Wisdom of the Week — Gates to Heaven & Hell.

The Zen master Hakuin is one of the rare flowerings. A warrior came to him, a samurai, a great soldier, and he asked “Is there any hell, is there any heaven? If there is hell and heaven, where are the gates? Where do I enter from? How can I avoid hell and choose heaven?”

He was a simple warrior. A warrior is always simple; otherwise he cannot be a warrior. A warrior knows only two things, life and death–his life is always at stake, he is always gambling; He is a simple man. He had not come to learn any doctrine. He wanted to know where the gate was so he could avoid hell and enter heaven. And Hakuin replied in a way only a warrior could understand.

What did Hakuin do? He said, “Who are you?”
And the warrior replied, “I am a samurai.”

It is a thing of much pride to be a samurai in Japan. It means being a perfect warrior, a man who will not hesitate a single moment to give his life. For him, life and death are just a game. He said, “I am a samurai, I am a leader of samurais. Even the emperor pays respect to me.”

Hakuin laughed and said, ” You, a samurai? You look like a beggar.”

The samurai’s pride was hurt, his ego hammered. He forgot what he had come for. He took out his sword and was just about to kill Hakuin. He forgot that he had come to this master to ask where is the gate of heaven, to ask where is the gate of hell.

Hakuin laughed and said, “This is the gate of hell. With this sword, this anger, this ego, here opens the gate.” This is what a warrior can understand. Immediately he understood: This is the gate. He put his sword back in its sheath.

And Hakuin said, “Here opens the gate of heaven.”


Is it the same gate that leads us to either heaven or hell or are there two gates — one for heaven and one for hell?

What are these doors made of? Certainly they aren’t made of wood or steel!


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