Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Gates of Paradise

Most people suffer psychologically. Our wants and desires lead us to temporary pleasure and generally longer term pain. Heaven and hell are created in our minds generally. I am not saying that there is not physical suffering because there is and it is widespread in some parts of the world. But in the developed world, most people's immediate needs are met. We have food, shelter, and relative comfort. The following Zen koan illustrates the impact of psychological suffering.

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 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.



Sounds like a dangerous game. The risk being that the samuri might have been more a criminal than honourable.


Zen masters are supposedly beyond life and death and Hakuin ( was one of the greatest of the Japanese Zen masters. He likely knew exactly what he was doing and he was doing it without fear.

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