The Samurai and the Monk
The monk was well outside of the town he had been staying in for the past couple weeks. This monk was a very well known and skilled teacher. After many hours of long work, he had decided to take a short break away from the town. So, there he was in meditation on the side of the road, well outside of town. His face shone with a depth of calmness, which would be hard for most people to fathom.
He had been there for a short time when a samurai in passing, was struck by the monk’s very calm demeanour. The samurai had heard there was a great teacher in the area and correctly assumed this was him. You see, there were not that many monks to be seen out in these rural regions of Japan, in these times.
The samurai spoke out to the monk saying: “Tell me honourable sir, what is hell, what is heaven?” The monk did not answer, but rather, sat quiet, unmoving, still. Quite a bit of time passed and the samurai was beginning to lose his patience, he was just about to say something when the monk, with eyes still closed, started to smile. All of a sudden, the monk looked up and spoke: “So you want to know what heaven is and what hell is? Look at you… You’re dirty, scruffy, unkempt. Your feet are dirty, your hands are dirty, your clothes are dirty, your hair is dirty and uncombed. You are clearly a brash and arrogant lout. You are a good for nothing. You, who probably has never done a good deed, or good days work in your whole life. Why should someone like me, tell you, what you, want to know? You, are a nobody! Go away and leave me in peace!”
With that, the samurai became very angered, his face went a bright red, the veins in his neck popped out, he started to shake with rage. The samurai drew his sword, raised it above his head and began to swing the blade down on this arrogant, petulant, little monk and as he did, the monk very gently, and most softly, said: “That, is hell.”
The words were spoken so kindly, so tenderly, as a loving father would speak to his young and most beloved son. The samurai was caught off guard, he was barely able to stop the sword from striking the monk. Overwhelmed, the samurai’s eyes filled with tears, this monk had risked his very life to show him the meaning of hell. The samurai’s heart was touched so deeply, by this monk’s selfless kindness, that he felt a deep loving respect for the compassion of this man. The monk looked at the samurai endearingly, and said: “That, is heaven.”
This monk, whom the samurai had not even previously known, had, in one moment, changed that samurai’s life forever, and brought him to the very threshold of enlightenment.