Confucius: Know What You Know

Releasing Arrogance and the I-Know Mind

My quote today is from Confucius and he said, “To know what you know and to know what you don’t know is true wisdom.”

How often have you thought you knew something? How often have you been surprised by how wrong you were? What can we really know? What is left?

Confucius tells us that being wise is knowing the difference between what you really do know and what you really do not know.

Using this contemplation can bring great humility and freedom from assumption and arrogance. Enjoy your time with this offering and do let me know how it plays out in your life.

Read transcript:

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Hello and welcome. I am Ellen Sutherland, and here we are, being spiritual.

Today our quote is from Confucius and he said, “To know what you and and to know what you don’t know, that is real wisdom.”

That is a wonderful contemplation to hold. It is one of those koans, if you like, because if you knew what you didn’t know, then you would be very wise, wouldn’t you, probably Realized..(a Zen teaching statement offered to startle the student’s mind into silence.

And so the quote is a wonderful caution to hold that and say, when you notice yourself saying “I know what this or that means…I certainly know what he means or she means…” it becomes a wonderful caution for us to stand back and say “hmmm, you know what? Maybe, just maybe, I don’t know.”

Maybe the best that I know is that I don’t know.

I remember someone saying to me, very heartfully to me, that “I didn’t realize that I didn’t know. I thought I knew. And I didn’t realize that I didn’t know that I didn’t know.” I know this may sound weird but be with it and hold it (in your mind).

If we are being spiritual, when we are being spiritual, then anything that butts up against any of the higher qualities that reflect enlightenment, reflect realization, which seem to be peace and joy and love. All of those are expressed in an unconditional way, then anything we think we know that is against those states – any judgment, any other focus than that, is in error.

It is quite amazing when you read some of these Realized teachers to understand that they are like glass (in that life passes through them) and they do see through all of the pieces of the world that most of us are still bumping up against, such as judgments; it should be different; it aught to be different; the world is going to change…instead of realizing that the change occurs within – here (points to heart). Change begins here and if we are all of one mind, then everything changes from here. Then again, maybe not…I mean, do I know that? Do I know that I don’t know that?

I hope you enjoy the quote. Be with it. Contemplate it. Let me know how it goes for you. Either way, if you do or don’t think about (contemplate) what it is you think you know and what it is you think you don’t know.

Peace to you.

About ellen

Ellen Sutherland shares her work through her sites:, and her book: "At Your Heart's Pace",
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