If you understand Dogen’s metaphysics of cooking, you understand the Buddha’s metaphysics of life. It is not about isolating oneself; it is about living in the world, about cooking a meal, eating a meal, cleaning the teeth, using the lavatory, raising a child, driving a car, doing a job, having a relationship. In other words, it is all of the ten thousand things that take place from morning until evening each day of our life. Yet somehow we struggle through those ordinary everyday activities. It is not so settled; as Master Uchiyama says, “It is not so clear; it is not so beneficial to either self or other.” The reason for that is separation—the illusion of separateness, the illusion of a self that is separate and distinct from the rest of the universe, the illusion of a self that is separate and distinct from the green vegetable leaf, from the marvelous mind of nirvana, from the sixteen-foot golden body of the Buddha, from your lover, from your parents, from your children, from the people of Africa and Bosnia, from this great earth itself. They are not one and one and one and one; they are not separate. It is just one great pearl.

We should realize that one great pearl manifests constantly in the myriad activities that surround us. It exists in a speck of dust; it exists in vast space. That is the “It” that includes heaven and encompasses the earth; that is the “It” that transcends both the sacred and mundane and appears on the tips of the hundred thousand grasses and weeds. Dogen is speaking about intimacy—whole body and mind intimacy. But when we think of intimacy we think of some kind of unity that blinds and deafens us, that renders us non-existent. The Buddha Way is beyond being and non-being, beyond existence and non-existence, beyond the sacred and the mundane. It doesn’t fall onto either side.

We think of, “No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind” as intimacy, but that is only one side. The other side is “eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind.” These two sides are two aspects of the truth, two aspects of “It.” What is that? What is it that is neither form nor emptiness, neither sacred nor mundane, neither heaven nor hell, self nor other, being nor non-being?

The intimacy that Master Dogen speaks of is whole body and mind intimacy. He talks of it again and again throughout his work. “Seeing form with the whole body and mind, hearing sound with the whole body and mind, one understands it intimately.”