Wednesday, January 26, 2005
The old monk sat by the side of the road. With his eyes closed, his legs crossed and his hands folded in his lap, he sat. In deep meditation, he sat.
Suddenly his meditation 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 impatiently, growing more and more agitated with each passing second.
"You wish to 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 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 its shoulders.
"That is hell," said the old monk 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."
"Teach me about heaven and hell." It almost seems like a motto that should be invisibly tatooed on each of our foreheads before we leave our home each morning.
We encounter each other at busied intersections. We either wave each other on or curse one another under our breath... and teach each other about heaven and hell.
We encounter one another at the workplace and we struggle to understand each other's journey in life. We can either ease each other's day or become part of its burden... and in that, we teach each other about heaven and hell.
We disagree with one another and comments are exchanged. They can either be words that heal the hurt or drive the knife deeper... and in that, we teach each other about heaven and hell.
Wouldn't it be just poetic if we were to discover that the Grand Designer placed all the glimpses of heaven and hell not in our dreams and imagination, but in ourselves - in our actions and words. The very thing we crave to understand could very well be right under our noses... at the end of our tongue and the end of our hands.
So go ahead, my friend, teach me about heaven and hell.
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