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Ocean-Like Teachings[1]

The Closer I look at things – the Less I Know[2]

Empty-Handed I go to my Teacher ­– and Empty-Handed I return[3]

Knowing is False Understanding – Not knowing is Blind Ignorance[4]

One never Knows, after all – Now does One Now does One Now does One[5]

Knowledge to their eyes her Ample Page Rich with the spoils of time did Ne’er Unroll[6]

We’d all do well to Start over again – Preferably with Kindergarten[7]

“I don’t Know” – uttered in the Infinite Interior of the Spirit[8]

We Start as Fools and become Wise through Experience[9]

I Don’t Understand – or rather, I don’t know when

I could ever reach the End of my Understanding[10]


Learning Stamps you with its Moments[11]

She watches the Words of her Textbook Creep off the

Pages, over her Fingers, and Sink straight into her Skin[12]

Live on that Shimmering Line between your old Thinking

And your New Understanding – always in a state of Learning[13]

Tell me what you Know – Afterwards I shall tell you what is Beyond[14]

Rigorous Teachers Seize my Youth, and Purge its Faith, and Trim its Fire –

Show me the high, white Star of Truth – there bid me Gaze, and there Aspire[15]

We Begin by Knowing Little and Believing Much – and we End by Inverting the Quantities[16]

Nothing ever goes away until it has Taught us what we need to Know – it keeps Returning

With New Names, Forms, and Manifestations until we Learn whatever it has to Teach us[17]

All that you Perceive, all that you Experience, all that is Given to you or Taken from

You, all that you Love or Hate, Need, or Fear will Teach you – if you will Learn[18]

So many Lessons Bubble up if you Know where to Look[19]

What is now Proved – was Once only Imagin’d[20]


Mind Not the Cry of the Teacher![21]

Reject Envious Commands, Invented with design

To keep them Low – whom Knowledge might Exalt[22]

We Teach people in order to Open up their Minds and Re-

Lease their Captive Powers – but we cannot predict the Result[23]

Never try to Understand the Students – they would much rather be Tragically Misunderstood[24]

Unless it grows out of Yourself No Knowledge is really Yours – it is only a Borrowed Plumage[25]

Not to seek a Different, a Better Teaching, for I know that there is None – but

To Leave All Teachings and all Teachers and to reach my goal Alone or Die[26]

Listen to our Teachings with a Pure, Clear Mind – accept it

As if you are Hearing something which you already Know[27]

A Learned Man has Always a Fund of Riches in Himself[28]

I Teach it to him – and he Teaches it straight Back at me[29]

He who Learns – Teaches[30]


Measurer’s Might and his Mind-Plans[31]

Preserve me my Uncompromising Reason[32]

How Rarely Reason Guides the Stubborn Choice,

Rules the Bold Hand, or Prompts the Suppliant Voice[33]

The Voice comes from a Cool Rational Region far Above my Head[34]

If Reason were All, Reason would not Exist – the Will to Reason Accounts for it[35]

Reason Guide thee with her Brightest Ray, and Pour on Misty Doubt Resistless Day[36]

There is no greater Evil one can Suffer than to Hate Reasonable Discourse[37]

Study that all your Purposes may be with the Light of Reason[38]

Freedom is Freedom to Say that Two Plus Two make Four[39]

Let Reason’s Rule now Reign thy Thought[40]


Surety brings Ruin[41]

Uncertainty is Better – one has Hope at Least[42]

Science is made up of Mistakes, but they are Useful

Mistakes because they Lead Little by Little to the Truth[43]

Logic, when it comes of Age – Detests Canonized Truths[44]

Believe Nothing you Hear – and Only one Half that you See[45]

Trust Yourself when all men Doubt you – but Make Allowance for their Doubting too[46]

It is the Unforeseen upon which we must Calculate most Largely[47]

The most Radical thing is to Keep Evolving your Ideas[48]

Doubting Pleases me No Less than Knowing[49]

Paradise of Inconclusive Guesswork[50]


Underneath all Reason lies Delirium and Drift[51]

She rather wishes to Unknow what she Knows than

To Burden her heart with more Hopeless knowledge[52]

The Good Angels hold Cheap all the Knowledge of material

And temporal matters – which Inflates the Demons with Pride[53]

The Curse of this life is that whatever is Known can never be Unknown[54]

Praise Ignorance – for what Man has not Encountered, he has not Destroyed[55]

If she were granted One Small Wish – perhaps it would only be Not to Know[56]

The only things that matter are those which Elude our Archives – Spared

By the Monotonous Destiny of being Stored in the World Memory[57]

He lets Knowledge Fall from his Hands – no longer Needed[58]

