“I don’t know” is soon to become my life-long mantra.
It has helped me immensely in calming the “monkey mind” after a wonderful Korean woman introduced it to me and it took a full day for me to understand its profound ramifications.
For me, saying “I don’t know” is a way of humbling myself and admitting that I know very little about the world I live in and what really matters in the scheme of life. No matter how hard I try to “get it right” through searching and throwing myself into one spiritual path after another, the end result brings me no closer to any definite answer and it’s okay to let it go and simply say “I don’t know” to the world.
I don’t know how electricity works, but I know that it exists and provides for so many of our heating and transportation needs, not to mention that hair dryer that vain men (some women, perhaps) depend on for their appearance. I don’t know how God (or some other Source by a different name) created us, or how many days it took for Him to create the world, but I know that it manifested from the same substance that you and I are made of and will one day return to.
Yes, I believe in a force that is higher than myself, a divine spiritual “something” that ties us all together like the atoms that we share and the oneness we truly are. It is this small kernel of faith I have been fortunate enough to cultivate that allows me to now say with a firm conviction: “I don’t know.”
The woman that shared this phenomenal truth was a WON Buddhist minister who served as mentor for the minister of the WON Buddhist Temple of Philadelphia. She appears angelic although there are a few silver strands in her dark hair that’s pulled straight back and tied up in a professional-looking bun in the back of her head. Wearing glasses, nothing seems to separate the love that shines from her eyes for other beings like me who are lucky enough to have come into contact with her.
Like all female ministers, she wears a black gown or dress (or whatever you call the lower part of clothing covering a woman’s torso). The top is covered by a pure white blouse with a big white bow tie. At first glance, it reminded me of the outfit worn by the Catholic nuns of a by-gone era, but without the heavy starch and the tough, drill sergeant demeanor and firmness that could scare a kid with eternal damnation for speaking out of turn in second grade.
“I don’t know” is also a state of mind. It is similar to the “beginners’ mind” that Zen Buddhist monks recommend practitioners assume when studying the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha, also known as Siddhartha Gautama.
But “I don’t know” surpasses that in WON Buddhism, in my opinion. Once you truly admit this, you’re better able to tame the mind. To rid it of unnecessary thoughts that plagued you day and night.
Once that occurs, you can move into the next level, which is “no mind.” It is the “emptiness” that you hear talk of by holy men and women – the sages of all walks of life and forms of religion – who experience life without any judgement whatsoever. You become void and see things through the eyes of equanimity.
I have a long way to go, and I may not reach that high mountain top of a enlightenment, but I’ve learned to take the first step, thanks to those I’ve met during the 100th anniversary this week for WON Buddhism.
It’s a baby step, one I am proud of announcing to the world when I assert that “I don’t know!”