Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Peace of Not-Knowing

We're stuck evaluating and analyzing the body-mind and it's relation to the world, as if this "thing" we've taken ourselves to be is a separate thing and a "special" entity, as if liberation were something this body-mind can attain in the future. All attempts to gain knowledge and wisdom lead us to a dead end.

The world and this body-mind is a bundle of passing images, a play of "formed emptiness". It comes and it goes - nothing is guaranteed, nothing is permanent.

Yet there is a knowing of this which is never touched, never changes. All we can say is that we are only the awareness/consciousness in which these passing, impermanent images appear. This is evident in direct experience and quite obvious if the identification with this "appearance" is questioned.

But awareness is still a concept - still formed from nothingness, made of the same "substance".

So the awareness/consciousness and the passing world are both the same nothingness, formed from the same emptiness. Any knowledge, any words or concepts formed or gained, is part of this play of nothingness, has no absolute meaning apart from the dream of appearance in which it appears.

Where can we stand and point to what we are? What can we take hold of and claim - "Here I AM"! What knowledge can stand up to and apart from the vast emptiness and claim ownership, doership, choice, free-will, suffering or happiness? We're running out of room, out of concepts on which to hang our search, out of ground upon which to stand... we're approaching the very edge of being and not being, the cliff of knowing and not-knowing.

We're left with no concepts to grasp, no ownership to claim, no identification to take, no consciousness in which the world appears, and no world at all to appear. All words used to describe what we are, all concepts found to justify our existence or give meaning to this appearance are seen as part of the very nothingness which creates the illusion.

As we fall off the cliff of beingness, we find no direction to fall, no ground to hit, and no body to die. We find there never was a cliff at all from which to fall.

Advaita says that self-knowledge gets rid of self-ignorance. We find that self-knowledge is the complete and total annihilation of knowledge as relevant to what I am. We find that even the concept of beingness itself, the concept of knowing what I am, is meaningless.

This is the Peace of "not-knowing".


Peter said...

Randall, my friend,

thanks to Mary's link, I've found my way to your garden of heavenly insights-so refreshing! Would like to comment on today's post, but don't have the language to translate the feelings your writings give rise question occurs Why do you say "awareness is conceptual"? While it could be (falsely) so objectified, when attended to now, awareness is real,but doesn't exist, as James Corrigan says (see his work at for some delightful reading). Thanks for sharing,

Randall Friend said...


Thank you for writing, my friend.

Yes - awareness is not separate from the world perceived - it IS the world - there is no seer and object seen, no hearer and sound heard - there is only the seeing and hearing - and these are still words, we still try to apply these concepts to an individual doer, seer, hearer...

The clear non-conceptual actuality is only THIS - seeing/knowing in which the world arises within this awareness. That's what is appearing to happen - that knowing awareness is prior to and contains all appearances.

But these are all still words, still concepts, still duality, still an awareness containing a world, an appearance appearing in nothingness.

If awareness is ALL, where is the question of awareness? If form is emptiness and emptiness is form, where is the idea of either form or emptiness? Who can stand apart and point to awareness AS the world?

Does awareness really exist? The miracle of the world is that the illusion is only appearing to itself - words like awareness are used to point to that which cannot be described or contained within the concept of awareness.

As the ground of concepts is pulled out from beneath our feet, we find we have no feet, no ground, no awareness and no world, no birth, no death, no suffering nor freedom from suffering, no enlightenment or lack of enlightenment.

And the concept of "Peter" comes out of this nothingness and returns - a miracle that never happened.