Even A Single Leaf of Green is Buddha

Dōgen Zenji, the founder of Soto Zen wrote:

“Handle even a single leaf of a green in such a way that it manifests the body of the Buddha. This in turn allows the Buddha to manifest through the leaf. This is a power which you cannot grasp with you rational mind. It operates freely, according to the situation, in a most natural way. At the same time, this power functions in our lives to clarify and settle activities and is beneficial to all living things.” Tenzokyokun ( Instructions for the Cook)



Every single thing in this universe is the body of the Buddha. In Zen we say rocks, tiles and walls are Buddha. Trees, birds and flowers are Buddha. What can be excluded? In Shobogenzo Bussho, Dogen famous translated “All beings have Buddha Nature” to “All beings are Buddha Nature”. This is the understanding of Chinese Zen. Everything constitutes this Buddha world; nothing can be omitted or left behind. When we pick up a lettuce leaf or a carrot, or engage in relationships, each moment and interaction is the body of the Buddha.


Yet, it isn’t enough for the leaf to be Buddha, this is not complete. We (and the lettuce leaf) are Buddha nature, but not in a vacuum. Our true nature arises simultaneously when we fully act in accord with every being and thing presencing itself. We bring ourselves forward and each thing comes forward to meet us. Each thing comes forward and we bring ourselves forward to meet it. This is true for every activity we engage in. When this is allowed to happen then we actualize Buddha Nature together. When this happens we follow the precepts effortlessly.


You can’t make this happen with your intellect; although understanding this dynamic is helpful. We can only have this experience when we jump in, leap off the 100 foot pole and fully presence ourselves, without likes and dislikes, completely meeting each situation. This ‘freely operating’ dynamic, unobstructed by our likes and dislikes, results in a powerful dynamic that makes our world. How wonderful! How mundane! Just washing dishes and sharing a cup of tea.


The result of our total engagement has a transformative power which frees us and frees others. It is the foundation of our settled mind, our mind of gratitude and an attitude of patience. We can freely be generous without fear. Amazingly, all this can happen through how we treat a leaf of lettuce or a difficult interaction. Both require the same openness and total presencing. When we do this, we will be freed as we will free others. This is the beneficial action of a Buddha.

One comment

  1. Beata Chapman

    This is beautiful. Thank you both for upkeeping these posts. Beata

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