Tea and Rice

by Zen Master Dogen


Dōgen Zenji 道元禅師 (19 January 1200 – 22 September 1253) was a Japanese Zen Buddhist teacher born in Kyōto. He founded the Sōtō school of Zen in Japan after travelling to China and training under Rujing, a master of the Chinese Caodong lineage. Dōgen is known for his extensive writing including the Treasury of the Eye of the True Dharma or Shōbōgenzō, a collection of ninety-five fascicles concerning Buddhist practice and enlightenment


When you ride in a boat and watch the shore, you might assume that the shore is moving. But when you keep your eyes closely on the boat, you can see that the boat moves. Similarly, if you examine myriad things with a confused body and mind, you might suppose that
your mind and essence are permanent. When you practice intimately and return to where you are, it will be clear that nothing at all has unchanging self.

To study the way of enlightenment is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away. No trace of enlightenment remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly.

If you attain unsurpassable, complete enlightenment, all sentient beings also attain it. The reason is that all sentient beings are aspects of enlightenment.

Great enlightenment right at this moment is not self, not other.

If you speak of “achieving enlightenment,” you may think that you don’t usually have enlightenment. If you say, “Enlightenment comes,” you may wonder where it comes from. If you say, “I have become enlightened,” you may suppose that enlightenment has a beginning.

Great enlightenment is the tea and rice of daily activity.

From The Essential Dogen: Writings of the Great Zen Master edited by  Kazuaki Tanahashi and Peter Levitt © 2013. Reprinted with permission of Shambhala Publications. EH