Buddhahood – Human Normality

Again, where the common worldview asserts the inherent unreliability of subjective reality (i.e. the realm of experience or knowledge), Zen recognizes subjective reality as the only realm wherein things, beings, and events are encountered and ever could be encountered. Further, where the common view sees ‘imperfection’ or ‘unreliability’ as the epitome (hence ‘normality’) of the human condition (e.g. to err is human, only human, etc.), Zen recognizes ‘Buddhahood’ as human normality, and the normal subjective capacities of human beings as the ‘mystical powers and wondrous functions’ of Buddha. In Shobogenzo, Jinz?, for example, Dogen appeals to the famous Zen expression of Layman Pang to elucidate the point:

The mystical power and wondrous function,

Carrying water and lugging firewood.

We must investigate this truth thoroughly. ‘Carrying water’ means loading water and fetching it. There being our own work and self motivation, and there being the work of others and the motivation of others, water is caused to be carried. This is just the state of mystically powerful buddha.

Shobogenzo, Jinz? (Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross)

The true nature of normal human experience/existence is the ‘mystical power and wondrous function’ also called ‘the six mystical powers’ of ‘Buddha alone together with Buddha.’ To emphasize that Layman Pang’s expression identifying these ‘powers’ is not some kind of esoteric message but means exactly what it says, Dogen points out that ‘carrying water’ means ‘loading water and fetching it.’ To make it absolutely clear that the ‘mystical power and wondrous function’ of Buddha is not anything other than ‘normal human capacities,’ Dogen goes on in the same fascicle to clearly identify the ‘six mystical powers’ as the ‘six senses’ of normal human subjectivity (i.e. seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling, and thinking). (Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross)

Excerpt from,  Zen Cosmology: Dogen’s Contribution to the Search for a New Worldview p.97