Monday, February 15, 2010

Case 87 Yunmen’s Medicine and Disease

Case 87 Yunmen’s Medicine and Disease

Raised: Yunmen said in teaching the assembly, “’Medicine and disease cure each other.’ The entire great earth is medicine. What particularly is oneself?

Xuedou's Verse:

“The entire great Earth is Medicine.”
From ancient times to the present, how extremely wrong!
Don’t make the cart behind closed doors.
The path through is naturally desolate and empty.
Wrong. Wrong.
Yet, nostrils as far as heaven are also pierced.

Though Yunmen is considered a Dharma heir of Xuefeng, he first studied and came to awakening with Muzhou who (along with Linji) was a student of Huangbo. So Yunmen must have been well acquainted with the teaching of Huangbo’s teacher Baizhang. When Yunmen said to the assembly "Medicine and disease cure each other", he was quoting from The Extensive Record of Baizhang 《百丈廣録》. “Medicine” and “disease” were among the favorite teaching images used by Baizhang; for instance, he said, “Form and emptiness are also examples of medicine and disease curing each other.” Baizhang also said, “Ignorance is father, greed is mother. Self is the disease, yet self is the medicine too.”

Baizhang instructed,
“You must discern the words of the complete teaching and the incomplete teaching; you must discern prohibitive words and nonprohibitive words; you must discern living and dead words; you must discern medicine and disease words; you must discern words of negative and positive metaphor; you must iscern generalizing and particularizing words.”

And Baizhang also said,
“Yet all verbal teachings just cure disease; because the diseases are not the same, the medicines are also not the same. That is why sometimes it is said there is Buddha, and sometimes it is said there is no Buddha. True words cure disease; if the cure manages to heal, then all are true words--if they can’t effectively cure disease, all are false words. True words are false words insofar as they give rise to views; false words are true words insofar as they cut off the delusions of the many beings. Because disease is unreal, there is only unreal medicine to cure it. The words ‘the Buddha appears in the world to carry across the multitude of beings’ are of the nine-part teaching. They are words of the incomplete teaching. Anger and joy, medicine and disease, are all oneself; there is no one else.”

So, Yunmen was teaching the assembly from the true words of Baizhang and then to drive home the point, he distilled Baizhang’s teaching into the turning words of his koan: “What particularly is oneself?”

Yunmen was famous for his one word responses and in Case 87 of the Blue Cliff Record he gave such a response to his own question saying, “Cure” This could also be read as “The Cure” or “A Cure” if inserting an article. Unfortunately, for some inexplicable reason, the Clearys left this out of their translation. In the Blue Cliff Record, Yuanwu’s comment on this one word of Yunmen’s is, “Cutting up clarity; attacking principle too! The noise is maintained.” ]

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