“Whenever knowledge is not needed, put it aside and drown yourself into a state of not knowing – which is also a state of knowing, real knowing.” (Ah This! Ch 1, part 3)
Zen says: if you can drop philosophizing, there is a hope for you. The moment you drop philosophizing you become innocent like a child. But remember: – the Zen emphasis on not knowing does not mean that it emphasizes ignorance. Not knowing is not ignorance; not knowing is a state of innocence. There is neither knowledge nor ignorance; both have been transcended.
An ignorant man is one who ignores; that’s how the word comes. The root is “ignoring.” The ignorant person is one who goes on ignoring something essential. In that way the knowledgeable person is the most ignorant person, because he knows about heaven and hell and he knows nothing about himself. He knows about God, but he knows nothing about who he is, what this consciousness inside is. He is ignorant because he is ignoring the most fundamental thing in life: he is ignoring himself. He is keeping himself occupied with the non-essential. He is ignorant – full of knowledge, yet utterly ignorant.
Not knowing simply means a state of no-mind. Mind can be knowledgeable, mind can be ignorant. If you have little information you will be thought ignorant; if you have more information you will be thought knowledgeable. Between ignorance and knowledge the difference is that of quantity, of degrees. The ignorant person is less knowledgeable, that’s all; the very knowledgeable person may appear to the world as less ignorant, but they are not different, their qualities are not different.
Zen emphasizes the state of not knowing. Not knowing means one is neither ignorant nor knowledgeable. One is not knowledgeable because one is not interested in mere information, and one is not ignorant because one is not ignoring – one is not ignoring the most essential quest. One is not ignoring one’s own being, one’s own consciousness.
Not knowing has a beauty of its own, a purity. It is just like a pure mirror, a lake utterly silent, reflecting the stars and the trees on the bank. The state of not knowing is the highest point in man’s evolution.
Knowledge is introduced to the mind after physical birth. Knowing is always present, like the heart knowing how to beat or a seed knowing how to sprout, or a flower knowing how to grow, or a fish knowing how to swim. And it is quite different from knowing about things. So please make a distinction between knowledge and knowing.
The state of not knowing is really the state of knowing because when all knowledge and all ignorance have disappeared you can reflect existence as it is. Knowledge is acquired after your birth, but knowing comes with you. And the more knowledge you acquire, the more and more knowing starts disappearing because it becomes covered with knowledge. Knowledge is exactly like dust and knowing is like a mirror.
The heart of knowing is now. Knowledge is always of the past. Knowledge means memory. Knowledge means you have known something, you have experienced something, and you have accumulated your experience. Knowing is of the present. And how can you be in the present if you are clinging too much to knowledge? That is impossible; you will have to drop clinging to knowledge. And knowledge is acquired: knowing is your nature. Knowing is always now – the heart of knowing is now. And the heart of now…?
The word “now” is beautiful. The heart of it is the letter “O” which is also a symbol for zero. The heart of now is zero, nothingness. When the mind is no more, when you are just a nothingness, just a zero – Buddha calls it exactly that, shunya, the zero – then everything that surrounds you, all that is within and without, is known, but known not as knowledge, known in a totally different way. The same way that the flower knows how to open, and the fish knows how to swim, and the child knows in the mother’s womb how to grow, and you know how to breathe – even while asleep, even in a coma, you go on breathing – and the heart knows how to beat. This is a totally different kind of knowing, so intrinsic, so internal. It is not acquired, it is natural.
Knowledge is got in exchange for knowing. And when you have got knowledge, what happens to knowing? You forget knowing. You have got knowledge and you have forgotten knowing. And knowing is the door to the divine; knowledge is a barrier to the divine. Knowledge has utility in the world. Yes, it will make you more efficient, skillful, a good mechanic, this and that; you may be able to earn in a better way. All that is there and I am not denying it. And you can use knowledge in that way; but don’t let knowledge become a barrier to the divine. Whenever knowledge is not needed, put it aside and drown yourself into a state of not knowing – which is also a state of knowing, real knowing. Knowledge is got in exchange for knowing and knowing is forgotten. It has only to be remembered – you have forgotten it.
The function of the Master is to help you re-member it. The mind has to be RE-minded, for knowing is nothing but re-cognition, re-collection, re-membrance. When you come across some truth, when you come across a Master, and you see the truth of his being, something within you immediately recognizes it. Not even a single moment is lost. You don’t think about it, whether it is true or not – thinking needs time. When you listen to the truth, when you feel the presence of truth, when you come into close communion with the truth, something within you immediately recognizes it, with no argumentation. Not that you accept, not that you believe: you recognize. And it could not be recognized if it were not already known somehow, somewhere, deep down within you.
This is the fundamental approach of Zen.
“Has your baby brother learned to talk yet?”
“Oh, sure,” replied little Mike. “Now Mummy and Daddy are teaching him to keep quiet.”
The society teaches you knowledge. So many schools, colleges, universities… they are all devoted to creating knowledge, more knowledge, implanting knowledge in people. And the function of the Master is just the opposite: what your society has done to you the Master has to undo. His function is basically anti-social, and nothing can be done about it. The Master is bound to be anti-social.
Jesus, Pythagoras, Buddha, Lao Tzu, they are all anti-social. Not that they want to be anti-social, but the moment they recognize the beauty of not knowing, the vastness of not knowing, the innocence of not knowing, the moment the taste of not knowing happens to them, they want to impart it to others, they want to share it with others. And that very process is anti-social.
People ask me why the society is against me. The society is not against me – I am anti-social. But I can’t help it – I have to do my thing. I have to share what has happened to me, and in that very sharing I go against the society. Its whole structure is rooted in knowledge, and the Master’s function is to destroy both knowledge and ignorance and to bring you back your childhood.
Jesus says: Unless you are like small children you will not enter into the kingdom of God.
The society, in fact, makes you uprooted from your nature. It pushes you off your center. It makes you neurotic.
Conducting a university course, a famous psychiatrist was asked by a student, “Sir, you have told us about the abnormal person and his behavior, but what about the normal person?”
“When we find him,” replied the psychiatrist, “we cure him.”
The society goes on curing normal people. Every child is born normal, remember; then the society cures him. Then he becomes abnormal. He becomes Hindu, Mohammedan, Christian, Communist, Catholic… there are so many kinds of neurosis in the world. You can choose, you can shop for whatever kind of neurosis you want. Society creates all kinds; all sizes and shapes of neurosis are available, to everybody’s liking.
Zen cures you of your abnormality. It makes you again normal, it makes you again ordinary. It does not make you a saint, remember. It does not make you a holy person, remember. It simply makes you an ordinary person – takes you back to your nature, back to your source.