A teacher asked Fayan, ‘Where are you going?’ Fayan said,’I am traveling around on pilgrimage.’ The teacher said, ‘Why are you doing that?’ Fayan said, ‘I don’t know’. The teacher replied, ‘Not knowing is most intimate.’
Book of Serenity, Case 20
Rather than dissect, collate, parse and evaluate, maybe sometimes it is better that we just see, listen, smell, taste, and touch. These are the most direct ways to ‘know’. But we often think of ‘not knowing’ as the opposite of knowing, the opposite of the senses. ‘Not knowing’, however, is actually exceedingly full. It is full of mysterious things. It is, just by itself, the very majesty of mystery.
Last week we held a three-day retreat in the Mission District, which we nick-named ‘Urban Chaos’. Mostly peopled and run by young professionals, outside of meditating, working with koans and eating food, we largely dispensed with the honorable conventions handed down by the (mostly) patriarchs and matriarchs. It was fun. It did not all go well, but the ancest
ors-in-making owned it.
I was seeing students in interviews, and between students there was a lag of a few minutes, so I would pick up the Blue Cliff Record and read from the biography section. One student came in and asked, ‘What are your reading?’, and I read to him the above passage on Fayan. About an hour later someone else came in and said, ‘You know that koan, ‘Not knowing is most intimate?’ That is my favorite koan.’ A third came in and started talking about how much she loved the ‘Not knowing is most intimate’ koan.
Finally, a fourth student came in and said ‘All these people who talk about deepening their practice and getting enlightenment, that is not what I want.’ I replied that enlightenment is just a word; practice is really about opening the heart. What was he looking for? ‘I want to rewire my brain, or something.’ For what end? ‘So I can more directly experience the world.’ I said, ‘How is that different from opening your heart?’
He said, ‘I really don’t like koans, but there is one do like. ‘Not knowing…um, um’ I finished his sentence, ‘Most intimate?’ ‘Yes, that is the one!’ He said goodbye, because he did not think he would be returning. ‘I really don’t know why I am practicing’, he said. I looked at him, and tears welled in our eyes as I said, ‘You don’t need to know.’
Rihanna’s Desperado, a non-sequitor but is fresh and fresh: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePsezcNt8Xo