Knowing is not Nothing – Tribute to my Teacher
Posted on 03 June 2012
Knowing and not knowing is tricky indeed.
I can only know what I know, and
Do not know what I do not know.
When I know that I do not know,
It is already Wisdom half-won
Hence knowing is not nothing.
Not knowing that I do not know is dangerous
As that is where judgments come to be.
When I make an assumption,
It is from a mind that does not know that it does not know;
But due to its limiting view, thinks it knows
Yet knowing itself may not be wisdom-owned
For ignorance also knows –
Except from a deluded point of view.
Sayadaw Tejaniya is a precious gem of a teacher indeed. He constantly shows me the distinction between the nature of wisdom and the nature of ignorance. He leaves no stone unturned to answer questions that I thought I already knew the answers to – his replies always bring me to acknowledge that the mind is in the state of “I do not know that I do not know”.
These words he said to me changed the way I perceived meditation, “Forget about meditating. Simply check whether you are having the right attitude towards what you are experiencing – that (in itself) is meditation.” At that time, I couldn’t understand what he meant; it was only years later did I grasp the full meaning that wrong view leads to wrong meditation and right view to right meditation. The invitation to check my attitude is for me to figure out whether the mind is having the Right View or Wrong View; in other words, to comprehend if the knowing mind is motivated by wisdom or ignorance.
It is true indeed; how much wisdom can arise from meditation tainted by a Wrong View? This realization shocked me because I had thought that I understood Meditation fully; after all, I did have 30 years of meditation experience before I met him.
Sayadaw’s presence in my life has caused me to redefine the meaning and purpose of meditation. His razor-sharp clarity fine-tunes my thinking where I err and brings me to new levels of understanding. For this, I am deeply thankful.
I once asked Sayadaw if it were possible for me to experience the level of wisdom he possesses, if I had not met him in this lifetime. His wise reply? It all depends on the kind of parami (perfection) each individual has cultivated in the mind – some have the wisdom to discern on their own and others need guidance from a teacher.
His answer reminded me of the Buddha’s experience. The Buddha is unique in that he was aware that there was a lot he had yet to understand, despite his teachers’ confirmation that he has learned everything there was to know. Yet the Bodhisatta, as he was called prior to his Enlightenment, somehow knew that there was something else that He has yet to realize. And this knowing was what caused him to continue searching till He found the Ultimate Truth. Not many of us have this capacity to even recognize that we do not know it all.
Sayadaw Tejaniya is exceptional in that he has the wisdom to know that he does not know fully yet. Sayadaw has brought me to realize that the missing ingredient in my meditative effort is to consistently know that the mind does not know; instead of being in the state of not even knowing that it does not know.
For it is in the knowing of not knowing that meditation truly begins.