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Thread: The I don't know mind

  1. #1

    The I don't know mind

    On occasion I have heard zen writings claiming that the best mind is the " I don't know" mind. Although I find it very similar to the beginner mind ( although this is unrelated to my question).

    My question is whether this " I don't know " mind really means just that.

    By having this "I don't know" mind, are we saying we truly do not know? Or are we saying we know, but do not wish to delve into it?

    Thanks for your input.

    -Murah

  2. #2
    It's a common saying of Master Seung Sahn. He was a Korean Zen monk and founded the Kwan Um School of Zen.

    Unfortunately, I don't know any more about him than that. I've heard very good things about his books, particularly The Compass of Zen and Wanting Enlightenment is a Big Mistake

  3. #3
    Hi Murah,

    The Buddhadharma is action in the present moment and includes -- but at the same time goes beyond -- intellectual (subjective) and materialistic (objective) viewpoints. Just saying 'I know' is too focused on an individual aspect of reality, which, however, is far too complex to be adequately encaptured by discursive thought, and therefore misses the mark, as do all verbal explanations, ehm, such as this. :wink:

    Gassho
    Kenneth

  4. #4
    Hi,

    By having this "I don't know" mind, are we saying we truly do not know? Or are we saying we know, but do not wish to delve into it?

    I just wanted to say that, I believe, this is a very very important question. It is also the subject of great confusion among Zen practitioners, I think. In fact, I am going to go ahead and make it the subject of one of my little Zazen talks this coming week on the blog. Very important question.

    To give a short taste : There is much stuff about the universe, life and everything else that we just don't know (in the ordinary meaning of that term) because we are basically a few IQ points smarter than ants in trying to grasp the cosmos. However, our Zen practice makes us accepting of our human ignorance ... since I do not know all the secrets of the universe, I will simply chop wood and carry water in the here and now. I will seek to live my life here and now in a certain way.

    However, there is also a certain knowing (non-knowing) that can come on many subjects when we stop asking the questions in the usual way, or asking the questions at all. One easy example is when a person beats him/herself over the head with the question, "Am I adequate as a human being." Well, when you stop asking the darn question, a rather definite answer appears (something like, "You are adequately just who you are"). And there can be some pretty big non-answers too (on subject as vital as "Who are You," "Life & Death" and the like! I hope to get to such non-questions and non-answers as we move through some of Dogen's writings, because he got to most of them.)

    To quote from that great Zen Master (and, unfortunately, War Mastermind) Donald Rumsfeld ...


    ... as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns the ones we don't know we don't know


    I would add that there are "no problem unknowns" - things we don't know, but that is no problem.

    And there are "unknown knowns" - things we can know by non-knowing.

    Anyway, pardon me for rambling on here.

    Gassho, Jundo

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    To quote from that great Zen Master (and, unfortunately, War Mastermind) Donald Rumsfeld ...
    ... as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns the ones we don't know we don't know
    Gin Rummy (played by Samuel L. Jackson) in The Boondocks animated series used this quote to justify why they botched a bank robbery. Just a side note!
    My experience with The I Don't Know Mind is this.
    Taking my basic meditation class, several years ago, at the Kansas Zen Center in Lawrence KS, I was told that if counting breathes did not help calm down my thoughts I should try asking myself "Who am I?" on inhales and forcefully answering upon exhale "I DON'T KNOW!"

    --Xander

  6. #6
    By letting go of my "smart" (intellectual) knowing, it turns out I have always known how to do this.

    That's what I often have to backward-somersault into to hear the silence over the chittering during my time on the cushion.

    I can carry that into dancing or writing or petting a cat, into chopping wood and carrying water. Sometimes!

  7. #7

    don't know mind

    it starts in kidergarten and goes from there
    teacher puts forth a question and then asks "Who knows the answer?"
    arms go up, eager squirming, one arm helps hold up the other, and waving, waving "teacher, teacher, I do, I do!!"


    This already knowing mind is a mind with no room--it's full of the answer.

    But when we get asked the BIG questions: what is the meaning of life?
    The answers have a lot more room to move around in the mind.

    That room is the 'don't know' part.

    So that if someone asks how do you move your hand, how do you touch your nose? You can show it, if you're good at physiology you can explain it with muscles, a good at bio chemical responses you can explain on cellular level, but explaining how is not the same as knowing.
    How do you exchange oxygen for carbon dioxide? (It's a good thing my not knowing how doesn't prevent me from doing it).

    I don't know how life 'works,' but here I am living it.
    I don't know how zazen 'works', but here I am sitting it.
    I don't know how computers 'work' but here I am at the treeleaf community forum, having a lovely time with fellow sangha members, whom I don't know!!

  8. #8

    Re: I don't know

    Quote Originally Posted by william
    "What is this?" (holding a cup)

    "I don't know."

    You have the word cup in your mind, but that word that rises in your mind is not what a cup is.
    Heh, that makes me think of an old story (possibly urban myth) about the early days of Westerners 'discovering' Buddhism. Apparently, a group of Harvard philosophers flew in a Tibetan lama and a Japanese Zen roshi for an exhibition of "dharma combat."

    The Zen master started things off by pulling an orange out of the sleeve of his robe, holding it in the lama's face and shouting "What is this?"

    The lama turned to the interpreter for a brief discussion. Then the interpreter said to the Zen master "He's asking, don't you have oranges in Japan?"

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Guest 2
    Hi, What I believe Master Seung Sahn is saying by the "Don't Know Mind", is that the don't know mind, is the mind before discrimination.

    David
    Dear David,

    Maybe what you write is true. I don't know. ;-)

    Gassho, Jundo "Smartass" Cohen

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