Thursday, June 29, 2006


I asked this question on my blog, but...

I had a dream last night that I stopped at a vendor, a la Coney Island, and was going to buy two Buddha Pez dispensers.

What does this mean?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Meat in a test tube

Here's an interesting tidbit related to Buddhist vegetarianism:

Test Tube Burgers by 2009?
Talk about the polar opposite of grass-fed beef, this chilling Wired piece discusses the determined development by a few researchers to mass-produce meat grown in petri dishes, bioreactors and test tubes.

Dutch researchers are learning how to grow artificial pork meat from pig stem cells in hopes of producing minced meat in a bioreactor suitable for making sausages and hamburgers in a few years.

If you aren't completely turned off yet, experts for one non-profit group that funds research on in vitro meat believe the easiest way to "create" edible meat is to grow meat sheets: Layers of animal muscle and fat stretched on long flat sheets with the help of industrial-sized bioreactors.

I'm not going to comment on the wackiness of test tube burgers. What interested me is this phrase:

If you aren't completely turned off yet,

because as a vegetarian I find it rather ironic that meat eaters would be so 'turned off' by the notion of eating meat grown in a test tube while they seem to have no problem with the mass slaughter of thinking, feeling, breathing animals on a daily basis to feed their love of the taste of meat. You see, I'm "completely turned off" by the factory-farming and mass killing of animals that so many people either ignore or think is just a normal part of life - sort of like how we ignore or dismiss the 98,000+ civilian deaths in Iraq caused by US invasion forces, not to mention the 2,000+ US soldiers dead and the 20,000+ maimed or otherwise seriously injured. Just the price we pay to do what "needs" doing - except I don't really think we "need" to do either of these things. These are "wants", not "needs" and separating the two is important.

Sorry, not that Buddhist, but thought some might find it interesting...

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


This is the most flagrant misuse of this forum yet. But hold on & I'll give you some Zen stuff at the end of this post.

I just put the trailer to my movie "Cleveland's Screaming" up on YouTube. The link to it is:

Please go look at it even if you've seen it before so that it gets more hits & becomes popular. Thanks! Your support will be good for the cause of promoting Buddhism in America. Here's why.

I was in Japan last week and while I was there I visited Nishijima Sensei. We talked about lots and lots and lots of stuff. One of the things was his view that Buddhist teacers should earn their livings through "real jobs" rather than trying to earn their keep solely as Buddhist teachers. He practices what he preaches too. He finally retired at age 84 (I think, or 85). But he kept his day job throughout his career as a Buddhist Master. We talked some about the movie I'm making and about my job with the company I work for. Given the current state of that company, he encouraged me to try and make it apart from them with the film. Not that this movie in particular is ever gonna earn me enough for rent -- I can't believe how much I've spent on what was supposed to be a "no budget" production! -- but it could be a good start.

We also talked about his blog. In spite of everything, he is still very optimistic about the possibility for blogging to be a great way to spread Buddhism. Even though the comments section of his blog has been largely hijacked by people with agendas which have nothing at all to do with what he is trying to teach, he still maintains a very positive view towards blogging. It was pretty inspiring to hear that. I may just start mine up again....

In the meantime, go post some relevant comments on his blog, would ya? Somebody! Maybe the serious comments might eventually overwhelm the noisemakers. I feel so bad that it's gotten so awful in there when he's still so positive about the whole thing.

Before I start blogging again myself, though, I need to prepare for the first screening of my film at 8PM on July 1st at the Jigsaw Tavern in Parma, Ohio. I'll be there if anyone wants to talk Zen or punk or buy me an orange juice.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

"Buy a set or be a loser!" - B. Warner

Hey all - Brad's posted an announcement that the Shobogenzo translated by Nishijima / Cross is again available for purchase (4 volumes at $23.99 a vol). He gives a few more details at his blog.

I'm tempted but wonder what others think about this - if anyone has experience with the Shobogenzo, etc? I'm about to move to Alaska so this purchase will have to wait until I settle down. Also, it sounds like some pretty intense scholarship is required to really get through the thing (and understand it). From what I've read of Justin's comments / posts it seems a bit intimidating, to be honest. I suppose it's probably like most things in life - you can get out of it what you put into it.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Hard Problem of Consciousness

Another one I dug up...

One of the things that interested me about Buddhism is that it might give me some insights into such philosophical problems as the 'Hard problem of consciousness', which is also related to the mind-body problem.

