Insights by Upchara on “Not knowing” (the “Boh?” for an Italian child) and the question “Why?” – with a short intro by Punya.

night in Tuscany


Recently, in a piece of writing by a psychologist, I read with a kind of envy how the author had managed to put in context – and overcome with sage wisdom – the various adversities that had happened in their life. Everything was neatly packed into boxes of wise understanding. Nothing out of place.

There was envy because in my world nothing makes much sense. For a long time now I have been letting go of wanting to squeeze my life into synthetic bubbles, and this is my payment for it: I can no longer come to conclusions like, This has happened to me because… Apart from maybe, I have a tummy ache because I ate too much ice cream last night. Why should I give myself and others a reason why we have moved house, why at times this or that does not work well in my body (as long as I have done my rehab exercises)? Why do I sometimes wake up in a foul mood? Why, on top of the discomfort, should I torture myself with questions like, Am I not loving enough? Is it a genetic family trait? What am I doing wrong? What have I done wrong in a past life?

I thought that as sannyasins we had left behind our Catholic, Mea culpa, mea culpa. That we had outgrown the concepts of traditional religions: the original sin, karma, heaven and hell. It appears we have now replaced those beliefs with I came to this world for this and that reason, My incarnation is to understand… It would have been so easy to put my soul at rest with a This is my soul’s life journey and school, I have to go through all this to learn about that.

Why do I need to squeeze myself again into boxes?

Of course if I don’t, I will be standing in the wide open, naked in the cold, looking up at the firmament of stars, or – in syntony with where I am living now – enveloped by a passing fog bank…

I recently discussed this with my good friend Upchara, during one of our frequent WhatsApp catch-up talks. I found in her a willing ear and someone who has more to say about it. This is what she sent me yesterday:

I must understand! I am supposed to know!

It is very important for me, for us, to realize the deepest conditioning we have: we are supposed to know.

It’s totally unconscious,

We are supposed to understand.

We are supposed to be able to explain what is happening to us, what is happening in the world.

And this so-called “knowing” gives us the illusion of security, of safety.

It’s very awkward. It’s a very strange feeling when you realize that you don’t know. Period.

Today I want to pick up the theme of not knowing and of how much of it is conditioned.

How much are we conditioned by the imposition and obligation of having to know, of having to understand? As if, basically, we have to have a theory about everything?

Since we were two years old, three years old maybe, there was around us this near-obsession from everybody that we had to know.

And where do the famous “why’s” originate from, that come to a child when they are about three? It is not inbuilt in our system. Or, perhaps it is now? After thousands of years, billions of human minds trying to “make sense” with their minds? It comes from the surroundings we are in – built unconsciously over the centuries.

It is like an invisible prison sentence: You must understand!

And again, it is unconscious.

So, this happens not only in school, of course, but later on and particularly now, in our ageing and in our spiritual journey. There it is, there it was, always accompanying our journey: This I must understand!

Nothing happens by chance

That’s why we have come up with all kinds of explanations that will fit our whatever-chosen idealistic system and theory. All pretending they have understood. Example: a very typical New Age sentence: Nothing happens by chance.

That’s where we get caught. If we are ill, people say: “Oh, this must be karma.” Or even worse, “You must have some negative energy.” Or, “You have this illness because you’re supposed to look at some stuff in yourself.”

It is dramatic. It is condemning.

I now wish to look into the many facets of this conditioning; it is so deep that we do not even notice it. Can I, through exploring this, bring myself to a place where I start embracing and accepting that I really don’t know?

It’s probably just an idea that nothing happens by chance. What if it is not so?

What if everything happens just ‘by chance’?

If I ‘know’, I feel safe, and there is an order in reality!

If I ‘know’, if I can give an explanation to things, it means there is an order. It means there are ways, fixed ways, to perceive reality and life. This then gives me an illusion of safety. Even of some control!

What if there is no meaning?

What happens in you if I say, “There is no explanation”? What happens to me if I see and really feel no explanation? Can I really let myself be in the space of there is no explanation? There is no understandable cause. (Of course, there are causes in the laws of physics on the planet. We are not talking about that.)

What happens if I take in that I really do not know what any of this “means?”

No “meaning” to how life unfolds on the planet. Nor to what I am I doing here. A radical unknowingness.

This idea that there should be a meaning…

This is all built into our little human minds; it feels safe if there is a meaning!

What if there is no meaning?

Something happens if you allow this, if you allow yourself to feel this in the body / mind / soul.

Well, with all that talk about No Mind…

This is the entry point, scary for many, yet so delightful.

As I let myself open to this, memories come of Osho discourses reminding us of the great Zen teachings: “Not knowing is the most intimate”!

What is intimacy? Wonderful question. Great Koan.

It is: no distance whatsoever between anything.

So, there are no thoughts, no words. Neither knowing nor not knowing.

It is a silent, pulsating alive emptiness.

To me, this is the invitation to drop understanding, to drop knowing.

“Why?” – a question invented by Satan

There is another theme connected to “not knowing” that is as challenging. It has to do with the question that we use or we were conditioned to use; “Why?”

That “Why?” is the only question that not only is not helpful, but literally distorts reality.

It not only distorts reality, it distorts our perception of the moment. Of Life.

This question has no answer. It only creates a distorted mental organization of causes and effects that are all built up in our little human mind. Not the big Mind! (Also called the absolute, awareness, sat-chit-anand, the very impersonal substance of all!) (I do not intend to argue or teach anything here. Just sharing my dearest tiny insights.)

So, for example, the question, “Why don’t you love me anymore?” If you really listen to it, it has no answer. Just like the question, “Why did you fall in love with me?” There is no answer.

The answers would just be a construction that has no connection with the mystery of life and reality.

One day, as I shared this with a friend, I actually heard myself say, “Why? is a question invented by Satan!”

Satan is not the devil somewhere outside of us. It is a part of our little human mind that distorts reality and separates us from life, and if I may say, from God.

So, the question “Why?”… As soon as you hear yourself say, “Why did it happen? Why did you say that? Why?” Drop it! It is the moment to use the question “Why?” as a Gurdjieffian “Stop!”

There are no why’s.


And this then connects with something that a long time ago mystics also understood and spoke about. They said, “You don’t pray or meditate because…”

There is no “because.”

If you do anything like meditation or prayer “because”, you’re already out of order, out of the natural order of reality!

I find this fascinating, really fascinating!

This awareness can help us stop when our little human mind distorts our connection to reality, to life, to God.

This great mystery

After the last notes that I wrote, I feel to add something that happened to me this morning, as I was gently jogging in the dark through the countryside in Tuscany.

There was a moment – that happens often – of gratefulness. Nothing new in this… But suddenly, I felt just so sad. There was a sadness that made me cry; there was no “Who.”

No “whom” to be grateful to! There was not a someone or a “who” to say thank you to!

And of course, I know to whom to be grateful. I mean, I call this immensity, life, existence… I call it God.

But it’s not a “who.”

The fact that I could not find a subject to bow down to and say thank you to, made me so sad that I ended up crying. Sadly crying, on my little dirt road…

And to finish, of course, I would like to say: It is a loop.

It’s like the mystic says: What heart does God have but your own? What eyes does God have, but yours? What voice does God have, but yours?

And Meister Eckhart:

The eyes with which you see God are the eyes with which God sees you.”

This great mystery!

Related discourse in four parts

Featured image by Samuele Bertoli: unsplash.com


Upchara has been giving workshops at the Multiversity and the Mystery School in Pune and since 2000 in Italy, South America, Spain, Croatia and Greece.


Punya is the founder of Osho News and author of the memoir On the Edge.

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