Achieving a “ Don’t know mind”
Zen literature is full of strange, confusing and misleading words an such as “empty mind”,
“don’t know mind” , “mind before thinking”, “original mind”.
In the strict literally sense a “don’t know mind” is understood as a mind empty of knowledge, at max, an idiot mind. In its Zen meaning, a “don’t know mind” should not be understood as lack of knowledge but rather as a open mind that is a mind not frozen by too many ideas, opinions, judgments and other mind-set.
The don’t know mind is the mirror image of a mind of someone who know such much that the possibility of growth is almost impossible.
There is this famous story of a powerful and brilliant scientific man who came to a Korean Zen Master Nann-in to learn Zen philosophy, its practice and getting enlightenment.
The smart man talks, and talks and talks about his knowledge, achievements, opinions and ideas
Listening to him silently, the Zen teacher was slowly pouring tea in the guest cup to the point where the tea overflows on the table.
“Stop pouring tea !“ says the wise man, …..you are wasting good tea in my cup!
The Zen teacher replied:
“ Your mind is like your cup of tea, already full of stuff. Unless you empty your mind, I cannot teach you anything about Zen and Zen practice.. Empty your mind first and come back”
Great Japanese Zen Master Suzuki wrote a famous little book called “ Zen mind, beginner’s mind”
A beginner mind is like a “don’t know mind” or an “empty mind “ because this mind is ready to accept
new information like a sponge rather than being frozen by zillions of ideas and judgments.
A “don’t know mind” is open to everything and doubts always about its own content such as thoughts,
judgments, pre-conceived ideas, concepts, in other words: mind-set.
This mind is free rather than stuck and when our mind is free, we are free.
Achieving this mind openness is the only way to progress not only intellectually but also emotionally and spiritually. It will also help to make better decisions.
We are far from the confusion and misconception between “don’t know mind” and stupidity.
In Korean Zen, the teacher will work very hard on her/her students to achieve this new state of mind.
Zen Master Seung Sahn (1927-2004) used to consider this state of mind critical to achieve enlightenment.
In fact, the more we accumulate in our mind, the more restless it becomes and more stuck and less
open we become. Also, the more we accumulate in our mind, the more we talk and the less we listen.
If we move from a static closed mind to a dynamic open one, problems and challenges of life become
more acceptable and manageable.
An open mind imposes to challenge our mental comfort zone and this is the reason why it is
difficult to achieve.
From “this is a , this is b” ,the open mind switches to “maybe”
Here are few Zen quotes
“ If you cannot change your mind, then you are used b y it.”
“ If you cannot be open-minded, you do not possess your ideas, your ideas possess you”
“The problem with people with closed mind, is that they talk all the time, thinking they know everything
and don’t listen”.
“ Our mind is like a parachute; it does not work unless it is open.”
“It is a miracle that curiosity survives education” A. Einstein.