‘Not knowing is the most intimate.’


“The moment you don’t know, intimacy arises between you and reality, a great friendship arises. It becomes a love affair.” (Ah This! Ch 1, part 4)


This beautiful anecdote:

Ascending to the high seat, Dogen Zenji said:
“Zen Master Hogen studied with Keishin Zenji.
Once Keishin Zenji asked him, ‘Joza, where do you go?’
Hogen said. ‘I am making pilgrimage aimlessly.’
Keishin said, ‘What is the matter of your pilgrimage?’
Hogen said, ‘I don’t know.’
Keishin said, ‘Not knowing is the most intimate.’
Hogen suddenly attained great enlightenment.”

Now meditate over each word of this small anecdote; it contains all the great scriptures of the world. It contains more than all the great scriptures contain – because it also contains not knowing.

Ascending to the high seat…

This is just a symbolic, metaphorical way of saying something very significant. Zen says that man is a ladder. The lowest rung is the mind and the highest rung of the ladder is the no-mind. Zen says only people who have attained to no-mind are worthy enough to ascend to the high seat and speak to people – not everybody. It is not a question of a priest or a preacher.

Christians train preachers; they have theological colleges where preachers are trained. What kind of foolishness is this? Yes, you can teach them the art of eloquence; you can teach them how to begin a speech, how to end a speech. And that’s exactly what is being taught in Christian theological colleges. Even what gestures to make, when to make a pause, when to speak slowly and when to become loud – everything is cultivated. And these stupid people go on preaching about Jesus, and they have not asked a single question!

Once I visited a theological college. The principal was my friend; he invited me. I asked him, “Can you tell me in what theological college Jesus learned? – because the Sermon on the Mount is so beautiful, he must have learned in some theological college. In what theological college did Buddha learn?”

Mohammed was absolutely uneducated, but the way he speaks, the way he sings in the Koran, is superb. It is coming from somewhere else. It is not education, it is not knowledge. It is coming from a state of no-mind.

Little Johnny was the son of the local minister. One day his teacher was asking the class what they wanted to be when they grew up.

When it was his turn to answer he replied, “I want to be a minister just like my father.”

The teacher was impressed with his determination and so she asked him why he wanted to be a preacher.

“Well,” he said thoughtfully, “since I have to go to church on Sunday anyway, I figure it would be more interesting to be the guy who stands up and yells than the one who has to sit down and listen.”

You can create preachers, but you cannot create Masters.

In India, the seat from where a Master speaks is called vyaspeetha. Vyasa was one of the greatest Masters India has ever produced, one of the ancientmost Buddhas. He was so influential, his impact was so tremendous, that thousands of books exist in his name which were not written by him. But his name became so important that anybody who wanted to sell his book would put Vyasa’s name on it instead of putting his own name. His name was guarantee enough that the book was valuable. Now scholars go crazy deciding which is the real book written by Vyasa.

The seat from where a Buddha speaks is called vyaspeetha – the seat of the Buddha. Nobody else is allowed to ascend to the seat unless he has attained to no-mind. Ascending to the high seat is a metaphor: it says the man has attained to the state of no-mind, he has attained the state of not-knowing which is true knowing.

…Dogen Zenji said:
“Zen Master Hogen studied with Keishin Zenji.
Once Keishin Zenji asked him, ‘Joza, where do you go?’

This is a Zen way of saying, “What is your goal in life? Where are you going?” It also implies another question: “From where are you coming? What is the source of your life?” It also implies, “Who are you?” – because if you can answer where you are coming from and where you are going to, that means you must know who you are.

The three most important questions are: “Who am I? From where do I come? And to where am I going?”

…Keishin Zenji asked him, ‘Joza, where do you go?’
Hogen said. ‘I am making pilgrimage aimlessly.’

See the beauty of the answer. This is how tremendously beautiful things transpire between a Master and a disciple. He said:

‘I am making pilgrimage aimlessly.’

If you are going to Kaaba, then it is not a pilgrimage because there is an aim in it; if you are going to Jerusalem or to Kashi it is not a pilgrimage. Wherever there is a goal there is ambition, and wherever there is ambition there is mind, desire. And with desire there is no possibility of any pilgrimage.

A pilgrimage can only be aimless. See the beauty of it! Only a Zen Master can approve it and only a Zen disciple can say something so tremendously revolutionary.

‘I am making pilgrimage aimlessly.’

The Master asks, “Where are you going?” And the disciple says, “Nowhere in particular.”

Aimlessly, just like a dry leaf in the wind, wherever the wind takes it: to the north, then the north is beautiful; to the south, then the south is beautiful – because all is divine. Wherever you go you encounter him. There is no need to have any aim.

