Photo: ‘Melting of Rigid Structures’ by Wolfgang Claussen – Pixabay


I remember being instructed in TSK class about not-knowing. It took me quite awhile to get a sense of it… a sense of being immersed in it. You have to ask yourself; how would you go about knowing not-knowing?

In TSK class, it’s suggested that the ordinary way we experience not-knowing is ‘self’ imposed. It comes about as a result of the conceptual boundaries we impose on ourselves through limitations of thought. We think… “This can’t be because of that.” “I can’t accept this idea, but I’ll accept that.” These boundaries of exclusion simply do not permit knowing what is not included within its self-created framework. This kind of not-knowing is self-isolating, as it sets up borderlines and perimeters between what we think we know, and a kind of blank that we conceptualize as the not-known. As a result, this kind of Not-knowing denies our capacity to know. Rinpoche writes:

We accept that our own thoughts and own mind as such do not have intrinsic value; do not carry knowledge. It is positions that we affirm as right or wrong: not the telling of the story but its outcome. Not-knowing is elevated to a fundamental principle, the original position from which each of us must start. Since this is so, we are in the wrong until proven to be in the right. Our pain, our confusion, our agitation all confirm our own shortcomings.
….’Dynamics of Time and Space’, by Tarthang Tulku, p. 176

As long as not-knowing excludes knowledge, we are trapped by our positions, and there is no escape from the limits of the known. But when we set aside the distinction between knowing and not-knowing, engaging not-knowing as an activity of knowledge, escape from the consequences of not-knowing is no longer an issue in the same way.
…’Love of Knowledge’, by Tarthang Tulku, p. 379

So there is a Not-knowing that is NOT ‘self-imposed’, a Not-knowing that is not self-limiting. This Not-knowing does not close down, it does not reject, ban, prohibit, blacklist, rule-out, or refuse admittance. It does not lock-out, repudiate eject or shut-out. Rather, this Not-knowing opens, includes, incorporates, takes-in, and welcomes. This kind of Not-Knowing is not what the knower knows. Rinpoche writes:

Instead of trying to ‘know’ the ‘unknown’, we can integrate the unknown into knowledge, allowing human knowing to ‘develop’ in a new way. Positions lose their rigid nature, together with their power to exclude. There is no situation that is hopeless, and also no need for hope. A path to greater knowledge lies open before us.

We discover knowledge within not-knowing. Even at the outset, we know knowing when we know our not-knowing as not-knowing. The task of inquiry is to open this channel of communication between not knowing and knowing—to create the opportunity for knowledge to speak. LOK p.379

TSK teaches us Open Inquiry is essential for allowing Not-Knowing to pervade those conceptual structures we accept as the known. When we inquire into our judgments and opinions, questioning their roots and foundations, we allow not-knowing to pervade how they’ve become so sticky or frozen. When we do this, Rinpoche writes:

Not-knowing thus reveals the self in action, and an inquiry into not-knowing becomes a kind of psychology of the self, at the level where the fundamental… are established. In knowing our not-knowing, we see how human beings draw on knowledge that ‘enters’ through the senses and through linguistic structures to set up a world and define the role they will play in that world. We see how what is perceived and interpreted is made into ‘the real’, and how observation, meaning-giving and other fundamental human activities operate.

Knowing our not-knowing, we can explore, analyze, and understand without establishing, asserting, or maintaining. Unconcerned by the limits on knowing that our inquiry discloses, knowledge itself can continue to deepen and expand, acting as its own witness.” LOK p.382-3

About David Filippone

David Filippone has been a student of Tarthang Tulku’s Time, Space, Knowledge (TSK) vision for over twenty-five years. For the past fourteen years, he has studied TSK and Full Presence Mindfulness with Jack Petranker, director of the Center for Creative Inquiry (CCI). He also participated in programs offered by Carolyn Pasternak of the Odiyan Center. David curated the CCI Facebook page for five years, which is often TSK-focused, and he currently serves on the CCI Board of Directors. The CCI Facebook page can be found at the following link...
This entry was posted in General TSK Discussions, knowledge, opening, thought and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Ken McKeon says:


  2. Michael Gray says:

    David, I found this so helpful. A wonderful guided tour through a magical forest in which everything shines when we don’t pin the flying creatures on our cork board.

    • David Filippone says:

      Thanks Michael,
      And to think… Rinpoche suggests the magic is at the beginning of each thought, each moment, each ‘from’, each point…. at the edge of the future.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *