Miracle lamp, miracle birth. Jews and Christians. What does a Buddhist master say about miracles?
by Bob Schwartz
“Even when people do not know that fetching water is a miracle, fetching water is undeniably a miracle.”
It is a week of celebrated miracles. The eight days of oil. The birth of Jesus. So it is appropriate to see what Buddhist teacher and writer Dōgen Zenji (1200 – 1253) said about miracles in his masterpiece the Shōbōgenzō (Treasury of the True Dharma Eye).
Miracles are practiced three thousand times in the morning and eight hundred times in the evening….
Encompassed by the power of great miracles, minor miracles occur. Great miracles include minor miracles but minor miracles do not know great miracles. Minor miracles are a tuft of hair breathing in the vast ocean, a mustard seed storing Mount Sumeru, the top of the head spouting water, or feet spreading fire….
In the inexhaustible ocean of the world of phenomena, the power of buddha miracles is unchanging. A tuft of hair not only breathes in the great ocean but it maintains, realizes, utilizes, and breathes out the great ocean. When this activity arises, it encompasses all worlds of phenomena. However, do not assume that there are no other activities that encompass all worlds of phenomena.
A mustard seed containing Mount Sumeru is also like this. A mustard seed breathes out Mount Sumeru and actualizes the inexhaustible ocean of the world of phenomena. When a tuft of hair or a mustard seed breathes out a great ocean, breathing out happens in one moment, and it happens in myriad eons. Breathing out myriad eons and breathing out one moment happen simultaneously. How are a tuft of hair and a mustard seed brought forth? They are brought forth by miracles. This bringing forth is miracles. What enables a tuft of hair and a mustard seed to do things like that? Miracles enable them to do so. Miracles bring forth miracles. Do not think that miracles sometimes do and sometimes do not happen in the past, present, or future. Buddhas alone abide in miracles….
Fetching water means drawing and carrying water. Sometimes you do it yourself and sometimes you have others do it. Those who practice this are all miracle buddhas. Although miracles are noticed once in a while, miracles are miracles. It is not that things perish or are eliminated when they are unnoticed. Things are just as they are even when unnoticed. Even when people do not know that fetching water is a miracle, fetching water is undeniably a miracle.
Carrying firewood means doing the labor of hauling, as in the time of Huineng, the Sixth Ancestor. Even if you do not know that miracles happen three thousand times in the morning and eight hundred times in the evening, miracles are actualized. Those who see and hear the wondrous activities of miracles by buddha tathagatas do not fail to attain the way. Attaining the way of all buddhas is always completed by the power of miracles.
Causing water to spout out of the head is a practice of the Lesser Vehicles. It is merely a minor miracle. On the other hand, fetching water is a great miracle. The custom of fetching water and carrying firewood has not declined, as people have not ignored it. It has come down from ancient times to today, and it has been transmitted from there to here. Thus, miracles have not declined even for a moment. Such are great miracles, which are no small matter.