The moment you have any aim you become tense; you become concentrated on the aim. The moment you have any aim you are separate from the whole. You have a private goal, and to have a private goal is the root of all ego. Not to have a private goal is to be one with the whole, and to be one with the whole is possible only if you are aimlessly wandering.

A Zen person is a wanderer, aimless, with no goal, with no future. Moment-to-moment he lives without any mind; just like the dry leaf he makes himself available to the winds. He says to the winds, “Take me wherever you want.” If he rises on the winds high in the sky he does not feel superior to others who are lying down on the ground. If he falls to the ground he does not feel inferior to others who are rising on the wind high in the sky. He cannot fail. He cannot ever be frustrated. When there is no goal, how can you fail? And when you are not going anywhere in particular, how can you be in frustration? Expectation brings frustration. Private ambitions bring failures.

The Zen person is always victorious, even in his failure.

Keishin said, ‘What is the matter of your pilgrimage?’

He asks again to make certain, because he may be simply repeating. He may have read in some old Zen scriptures that “One should be aimless. When one is aimless, life is a pilgrimage.” Hence the Master asks again:

…’What is the matter of your pilgrimage?’
Hogen said, ‘I don’t know.’

Now, if Hogen was only repeating some knowledge gathered from scriptures or others, he would have again answered the same thing, maybe paraphrased in a different way. He would have been like a parrot. The Master is asking the same question, but the answer has changed, totally changed. He simply says, “I don’t know.”

How can you know if you are aimless? How can you know when you don’t have any goal? How can you be when there is no goal? The ego can exist only with goals, ambitions, desires.

Hogen said, ‘I don’t know.’

His answer, his response, is not parrotlike. He has not repeated the same thing again. The question was the same, remember, but the answer has changed. That’s the difference between a knowledgeable person and a man of knowing, the wise man, who functions out of a state of not-knowing.

‘I don’t know.’

Keishin must have been tremendously happy. He said:

‘Not knowing is the most intimate.’

Knowledge creates a distance between you and reality. The more you know, the greater is the distance – so many books between you and reality. If you have crammed the whole of the Encyclopedia Britannica, then there is so much distance between you and reality. Unless reality tries to find you through the jungle of the Encyclopedia Britannica or you try to find reality through the jungle of the Encyclopedia Britannica, there is not going to be any meeting. The more you know, the greater is the distance; the less you know, the thinner is the distance. If you don’t know at all there is no distance at all. Then you are face to face with reality; not even face to face – you are it. That’s why the Master said:

‘Not knowing is the most intimate.’

Remember, such a beautiful sutra, so exquisite, so tremendously significant:

‘Not knowing is the most intimate.’

The moment you don’t know, intimacy arises between you and reality, a great friendship arises. It becomes a love affair. You are embracing reality; reality penetrates you, as lovers penetrate each other. You melt into it like snow melting in the sun. You become one with it. There is nothing to divide. It is knowledge that divides; it is not-knowing that unites.

Listening to this tremendously significant sutra:

‘Not knowing is the most intimate.’
Hogen suddenly attained great enlightenment.

He must have been very close, obviously. When he said, “I don’t know,” he must have been just on the borderline. When he said, “I am making pilgrimage aimlessly,” he was just one step away from the borderline. When he said, “I don’t know,” even that one step disappeared. He was standing on the borderline.

And when the Master said, when the Master confirmed, illuminated, and said, ‘Not knowing is the most intimate.’ …when the Master patted him on the back: ‘Not knowing is the most intimate.’ …Hogen suddenly attained great enlightenment.

Immediately, that very moment, he crossed the border. Immediately his last clinging disappeared. Now he cannot even say, “I don’t know.”

The stupid person says, “I know”; the intelligent person comes to know that “I don’t know.” But there is a transcendence of both when only silence prevails. Nothing can be said, nothing can be uttered. Hogen entered that silence, that great enlightenment, and suddenly, immediately, without any lapse of time.

Enlightenment is always sudden because it is not an achievement; it is already the case. It is only a remembering, it is only a reminding, it is only a recognition. You are already enlightened; you are just not aware of it. It is awareness of that which is already the case.

Meditate over this beautiful anecdote. Let this sutra resound in your being:

‘Not knowing is the most intimate.’

And one never knows: sudden enlightenment may happen to you as it happened to Hogen. It is going to happen to many people here, because what I am doing every day is destroying your knowledge, destroying and destroying all your clingings and strategies of the mind. Any day when your mind collapses, when you cannot hold it together any more, there is bound to be sudden enlightenment. It is not an attainment, hence it can happen in a single moment, instantly. Society has forced you to forget it; my work here is to help you remember it.

Osho, Ah This! Ch 1 (part 4)
Read previous parts: Ah This! Ch 1
Thanks to Waduda and Upchara for inspiration to publish this discourse

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