The really hard problem of consciousness is the problem of experience. When we think and perceive, there is a whir of information-processing, but there is also a subjective aspect. As Nagel (1974) has put it, there is something it is like to be a conscious organism. This subjective aspect is experience. When we see, for example, we experience visual sensations: the felt quality of redness, the experience of dark and light, the quality of depth in a visual field. Other experiences go along with perception in different modalities: the sound of a clarinet, the smell of mothballs. Then there are bodily sensations, from pains to orgasms; mental images that are conjured up internally; the felt quality of emotion, and the experience of a stream of conscious thought. What unites all of these states is that there is something it is like to be in them. All of them are states of experience.

David Chalmers

Of course, although Buddhism makes use of philosophical discourse, it is ultimately existential in nature and so we should expect any answers to be existential rather than purely intellectual in nature.

The Buddhist resolution of such problems is less of a process of intellectual progress as a matter of the 'ironing out' and collapsing of the roots of the issue which are ways of thinking about reality which ultimately are deluded.

And perhaps I am being premature or naive but the more I investigate, the more it really does seem that many contemporary problems were solved by Buddhist sages and thinkers in the distant past (although I see some Buddhist sages and thinkers mired in the same sort of thinking or even greater confusion). Given that philosophers in the west rarely learn anything other than the history of western philosophy, and that Buddhism is regarded (and practiced) generally as a religion, it isn't surprising that there isn't much cross-pollenation.

With regards to the above problem, it seems to me that it arises from the assumed reality of objective existence:

1 Ultimately reality is objectively real and independent of our experience of it
2 From experiential evidence I cannot deny my subjective experiences
3 Therefore they must be part of reality
4 If my subjectivity exists then other people's subjectivity probably exists
5 Therefore they must all be part of objective reality
6 So how can a subjective something really exist within (and arise from) an objective reality?

So we end up with a picture of all these creatures walking around an entirely physical universe, but with little subjective bubble-worlds in their heads (or above them or somewhere else or nowhere at all). How do these two worlds interact? If one arises from the other, how? How could subjectivity arise from objectivity ever, even in principle? And if subjectivity is an ineffectual epiphenomenon, why does it make a difference when I stop making an effort?

Rather than try to solve this set of problems with its assumed premises, we can observe reality carefully with as few assumptions as possible. In Zen abstract thought is seen not as truth but as a bodily function, which at best has a practical use. Thoughts exist as representations of reality, but are only ever representations with a greater or lesser usefulness. In fact many of the more bizarre responses from Zen masters to philosophical questions can be seen as expressions of 'unasking' questions which are based on deluded premises, for example 'Mu', 'Katz!', 'the oak tree in the garden' or the act of placing a sandal on the head.

I remember a story that my philosophy tutor told us about G.E.M. Anscombe, the student of the famous linguistic philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein (who wrote extensively on the limits of language). During a conference of some sort, Anscombe was asked a question (how I wish I knew what that question was!) and she responded by removing her shoe in front of an international audience of philosophers and placed it on her head. Of course, without any grounding in eastern philosophy, most of the spectators (including my tutor) naturally assumed that she was batty. (Although Anscombe must have been elderly at this point, I have no reason to suppose that her mental faculties were failing. She was well-known for her intelligence and debating skills and famously won a debate against C.S. Lewis at Cambridge, forcing him to re-write a chapter of his book.) Anyone familiar with Zen stories will of course recognise this gesture as being identical to that performed by Joshu in response to a question from his master Nansen:

Once the monks of the eastern and western Zen halls were quarrelling about a cat. Nansen held up the cat and said, "You monks! If one of you can say a word [about ultimate truth], I will spare the cat. If you can't say anything, I will put it to the sword." No one could answer, so Nansen finally slew it. In the evening, when Joshu returned, Nansen told him what had happened. Joshu, thereupon, took off his sandals, put them on his head and walked off. Nansen said, "If you had been there, I could have spared the cat."


The response might be seen as indicating that which is beyond language. Interestingly Wittgenstein himself famously declared that all philosophical problems had their roots in our use of language. He later retracted this having apparently found exceptions and tacked those in his Philosophical Investigations, which I really must read sometime.

If we think of our deluded belief-systems as a tree, which needs to be killed, then growing new branches to kill off other branches is no good - it just leads to proliferation of branches. Instead we can grow an axe to chop down the entire tree and then destroy itself - this is the project of Nagarjuna as I understand him. Alternatively we can stop watering the tree - in other words, release the attachments or delusions that feed it.

