A very proud samurai was obsessed with the idea of hell and heaven. Lulled by the stories of old women and terrorized by the scrolls and religious paintings, he dreaded with all his being the tortures of hell, the vision of these demons cutting and burning bodies with tormented, gaping and screaming mouths, relentlessly on beings by dismembering them endlessly, without death being able to interrupt the torture, this idea of eternal damnation, of unrelenting suffering, froze his blood and troubled his sleep with nightmares and incurable insomnia. How to escape this hell that, no doubt for having taken his life so many times, he fully deserved? How to find the way to paradise after an existence that he had put at the service of the powerful by giving death in abundance? His memory was full of those faces and those shadows, warriors, men, women and children, whose existence he had mowed down with the skilful, dancing edge of his sword. At night, a river of blood and pus flowed through his dreams and he woke up drenched in sweat and trembling. He was careful not to make it known around him and displayed in all circumstances this aplomb and this arrogance of those who reign without sharing. Secretly, deep in his heart, it was something else entirely.
An alms bowl instead of the katana
After much hesitation – for how could he stoop to asking advice from a priest of the Zen school? -, he decided to visit a very famous master whose incomparable wisdom was praised. After days of long riding, he finally came to a mountain temple, and on the bridge over the abyss he met a lowly figure. "Can you tell me where the master of this temple is, please?" The figure, whose features were becoming clearer, answered: "I am afraid that there is no master here, but if you are looking for the monk who watches over this pagoda, it is me". “Then you can certainly answer me if you are as wise as they claim: what are hell and heaven? Where are they ? How can I escape this hell that the Buddha promises me? But given your look and your head, old fool, I doubt you have an answer for me…”
How to find the way to paradise after an existence that the samurai had put at the service of the powerful by giving death in abundance?
The old man's face, until then impassive, broke into a broad laugh: "How dare you miserable samurai, poor moron, intoxicated with yourself and your exploits, vermin of vermin, coming here begging for an answer?" Your brood is cursed and your work filthy, you deserve death and more than death! At these words, the samurai, who had meanwhile dismounted and stood facing the monk, felt seized with uncontrollable rage and unsheathed his saber, raising it high, ready to slice this insolent priest in two. . "This is hell," he heard. The priest smiled at him calmly, his eyes filled with mischief. The shaken and surprised samurai looked at his saber, contemplated his hand ready to strike and, slowly, he lowered the saber to one side. "And here is paradise," said the priest at last with benevolent serenity.
The samurai bowed down and asked to receive the Buddha's teachings. The master showed him the zazen, the silent and stripped sitting. The story says that the warrior became a mendicant monk and ended his days wearing a simple hemp kesa and armed with a simple alms bowl