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5. Knowing

There is knowing and knowing. Knowing is a shift of attention to the experience itself. The experience of THIS moment.

Knowing, written in a non-serif font, is used here to differentiate between knowing as being this experience and the mode of "normal" knowing, which is based on interpretation which comes after immediate knowing. The English language does not have its own word for immediate knowing. In Dutch I can use the word "weten".

My basically wordless experience (though it may include thoughts) of this moment is all I actually know. This is, as far as I am concerned, the truth that Sengts'an speaks of.

The sound of the stove, my fingers on the keyboard. Outside through the window in front of me, the sun shines. Attention shifting. One thing after another comes into focus. I am slightly nauseated and there is a faint ache in my back. There's the heater again. My gaze moves from screen to keyboard to window. A thought comes to mind about what I am writing here…

As I use it here, knowing is more akin to "seeing through" and "insight". It is immediate and without words. Knowing also does not produce knowledge and is not remembered; the moment, after all, is constantly changing. And when one knows, then one is what is called here "awake".

In English the term "seeing" is sometimes used for what I call knowing here, especially in circles of what is called the "Headless Way" (Douglas Harding, Richard Lang). J. Krishnamurti used the term "choiceless awareness". The terms "Being" and "Presence" are also used - with capital letters, and even "meditation". Still other descriptions are "being in the zone" or "being in the space".

Now these words all sound very mystical, but in fact it is extremely plain and ordinary. It is very simple: when you are silent (or not), and you are consciously present, just noticing, then you know, there is knowing, you are really awake. For a moment there is no being lost in thought, there is only experiencing. And everybody can relate to that, nothing special. In fact, it is so common that we easily overlook it. Most people are knowing, are awake, several times a day…

In knowing I coincide with the moment. The immediate knowing and the moment are in fact identical and coincide completely as one pre-existing experience. You can equally say that the moment knows, or that the experience is knowing.

In knowing there is no "I", no being lost in thinking (although thoughts may occur). Knowing is passive and at the same time extremely alive and vibrant. It is seeing, not looking. All life knows, including newborn human children.

"Truth is the direct perception of the unknown before interpretation."

Shiv Sengupta on Facebook


In this account, knowing is used alongside and in contrast with the concept of "imagination". Imagination is the result of reflection, interpretation. Imagination covers the whole area of what we think we know and includes what we call ("normal") knowing and knowledge as well as "belief". Knowledge and belief are part of our existence as adult human animals in human society. Both are activities of the mind. For example, I may have the idea that "I" do an activity called "seeing" and that "I" "see" a "tree". "I", "seeing" and "tree" are all imaginations. The experience of seeing the tree itself has no such distinctions. In knowing there is no "I", no "tree" and no "seeing". Imagination consists of language, of wordings, interpretations. Imagination is always hindsight, commentary. Knowing is now, immediate, wordless.

"THIS is it. As simple as that. And I don't have to do anything about it. Nor can I do anything about it. I find the world, this life, ready-made. The clock ticks above the mantelpiece. I watch my hands type keys. Sometimes the hands wait a moment and then continue. Oops, spelling mistake. Tick, tick, tick."

Imagination is an attempt to put experience into words, but words and concepts cannot capture experience. Which is not to say that words would be of no use. On the contrary. Our society would fall apart if words and concepts suddenly would disappear. Without words no science, no technology, no culture, no effective communication.

Within the realm of imagination, we can distinguish between "knowledge" and "belief", Simply put: for real knowledge there is evidence available, for most belief there is not. Both are linguistic in nature and can be put into words, unlike pure experience, unlike knowing. Imagination always uses memory. Knowing, on the other hand, is not remembered.

It is only knowledge that has limits. Belief is limitless to the point of absurdity. While in immediate experience, as knowing, everything is evident and there is no doubt at all.