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Don't Expect To Know

Compiled by Peter Holleran

       “Those who understand God more understand more distinctly the infinitude that remains to be understood.” - St. John of the Cross


   "If one is deeply convinced of the unreasonableness of all questions, then it is very easy to get established in the Truth."


   “Any state that seems like absolute certainty is just the product of our imagination.” (foreword by Brad Warner in Great Doubt, trans. Jeff Shore)

Shree Atmananda:

   “The desire to know that you have realized, or the desire to feel it, is the highest imaginable illusion. Because, in order to know something, the knower has to stand higher than the known. Therefore, if you presume that you know or feel that you have realized the ‘Truth’ you are still in duality, and what you presume to know is imperfect. As such, it can never be the Truth.
   You are ever that Truth - before, during and after the realization claimed. As far as the Truth - which is your real nature - is concerned, there had been no change whatsoever, in all time. It may be said that a Jnyanin knows that he has visualized
[i.e., realized] the Truth. Yes of course. But not in the sense of knowing at the mental level, as you might desire. He knows that it is unknowable by the mind; but he knows it in an intenser light where there is no subject-object relationship. To know in that light is to be.
   The ego in the mental realm is innocent and ignorant of all that has happened over his head. But he too feels that something sublime has happened, and naturally he wishes to have a taste of it in his own realm. Hence the ego’s desire to know that experience, and his subsequent, unwarranted claim to have had that experience in his own limited terms. That has the be guarded against.”
(Notes on Spiritual Discourses, # 1091)

Paul Brunton:

   “No one really knows how this enlightenment first dawns on him. One moment it was not there, the next moment he was somehow in it."

   “Each time the glimpse comes, it is as if it had never come before, so fresh, so sparkling is its never-failing wonder.”

   “No announcements tell the world that he has come into enlightenment. No heralds blow the trumpets proclaiming man’s greatest victory - over himself. This is the quietest moment of his whole life.”

   "He has not attained who is conscious that he has attained, for this very consciousness cunningly hides the ego and delivers him into its power. That alone is attainment which is natural, spontaneous, unforced, unaware, and unadvertised, whether to the man himself or to others.”

   “It is better to attain such high status without knowing it. For this absence of pride and presence of humility keeps the ego from threatening it.”

   “Plotinus even made the point that it is better for a man not to be aware that he is acting virtuously, courageously, wisely, or practising contemplation beautifully, free from interfering mental images or thoughts. For then, if he does not know that he - - is doing so, no egoism will taint his consciousness.”

   "The authentic thing does not enter consciousness. You do not know that it has transpired. You discover it is already here only by looking back at what you were and contrasting it with what you now are; or when others recognize it in you and draw attention to it; or when a situation arises which throws up your real status."
(The Notebooks, Vol 16)

Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj:

   "You have all the self-realization you need, but you do not trust it. Have courage, trust yourself, go, talk, act; give it a chance to prove itself. With some, realization comes imperceptibly, but somehow they need convincing. They have changed, but they do not notice it. Such non-spectacular cases are often the most reliable."

   "On realization, you feel complete, fulfilled, free from the pleasure-pain complex, and yet not always able to explain what happened, why and how. You can put it only in negative terms: "Nothing is wrong with me any longer". It is only by comparison with the past that you know that you are out of it. Otherwise, you are just yourself. Don't try to convey it to others. If you can, it is not the real thing. Be silent and watch it expressing itself in action."

   “How do you know that you have realized unless you watch your thoughts and feelings, words and actions and wonder at the changes occurring in you without your knowing why and how? It is exactly because they are so surprising that you know that they are real. The foreseen and expected is rarely true.”

   “You need not know what you are. Enough to know what you are not. What you are will never know, for discovery reveals new dimensions to conquer. The unknown has no limits...The known is accidental, the unknown is the home of the real. To live in the known is bondage, to live in the unknown is liberation.”

   "That, which you do not know and cannot know is your true state..Whatever knowledge you are now seeking about your true state is unknowable, because you are what you are seeking."

   "Whatever the state is when we did not know anything, that is our true state, that is Reality." In that state, we did not even know our existence."

   "The seeker, the disciple, as an entity, expects to learn and understand 'something'. But how can a mere conceptual object understand anything? What actually happens is that the understanding, as such, makes the seeker (the Sadhaka) disappear."

