The old monk sat by the side of the road. With his eyes closed and his legs crossed and his hand folded in his lap, he sat in deep meditation, he sat.
Suddenly his zazen was interrupted by the harsh and demanding voice of a samurai warrior.
“Old man! Teach me about Heaven and Hell!”
At first, as though he had not heard, there was no perceptible response from the monk. But gradually, he began to open his eyes, the faintest hint of a smile playing around the corners of his mouth as the samurai stood there waiting... impatient... growing more and more agitated with each passing second.
“You would know the secrets of Heaven and Hell?” replied the monk at last. “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 neglected. 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, the veins on his neck stood out in bold relief as he prepared to sever the monk's head from its shoulders.
“That is Hell,” said the old mink gently, just as the sword began its descent.
In that fraction of a second, the samurai was overcome with amazement, awe, compassion and love for this gentle being who had dared to risk his very life to give him such a teaching. He stopped his sword in mid-flight and his eyes filled with grateful tears.
“And that,” said the monk, “is Heaven.”