Chapter 11: The Suchness of Things
The first question:
Lao Tzu is said to have said:
“Knowing the not-knowing -
that is high.
Not knowing the knowing -
that is an illness.
The one who suffers from this illness
is not ill.
The wise is not ill
because he suffers from this illness -
that’s why he is not ill.”
Lao Tzu is one of those few masters who have tried to say the truth as accurately as it is humanly possible. He has made tremendous effort to bring the inexpressible to the world of expression, to bring the wordless experience within the confinement of small words.
The words we know are mundane; they are meant for ordinary day-to-day use. And the experience that happens in absolute silence is absolutely beyond them. But still it has to be expressed - if not expressed, at least hinted at.
Lao Tzu’s words are fingers pointing to the moon. Don’t cling to the fingers. Forget the fingers and look at the moon, and great insight will descend upon you.
There is no other scripture like the Tao Te Ching for the simple reason that each single word in it is immensely pregnant, not only with the unknown but also with the unknowable. Words have been used only as indicators, milestones showing the way, telling you to go ahead, not to stop there.
These words are very significant, but at the first reading they will look very puzzling, confusing, paradoxical, contradictory - unless you have tasted something of meditation. That taste makes everything clear.
Meditation is like eyes. When you talk about light to a man who has eyes, he immediately understands what you mean. When you talk to the blind man about light, he hears the word but listens to nothing, understands nothing. His ears are perfect; the word reaches him but empty, with no content. The content has always to be put by your experience.
These words are not ordinary words. Unless you come to them with great meditation it is impossible to figure out what is what. If you come with meditation, then things cannot be more simple than Lao Tzu’s words are. He says, “Knowing the not-knowing - that is high.”
The highest point is that nothing can be known, that everything is unknowable - and not only unknown, but unknowable. A distinction has to be made between the unknown and the unknowable; these two words have to be pondered over. The first is the known. That which is known today was unknown yesterday. That which is unknown today may become known tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. Hence the difference between the known and the unknown. It is not a difference that makes any difference; it is only a question of time. There is no qualitative difference between the two.