December 28, 2010 (#52)

Student: What is the difference between knowing and believing?

Michael: Both are activities of the mind that can be useful. If, for instance, you know something, you generally have some kind of evidence to back up your mental position. With belief you don’t need the same evidence. In fact, very often, our beliefs are rooted in a total lack of evidence.

Student: My daughter recently told me that she doesn’t, “believe in Zen.”

Michael: Good for her. What was your response?

Student: I said something like, “You don’t have to believe in anything, but you do have to empty the dishwasher.”

Michael: Good for you. Interestingly, I’ve never seen how knowledge, beliefs or convictions serve anyone after a certain point on the path. As I’ve said so often, certitude is the birth of war since it serves as a source of clinging. So in this way, the path to peace isn’t something one has to believe in in order for it to reveal itself. We just begin to live from an understanding that peace is the flavor of consciousness we taste when we find that there is no need to either know or believe.

Student: It’s sounds like how we have eyes in our heads but we don’t have to believe in them in order for them to do their job.

Michael: Yeah. But we need to be careful not to mistake this kind of openness for indifference. Just because we’re not caught by thoughts doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t participate in this life. On the contrary, we should let our freedom inspire a deeper kind of participation for the benefit of everyone. is the flavor of consciousness that we taste when we find that there is no need to either know or believe.

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