Rid of the Weight of Dead men’s Thoughts, which has

Hitherto pressed so Heavily on the Living Intellect[59]

Let not Revelation by Theses be Detained[60]


If you Understand, Things are such as they Are – If

You do Not Understand, Things are such as they Are[61]

Not Knowing as a Crucial Advancement of Knowledge[62]

There is Nothing Better than to Know you Don’t Know[63]

I want to Live in Unknowing – where Everything is Possible[64]

I have Forgotten much that I thought I Knew and Learned again much that I had Forgotten[65]

Through Understanding that you Know Nothing – you will Learn to take Care of yourselves[66]

Someone who Knows how Little he Knows is like the Man who comes to a Clearing in

The Forest, and sees the Light Spikes – and suddenly senses how Happy Life has been[67]

To Completely Understand anything you must Experience the Dimen-

Sion where the Discriminating Intellect has not yet begun to Function[68]

To the Last we will have Learned Nothing – in all of us, Deep

Down, there seems to be something Granite and Unteachable[69]

Knowing Nothing – know the Emptiness and All you are[70]


Will you be a Reader, a Student merely – or a Seer?[71]

A Separate Transmission outside Doctrine, not depen-

Dent upon words – Direct Pointing at the Human Mind[72]

Virtue is a matter of Acts – not of Discourses or Learning[73]

Do not read any more – Look! Do not look any more – Go![74]

Scholars need to go Outside and Sniff around – Walk through the Grass, Talk to the Animals[75]

If you can’t Understand it Without an Explanation – you can’t Understand it With an Explanation[76]

Set out, First, to Learn, Secondly, to Learn, and Thirdly, to Learn, and then

See to it that Learning shall Not Remain a Dead Letter, or a Fashionable

Catch-Phrase, that Learning shall Really Become Part of our very Being[77]

I shall the Effect of this good Lesson keep as Watchman to my Heart[78]

Broadly Learn it, carefully Inquire about it, sedulously Pon-

Der it, clearly Analyze it, then Sincerely put it into Practice[79]

Go, Wondrous Creature! Mount where Science Guides,

Go, Measure Earth, Weigh Air, and State the Tides[80]


Only Using his Mind to the Full will Cure him[81]

Wealth Decreases with use – Learning Increases with use[82]

Intelligence is Penetrating the Darkest Corners of the Globe[83]

Sense is the Foundation – on which every thing Good may be Built[84]

Beware when the Great God lets loose a Thinker on the Planet – then All things are at Risk[85]

Increase of Knowledge, the augmentation of the Complexity and Intensity of the field of Intelligent

Life, the Enrichment of Harmony and the Greater Glory of God – Curiosity, Adventure, Delight[86]

The Weary Weight of all this Unintelligible World is Lightened[87]

Make of this Revelation a Lever by which to Lift the World[88]

Our Masters always try to Hide Book Learning from

Our Eyes – Knowledge doesn’t agree with Slavery[89]

Victories of Mind are Won for all Mankind[90]


The quest for Ultimate Truth is quite clearly the

Inalienable Prerogative of your Working Thinkers[91]

The most Sacred and Arcane of all Teachings must be Blown into

The Crown of the Head, down through the Sutures of the Skull Bone[92]

“Do you take me to be One who has come to Understand through a Wide Variety of

Things?” “Yes, is this not the Case?” “It is Not – I Bind it All Together with a Single Thread”[93]

Knowledge is Dark, Salt, Clear, Moving, Utterly Free – Drawn from the Cold Hard Mouth of

The World, derived from the Rocky Breasts Forever – Flowing & Drawn, Flowing & Flown[94]

Embrace of a Quieter Knowledge – Unbound, Unbattered, Coextensive with Space[95]

Understanding so Deep you can’t See the Bottom – but Clear all the Way Down[96]

He Solves it – Life’s Wonderful Problem – the Deepest, the Strongest, the Last[97]

No more Training do you require – already Know you that which you Need[98]

Although the Teaching is Limitless – we Vow to Learn it All[99]

Welcome to Cosmic Kindergarten[100]

[1] Padmasambhava tr. Gyurme Dorje, The Tibetan Book of the Dead

[2] Don Hertzfeldt, World of Tomorrow Episode II: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts

