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Zen Buddhists eat traditional Japanese donuts during meditation

A traditional Japanese donut

EIHEIJI, JAPAN—Zen Buddhist Dōgen Zenji, 38, revealed an esoteric trick to successful meditation known as dōnatsu no michi, the practice of masticating a piece of donut until one becomes united with the cosmos.

The history of the donut is disputed. Some historians claim that it was invented by Dutch settlers in North America, while other scholars contend that it was first made in 1847 by a 16-year-old American named Hanson Gregory. Still, other experts argue that it was first made by a baroness named Elizabeth Dimsdale, who credited a local cook known only as Mrs. Fordham. Dōgen, however, disagrees. “Pace Western historians, the modern donut evolved from a Japanese delicacy known as dōnatsu, which can be properly made only by a small enclave of monks who reside primarily in the Fukui Prefecture,” he said.

To prove his point, Dōgen elegantly retrieved a small batch of dōnatsu from his black shoulder bag before silently walking into the zendo, or Zen hall, to meditate. Upon sitting down, he lifted the dōnatsu to his mouth and simultaneously chewed and chanted, while bread crumbs from the dōnatsu fell onto his rakusu, a traditional Japanese zen garment worn around the neck.

“It is lamentable how the West keeps on robbing Japan and its culture,” said Dōgen. “First, they take away our traditional Toyota vehicles and get rich selling American cars, and then they take away our food and turn it into an unhealthy junk food. Have they no shame?”

When asked how an inexperienced Westerner might learn to meditate, Dōgen replied with consummate simplicity: “Eat.”

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