Retold by John Porcino
There was once a samurai warrior who traveled to the distant home of an old monk. On arriving he burst through the door and bellowed, “Monk, tell me! What is the difference between heaven and hell?”
The monk sat still for a moment on the tatami-matted floor. Then he turned and looked up at the warrior. “You call yourself a samurai warrior,” he smirked. “Why, look at you. You’re nothing but a mere sliver of a man!”
“Whaaat!!” cried the samurai, as he reached for his sword.
“Oho!” said the monk. “I see you reach for your sword. I doubt you could cut off the head of a fly with that.”
The samurai was so infuriated that he could not hold himself back. He pulled his sword from its sheath and lifted it above his head to strike off the head of the old monk. At this the monk looked up into his seething eyes and said, “That, my son, is the gate to hell.” Realizing that the monk had risked his life to teach this lesson, the samurai slowly lowered his sword and put it back into the sheath. He bowed low to the monk in thanks for this teaching.
“My friend,” said the monk, “That is the gate to heaven.”
Reprinted with permission from Spinning Tales, Weaving Hope: Stories of Peace, Justice & the Environment, edited by Ed Brody, Jay Goldspinner, Katie Green, Rona Leventhal, and John Porcino, New Society Publishers, 1992. New edition 2002.