An Old Buddhist Story

An Old Buddhist Story

In ancient times there was a small village with a monastery nearby. One day, samurai warriors arrived and sacked the whole village. They took all the valuables, burned the homes, and killed all the people they met. Finally, they came to a monastery, and out in front of this monastery was an old Zen master. He is just sitting in the garden when a young samurai warrior comes up to him. The samurai pulls out his sword, holds it up over his head and says, “Old man, don’t you know that I have the power to kill you? I could lop off your head right now without even thinking of it.”

And the old man just looks up at him and replies, “Don’t you know that I could allow you to cut off my head right now without thinking of it?”

Now, at this the warrior drops his sword to his side for a moment. He’s never met someone who had no fear of his own death, and so this old man intrigues him. And the old man says, “Oh, look at how weak you are.” So once again the samurai lifts the sword over his head, and the old Zen master looks up at him and says, “That’s hell.” These words strike the samurai, and again he drops his sword; and the old man says, “And that’s heaven.” With that, the warrior bowed to the old Zen master and left him in peace.

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