A BIG, BURLY SAMURAI comes to a Zen master and says, “Tell me the nature of heaven and hell.”
The Zen master looks him in the face and says, “Why should I tell a scruffy, disgusting, miserable slob like you? A worm like you, do you think I should tell you anything?”
Consumed by rage, the samurai draws his sword and raises it to cut off the master’s head.
The Zen master says, “That’s hell.”
Instantly, the samurai understands that he has just created his own hell – black and hot, filled with hatred, self-protection, anger, and resentment. He sees that he was so deep in hell that he was ready to kill someone. Tears fill his eyes as he puts his palms together to bow in gratitude for this insight.
The Zen master says, “That’s heaven.”
~ What is Heaven? – What is Hell? ~
In feudal Japan, the fierce Samurai Warriors were respected and feared. They carried large swords and were highly skilled at using them.
One day, a famous samurai set out to find an aged monk who was known to be very wise. When he arrived at the monastery, he flung open the door and demanded of the old man, “Tell me, you are learned in these matters. What is heaven and what is hell?”
The monk sat still for a moment on the tatami-matted floor. Then he turned and looked up at the warrior. “You call yourself a samurai warrior,” he said. “Why, look at you. You’re nothing but a mere sliver of a man! I doubt you could cut off the head of a fly with your sword.”
For a moment, the samurai stood gaping. No one talked to a samurai like that! Then, as if someone had waved a red cloth in front of a bull, the samurai’s face contorted in rage. He bellowed, “How dare you! I won’t let you get away with such an insult.” Pulling his huge sword from its sheath, he raised it high above his head, ready to kill the old monk.
Unperturbed, the monk looked directly into the eyes of the furious warrior and said, “You asked what hell is. *This* is hell.”