Story of Sun Simiao: Medicine, Cultivation Practice, and Virtue (Part 5)
(Minghui.org) (Continued from Part 4)
During times of poverty and difficulty, Sun Simiao always maintained his virtue and held to his principles. This was how he achieved enlightenment and clarity. He also always practiced kindness, which naturally led to favorable outcomes.
Following Heavenly Laws and Cherishing Virtue
Renowned scholars such as Song Zhiwen, Meng Shen, and Lu Zhaolin respected Sun and treated him as a teacher.
Lu, a famous poet during the Tang Dynasty, once learned self-improvement, astronomy, and medicine from Sun Simiao. Lu had asked, “When a great doctor treats illnesses, how does it work?”
Sun replied, “A person who is good at following the heavenly laws must involve worldly affairs. Someone who understands the human body well also has to obey heavenly laws. The four seasons and Five Elements alternate constantly in cycles. The heavenly laws have various manifestations: harmony as rain, wrath as wind, condensation as frost or fog, and exhibition as rainbows.
“Similarly, a human being has four limbs and five internal organs. The body moves during the day and rests at night, taking in essence and energy while discharging waste. This is how a human body works. We talk about yin and yang. In fact, the human body functions in a way similar to the heavens, and the two are connected. That is, the yin and yang of the human body are essentially the same as that in nature. When the human body is out of balance, abnormal symptoms will arise on the surface, with the root cause being inside the body.
“It is the same with heaven and earth. When the stars are off track, the motion of the sun or moon is uncoordinated, an atypical climate will come, and rivers could dry up. This is caused by deviation from the heavenly laws.
“Therefore, when a good doctor treats patients, he dredges with herbs and saves with [acupuncture] needles; when a sage helps in the world, he guides with virtue and assists with governmental affairs, so that everything returns to the heavenly laws and the right path. That is, physical problems can be alleviated and disasters in nature can be salvaged. A great doctor cures illness before its formation; an average doctor cures illness before its onset; a mediocre cures illness after its appearance.”
He also pointed out, “A good doctor helps the world and saves people with no pursuit of fame or fortune. He acts decisively and pays attention to details. His mind has wisdom and flexibility, while his manner is upright. He remains unchanged when faced with material gain, and he has no regrets because he maintains good conduct.”
Sun viewed virtue as most important for a doctor. He said that one’s motive for learning medicine should be pure. One should have a high moral level and believe that “human life is the most important” and “have the determination to save and help people.” In the article “A great doctor is dedicated and sincere,” Sun wrote,
“When a great doctor cures illness, he must remain calm and determined, with no desire or pursuit. He vows to save all people with great compassion, regardless of their social level, wealth, age, profession, feud, friendship, ethnics, or intelligence level. That is, they should be treated all the same, as our closest family members.”
He also wrote, “Human life is precious and worth a thousand pieces of gold (qianjin). If one can save a life with a recipe, the merit is beyond that.” His books therefore all had qianjin in their titles. He also set an example by listing recipes for treating common illnesses on a stele near his residence. This way, people could refer to it for therapy free of charge.
Based on the unity of heaven, earth, and mankind, Sun emphasized that a person should cultivate himself and cherish virtue. When a student asked him how one could cultivate oneself and improve character, Sun replied, “Heaven has ups and downs and a person has good and bad times. If a person is not cautious, he cannot be helped. That is, building character starts from caution. Caution is rooted in fear. Without fear, a scholar may pay less attention to righteousness, a farmer may slack off in working the land, a worker may neglect their skills, a merchant may not trade goods, a son may not obey his father, a father may not care about his child, an officer may not fulfill his duty, and a king may not govern his country. Therefore, one fears the Tao, the heavens, then one's surroundings, people, and oneself.”
Sun thought that a person must follow the heavenly laws, cultivate virtue, and accumulate kindness, and by doing so, would have a compassionate heart and be blessed with health and longevity. With a compassionate mind, one would have no internal or external illnesses. If one's mind is not kind, even great medicines could not guarantee longevity. If one commits deeds that go against the heavenly laws, no medicine would help. Therefore, the most important thing is for a person is to cultivate virtue.
