Who knows that he does not know is the highest.
Who (pretends to) know what he does not know is sick-minded.
And who recognizes sick-mindedness as sick-mindedness is not sick-minded.
The Sage is not sick-minded. Because he recognizes sick-mindedness as sick-mindedness, therefore he is not sick-minded.
(Tao Teh King 71)
Who knows that he does not know is the highest. Wu: “To realize that our knowledge is ignorance, this is a noble insight.” Socrates said: “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” And similarly: “To know, is to know that you know nothing. That is the meaning of true knowledge.”
This is not cynicism or self-satirization, but an awareness of how infinite knowledge is and how tiny, even trivial, our knowledge is. To know is to be; so to know the Tao is to be the Tao. Until that knowledge is attained by us we are ignorant; and the wise know that. The important thing to realize is that although our present knowledge is ignorance, we are destined to become knowers. Knowledge is not an unattainable thing, but is our destiny and even our nature.
The wise know that mere intellectual knowledge is ultimately nothing, valueless. But they also know that true knowledge is everything and must be sought for assiduously. The greatest philosopher of India, Shankaracharya, spent his life teaching the absolute necessity of jnana: knowledge of Reality, of Brahman, the Absolute. It is also the process of reasoning by which the Ultimate Truth is attained, the knowledge by which one is aware of one’s identity with Brahman. What a glorious and exalted viewpoint! That alone marks out the possessor of wisdom.
Who (pretends to) know what he does not know is sick-minded. It is truly a mental-spiritual sickness to try and deceive others in claiming that we know something when we do not know it at all. The worst are the false gurus that pretend to be enlightened (or even a divine incarnation) and gain disciples through their pretence, teaching ignorance rather than knowledge.
Wu: “To regard our ignorance as knowledge, this is mental sickness.” It is mental illness to fool ourself into thinking that the ideas that pop into our wandering minds are true, even divine, knowledge. Did you ever know people that believed their dreams were revelations of truth? I have. I have known people whose minds were completely out of their control, running here and there and spewing out utter foolishness that they believed were channeled messages from God.
Feng and English: “Ignoring knowledge is sickness.” To ignore, reject or willfully forget the truth is a psychological aberration. Even worse is to know what is the truth but to deliberately act and speak contrary to it, either to deceive ourselves or others. For example, people in delusive religions become hysterical, hostile and even violent when someone does not believe as they do. They will often ask people: “What do you think of…?” and name their pet delusion or deluder. No matter how gently or diplomatically you indicate that you do not believe, they will “go ballistic.” Why? They know it is nonsense, completely false, but because they want it to be true they have brainwashed themselves about it. Yet they know it is false. To protect their hypocrisy they attack you. Watch out.
And who recognizes sick-mindedness as sick-mindedness is not sick-minded. What about the old “judge not” cant that I have heard from nearly every scoundrel and hypocrite I have ever met? It is deceitful nonsense. Those who see the truth of things are continually accused of being judgmental and negative. May I give an example? Once a woman told me that all forms of nuclear defense were unnecessary, including the “Star Wars” project that at the time was a favorite for such people to denounce. Why, I asked her, were such programs unnecessary, even wrong? “Because,” she said, “the Tibetan lamas knew how to vaporize nuclear warheads by their will power alone.” Now, I had never heard of such a thing being claimed by Tibetan teachers. And I pointed out to her that it could not be expected that the nations of the world would accept that assertion unless the lamas proved to them they could do such a thing, and would be around to do it if any attack occurred. She began screaming at me that it was people like me who caused war in the world and who were preventing the world peace that could so easily be achieved. Her behavior was truly insane. This is the way of the sick-minded. Be aware of it and do not mistake it. And do not deal with it. Depart in peace.
Wu: “Only when we are sick of our sickness shall we cease to be sick.” How true this is. Only when we vigorously reject our own folly for what it is will we possibly become wise.
Mabry: “Only someone who realizes he is ill can become whole.” Byrn: “Only by recognizing that you have an illness can you move to seek a cure.” Acknowledgement of the true situation is essential for a healthy and worthy future. “Positive thinking” is not lying to oneself and others about the true nature of things. Only honesty can pave the way for correction and improvement. Finally, those who do not realize or admit they are ill cannot be healed by God, much less by human beings. Only when they accept the truth can benefit come to them. Otherwise they are the embodiment of negativity and destructiveness. As Saint Paul said: “From such turn away” (II Timothy 3:5).
The Sage is not sick-minded. Because he recognizes sick-mindedness as sick-mindedness, therefore he is not sick-minded. There is a very important implication in this statement: Those who can recognize sick-mindedness are not sick-minded themselves and have the ability to avoid sick-mindedness. The “no judgement” people are themselves sick-minded. Krino means to condemn and wish harm to someone, not just be aware of their real nature or condition. If there was no judgment all criminals would be allowed to do as they please and there would be neither police nor judges and juries. Would anyone sane want much a society? But the “don’t judge” people are sick-minded and therefore hate truth, being evil themselves.
Wu: “The Sage is not sick, being sick of sickness; This is the secret of health.” I knew a man who never had smoked a single cigarette. The reason? His mother was a chain smoker who had him clean out her ashtrays when he was growing up. Seeing its nastiness, he grew to loathe smoking, so never engaged in it himself. Those who are repulsed by wrongdoing are safe from doing wrong themselves. When Paramhansa Yogananda was daily going to Pacific Palisades to supervise the creation of the Lake Shrine, he asked one of the young residents of the ashram to skip school and come with him. “Call up and tell them you are sick,” he told the boy. “But I am not sick!” the boy protested. “Yes, you are,” said the Master, “You are sick of the world.” Such sickness is a guarantee of present and continued health.
Byrn: “The Master is whole because he sees his illnesses and treats them, and thus is able to remain whole.” Only the proficient yogi is capable of recognizing, facing and curing his negative mental traits.
Blackney: “The Wise Man has indeed a healthy mind; he sees an aberration as it is and for that reason never will be ill.” Indeed so.
Next in the Tao Teh King for Awakening: On Punishment (1)