8/10/2009

Don't Know



"True faith is bewilderment." (Martin Luther)

"Which of you by taking thought can add one inch to his stature?" (Mattew 6:27)


When the Patriarch Bodhidharma brought Buddhism to China, the Emperor Wu demanded an audience with him. A court-official recited the list of the emperor's meritorious deeds: from the founding of universities and hospitals to charities for the poor. After the long recitation, the Emperor asked Bodhidharma what merits he had achieved.

Bodhidharma answered, "Don't know."

"Then what is your authority as a teacher?" asked the emperor.

Bodhidharma replied, "Don't know."

"So," huffed the emperor, "what is it that you teach?"

"Don't know."

All the suffering that humans inflict on one another - whether in the name of "god" or scientific "progress," whether in the name of national defense, moral righteousness or political reform, all such suffering whatsoever comes from believing that we know. Based on our knowledge, we attempt to improve the world. And because we know, we permit ourselves to invade, inject, possess, convert, repress and exploit other human beings.

But what do we know? Every morning we wake up assuming that we know our world. Furiously, all day long, we manipulate this world, making the future conform to our knowledge. But do we even know the most basic substance of our world, what it's made of? Do we know what the simplest flower, or speck of dust, or a single atom, or an electron actually is? And failing to know the essence of the world, how can our knowledge of anything have any basis?

Do we know the world, or the mind's description of the world? Do we know any thing, or only our thought about it? Are we not perpetually cut off from the green and sensuous mystery of things as they truly are, because we dwell as exiles in our knowledge?

Perhaps reality is finally encountered, not by knowing, but by surrendering to the Unknown, and dissolving into this, which is more immediate than any thought you can think about it....

Until now, we have assumed that "religion" is a form of knowledge, and a set of commandments. But the word comes from the Latin, re-ligare, which means to bind back, to return to the source. Perhaps real religion has more to do with a process of unknowing than with gaining knowledge.

Those who seek to know need many commandments.

Those who think they know need ten.

Those who know they cannot know need only one:

"Don't Know."

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