Question: I’ve heard of how Lao Tze and Confucious tasting vinegar with the Buddha together, and how the Buddha declared the vinegar as bitter, as the material world needs to be shed for liberation. What do you think?
Answer: Hmmm… historically, the Buddha didn’t meet the duo, though a legend says Confucious once visited Lao Tze and was awed by him. Even if it was true, due to the Buddha’s great merits, it is impossible for him to taste any food as bitter! It is said that his merits transform every morsel of food in his mouth to be delicious.
Not that the story above is true, the Buddha is likely to state things as they are. Vinegar as vinegar-ish for non-Buddhas; yet sweet as nectar to Buddhas! Buddhism is not about forsaking the material world, but about not being attached to it, as with anything else, while skilfully using and relating to the material. Use vinegar when appropriate, such as for health if not mere seasoning!