Many Buddhists (especially the ones I come across online) seem to see Buddhism as being 'against' rationality - often replacing it with some sort of intuitionism. I think this is a misunderstanding. Buddhism isn't against thinking - we need abstract thought in our lives to help achieve practical goals; there are many influential Buddhist philosophers who used rationality as part of their practice (eg. Nagarjuna). The goal is not the cessation of thinking, rather the goal is freedom from attachments to thoughts, feelings, and so on. Thoughts exist and they are sometimes useful, but they are only ever thoughts - and the conceptual reality they tempt us to enter is a virtual reality.

In Buddhism, experiencing reality without inherent dualities and seeing those dualities as inputted is the important thing. But explaining things in such a way that they might shed light on complex rational problems still takes a whole lot of conceptualisation and a whole lot of words. Hopefully I'm up to the task and hopefully I'm not just throwing more wood on the fire.

Coming back to the Hard Problem of Consciousness, what I see is that the premise of the existence of absolute objective reality is unsound. If I pay attention, I can see that I never actually come across this supposed objective reality, only ever the idea of it. Yet I'm not proposing that we replace this with some sort of philosophical Idealism. If I hide an object, forget about it and then come back to it, it's still there. Things I know nothing of still have causal effects in the universe and (in the case of sense perceptions and psychoactive drugs) can influence the nature of mental phenomena in my mind. I can't change reality just by thinking about it.

While there are entities which outside of my awareness, that does not mean that they are independent of me or that I am independent of them. And if there is an independent objective universe, it is independent and thus not part of all this.

Materialism asserts that reality consists entirely of 'non-self' and is entirely independent of me and Idealism asserts that reality consists entirely of 'self' and is partly or fully dependent on me. But by claiming the universality of one domain or the other 'self' or 'non-self' neither damages self/non-self dualism, it just tries to squeeze the border off the map. This is doomed because 'self' and 'non-self' are interdependent concepts. How can a subject exist without an object to perceive? How can objective reality be real with no subject to ever know of or be influenced by its existence? What meaning does non-self have without the existence of a self? How much do we have to distort non-self to include the phenomena we now label as 'self'? And vice-versa.

Both Materialism and Idealism are only partial, distorted truths - attempts to unify reality without dispatching or deconstructing subject-object duality.

So what is the relationship between subject and object? The Buddhist view and a view which can be experienced in meditation, is that the distinction is inputted by thought. All phenomena are interdependent. The 'objective world' is just reality existing from the 'point of view' of another aspect of the same reality - the 'objects' of perception are just causative effects 'acting through' the other causative effects that are my sensory apparatus and my brain in an immense interdependent web without ultimate objects. Causality does not just flow 'upwards' from object to subject, but in every direction without end. My mind is just this moment of reality.

Reality is dependent upon observation. It has no 'Gods eye view' from which it exists. Nothing real is standing outside of reality to see it. It can only be viewed from inside and it only 'exists' in relation to other parts of itself. Even the description of reality as a set of relationships is not something that exists objectively, that image is just an abstraction, it exists always from a point of view - in relation to my reality at the time of writing and to your reality right now. But what is a point of view? A point of view is an abstraction - a model built from interpretation of effects of one part of reality upon another. A point of view of a landscape is just the sum of all the effects of each aspect of that situation upon a smaller part of that situation e.g.. all the light from a landscape as it affects a camera and an eye and a brain/mind.

What unites all of these states is that there is something it is like to be in them. All of them are states of experience.

What does 'something it is like to be in them' mean? The word 'like' in this context is a term of comparison. In what way (if any) is being in a subjective state similar to something? It isn't so much that it is similar to something, but that it is something - it's real. This statement also presupposes the existence of a continuous identity which is 'in' various states. What if (as most current research on consciousness suggests) there is no 'Cartesian Theatre', no container for such states to exist in? nor a homunculus, an inner witness for these states? If only the states themselves and their effects exist then is there any philosophical problem?

All states - even the state of an unwatched beaker of water in an empty building - are part of the causal matrix of reality (see The Butterfly Effect, Chaos Theory). Whether there are faculties to interpret these effects as information or not, no black box exists from which effects cannot spill so effects ripple out across the universe at the speed of light and we are all affected - it is 'like something to be in' every state. A problem arises only if we conceptualise reality in terms of categories which are independent of one another. For it to be 'like something to be in' a state is just to be contiguous with that state, to be affected by that state and (given that there can be no independent objects) ultimately to be that state.

