Friday, March 16, 2018

What’s the difference —Thinking and Knowing?

Please describe the taste of an orange, the smell of rotting flesh, the feel of a feather brushing your skin, what fear looks like, the experience of giving birth or the sound of rushing water. And use words for these descriptions. Do the words capture each of these experiences? Not even close, yet undoubtedly you know all of these experientially. Nothing in life, as experienced, is the same as how these same experiences are described. Our thoughts and words are always abstractions representing something but not the thing itself. You wouldn’t be satisfied eating an ephemeral thought of an orange, or stuffing a piece of paper into your mouth upon which you wrote the word “orange.” Ideas and expressions about experiences, as good as the words can ever be, are poor and unsatisfying substitutes for something real.

A long time ago a Chinese sage by the name of Lao Tzu said in The Tao Te Ching, “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name. The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth. The named is the mother of ten thousand things. Ever desireless, one can see the mystery. Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations.”

“The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.” What can’t ever be named is beyond language and is itself the source of everything. What might this unnamed Tao be? Think clearly about non-thought. If you can grasp it then it won’t be it. A thought called “non-thought” is conceptual and remains just another thought. Grasping is about intellectual understanding but knowing is experiential. To know the one who detects either thought or the absence is to truly know yourself—The nameless.

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