One day a samurai came to the Zen Master Hakuin and asked:
– Where is paradise? Where is hell? And where are the gates of heaven and hell?
Samurai knew only two things: life and death. He did not have any philosophy, he just wanted to know where were the gates – to escape hell and go to heaven.
– Who are you? – Hakuin asked.
– I’m the leader of samurais – the warrior replied – and the Emperor pays a tribute to me.
Hakuin laughed and said:
– Are you really the leader of samurais? You look like some poor raga-muffin!
Samurai’s pride was hurt. He forgot why he had come for, whipped out his sword and was going to kill Hakuin. And Hakuin laughed again and said:
– This is the gate of hell. With a sword, being in anger, with your ego you will open it.
Samurai realized that idea, calmed dawn and sheathed his sword. And Hakuin continued:
– And now, when you calmed down, you open the gate of heaven.
Heaven and hell are inside you. And the gates are inside you. If you are not conscious, this is the gate of hell. If you are vigilant and conscious, this is the gate of heaven. But people continue to think that heaven and hell are somewhere outside. Heaven and hell are not after life, they are here and now. And the gates are always open. At any moment you make your choice between heaven and hell.