Then the next line says, “Do you understand what he is saying?” In order to understand what he is saying we need to look at what’s right here, right now. When I say look at right here, right now, I mean you look at what’s right here, right now in your life. Not collectively, not abstractly, not intellectually, but practically: what’s on your plate, under your nose and how do you work with that?

The commentary continues, “Be that as it may, if you want to understand the rootless tree, you first need to understand rootlessness itself.” Rootless means the roots are gone: they’re either cut off or undeveloped. Or when it’s used in terms of people, rootless means that they’ve no close ties—no connections. Well, what kind of a thing has no connections to anything? Is that what the dharma is about?

Dogen says, “Do you want a rootless tree? The cypress tree in the garden is it. If you cannot use that, raise up the staff and see that this is exactly it.” All dharmas are nothing but rootless. How is that? Each dharma fills the universe. Where would the roots go? There’s nothing outside of it.

All dharmas are nothing but rootless. They’re not connected to anything but contain everything. Do you understand? Do you understand—not in your head, because it’s easy enough to understand intellectually, but do you understand in your body? In dokusan, when I ask people a question on a koan and they hesitate, I ring the bell. When you hesitate, then you’re thinking. If you’ve embodied it, you instantly respond. There’s no reflection—it’s immediate because you’re the embodiment of it. If I ask you where your nose is, you just immediately point to it; you know where your nose is. Well, it’s the same with those test questions.