My acts are irrevocable
Because they have no essence...
Where are the doers of deeds
Absent among their conditions?
Imagine a magician
Who creates a creature
Who creates other creatures.
Acts I perform are creatures
Who create others.


Friday, June 02, 2006

Zen Living Blogspot

We have been told that Zen centers around an eternal moment that is beyond description, that thinking is probably not the best way to gain an understanding of reality as it really is.

Yet there are still a few Zen priests attempting, through their almost daily writing, to impart the truth to those of us with a lesser understanding. So Daiho Hilbert-roshi is one of those people. He is a disabled Vietnam Veteran, former psychotherapist, current abbot of Daihoji, a small training monastery in southern New Mexico. He is a wonderful person and has many good things to say on his blog. He deserves to be read more widely than he is. So please, if you haven't done so already, stop by "Zen Living" and say hello to him and comment on his kind words.

Also, If it is found appropriate, Could his blog be added to the links on flapping mouths? I'm not sure who is taking care of these things currently or I would just ask them directly. thanks..

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Dogen's Genjo Koan - My Interpretation

First, let me highlight that I don't by any stretch of the imagination consider myself as an authority on the text. I'm doing this to aid my own ongoing study and hopefully helping some other people at the same time.

Dogen is notoriously difficult to interpret for a number of reasons:
- As with all Zen Masters he is attempting to indicate something which cannot really be defined by words or even thoughts
- He uses ideas which are difficult and subtle
- His statements contradict one another - even from one sentence to the next. I would suggest that the key to understanding these contradictions lies in understanding that Buddhism teaches two truths - conventional truth and what is called 'ultimate' truth and the same situation can be described in contradictory terms from these two viewpoints.
- He writes in extended poetic metaphors, the meaning of which are not only difficult to grasp, but sometimes can only be understood as references to imagery used by his contemporaries and antecedents but which are now obscure

The Genjo Koan is widely regarded as being one of the key passages of the Shobogenzo and is probably the most widely discussed. No doubt my clumsy attempts to grasp the meaning will lose the poetic qualities of the text.

Being able to understand Dogen's writing does not mean one is 'enlightened'. And being unable to understand it does not mean that one lacks understanding of Buddhism. However, I hope that after this little project I will be in a better position to tackle the rest of the Shobogenzo. Hopefull it will be useful to others too.

The following lectures by Rev. Shohaku Okumura have been invaluable resources for me:
Dogen Zenji's Genjo-Koan Lecture
Genjo-Koan: Actualization of Reality, Part 2

And this is a very useful tool for comparing various translations:

As all things are buddha-dharma, there are delusion, realization, practice, birth and death, buddhas and sentient beings. As myriad things are without an abiding self, there is no delusion, no realization, no buddha, no sentient being, no birth and death. The buddha way, in essence, is leaping clear of abundance and lack; thus there are birth and death, delusion and realization, sentient beings and buddhas. Yet in attachment blossoms fall, and in aversion weeds spread.

There are two truths of Buddhism. The traditional teaching as originally described by Gautama Buddha is the conventional truth of Buddhism: delusion and enlightenment and the path from one to the other, life and death, ordinary beings and Buddhas. However when Right View is understood it is seen that all things are inter-dependent and have no fixed self - it is seen that is they have no ultimate existence, they are empty and thus never come into or pass out of existence. This is the second truth of Buddhism - it cannot be said that these entities exist, nor can it be said that they lack existence. Yet the actual practice of Buddhism goes beyond or is a middle path between these two conceptual truths of multiplicity and emptiness. This corresponds to the third truth of Buddhism according to the Tien T'ai/Tendai sect. It is because things are empty, because there are no fixed natures that change and being are possible, hence there is birth and death, delusion and enlightenment, Buddhas and ordinary beings as we experience them. However, it is desire and aversion to all such unsubstantial phenomena of all sorts which is the root of our suffering.

To carry the self forward and illuminate myriad things is delusion. That myriad things come forth and illuminate the self is awakening.
Those who have great realization of delusion are buddhas; those who are greatly deluded about realization are sentient beings. Further, there are those who continue realizing beyond realization, who are in delusion throughout delusion. When buddhas are truly buddhas, they do not necessarily notice that they are buddhas. However, they are actualized buddhas, who go on actualizing buddha.

Buddhist practice which is self-centred, that is it is, seen as an attempt to reach enlightenment through the efforts of the individual self, is based on the delusion of fixed-self. Practice which is seen as the expression of all things through the individual self is the enlightened view. To see delusion as delusion is enlightenment; to be deluded about enlightenment (to see it as separate from the reality of here and now for example) is samsara. Some are awakened about awakening and some are deluded about delusion. Being a Buddha (being a non-conceptual realisation) does not necessarily mean that one knows one is Buddha, but being a Buddha is a process of ongoing, unfolding awakening.

