Saturday, August 27, 2011

Cultivating a "Not-Knowing" Mind

We enter the world not knowing where we came from. We will eventually leave this world not knowing where we are going. Religions and philosophers have debated birth, life, and death for millennia without actually resolving anything. Where can we get answers? Let's look at the Dao De Jing by Laozi.

The writings of Laozi indicate a different approach than religion or philosophy. He wrote about the "don't know" mind. In chapter 71 of Dao De Jing, he wrote (Byrn translation):
Knowing you don't know is wholeness. Thinking you know is a disease. Only by recognizing that you have an illness can you move to seek a cure.

The cure that Laozi prescribes is given in chapter 48 (Byrn):
1. One who seeks knowledge learns something new every day. One who seeks the Dao (the way of nature) unlearns something new every day.
2. Less and less remains until you arrive at non-action. When you arrive at non-action, nothing will be left undone. Mastery of the world is achieved by letting things take their natural course.
3. You can not master the world by changing the Dao.

Writings in classical Chinese are always subject to varied interpretations. I think Laozi is saying that we need to appreciate the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. Simplify your life. We do not need to aspire to enlightenment. We do not need to study philosophy to understand the world. We just have to live it as it is. This is our greatest treasure.

© 2011 Eric Borreson