A soldier named Nobushige came to Hakuin, and asked: “Is there really a paradise and a hell?”
“Who are you?” inquired Hakuin.
“I am a samurai,” the warrior replied.
“You, a soldier!” exclaimed Hakuin. “What kind of ruler would have you as his guard? Your face looks like that of a beggar.”
Nobushige became so angry that he began to draw his sword, but Hakuin continued: “So you have a sword! Your weapon is probably much too dull to cut off my head.”
As Nobushige drew his sword Hakuin bent his head and remarked: “Here open the gates of hell!”
At these words the samurai, perceiving the master’s discipline, sheathed his sword and bowed.
“Here open the gates of paradise,” said Hakuin.
People constantly seek a paradise. They believe paradise is a place where they can be happy, live forever or what ever else that they can imagine. In fact most of the religions actually base their entire view on the heaven/hell scenario. But what is paradise and what is hell?
In our daily lives, we experience paradise and hell right here on Earth. When we have anger, jealousy, possessiveness, selfishness, hate, conceit, betrayal etc, our minds eventually lead to a state of hell. We become unhappy, scared, helpless and miserable.
When we have love, joy, peace, contentment, compassion etc, we are in paradise.
In the above Zen story, Nobushige the soldier’s mind started reacting with anger when Hakuin hurled abuse at him. His anger was so great that he was ready to draw his sword and kill Hakuin. The abuse hurt Nobushige’s ego – the sense of self. The sense of self is the root cause of the hell that we may encounter in our lives. From the eco comes ignorance, greed, and hatred which then lead to hell in your life. But the ego is nothing but an illusion created by the mind – this sense of self.
By practicing mindfulness and meditation, you can train your mind to let go of the attachments that lead it down the path of hell. I am not talking about a monastic retreat or monk-hood. I am talking about living a regular, normal life but with mindfulness to make it joyful and peaceful!