So I asked my teacher, “How do I know what I don’t know?”  I explained about the Dunning Krueger Effect which describes how people who know little about something, may think they know more about it then they actually do because they don’t know the extent of knowledge they have not been exposed to.  Without hesitation, my teacher told me to read the Heart Sutra and see what it says about attainment.

From the Heart Sutra:

…Shariputra, all dharmas are marked by emptiness,
they neither arise nor cease,
are neither defiled nor pure,
neither increase nor decrease.
Therefore, given emptiness there is no form
no sensation, no perception, no formation, no consciousness;…
…There is neither ignorance nor extinction of ignorance,…
…no suffering, no cause, no cessation,
no path, no knowledge, and no attainment

So there’s nothing to attain?  Well, that just doesn’t make any sense.  Of course there is.  I have learned things being exposed to Buddhism that have made profound changes in my life.  And there’s nothing to attain?  Huh?  Is this one of those koan mind games that makes no sense?  Hmmm…

I confess I read a bit about the Heart Sutra and according to Thick Nhan Hanh, this part of the Heart Sutra is about being in the moment.  Hmmm…  The first part of the Heart Sutra is about emptiness, but this part is about living in the moment, just being, or aimlessness as Thick Nhan Hanh would say again.  So given the context of living in the moment, of course there’s no attainment.  There’s just now.  “Just be,” as my teacher would say.  So it’s not that attainment doesn’t exist, but when living in the moment, focusing on attainment takes you out of the moment.

Click to see full text of the Heart Sutra