‘Dogen constantly emphasizes that practice is shikan. Shikan is just wholeheartedness; it is experience, so practice is experience.
Practice as experience is based on the manifestation of reality. Manifestation means the relationship between subject and object. We manifest subject and object in many ways through the six consciousnesses of sight, sound, smell, taste, touch and thought. So we can manifest practice with our mind. But practicing just with the mind is not good enough; we also have to practice with our body.
For example, if you are cooking, and you use a vegetable, if you think, ‘This is a vegetable’, it immediately becomes an object, something that is separate from you, and you see the vegetable in the ordinary way. But you can take a different attitude toward the vegetable. Before you consciously label the vegetable, you can touch and handle the vegetable as something more than a vegetable – Buddha – and face the vegetable in terms of timelessness with no label. This is really the attitude we should take. This is wisdom. Then cooking is practice based on manifesting reality.
This is a very difficult practice, but with wisdom you can face the real vegetable, which is not something separate from you. Then even though your dualistic consciousness says, ‘Oh, that is a vegetable’, wisdom keeps you straight. So calm your dualistic consciousness and just face the vegetable. Place the vegetable right in the middle of timelessness. When you place your object, the vegetable, in the middle of timelessness, then your subject, you, is also placed in the middle of timelessness. At that time, all things come back to nothingness, emptiness, and you wake up.
But practically speaking, you cannot ignore the fact that you and the vegetable exist in everyday life. So how should you deal with a vegetable? First place the vegetable in timelessness, where carrots, cabbage and potatoes all exist with no discrimination. Then come back to everyday time, where you cannot cut a carrot the same way you cut a potato, because a carrot is a being with its own characteristics. Recognize that a carrot is a carrot and deal with your carrot without confusing it with potatoes, water, or the pan. When you deal with a carrot like this, you manifest yourself as a cook and the carrot as a particular being, but at the same time, both you and the carrot are manifested as Buddha.’ (Each Moment Is The Universe)
Katagiri, like Dogen, illuminates the fundamental point with concrete analogies. The only question is, have you ever faced the real vegetable?