The commentary continues: “The eating and drinking of everyday meals is the essential truth of all dharmas.” To eat and to drink is to experience any activity. We hear this business of eating rice and drinking tea and we think we have to eat rice and drink tea in order to realize the dharma. You can eat a hot dog and have a cup of coffee and realize the dharma if you do it with the whole body and mind. If you are totally consumed in the activity.

“At the very moment of fully experiencing an activity, whatever it is, we merge with this ultimate reality.” What does it mean to merge with this ultimate reality? We talk about samadhi–every-atom samadhi–whole body and mind, single-pointedly engaging in activity. When one dharma arises, we practice one dharma. When we’ve completed it, we let go of it, and we move on to the next dharma, dharma after dharma, obstruction after obstruction, barrier after barrier, moment after moment.

So, to eat and to drink is to experience any activity, and at the very moment of fully experiencing that activity, we merge with its ultimate reality. “Thus, dharma is eating and eating is dharma. This truth can only be realized by one’s self; can only be verified by one’s self.” Dharma is experience and experience is dharma.

In his fascicle Kajo, “Everyday Life, ” Dogen quotes a hermit who said:

I thatched a hut and have nothing of value.
Having finished a meal, I calmly look forward to a nap.


Photo by Tany Kely


Commenting on this, Dogen says, “I have finished a meal. That is an experience. One who has not yet finished a meal is not yet satisfied with experience. At the same time, this truth of calmness, having finished a meal, is realized before the meal, realized during the meal, realized after a meal.” That calmness is samadhi–before the activity, during the activity, after the activity. Dogen goes on to say, “In the everyday life of the buddhas and ancestors there is always a miracle. It has been called sitting alone on the great mystic peak. Even though we now hear, ‘Let the fellow kill himself by sitting,’ the sitting is still a miracle, a miracle in every instant for every person who is always eating meals.” To kill one’s self by sitting means the body and mind fall away. It’s called the great death.

A monk asked Master Baizhang, “What’s the most wondrous thing in the world?” Baizhang said, “Sitting alone on the great mystic peak.” The monk bowed, as if to thank him. Baizhang hit him. Why? Sitting alone on the great mystic peak is okay, but it doesn’t end there. The monk thought that was the whole story. Baizhang hit him to let him know there’s more. There’s descending into the marketplace, never having left the peak. In other words, manifesting the mystic peak in the world.

In the main case, Touzi said, “When the emperor of a nation issues a decree, does he need to confirm this with the ancient emperors Yu, Tang, Yao, or Shun?” The footnote to that says, “Little toad, come out of your hole and see for yourself.” Emperors Yu, Tang, Yao and Shun were founding emperors of dynasties. So Touzi is saying, does the modern leader need to confirm everything he does with the ancient leaders of thousands of years ago? Do you need someone to verify it for you, or can you do it yourself? Can you trust yourself? The thing that Furong was missing was that trust: “I can’t do it. I can’t do it. Can’t be done.” Just like the first reaction to the log jam was, “Can’t be done.” In a very short period of time that was miraculously transformed into “Can do, will do, done.” And ten canoes passed through. That’s our life. That’s eating a meal. That’s the dharma of eating rice and drinking tea.