The point that is being made with, “Take up the green vegetable leaf and turn it into a sixteen-foot golden body” appears many times in the literature, though different devices are used. In one of the koans, Manjushri asks Sudana to bring him something that is not medicine. Sudana searches and searches. He finally comes back to Manjushri and says, “I cannot find anything that is not medicine.” Manjushri replies, “Then bring me something that is medicine.” And Sudana bends down, plucks a blade of grass and hands it to him. Manjushri holds up the blade of grass and says, “This has the power to kill and to give life.” And so it is with the green vegetable leaf.
Buddha asked Manjushri to build him a temple. Manjushri plucked a blade of grass, touched it to the ground, and said, “Here is your temple.” The Buddha approved. All of it is the miraculous transformation of a Buddha that benefits all sentient beings. How? How does it benefit all sentient beings?
It is easy to intellectualize what Dogen and Manjushri say. That is the nest; the nest of understanding. Master Uchiyama comments on this in his book From the Zen Kitchen to Enlightenment, saying,
Even when handling just one leaf of green, do so in such a way that the leaf manifests the fullness of its potential, which in turn allows the illumination of Buddha to radiate through it. This is the power of functioning whose nature is incapable of being grasped with the rational mind, and one which operates without hindrance in a most natural way. At the same time, this power operates in our lives to clarify and settle activities beneficial to all living things.