The gate of heaven and the gate of hell – Story

“Your mind is hell. Going beyond your mind is heaven.”


I am reminded of a great Zen master.

The emperor of Japan had come to see him and he had been wanting to come to see him but the path to his monastery was dangerous, going through wild forests, dangerous mountainous parts. But finally, the emperor decided he had to go. His death was coming near and he couldn’t take the risk… Before death came he must have some understanding that death cannot destroy.

He reached the Zen master who was sitting under a tree. He touched his feet and said, “I have come to ask one question. Is there really hell or heaven? Because my death is coming close and my only concern is: where am I going; to hell or to heaven?” The master laughed and said, “I have never thought that our emperor is such an idiot.”

To say to the emperor, “an idiot”…! For a split second, the emperor forgot and pulled out his sword, and he was going to cut off the head of the Zen master.

The Zen master laughed and said, “This is the gate of hell.”

The emperor stopped, put his sword back in the sheath, and the master said, “You have entered into heaven. Now you can go. Just remember anger, violence, destructiveness. These are the gates of hell. And the hell is in your mind.

“But understanding, compassion, silence, are the doors of heaven. They are beyond your mind. And I have given you the experience of both. Forgive me that I called you an idiot. I had to. It was just a response to your question, because I am not a thinker and I don’t answer the way thinkers answer questions. I am a mystic. I simply create the device so that you can have some taste of the answer. Now get lost.”

And the emperor touched his feet with tears of gratitude because no other answer would have been of much help. It would have remained just a hypothesis. But the man was a tremendously insightful master. He created the situation immediately, just by calling him an idiot. And he showed him both: the doors of hell and the doors of heaven.

Your mind is hell. Going beyond your mind is heaven.

Go beyond the mind. That is the essence of the whole teaching of all the awakened ones.

Osho, Bodhidharma: The Greatest Zen Master, Ch 11 (excerpt)


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