Not-knowing is true knowledge.
Presuming to know is a disease.
First realize that you are sick;
then you can move toward health.
The Master is her own physician.
She has healed herself of all knowing.
Thus she is truly whole.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 71, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
We have been talking about what Lao Tzu refers to as our three greatest treasures: Be simple in thoughts and actions. Be patient with both friends and enemies. And, be compassionate toward yourself. Yesterday, Lao Tzu said these teachings are easy to understand, and easy to put into practice. But, our intellect can never grasp them; and, if we try to put them into practice, we will surely fail. Yesterday, I split my time, pretty evenly, between the practice of knowing without knowing, and doing without doing, to help us to not make something so easy, difficult. Today, we are going to go into a little more depth on the practice of knowing without knowing.
Today, Lao Tzu tells us that not-knowing, in other words, knowing without knowing, is true knowledge. Presuming that we know, which is relying on our knowledge, is a disease. We are sick! But, we may not realize it. We think we know. Our minds are vast storehouses of knowledge. For all our lives we have been adding, every day, to that storehouse of knowledge. We take in everything we perceive with our senses. Our brains process that information, and form ideas of how the world operates. But, the reality we perceive with our senses is only the way things seem to be. Our minds, our intellect, can’t grasp the whole other reality, before and beyond the way things seem to be, the way things are. That reality, Lao Tzu calls the Tao.
If we are going to put into practice these teachings of Lao Tzu (simplicity, patience, and compassion), we have to move toward health. And, the very first step is realizing we are sick. We have to know we don’t know. We have to know there is a reality, before and beyond the reality we perceive with our senses, and we don’t know it. But, that realization isn’t something which we can force on ourselves. We simply can’t decide, one day, I am going to realize something about the universe I don’t already know. Realization (true knowledge) isn’t something forced; it is spontaneous, and intuitive.
By spontaneous, I mean, it flows naturally, without any effort on our part. It just happens. I think of spontaneity as a “yang” thing. Intuition, on the other hand, is very much a “yin” thing.
And realization (true knowledge) is intuitive. It isn’t based on what our mind knows. It is born in the core of our being. Think of it as something you know in your gut, or in your heart. Because, what we know in our minds is in conflict with intuition, our minds will tend to discount it. How many times have you known something, in your gut, but then, your mind started arguing with you about it?
That is what we are up against. Spontaneity is effortless. And, intuition is “without knowing”. But our minds will offer resistance to it. “How do you know this?” The information I have in my mind may be completely in conflict with it. The truth is, I don’t know. But, the more we know that we don’t know, the further toward health we move. Still, expect resistance from your mind, and your body, along every step of the way.
The Master is our example for healing ourselves of all knowing, until we are truly whole.
First, comes the realization we are sick. Spontaneously, and intuitively, this realization comes. Then, we begin to move toward health. Every day, something had to be added to our knowledge. So, the remedy is every day, every time, we hear our minds saying, “I know, I know”, we stop ourselves, and take a step back.
Tell yourself, “No, I don’t know.” Don’t beat yourself up over this. Be compassionate toward yourself. You are sick, remember? You are healing, now. Every day you are moving toward health. The more you know you don’t know, the more you don’t know you know. Little by little, you are relying less and less on what you think you know, and more and more on what you know, spontaneously and intuitively, in your gut, in your heart.
This isn’t going to be something which happens in a day, or a week, or a month. It takes practice. It is an on-going process. But, you can master this. We all can.