To know yet to think that one does not know is best;
Not to know yet to think that one knows will lead to difficulty.
It is by being alive to difficulty that one can avoid it. The sage meets with
no difficulty. It is because he is alive to it that he meets with no
When I’m alive to difficulty, difficulties don’t surprise me. It’s only when I expect life to go easy that I’m easily thrown by the difficulties that come my way. This is a little like being a passive pessimist—I expect difficulties, yet I don’t let that stop me from living.
Difficulty ALWAYS seems to be related to my expectations. Something becomes difficult only when I expect it to be easy. Attachment to ease creates my difficulty. This reminds me of the whole world recognizes the good as the good, yet this is only the bad,[see ch. 2], and of course the difficult and the easy complement each other—also [see ch. 2].
This brings to mind Buddha’s Noble Truth of Suffering: Birth is suffering. Growth, decay and death are suffering. Sad it is to be joined with that which we dislike. Sadder still is the separation from that which we love, and painful is the craving for that which can not be obtained. By accepting this truth, I avoid the difficulty of trying to get through life without suffering.
Realizing that my every action has a consequence makes me tentative, as if fording a river in winter [see ch. 15]. Thus, I’m much less likely to fall victim to un-intended consequences.
The deeper I know, the less I think—or the less important I regard my thoughts and opinions. I over-think life when I’m confused or otherwise insecure; I try to get to the bottom of things through thought and then cling to those opinions for dear life.
This knowing vrs thinking correlates to age. The young are more certain in their opinions. Youth thinks it knows. As the years go by we slowly come to know the folly of not knowing yet thinking we know. We come to know that we don’t know, or in other words—To know yet to think that one does not know is best.
To know is an experience of fundamental consciousness void of judgment. It is murky and non-discerning, kind of like peripheral vision. At this level, I know I’m sharing a universal knowing which all existence experiences. As soon as I try to put my finger on it, the experience ‘degrades’ into thinking.
My relationship to the world around me became more peaceful the moment I began discounting my thoughts as definitive reflections of reality. I know now that thinking is always conditional—tentative and changing—even this thought. Knowing is not specific to the thing known. Thinking is an outcome of knowing; it’s a tool humans use to manipulate the particulars of life. Difficulties arise when I ascribe too much reality to thought.
We must have a deep need for certainty and use thinking as a way to nail reality down. This sets us up for difficulty because reality isn’t something that can be nailed down and pigeon holes by thought! We tend to think either optimistically or pessimistically about the unknown, and then proceed to treat such speculations as reality. This can cause a lot of unnecessary stress!
Humanity has commonly regarded thought as synonymous with To know. This bit of speci-centric arrogance excludes virtually all other life forms. The pity of that lies in the sense of isolation which comes about through this elitist stance.