When you see forms or hear sounds, fully engaging body-and-mind, you intuit dharma intimately. Unlike things and their reflections in the mirror, and unlike the moon and its reflection in the water, when one side is illumined, the other side is dark.

Through absorption of our whole being into phenomena, we know phenomena intimately, but to see this as a duality - the mind reflecting phenomena like a mirror is an error. We cannot see the objective and our subjective perception of it side by side, because there is only one reality.

To study the buddha way 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 realization remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly. When you first seek dharma, you imagine you are far away from its environs. At the moment when dharma is correctly transmitted, you are immediately your original self.

Buddhist practice is the study of the self. Studying the self, we realise that there is no fixed self, that the self is empty. To realise this is to realise ourselves as an expression of all reality. When this occurs, all sense of our own self and that of others as actual separate identities disappears. All attachment to concepts drops away - even the thought of our own realisation - we become free from such conceptual attachments. When you first seek Awakening you imagine that you are far from it, but when you attain it, you realise it is what you already are.

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 nature are permanent. When you practice intimately and return to where you are, it will be clear that nothing at all has unchanging self.

Our perspective on the universe is distorted by the fact of our subjectivity - that part of that which is being observed is that which is doing the observing. Because our mind cannot really see itself we imagine that it remains constant while the reality around it changes. But through Buddhist practice we can realise that nothing has a fixed self, nothing remains unchanged.

Firewood becomes ash, and it does not become firewood again. Yet, do not suppose that the ash is after and the firewood before. You should understand that firewood abides in the phenomenal expression of firewood, which fully includes before and after and is independent of before and after. Ash abides in the phenomenal expression of ash, which fully includes before and after. Just as firewood does not become firewood again after it is ash, you do not return to birth after death.
This being so, it is an established way in buddha-dharma to deny that birth turns into death. Accordingly, birth is understood as no-birth. It is an unshakable teaching in the Buddha's discourse that death does not turn into birth. Accordingly, death is understood as no-death.
Birth is an expression complete this moment. Death is an expression complete this moment. They are like winter and spring. You do not call winter the beginning of spring, nor summer the end of spring.

Because entities lack a fixed self, change is possible and irreversible. In the process of change it is a mistake to see an earlier state and a later state as earlier and later states of one continuous entity. Each state or moment both includes its past and future and is free from it at the same time. The past and future of each state exists, but they exist in that moment. Each state is just itself. Just as a phenomenon does not return from a later stage to an earlier stage, death does not become life. There is no continuous identity (ie. atman) that survives from one life into another.

That birth does not become death, that there is no fixed self that continues from birth to death is accepted Buddhist doctrine. Because of this birth is not the real beginning of a real continuous entity - birth is unborn... It is also taught that there is no fixed self that continues from death to birth. Because there is no continuous self to come to an end, the true understanding of death is 'no death'...

Birth and death are not the birth and death of an imagined additional continous entity - the fixed self. Birth and death are just fully the reality of themselves at the time when they exist and no more. There is no fixed entity that comes into being or stops being, there is just endless unfolding change.

Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water. The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken. Although its light is wide and great, the moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide. The whole moon and the entire sky are reflected in dewdrops on the grass, or even in one drop of water.
Enlightenment does not divide you, just as the moon does not break the water. You cannot hinder enlightenment, just as a drop of water does not hinder the moon in the sky. The depth of the drop is the height of the moon. Each reflection, however long or short its duration, manifests the vastness of the dewdrop, and realizes the limitlessness of the moonlight in the sky.

When we Awaken we realise that reality is expressed through us, like the moon reflected in water. The whole of reality expresses itself in each and every part of reality. Yet the vastness of reality does not affect our being and our enlightenment does not interfere with the universe. Reality is exactly itself whether we realise its true nature or not.

When dharma does not fill your whole body and mind, you think it is already sufficient. When dharma fills your body and mind, you understand that something is missing. For example, when you sail out in a boat to the middle of an ocean where no land is in sight, and view the four directions, the ocean looks circular, and does not look any other way. But the ocean is neither round nor square; its features are infinite in variety. It is like a palace. It is like a jewel. It only looks circular as far as you can see at that time. All things are like this.
Though there are many features in the dusty world and the world beyond conditions, you see and understand only what your eye of practice can reach. In order to learn the nature of the myriad things, you must know that although they may look round or square, the other features of oceans and mountains are infinite in variety; whole worlds are there. It is so not only around you, but also directly beneath your feet, or in a drop of water.

