Knowing Is False Consciousness

“People who study the path today do not understand the great way — they only strive to fulfill greed and ambition. At the very outset of their inspiration to study the way, their initial understanding is already mistaken. The way is the path of fundamental purity: for immense aeons, and even up to the present day, it has no gain or loss, no new or old, no light or dark, no form or name. It is not more in the buddhas and not less in ordinary people. To insist on calling it the way is already defiling; to say something is accomplished by methods of learning the way is what I have called mistaken. It was for lack of choice that the ancients referred to people heading for transcendence as students of the way. The study is that there is nothing to study; the way is that there is nothing to be a way. Since there is nothing to study, there is no clinging; since there is nothing to be a way, there is no following. If one idly slips and says the word Buddha, one must simply wash one’s mouth for three years — only thus can one be called a real student of the way. Nan-ch’uan said, “The way is not the province of knowing, nor is it the province of unknowing. Knowing is false consciousness, unknowing is is indifference. If you truly arrive at the way without doubt, it is like cosmic space — how can you insist on affirmation and denial?”

Suh-chung (d. 1386), Teachings of Zen

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