Monday, March 22, 2021

Trust the Not Knowing


Follow the stream,

Have faith in its course.

Ch'an Master Sheng-Yen

March 21, 2021

Link to the talk:

During my Zen training there were a number of phrases that lodged in the mind like nettles, refusing to budge, going nowhere. One was Your eyebrows are intertwined with Bodhidharma’s, Bodhidharma being the Indian Zen Buddhist monk who supposedly brought Zen from India to China. A similar one was It’s as close as the nose on your face. Say what?!? Several passages from the Bible were also mystifying, such as John 8:58, KJV: Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. Or Exodus 3:14 KJV And God said unto Moses, I Am That I Am: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you. These are two of the most profound passages in the Bible, yet I had no idea what they meant. The problem was that I was attempting to understand such passages using my ordinary mind, which is more or less adequate for addressing the myriad issues of daily life but helpless in the face of deep spiritual truth.

To truly understand such passages, they must be revealed to us. We will never understand spiritual truth by thinking about it. Fortunately, there is a way to understand. It involves activating the great Mind, what Korean Zen Master Seungsahn (1927 –2004) called “don’t know mind”. His injunction to Zen students was simple: “only don’t know”. The mind that knows is limited, conditioned, stuck. Not knowing opens up limitless possibilities. In order to make spiritual progress we need to cultivate the mind that knows nothing. Our ordinary thinking mind is addicted to knowing ‘stuff’-concepts, ideas, notions. Our ordinary mind is full of beliefs, opinions, and convictions, none of which are ultimately true. We so want to be right, to seem like we know what we are doing-to be in charge. One with this ocean of vastness, who is in charge of anything? Yet, strangely, when operating freely from no mind, decisions are made and effective actions are taken with no one making decisions or taking action.

How do we cultivate the mind that doesn’t know, yet is open to all potentiality? With no need to do or know anything whatsoever, genuine Knowing emerges of its own, spontaneously. This river flows by itself, without guidance or direction. Freely appearing Knowing is incontrovertible, not arguable. We know directly, for ourselves. No teachers or teachings are necessary. “Dharmas here are empty, all are the primal void”-the Heart Sutra speaks to us clearly.

In the teaching/discussion, we will explore the experience of living in the world from the ‘perspective’ of not knowing. How do we learn to identify and trust this direct, spontaneous speaking and acting? In Affirming Faith in Mind we read “thus walking freely, undisturbed”. What is it like to live in this way? We have all experienced such freedom. Right here, right now, how can we miss it?


No comments: