore the uncharted territories of our minds. It demands the courage to let go of our attachments to certainty and embrace the fluidity of the present moment.

In the realm of "not knowing," we discover the power of presence. We become acutely aware of the present moment, letting go of our incessant need to control and predict the future. It is in this space of openness and vulnerability that we can truly connect with ourselves, with others, and with the world around us. We learn to listen deeply, to engage in genuine dialogue, and to foster authentic connections that transcend superficial boundaries.

This chapter shows us that the path of "not knowing" is not a passive one but an active engagement with life itself. It requires us to be fully present, to observe without judgment, and to embrace uncertainty as a catalyst for growth. By surrendering our attachment to certainty, we open ourselves up to the wisdom that resides in the gaps, in the questions left unanswered. We discover that true knowledge is not found in fixed answers but in the explora>on of the unknown.

As we navigate the complexities of the modern world, the teachings of Claude Anshin Thomas remind us of the transformative power of embracing "not knowing." They guide us to transcend the limitations of our conditioned minds and to awaken to the boundless potential within us. By surrendering our need for certainty, we embark on a journey of self-discovery, compassion, and profound interconnectedness.

Finally let us remember that the realm of "not knowing" is not a destination but a continuous exploration. It is an invitation to remain open-hearted and open-minded, to embrace the uncertainties of life with grace and courage. Through the teachings of Anshin, we are reminded that the greatest truths are oDen found in the spaces between what we think we know.

In Gassho, Heiryu

The monk Fayan was going on pilgrimage.
 Master Dizang asked, “Where are you going?”
 Fayan said, “On pilgrimage.”
Dizang asked, “Why?”
Fayan said: “I don’t know.”
Dizang said, “Not knowing is most intimate.”
 (The Book of Equanimity, Case #20)


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