In real training we’re challenged to not seek an external solution. All of those high-riding days of blaming others and coming up with good excuses are over because we realize, that eloquent though the excuses are, they’re not helping us. Increasingly we see they are not even true.

The poem goes on, I don’t make the carriage behind closed doors—The road through is naturally quiet and empty. What does he mean, not making the carriage behind closed doors? Rather than in a safe protected place, it needs to be made where it’s happening, where the road is, where the activity is, in life itself. Here then we realize that life is not obstructing us. The road through is naturally quiet and empty. But then he says, Wrong! Wrong! If you only call it medicine, then you can’t begin to understand what Yunmen is pointing to. Don’t call it anything; rather, experience the truth directly for yourself.


photo by Paul Qaysi

It is our delusion that precipitates our illumination, our attachments that allow for our release, our giving up that makes it possible to reclaim our lives. It is here that medicine and disease subdue each other.

This is an incredible teaching. If we really reflect on it and practice it, there is nowhere that it does not reach. There is nothing that it does not heal. Our legacy is a teaching that says, based on the facts, there is nothing to heal. Now, go forth and heal. Knowing that there is nothing broken, go forth and mend what is broken

Geoffrey Shugen Arnold, Sensei is vice-abbot and resident teacher of Zen Center of New York City: Fire Lotus Temple and head of the National Buddhist Prison Sangha. He received dharma transmission from Daido Roshi in 1997.