   Q: You made no efforts whatsoever?
   M: None. believe it or not, I was not even anxious to realize. My Guru only told me that I am the Supreme and then died. I just could not disbelieve him. The rest happened by itself. I found myself changing - that is all. He never told me what to expect. As a matter of fact, I was astonished...It was only in the beginning when I was making efforts, that I was passing through some strange experiences, seeing lights, hearing voices, meeting gods and goddesses and conversing with them. Once the Guru told me, "You are the Supreme reality," I ceased having visions and trances and became very quiet and simple. I found myself desiring and knowing less and less, until I could say in utter astonishment, "I know nothing, I want nothing"....The mind ceased producing events. The ancient and ceaseless search stopped - I wanted nothing, expected nothing - accepted nothing as my own. There was no 'me' left to strive for. Even the bare "I am" faded away. The other thing that I noticed was that I lost all my habitual certainties. Earlier I was sure of so many things, now I am sure of nothing. But I feel that I have lost nothing by not knowing, because all my knowledge was false. My not knowing was in itself knowledge of the fact that all knowing is ignorance, that "I do not know' is the only true statement the mind can make. Take the idea 'I was born'. You may take it to be true. It is not. You were never born, nor will you ever die. It is the idea that was born and shall die, not you. By identifying with it you became mortal....Your hope lies in keeping silent in your mind and quiet in your heart. Realized people are very quiet.
(I AM THAT and Pointers From Nisargadatta Maharaj)

Zen Master Dogen:

    “Do not think you will necessarily be aware of your own enlightenment.”

Kena Upanishad:

   "It is not known by those who think they know it, but that it is known by those who say that they do not know it."

St. John of the Cross:

    “Those who understand God more understand more distinctly the infinitude that remains to be understood.”
(Spiritual Canticle, Stanza 8.9)

   "In order to come to that which you know not, you must go by a way in which you know not.”

    “This dark contemplation as secret, since...it is mystical theology, which theologians call secret wisdom, and which, as Saint Thomas says, is comunicated and infused into the soul through love. This happens secretly and in darkness, so as to be hidden from the work of the understanding and of other faculties. Wherefore, inasmuch as the faculties aforementioned attains not to it, but the Holy Spirit infuses and orders it into the soul, as says the Bride in the Songs, without either its knowledge or its understanding, it is called secret. And, in truth, not only does the soul not understand it, but there is none other that does so, not even the devil; inasmuch as the Master Who teaches the soul is within it in its substance, to which the devil may not attain, neither may natural sense nor understanding.”

   “And it is not for this reason alone that it may be called secret, but likewise because of the effects which it produces in the soul. For it is secret not only in the darknesses and afflictions of purgation, when this wisdom of love purges the soul, and the soul is unable to speak of it, but equally so afterwards in illumination, when this wisdom is communicated to it most clearly. Even then it is still so secret that the soul cannot speak of it and give it a name whereby it may be called; for, apart from the fact that the soul has no desire to speak of it, it can find no suitable way or manner or similitude by which it may be able to describe such lofty understanding and such delicate spiritual feeling. And thus, even though the soul might have a great desire to express it and might find many ways in which to describe it, it would still be secret and remain undescribed. For, as that inward wisdom is so simple. so general and so spiritual that it has not entered into the understanding enwrapped or cloaked in any form or image subject to sense, it follows that sense and imagination...cannot account for it or imagine it, so as to say anything concerning it, although the soul be clearly aware that it is experiencing and partaking of that rare and delectable wisdom. It is like one who sees something never seen before, whereof he has not even seen the like; although he might understand its nature and have experience of it, he would be unable to give it a name, or say what it is, however much he tried to do so, and this in spite of its being a thing which he had perceived with the senses. How much less, then, could he describe a thing that has not entered through the senses! For the language of God has this characteristic that, since it is very intimate and spiritual in its relations with the soul, it transcends every sense and at once makes all harmony and capacity of the outward and inward senses to cease and be dumb.”
(The Dark Night of the Soul, Book II, Chapter XVII)

   "For this night is gradually drawing the spirit away from its ordinary and common experience of things and bringing it nearer the Divine sense, which is a stranger and an alien to all human ways. It seems now to the soul that it is going forth from its very self, with much affliction. At other times it wonders if it is under a charm or spell, and it goes about marvelling at the things it sees and hears, which seem to it very strange and rare, though they are the same that it was accustomed to experience aforetime. The reason of this is that the soul is now becoming alien and remote from common sense and knowledge of things, in order that, being annihilated in this respect, it may be informed with the Divine." (Ibid, Book II, Chapter IX)