People who have a partial realisation of Buddhism think that they have the whole teaching. When you are fully awakened you can see the limitation of your own perspectives. To realise the 'oneness' of all things is not complete awakening, because our point of view is always limited, even our sense of oneness. In actuality, reality has infinite appearances and 'oneness' is just one of them.

A fish swims in the ocean, and no matter how far it swims there is no end to the water. A bird flies in the sky, and no matter how far it flies there is no end to the air. However, the fish and the bird have never left their elements. When their activity is large their field is large. When their need is small their field is small. Thus, each of them totally covers its full range, and each of them totally experiences its realm. If the bird leaves the air it will die at once. If the fish leaves the water it will die at once.
Know that water is life and air is life. The bird is life and the fish is life. Life must be the bird and life must be the fish. You can go further. There is practice-enlightenment which encompasses limited and unlimited life.

The fish in the water and the bird in the air are metaphors for sentient beings in emptiness, in the dharma, in reality, fully at one with the dharma, inseparable from it, unable to leave it, yet unconscious of it.

Now if a bird or a fish tries to reach the end of its element before moving in it, this bird or this fish will not find its way or or its place. When you find your place where you are, practice occurs, actualizing the fundamental point. When you find your way at this moment, practice occurs, actualizing the fundamental point; for the place, the way, is neither large nor small, neither yours nor others'. The place, the way, has not carried over from the past, and it is not merely arising now.

This is Dogen's conclusion as to how we should live according to the Buddha Dharma. We should not conceptually try to investigate all of reality before we allow ourselves to live in it. To practice Buddhism is to find your place in reality - it makes reality real, rather than conceptual. This place is not far away - it can be found right where you are. Finding your place is something that occurs only at the present moment and awakening is something that occurs only at the present moment. This place does not belong to self or non-self; it is neither true to say that it has existed eternally nor is it just coming into existence. (All of these ways of thinking about it would be to ascribe to it a separate essence or self and thus lose it.)

Accordingly, in the practice-enlightenment of the buddha way, to attain one thing is to penetrate one thing; to meet one practice is to sustain one practice.
Here is the place; here the way unfolds. The boundary of realization is not distinct, for the realization comes forth simultaneously with the mastery of buddha-dharma. Do not suppose that what you realize becomes your knowledge and is grasped by your intellect. Although actualized immediately, the inconceivable may not be apparent. Its appearance is beyond your knowledge.

'To penetrate' here means 'to be be absorbed into', 'to lose all sense of separation from'. Correct Buddhist practice is to do whatever it is that we are doing with all of our being - not necessarily with all of our 'effort' (if such a thing has meaning here) but with all of our being, so that there is no distinction between us and the phenomenal reality of our actions, whether that be kinhin, zazen, eating, working or whatever. Because realisation occurs at the same time as our self 'becomes one with all things' there is no clear moment of self-awareness of enlightenment. Realisation is not conceptual knowledge and when it appears we cannot really know it intellectually.

Mayu, Zen master Baoche, was fanning himself. A monk approached and said, “Master, the nature of wind is permanent and there is no place it does not reach. Why, then, do you fan yourself?”
“Although you understand that the nature of the wind is permanent,” Mayu replied, “you do not understand the meaning of its reaching everywhere.”
“What is the meaning of its reaching everywhere?” asked the monk again. Mayu just kept fanning himself. The monk bowed deeply.
The actualization of the buddha-dharma, the vital path of its correct transmission, is like this. If you say that you do not need to fan yourself because the nature of wind is permanent and you can have wind without fanning, you will understand neither permanence nor the nature of wind. The nature of wind is permanent. Because of that, the wind of the buddha's house brings forth the gold of the earth and makes fragrant the cream of the long river.

This koan is a metaphor for Dogen's 'Great Doubt' - if we are already enlightened then why do we need to practice? The wind is the wind of dharma, reality, suchness. Fanning the wind represents Buddhist practice ie. Zazen. If the dharma is permanent and reaches everywhere why do we need to make any effort? The dharma does reach everywhere but delusion obscures it. The dharma fully penetrates even delusion, hatred and attachment. Yet those things are still confuse our mind. Practice eliminates these things allowing us to realise our own oneness with the dharma - our own original enlightenment allowing us to be free to be happy.