I find another beautiful example of divine paradox in statements from two sages. One is Nisargadatta who says “You are without knowledge”, and the other is Shunryu Suzuki stating that “If your mind is clear, true knowledge is already yours.” This seeming paradox is really only a different use of the term ‘knowledge’ within the context of these different, though closely related and complementary teachings. Nisargadatta speaks of knowledge as the sense of beingness, the “I Am”, and he speaks of this ‘knowledge’ as being a sort of overlay, a super-imposition, on the Absolute. This is due to the spontaneous “stirring of consciousness” that results in the sense of “I Am”. He uses the term ‘knowledge’ because only when consciousness stirs does the Absolute know Itself as consciousness. The statement “You are without knowledge” expresses the state of the Absolute, which has no awareness of Itself as the Absolute. We all are in actuality this Absolute that is in no way involved in all that happens in the domain of consciousness. When we allow ourselves to release our belief in the state of consciousness and “I Am” as our actual true nature, we are able to realize the Absolute as our true Self. We then realize that we never were born and do not die. We are not affected by all the forms that arise, exist for a while and then subside again within the realm of consciousness. A shift in our focus occurs such that we witness all that is happening in consciousness, but from the platform of the Absolute.
Shunryu speaks of knowledge as that which “is called emptiness, or omnipotent self, or knowing everything.” This state is when “your mind is clear, (and therefore) true knowledge is already yours.” He refers here to our letting go of our state of being ‘Velcro-ed’ on to the identification with a certain form in the small mind, as he calls it, which corresponds to the limited sense of “I Am”, and is the sense of “I am the body”. From this primary identification many other secondary identifications with forms, concepts, beliefs, etc. result that form our ego identity. This ego identity wants to gather many pieces of information in order to continually gain and re-gain a sense of knowing who and what it is and what it needs to do in order to be safe and continue its existence (as a non-entity). Clearing your mind of this motivation to bolster this false sense of self by understanding its deeply illusory nature as an overlay of consciousness on our true nature, allows the Big Mind to be realized. The Big Mind, or Big Activity, as Shunryu calls it, always knows all because it is not cluttered with the debris of our small, fragmented mind. When a “flashing” occurs, meaning anything that appears on the screen of consciousness – the absolutely clear mirror of emptiness, or clear mind, shows up in its totality. This is then “true knowledge” as opposed to the relative knowledge of the small mind (ego).
“It is quite usual for us to gather pieces of information from various sources, thinking in this way to increase our knowledge. Actually, following this way we end up not knowing anything at all. Our understanding of Buddhism should not be just gathering many pieces of information, seeking to gain knowledge. Instead of gathering knowledge, you should clear your mind. If your mind is clear, true knowledge is already yours. When you listen to our teaching with a pure, clear mind, you can accept it as if you were hearing something which you already knew. This is called emptiness, or omnipotent self, or knowing everything. When you know everything, you are like a dark sky. Sometimes a flashing will come through the dark sky. After it passes, you forget all about it, and there is nothing left but the dark sky. The sky is never surprised when all of a sudden a thunderbolt breaks through. And when the lightning does flash, a wonderful sight may be seen. When we have emptiness we are always prepared for watching the flashing.”
Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, p. 84