   "The reason, again, why the soul not only travels securely, when it travels thus in the darkness, but also achieves even greater gain and progress, is that usually, when the soul is receiving fresh advantage and profit, this comes by a way that it least understands - indeed, it quite commonly believes that it is losing ground. For, as it has never experienced that new feeling which drives it forth and dazzles it and makes it depart recklessly from its former way of life, it thinks itself to be losing ground rather than gaining and progressing, since it sees that it is losing with respect to that which it knew and enjoyed, and is going by a way which it knows not and wherein it finds no enjoyment. It is like the traveller, who, in order to go to new and unknown lands, takes new roads, unknown and untried, and journeys unguided by his past experience, but doubtingly and according to what others say. It is clear that such a man could not reach new countries, or add to his past experience, if he went not along new and unknown roads and abandoned those which were known to him. Exactly so, one who is learning fresh details concerning any office or art always proceeds in darkness, and receives no guidance from his original knowledge, for if he left not that behind he would get no farther nor make any progress; and in the same way, when the soul is making most progress, it is travelling in darkness, knowing naught. Wherefore, since God, as we have said, is the Master and Guide of this blind soul, it may well and truly rejoice, once it has learned to understand this, and say: 'In darkness and secure.' " (Ibid, Book II, Chapter XVI)

Jean-Pierre deCaussade

   "The life of faith is nothing but the continual pursuit of God through everything that disguises, disfigures, destroys, and, so to say, annihilates him....This complete deprivation which reduces us to acts of bare faith and of pure love alone, is the final disposition necessary for perfect union...After the soul has mounted the first steps in the ladder of perfection, it can scarcely make any progress except by the way of privation and nudity of spirit, of annihilation and death of all created things, even of those that are spiritual. Only on this condition can it be perfectly united to God Who can neither be felt, known, or seen....." (Abandonment to Divine Providence, Book Six, Letter VI)

The Cloud of Unknowing (c. 1375)

   "In a word, let this thing deal with you, and lead you as it will. Let it be active, and you passive. Watch it if you like, but let it alone. Do not interfere with it, as though you would help, for fear that you should spoil it all. Be the tree: let it be the carpenter. Be the house, and let it be the householder who lives there. Be willing to be blind, and give up all longing to know the why and how, for knowing will be more a hindrance than a help. It is enough that you shall feel moved lovingly by you know not what, and that in this inward urge you have no real thought for anything less than God, and that your desire is steadily and simply turned towards him." (Chapter 34)

   "And though your natural mind can find 'nothing' to feed on, for it thinks you are doing no thing, go on doing this no thing, and do it for the love of God. Therefore, do not give up but work vigorously on that nothing, with vigilant longing and will to have God, which no man can know.....Let go this 'everywhere' and this 'everything' in exchange for this 'nowhere' and this 'nothing'. Never mind if you cannot fathom this nothing, for I love it surely so much the better. It is so worthwhile in itself that no thinking about it will do it justice. One can feel this nothing more easily than see it, for it is completely dark and hidden to those who have only just begun to look at it. Yet, to speak more accurately, it is overwhelming spiritual light that blinds the soul that is experiencing it, rather than actual darkness or the absence of physical light. Who is it that is calling it 'nothing'? Our outer self, to be sure, not our inner. Our inner self calls it 'All', for through it he is learning the secret of all things, physical and spiritual alike, without having to consider every single one separately on its own." (Chapter 68)

Jeanne Guyon:

   “Actually, God demands nothing extraordinary, on the contrary, He is very pleased by a simple, childlike conduct. I would even put it this way: The highest spiritual attainments are really the ones that are the most easily reached. The things that are most important are the ones that are the least difficult!” (Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ, (The SeedSowers,1975), p. 64)


   “The Unknown is more vast, more open, more peaceful, and more freeing than you ever imagined it would be. If you don't experience it that way, it means you're not resting there; you're still trying to know. That will cause you to suffer because you're choosing security over Freedom. When you rest deeply in the Unknown without trying to escape, your experience becomes very vast. As the experience of the Unknown deepens, your boundaries begin to dissolve. You realize, not just intellectually but on a deep level, that you have no idea who or what you are. A few minutes ago, you knew who you were - you had a history and a personality - but from this place of not knowing, you question all of that.”

