The Whole Earth is Medicine

Dharma Talk by Geoffrey Shugen Arnold Sensei
Blue Cliff Record, Case 87
Medicine and Disease Subdue Each Other

Featured in Mountain Record 27.3, Spring 2009

The Pointer

A clear-eyed fellow has no nest: sometimes on the summit of the solitary peak weeds grow in profusion; sometimes he’s naked and free in the bustling marketplace. Suddenly he appears as an angry titan with three heads and six arms; suddenly as Sun Face or Moon Face Buddha he releases the light of all embracing mercy. In a single atom he manifests all physical forms; to save people according to their type, he mixes with mud and water. If suddenly he releases an opening upwards, not even the Buddha’s eye could see him; even if a thousand sages appeared, they too would have to fall back three thousand miles. Is there anyone with the same attainment and same realization? To test, I cite this old case.

The Main Case

Master Yunmen, teaching his community, said, “Medicine and disease subdue each other: the whole earth is medicine; what is your self?”

The Capping Verse

The whole earth is medicine:
Why have ancients and moderns been so mistaken?
I don’t make the carriage behind closed doors—
The road through is naturally quiet and empty.
Wrong! Wrong!
Though they be as high as the sky, your nostrils have still been pierced.

Master Yunmen studied and came to realization under Mujou, and later finished his training with Xuefeng. He became very well known as a Zen Master; the emperor himself would call upon Yunmen regularly to teach the dharma. At one point, the emperor decreed that the Office of the Inspector of the Monks of the Capital be given to Master Yunmen. In telling him this, Yunmen remained silent and did not respond. An advisor to the emperor whispered in the emperor’s ear, “This master has completed his training and knows the path. He’s not likely to enjoy rising to a high post.” The emperor turned to Yunmen and said, “Shall we let you return to your mountain?” Yunmen lept up and cried out, “Long live the emperor!”