#3: Heaven and Hell

Ever notice how some people can be happy in seemingly miserable circumstances while others can be miserable in seemingly perfect circumstances?  Heaven and Hell can be understood not as physical places but as metaphors for inner states.  Hell can be the experience of jealousy, regret, ego, expectation, addiction, and other negative emotions.  Heaven can be the experience of humility, joy, gratitude, love, and other positive emotions.  Find humility and the appreciation for simple things and you will find heaven on earth.  Here is a great story from the Zen tradition that illustrates this:  

A big, tough samurai once went to see a little monk.


He barked, in a voice accustomed to instant obedience.

"Teach me about heaven and hell!"

The monk looked up at the mighty warrior and replied with utter disdain,

"Teach you about heaven and hell? I couldn't teach you about anything. You're dumb. You're dirty. You're a disgrace, an embarrassment to the samurai class. Get out of my sight. I can't stand you."

The samurai got furious. He shook, red in the face, speechless with rage. He pulled out his sword, and prepared to slay the monk.

Looking straight into the samurai's eyes, the monk said softly,

"That's hell."

The samurai froze, realizing the compassion of the monk who had risked his life to show him hell! He put down his sword and fell to his knees, filled with gratitude.

The monk said softly,

"And that's heaven."

(This version of the story borrowed from  http://www.onbeing.org/blog/the-little-monk-and-the-samurai-a-zen-parable/5496)