Dizang asked, “Where are you going?”
Fayan replied, “I am wandering on a pilgrimage.”

Dizang said, “What is the purpose of your pilgrimage?”
Fayan responded, “I don’t know.”

Dizang smiled, “Ah, not knowing is most intimate.”
Suddenly Fayan had great realization.

In the great stillness of buddhas’ sitting, not-knowing arises.
In the great activity of buddhas’ wandering, not-knowing arises.


Fayan Wenyi lived from 885-958, he entered a Chan (Zen) monastery at age seven and he was ordained as a monk at age twenty. Fayan was well educated and went on to be a great teacher of the Way. His, “I don’t know,” points to the heart of Zen practice.

Fayan (like many of us) sees his “I don’t know,” as lacking something. Maybe he feels this is a sign of ignorance, deficiency or failure. Searching for answers, Fayan misses the fullness of his actual experience. Fayan’s accumulated knowledge is very helpful, but it also limits his insight and creativity. Relying too heavily on his intellectual training, Fayan’s thinking becomes small, confined and stale.

Dizang simply affirms Fayan’s wandering, and he encourages us all to let the unknown kindly tend to our practice and to our lives. Dizang helps us to see that not-knowing is not an obstacle to overcome.

For all of us, the unknown is familiar territory. Learn to recognize “don’t know,” and let it be our inspiration. It is the source of our great possibilities. In this moment, can we join Fayan’s pilgrimage?

Thank you,

Kinshu