John Suler's Zen Stories to Tell Your Neighbors

I Don't Know


The emperor, who was a devout Buddhist, invited a great Zen master to the Palace in order to ask him questions about Buddhism. "What is the highest truth of the holy Buddhist doctrine?" the emperor inquired.

"Vast emptiness... and not a trace of holiness," the master replied.

"If there is no holiness," the emperor said, "then who or what are you?"

"I do not know," the master replied.

Knowing nothing philosophy emptinessPeople's reactions to this story:
"We come from the void and will return to it. In between we are flashes of light. Sharing."

"Without God we are nothing."

"Every time our knowledge advances it discredits what we previously thought, we can be certain of nothing."

"When we believe the essence of self is knowable and definable, we limit selfhood to the confines of space and time, the matrix from which the ego is born. It is only when self is unknowable that it becomes identifiable with its true source in the infinite beyond human comprehension."

"Yeah, right on! I sometimes think that those are three of the best words that exist. If you don't know, don't be afraid to say it. And who knows everything about themselves, much less everything else?"

"Who or what are you?" That is a question I ask myself everyday. The funny thing is that I also come up with "I don't know" Does that mean I'm Buddhist ;-)

"The only true knowledge is knowing that we do not know."

"In Zen you don't have to be anyone or anything. You just have to "be" that's all and though it may seem simple just "being" is one of the hardest things in life. I think this story is about knowing yourself deeply, than, you don't need anything else."

"Vast emptiness, holiness, who are you," etc. are words of limitation. The emperor searches for 'answers' in the form of words. IT is beyond words and includes words. " I don't know" dwells there."

"Emptiness is form and form is emptiness. Ultimately we are nothing. We are nobody.

"This brief anecdote is enough to clear the mind, at least for a few moments. Such deep ambiguity, almost anti-dogma, may be all that the Zen master is trying to convey."

"I think that, while we are alive, it's early to know who or what we are. Perhaps after our death somebody could say what was our mission on Earth."

"Was the zen master Socrates incognito?"

"As long as you don't know something, you are free - free from your prejudices and fears. Then, you learn and you convince yourself that you do know; until, somehow, the world goes out of your hands - and you find yourself trembling in a corner, trying to discover again that you don't know a single thing about it. And there you are again."

"From a taoist perspective, I'd say that not a trace of holiness is accurate because then you don't feel on a lower level, you are with the Tao. As Lao-Tzu said, the Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao. The master recognizes that categorizing something or someone traps them, so it is better to be without labels. "

"The truth can be recognized only through intuitive understanding."

"One can not express the holly thrue in rational way of thinking. Intuition understanding of paradox is only way to know. The expression 'vast emptiness' means that nothing contains something."

"It doesn't matter whether he ever knew or not. He hides behind the idea of this. Good or Bad? He voices it like he still holds the answer to the riddle. He is as lost as we all are. He never has (hopefully) suggested that he has the answer because we all have to find it for ourselves.

"There are many ways to finish the master's statement. 'I don't know - and who cares?' is one.... 'I don't know -do you?' is another.... 'I don't know - and will never know' is still another. I tend to like the first one - but any of them can be used, any of them can be right, any can become a path to enlightenment. We are all prisoners of our own knowledge - our disengagement begins when we dare to say 'I don't know.' And the Things that guide our lives must remain eternally unknown."

zen story || Empty Your Cup || Most Important Teaching || No More Questions ||


~ Zen Stories to Tell Your Neighbors ~