History and Prophecy
Wei Zheng, a chancellor during the Tang Dynasty, was once told to work with other officials to compile history books on the Northern and Southern Dynasties (particularly the Liang, Chen, Northern Qi, and Northern Zhou), as well as the Sui Dynasty, which spanned more than 100 years. To avoid mistakes or omissions, he consulted Sun many times for clarification. Sun orally told him the details, as if history was unfolding in front of him. People who knew about this were very impressed.
Sun Chuyue, one of the dynasty's high-ranking officials, once came for a visit with his five sons. Of these children, Sun Simiao, predicted that Sun Jun would become prestigious first, while Sun You would be recognized later. In addition, Sun Ting’s rank would be the highest compared to the others, but he would get into trouble because of his military power. All of these predictions later became reality.
Lu Qiqing, an assistant to the prince, asked Sun Simiao about ethics when he was young. “After 50 years, you will earn a noble title and my grandson will work for you. Please treat yourself with esteem,” Sun replied.
Lu later became the Governor of Xuzhou, while Sun’s grandson Sun Pu was the Magistrate of Xiao County under him. When Sun Simiao had made this statement, he already knew the future of his grandson Sun Pu, who was not yet born.
Knowing the past and future well, Sun had a strong interest in the Tao and cultivated it throughout his life. He was also good at astrology and prophecy, and many miraculous incidents happened to him. Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty once praised him,
“Opening a trail and paving a path, you are the top master of medicine;Providing assistance to the divine beings, you balance the yin and yang of the four seasons.Guiding dragons and instructing tigers, you aid those in need and save those in danger;Grand and magnificent, you are an example to follow for one hundred generations.”
Obtaining the Tao and Returning to the Origin
Sun sighed with disappointment upon seeing secular people pursuing fame and gain through trickery, and seizing their fortunes through force, since that greed and indulgence would lead to their destruction. He knew that by cultivating virtue, one would receive blessings and longevity without pursuit.
He explained that a person had three gifts upon being born: jing (essence), qi, and shen (spirit). These three gifts work together to form a multilayer protection against external viciousness, while nurturing one’s life. Among them, the yuan shen (main spirit) comes from the divine and truly dominates a person. Therefore, the yuan shen has the divine character of holiness, purity, and kindness. In addition, the yuan shen’s level is the highest, its particles the most microscopic, its energy the most powerful, and it provides the best protection of one's life.
Despite its divine origin and power, the yuan shen is often restrained by karma along with thoughts of selfishness and unkindness. As a result, the yuan shen becomes unable to fully protect one’s life. If a person cherishes virtue and removes bad thoughts such as selfishness, jealousy, and the mentality of struggle, the strong power of the yuan shen would manifest to protect the person's life. Therefore, cherishing virtue can enhance the yuan shen’s capabilities in a better way than the best medicine.
The next step for improving one’s health is cultivation practice, which has a higher standard and requires one to cherish virtue even more. Sun became an enlightened being in the end.
One day during the first year of the Yongchun Period of the Tang Dynasty (682 BC), Sun got up early, took a bath, sat upright, and dressed well. After telling his family that he would “be elevated to the place of nothingness and serve in the divine land,” he lost his breath a short time later. But his appearance did not change, even after more than a month. As his family placed his body in a coffin, he was as light as a piece of clothing. This is because his real body had ascended to the heavens in the process of shi jie (disappearance of the body), which is explained in Yun Ji Qi Qian, a Taoist book from the Song Dynasty.
In the past, two primary ways existed for people to obtain the Tao and complete their cultivation practice. The first was bai ri fei sheng, or elevating one’s body in broad daylight, which the Huang Di, or the Great Yellow Emperor, did when he rode away on a dragon; the second was shi jie, which Sun Simiao did when his real body ascended to the heavens.