The old monk sat by the side of the road. With his eyes closed, his legs crossed and his hands folded in his lap. In deep meditation, he sat.
He was suddenly interrupted by the harsh and demanding voice of a samurai warrior. “Old man! Teach me about heaven and hell!”
Gradually the old monk began to open his eyes and saw the samurai stood in front of him, growing more and more agitated with each passing second.
“You wish to know the secrets of heaven and hell?” replied the monk. “You who are so unkempt. You whose hands and feet are covered with dirt. You whose hair is uncombed, whose breath is foul, whose sword is all rusty and neglected. You who are ugly and whose mother dresses you funny. You would ask me of heaven and hell?”
The samurai uttered a vile curse. He drew his sword and raised it high above his head. His face turned to crimson, and the veins on his neck stood out in bold relief as he prepared to sever the monk’s head from his shoulders.
“That’s hell,” said the old monk gently, just as the sword began its descent.
In that second, the samurai was overcome with amazement, awe, compassion and love for this gentle being who had dared to risk his life to give him such as lesson. He stopped his sword in mid-flight and his eyes filled with grateful tears.
“And that,” said the monk, “is heaven.”