Not knowing is most intimate


Jizô asked Hôgen, "Where are you going, senior monk?"
Hôgen said, "I am on pilgrimage, following the wind."
Jizô said, "What are you on pilgrimage for?"
Hôgen said, "I don't know."
Jizô said, "Not knowing is most intimate."
Hôgen suddenly attained great enlightenment.

Book of Serenity, Case 20 – quoted after Illusory Flowers in an Empty Sky [link is dead]; - look at this.

My Dharma Friend and Zen Beginner A.W. wrote an extensive comment on Intimacy as Zen Lingo. In Zen "Intimacy" is a terminus technicus, whereas in common language it is misused in the same way as terms like "adult", "graphic", or "explicit" (always referring to fun and healthy stuff like sex, not to bad stuff like guns and violence). Intimate parts [NSFW in U.S.] are therefore "body parts usually covered in public" (Wikipedia). In French male private parts are called "bijoux de famille" (family jewelry).

Intimate Labors Cover

"What do home health aides, call center operators, prostitutes, sperm donors, nail manicurists, and housecleaners have in common?" asks the book Intimate Labors: Cultures, Technologies, and the Politics of Care. Ed. by Eileen Boris and Rhacel Salazar Parreñas. - Stanford UP, 2010. [Amazon]. On a side note: the paperback edition on Amazon is new $23.95 with "4 used from $125.82" (as of 2/22/12) - go figure what's so special about the used edition..."

I'm more interested in intimacy in Zen than in intimacy in Zen Center, especially where it refers to practice.  The most intimate relationship comes from the complete contact you need to make with an experience when you don't know - don't know what happens next, don't know why it happens. And in quite motionless sitting, where you know exactly where you are - on your cushion - and you know exactly what will happen next - nothing - for another 39 minutes - this experience is most direct, most intimate.

The translations of the Koans of the Book of Serenity can be found here. There is a discussion of the Koan also here.

Now - going skin-deep is this really intimate? preferably on your back where you can't see it? Check the Tattoo templates - the images are copyright protected and locked, so I cannot promote the work of Master Takase  here - you need to go to their website to see the tattoo on the back of the girl. But then, not knowing ... you get the idea

Read the Book of Serenity. [Amazon]

I have been studying with Marc Lesser for over 10 years, and he provides insights into this Koan:

“With not knowing, I am open, ready, willing to learn, to be surprised. I can see and hear others beyond my own ideas. Though my experience and knowledge are important, they can get in the way. When I let go of my own ideas, I can be present, humble. When I am humble, I am not afraid. I can enter this moment, engaged, moved, open – intimate.”

Read the complete text


An interesting discussion of Koans and this case by Melissa Myozen Blacker: Koans: One with the Question:

The truth within the koan “is revealed only when our whole being becomes the koan.”

This blog entry is work in progress and I will continue to add to it - so when you subscribe to floblogg you may get multiple email alerts.

Florian Brody