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Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Not Knowing

Received the following question today;

Do you know if any of Suzuki Roshi's talks are about ‘not knowing mind is most intimate’ or even where he references? I’ve been on your site as well as SFZC‘s and could not find anything in reference to this.

My answer which may help the reader see how to search through all of the extant Shunryu Suzuki lectures:

"Not knowing is most intimate" is the way that koan, number 2o in the Book of Equanimity,  is expressed these days. I first heard it as "Not knowing is closest." I don't remember Suzuki Roshi talking about it specifically. You can easily search for the words at

Here - I'll go there and see what I can find. At I knock on the gate and go to Inside the Gate where there are various options, the most prominent being

Shunryu Suzuki Lecture Search Form

That takes us to the Search Form with three search options. I almost always use the first. The only option in the search that applies here is the Keywords. First I'll search for the word intimate. It's used 13 times in his lectures, some when he's reading a text, once by a student, once as a verb, describing close relationship between friends, student and teacher, husband and wife. The closest use of it to the koan happens in Winter Sesshin Lecture No. 5, December, 1969, Verbatim Transcript (69-12-03)

So this kind of understanding will be something which you should understand. Someth- -- it is not something which you can understand but something you will be familiar with, you know. When something-- you can feel something which you will be, you know, more intimate by your practice. This is bodhisattva practice.

so I'll try writing "not knowing"

There are two examples of that. One from questions, July, 1965, Verbatim Transcript (65-07-28-D) is a use similar to the koan.

 And big patient is something different from to be patient with your physical or mental distress or suffering. I think this makes sense, I think. That is small patient, or-- but big patient is to be patient for not-- for not knowing anything, or for not being-- for not to achieve anything,

"Not know" brings up too many examples. Anyway, Suzuki Roshi expressed the same understanding as that koan often in various ways. I plan to go through all the lectures again - that's overdue - and when I do, I'll try to note places in the lectures where that sort of idea comes up. To me, it's universal, part of the perennial philosophy, that absolute truth is not known or knowable in the way that we normally know things. It's central to mystical Christianity. Check out the Mystical Theology of Pseudo Dionysius which is quite short. He makes that point clear and one commentary in the notes therein reads

Here, being neither oneself nor someone else, one is supremely united to the completely unknown by an inactivity of all knowledge, and knows beyond the mind by knowing nothing.

And then there's the old gospel song with the line, "I've got the peace that passeth understanding."