Within the ordinary experience of our everyday lives, there are moments when we experience mystery—that which we cannot fully understand or know. Gazing up at the night sky, standing on the beach looking out at the vast ocean, feeling ourselves filled with religious faith or selfless love; in such instants of touching something deeply, and being touched … Can it be explained?

When we enter Buddhist practice, we are often seeking some mysterious or extra-ordinary experience. Our culture is so deeply pleasure driven; we’re so conditioned to place our faith in the “power” of extreme experiences, to seek some kind of heightened experience of our life—perhaps through sports, sex, wealth, drugs—why wouldn’t we also seek that in our spiritual practice? We think that perhaps a profound religious experience—an intense spiritual encounter with “truth”—will make all our feelings of sadness and alienation go away. Of course, there is profound religious experience; this is the heart and lifeblood of Buddhist practice. There is the awakening to, and the functioning of, “miraculous power.” But what is it? Beyond the romantic notions and false ideas, what is true spiritual power? Moreover, what is the “no miraculous power” of the bodhisattva? The bodhisattva is the great enlightened being who is not satisfied with their own liberation but wants everyone to be liberated, realizing that self and other are one, and that as long as anyone is suffering, or oppressed, or hungry, we are all suffering. The bodhisattva is that great being who understands this truth so deeply, they live their life out of that realization.

Master Dogen wrote a fascicle on miraculous or spiritual power that opens by saying the miraculous powers are “the daily activities of buddhas.” They “are practiced 3,000 times in the morning and 800 times in the evening. They arrive simultaneously with buddhas but they are not known by buddhas.”

Everyone, everywhere is engaged in daily activities. So what is it in these daily activities that these buddhas, these enlightened beings, never fail to practice? What makes them miraculous?

All of us have the mind, the inherent awareness, of an enlightened being—that is what the Buddha saw upon his awakening, that we each possess the hands and the feet of an enlightened being. We all possess the body of a buddha, the mind of a buddha, the compassion of a buddha. So then why do so many of us neglect to practice as a buddha?

Bodhidharma also spoke about this. He said “buddha” in Sanskrit is what one calls “aware, miraculously aware—responding, perceiving, arching your brows, blinking your eyes, moving your hands and feet”—this is us, miraculously aware of nature. And this nature is mind, and the mind is buddha, and buddha is the path, and the path is Zen. But Zen remains a puzzle, unknown, hidden, to both mortals and sages. It can’t be known by dualistic thinking.