When Dongshan was not feeling well, he was asked,
“You are not feeling well. Is there one who doesn’t get sick?”
Dongshan said, “Yes, there is.”
Then he was asked, “Does the person who doesn’t get sick take care of you?”
Dongshan said, “The timeless monk is taking care of that one.”
Then he was asked, “What happens when you take care of that one?”
Dongshan said, “At that time, I don’t see sickness.”
—Book of Serenity Case 94
Though this is not the same Dongshan as the Dongshan from last week’s koan about the place of no grass, it sounds like the same Dongshan to me. This Dongshan lived about one hundred years after the earlier Dongshan and was a student of Yunmen. We met him in the Gateless Barrier when he said Buddha was three pounds of flax.
Here, he is saying that Buddha is not feeling well. That would be from the perspective of grass being everywhere. But from the perspective of no grass for ten thousand miles, there is no sickness. I hear echoes of his teacher Yunmen’s saying that sickness and medicine exactly correspond and that the whole world is medicine.
I am reminded of a time that I spent at the Kopan Monastery in Nepal, where there was a dog with two crippled hind legs named Sasha. She would drag herself around and though her tail was also crippled and she couldn’t wag it, you could see her wagging it in her eyes—those eyes that saw no illness, no grass for ten thousand miles.
I am also reminded of Lungtan, who blew out Deshan’s candle, plunging him into darkness so he could see the light. When Lungtan died, he cried out repeatedly, “It hurts! It hurts!” Grass everywhere. Echoing the earlier Dongshan’s saying, “When it’s hot, let the heat kill you; when it’s cold, let the cold kill you,” here he might say, “When you’re sick, let the sickness kill you.”
What does it remind you of?