heaven-hell

Zen Heaven and Hell

The old monk sat by the side of the road. With his eyes closed, his legs crossed and his hands folded in his lap - in deep meditation, he sat.

Suddenly his zazen was interrupted by the harsh and demanding voice of a samurai warrior. "Old man! I'm told that you know the secrets of this world and beyond. Teach me about heaven and hell!"

At first, as though he had not heard, there was no perceptible response from the monk. But gradually he began to open his eyes, the faintest hint of a smile playing around the corners of his mouth as the samurai stood there, waiting impatiently, growing more and more agitated with each passing second.

"You wish to know the secrets of heaven and hell?" replied the monk at last. "You who are so unkempt. You whose hands and feet are covered with dirt. You whose hair is uncombed, whose breath ifoul, whose sword is all rusty and neglected. You who are ugly and whose mother dresses you funny. You would ask me of heaven and hell?"

The samurai uttered a vile curse. He drew his sword and raised it high above his head. His face turned to crimson and the veins on his neck stood out in bold relief as he prepared to sever the monk's head from his shoulders.

"That is hell," said the old monk gently, just as the sword began its descent. In that fraction of a second, the samurai was overcome with amazement, awe, compassion and love for this gentle being who had dared to risk his very life to give him such a teaching. He stopped his sword in mid-flight and his eyes filled with grateful tears.

"And that," said the monk, "is heaven."

Sufi Heaven and Hell

A man, died and upon weighing the actions of his life, it was determined that he would to go to heaven. But before he went, he asked that he be allowed to see hell first. So he was led into hell and this is what he saw: row after row of dining tables, covered with the most exquisite of linens, place settings made of gold, crystal glasses, and the most delicious smelling, sumptuous of foods. And seated around the dinner tables were the residents of hell, their faces contorted in the deepest of frustration and anguish. Why would they suffer in a place such as this? The man looked closer and he saw. Tied permanently to each diner's hands were fantastically long forks - so long that while the diners could pick up the foods they chose, they could not get it to their mouths, no matter how hard they tried. And thus they were in a perpetual state of torment, being surrounded by lush, lavish foods and not being able to enjoy any of it.

Then the man was led to heaven and beheld a similar sight: row after row of dining tables, covered with the most exquisite of linens, place settings made of gold, crystal glasses, and the most delicious smelling, sumptuous foods. And seated around the dinner tables were the residents of heaven, with the same fantastically long forks attached to their hands. These forks were so long that one would never be able to get the food to one's mouth. Yet their faces beamed with serenity as they enjoyed their eternal meal together. For instead of trying to feed themselves, they were feeding each other.

 

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