   “Liberated people live in the Unknown and understand that the only reason they know what they are is because they rest in the Unknown moment by moment without defining who they are with the mind. You can imagine how easy it is to get caught in the concept of the Unknown and seek that instead of the Truth. If you seek the concept you'll never be Free, but if you stop looking to myths and concepts and become more interested in the Unknown than in what you know, the door will be flung open. Until then, it will remain closed.”

Anthony Damiani:

   "My idea...that's the biggest stumbling block we have. I think you experience this in your efforts to understand. The I says "I want to know" but that is the very thing that is going to stop you from knowing. Give up the claim to ownership of knowledge and you move very quickly."

Jeannie Zandi:

   "Let this that has always been running your life have you. This complete cliff dive in every moment into "I don’t know." I don’t know where I am, I don’t know who I am, I don’t know what I am, I don’t know what I’m here for. Let yourself be nothing. Just here. Offered. Ahhhh, what a relief."

Meister Eckhart:

   "A man must become truly poor and as free of his own creaturely will as he was when he was born. And I tell you, by the eternal truth, that so long as you desire to fulfill the will of God and have any hankering after eternity and God, for just as long you are not truly poor. He alone has true spiritual poverty who wills nothing, knows nothing, desires nothing."

Robert Adams:

   “There are no problems. There is nothing wrong. Everything is unfolding as it should. Everything happens in its own time. Space and time are illusions. They really do not exist...Causation doesn’t exist either. No thing has a cause therefore no thing has an effect. Cause and effect are again products of your own mind. When the mind is quiet, karma ceases, samskaras are non-existent. There never was a cause for anything. It if you feel that in a previous life you did something wrong and now are paying the price, or if you think that you did something wrong in this life and you’re paying the price, then you’ll pay the price, because that’s what you think.”

“You have nothing to do with it, and you have nothing to say about it. When it happens to you, it will happen totally and completely. You got a glimpse off it and apparently you got a good glimpse of it. But who are you to say that you’re not ready for that? You speak as if you are an authority on God, that you have something to do with it. When God is ready for you, God will take you over completely. And you’ll have absolutely nothing to say about it whatsoever.”
(Silence of the Heart)

Ramana Maharshi

   "Sadhanas [spiritual practises] are needed so long as one has not realized it. They are for putting an end to obstacles. Finally there comes a stage when a person feels helpless notwithstanding the sadhanas. He is unable to pursue the much-cherished sadhana, also. It is then that God's Power is realized. The Self reveals itself." (Talks with Ramana Maharshi)

The Seeker:

   He stood in the courtyard, waiting, his spiritual life in ruins, and good intentions deflated. Waiting for what, one asks, and did he even know that he was waiting? No, he didn’t know, his mind spinning aimlessly until grinding to a halt, in hopeless bewilderment. With nothing to hold on to he simply began to play with a little boy who wandered by, himself a helpless little boy, too, lost in apparent abandonment. The Master was winning every round, and check-mate approached. Then she came near, a mysterious lady in white, with the enigmatic greeting, “It’s a nice day to die, isn’t it?” For a moment he thought, “what’s that you say?” - but then he knew. Then he saw. What was always there, and was never not there. Nothing new at all. But, and as if for the first time, an ancient, familiar world re-appeared. He hadn’t known it before, just because it was always the case. Therefore it had to be pointed out. An ‘open secret’ some have called it. How true. But for now, dazed by the ordinary, he took in her strange words: “You’ve got a hole in your head; that is, you’ve been through the eye of the needle, don't you see?" How very strange, but the truth, and so fitting. Of course the Master of the game knew right away. How could he not? Or better, how could he? “Only a jnani can know a jnani”, they say - or recognize jnana - in an-other. How? No one knows. They just do. But how was this lady aware before even the seeker was? This was an even greater mystery! - and forever to remain so. “Well, my friend, are you a new man today? Are you going to go tell everyone you are a new man!?” exclaimed the Saint. A perplexing order, that, for what was there to tell? The seeker only sat, slack-jawed and benumbed, apparently a dullard, a has-been and a nobody. But a happier one. For he didn’t care. Nothing had changed, it was so much less than subtle. "You can believe it, or not," she had said. Yet, nothing for him to say, really. Just, the end of his world.
   For a while to come, the gaps, nooks, and crannies had yet to be filled with the newness, the isness, the whatever. That apparently took time. And so, for a while - yet no time at all, really - but because things are always and already as they are, it isn’t easily seen. One continues to play at imagining he does not see and does not know, only like a motor with the power turned off, or a tub with the drain plug pulled, the mind running down, while being again and again surprised, until things are finally and simply just as they are, without drama...