I studied philosophy and literature in university. I was very excited to finally study the nature of reality, as expressed by the greatest minds of history. But I noticed — it would take several years to notice this — that as philosophy meandered into speculations about the nature of speculation, I bailed out. It felt like studying the shadow of a shadow of a hand, when all I was trying to do was to master this hand. This was not giving me any workable insight. As the ancient philosopher Heraclitus said, “Much learning does not teach understanding.”
One day, the words of Bodhidharma broke through the clouds to save my view: “If you use the (thinking-)mind to understand reality, you won’t understand your mind or reality.” And then the immense fortune to meet my Teacher, whose celebrated phrase — “Only don’t know!” — pretty much captured the work that really needed to be done.
Zen had arrived.