[3] Xuefeng Yicun, quoted in Zen: Merging of East and West

[4] Wu-Men Kuan, quoted by Alan Watts in The Way of Zen

[5] David Foster Wallace, Brief Interviews With Hideous Men

[6] Thomas Gray, Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard

[7] Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle

[8] Alan Watts, Just Trust the Universe

[9] Tanzanian proverb

[10] Matthew Bevis, Unknowing Lyric

[11] Eudora Welty, One Writer’s Beginning

[12] Zoe Robertson, Patty Perkins and the Poltergeist Plot

[13] Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

[14] Chandogya-Upanishad 7.1.1

[15] Matthew Arnold, Stanzas from the Grande Chartreuse

[16] George Eliot, Middlemarch

[17] Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart

[18] Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower

[19] Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Invitation

[20] William Blake, Proverbs of Hell

[21] Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road

[22] John Milton, Paradise Lost

[23] Tayeb Salih tr. Denys Johnson-Davies, Seasons of Migration to the North

[24] J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

[25] D.T. Suzuki, An Introduction to Zen Buddhism

[26] Hermann Hesse tr. Joachim Neugroschel, Siddhartha

[27] Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

[28] Phaedrus’s Aesop, The Shipwreck of Simonides

[29] Guillermo Del Toro, Patrick McHale, & Carlo Collodi, Pinocchio

[30] Ethiopian Proverb

[31] Caedmon’s Hymn

[32] Irina Ratushinskaya tr. David McDuff, But Only Not to Think

[33] Samuel Johnson, The Vanity of Human Wishes

[34] Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

[35] Wendell Berry, The Design of a House

[36] Samuel Johnson, The Vanity of Human Wishes

[37] Plato’s Socrates, quoted by James Miller in Examined Lives

[38] The Shû King, The Counsels of the Great Yü

[39] George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

[40] George Gascoigne, A Lover’s Lullaby

[41] Inscription at Delphi

[42] Anton Chekhov tr. Constance Garnett, Uncle Vanya

[43] Jules Verne tr. Robert Baldick, Journey to the Center of the Earth

[44] Alexander Herzen, From the Other Shore

[45] Edgar Allan Poe, The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether

[46] Rudyard Kipling, If

[47] Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

[48] Adrienne Maree Brown, Emergent Strategy

[49] Dante Alighieri tr. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Inferno

[50] Burnyeat, quoted by James Miller in Examined Lives

[51] Deluze, quoted by Ann Lauterbach in Task: To Open

[52] Philip Sydney, quoted by Matthew Bevis in Unknowing Lyric

[53] St. Augustine, quoted by James Miller in Examined Lives

[54] Percy Shelley, Letter to Thomas Love Peacock, 1818

[55] Wendell Berry, Manifesto: to the Mad Farmer Liberation Front

[56] Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

[57] Italo Calvino tr. Tim Parks, World Memory

[58] Denise Levertov, August Daybreak

[59] Nathaniel Hawthorne, Earth’s Holocaust

[60] Emily Dickinson, The Lilac Is an Ancient Shrub

[61] Gensha, quoted by Alan Watts in This Is It

[62] Jack underwood, On Poetry and Uncertain Subjects

[63] Lao Tzu tr. Charles Muller, Tao Te Ching 71

[64] José Olivarez, Celestial House

[65] J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

[66] Michel Foucault, The Courage of Truth

[67] Charles Wright, Morning Occurrence at Xanadu

[68] Philip Kapleau, Zen: Merging of East and West

[69] J.M. Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians

[70] Chad Walsh, O Nobly Born, The Time Has Come to Seek

[71] Henry David Thoreau, Walden

[72] Bodhidharma, Transmission Outside Doctrine

[73] Antisthenes in Diogenes Laërtius, quoted by James Miller in Examined Lives

[74] Paul Celan tr. Michael Hamburger, The Straitening

[75] Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

[76] Haruki Murakami tr. Jay Rubin, 1Q84

[77] Vladimir Lenin, Final Pravda Essay

[78] William Shakespeare, Hamlet

[79] Record of Ritual 31, quoted by Edward Slingerland in Analects (book 15)

[80] Alexander Pope, Epistle II – Of the Nature and State of Man with Respect to Himself, as an Individual

[81] Arnold Kashtanov tr. Leo Gruliow, Hypnosis

[82] Zanzibar Proverb

[83] Frederick Douglass

[84] Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

[85] Ralph Waldo Emerson, quoted by James Miller in Examined Lives

[86] Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness

[87] William Wordsworth, Lines

[88] Iris Murdoch, The Black Prince

[89] Francis Ellen Watkins Harper, Learning to Read

[90] Ebenezer Elliott, War

[91] Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

[92] Philip Whalen, Heigh-Ho Nobody’s at Home

[93] Confucius tr. Edward Slingerland, Analects 15.3

[94] Elizabeth Bishop, At the Fishhouses

[95] Susan Griffin, Archive

[96] Philip Pullman, The Amber Spyglass

[97] Unknown, Laurels and Immortelles

[98] Richard Marqand, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi

[99] Four Buddhist Vows, quoted in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

[100] Mira Kirshenbaum, Everything Happens for a Reason

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