Archive for April, 2009

Heaven and Hell

A story from a book called How Can I Help? by Ram Dass and Paul Gorman demonstrates something that I’ve believed for a very long time; that perhaps heaven and hell are not abstract, end of life concepts that we should strive for or against. But perhaps they are states of being that we continuously experience during our waking, everyday lives.

A big, tough samurai once went to see a little monk. “Monk,” he said, in a voice accustomed to instant obedience, “teach me about heaven and hell!”

The monk looked up at this mighty warrior and replied with utter disdain, “Teach you about heaven and hell? I couldn’t teach you anything. You’re dirty. You smell. Your blade is rusty. You’re a disgrace, an embarrassment to the samurai class. Get out of my sight. I can’t stand you.”

The samurai was furious. He shook, got all red in the face, was speechless with rage. He pulled out his sword and raised it above him, preparing to slay the monk.

“That’s hell,” the monk said softly.

The samurai was overwhelmed. The compassion and  surrender of this little man who had offered his lifeto give this teaching to show him hell! He slowly put down his sword, filled with gratitude, and suddenly peaceful.

“And that’s heaven,” said the monk softly.

How many times have I knowingly or unknowingly inflicted hell on the people I love the most? And how many times has God stepped in to redeem the situation, offering us the opportunity to experience heaven once again?

I believe we are constantly invited to experience either the reality of heaven or the reality of hell, and that it’s up to us to choose. This choice is made possible only by knowing a God of love, of mercy and forgiveness. May all come to know the peace that God offers each one of us freely every single moment of every single day. It’s a gift, just waiting to be discovered.


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