Oakville Zen Meditation

#73.Heaven and hell.19OCT15.

        Heaven & Hell

 Whether life feels like heaven or hell depends mostly on our state of mind even if we don’t have too much control of it. (We already talked about lack of control on our life in a previous session).

We experience and judge life not always as it is but as our mind perceives it.

Too often our mind sees the world thru distorted lenses. Of course bad and unwanted events do and will occur independently of us. But in the vast majority of cases life is what we make of it since life is not a living being but just a state.

2 people may or will react completely differently if not in an opposite way while facing the same event or person.

Not only their reactions maybe very dissimilar but also they will analyze differently what is happening to them.


It is because our opinions, beliefs, judgments, attitudes and actions create the self and generate our experience in life and how we see it. We see life thru our binoculars and our mind is their lenses.

Famous Japanese Zen Master Hakuin Ekaku (1686-1769) author of the famous koan “What is the sound of one hand clapping” demonstrated in just 6 words that the feeling of hell and heaven are most often self-created. These words were pronounced during an interview with an elite Samurai warrior who asked to be taught about heaven and hell. It was in 1750.

“Teacher, what is hell and what is heaven?” asked the Samurai.

Hakuin took a cynical look at the warrior and started to insult him very aggressively. Enraged, the warrior drew his sword and raised it towards the head of the Zen Master.

“ This is hell,” said immediately Hakuin looking worried.

Realizing that the master had risked his life to give a practical demonstration of his teaching, the Samurai fell to his knees in gratitude, thanking the master.

“And this is heaven,” said Hakuin with a smile.

This encounter between Hakuin and the Samurai is a beautiful lesson to think about.

The Master has demonstrated in this caricature that the feelings of heaven & hell can easily be self-created. Perception of life as heaven or hell is obviously self induced since our mind is by definition the sole creator of this perception. Rarely life may have been, can be and may become like “hell” or “heaven” caused by outside events.

“Life is neither hell nor heaven it is what it is like a snowflake that never falls on the wrong or right place. It falls, as it will be.”

The Buddha during his 50 years of teaching said many times that genuine and long lasting happiness and sadness are generated mostly from inside self and seldom from outside.

Again it is up to us to see and perceive life as it is and to make the best of it.

During a previous session we talked about the fact that we don’t have too much control on events and people but what will make a difference is how we perceived them.

Changing our views, opinions, judgments, beliefs, attitudes and actions will greatly help us.

Our mind should just be a reflecting mirror of our life and not a judging machine distorting reality notwithstanding that we should do the best for others and ourselves.

                                               With water a cow makes milk and a snake makes poison,

           What does your mind make with life?

Think about the following:

In what way do your concepts, opinions, belief, judgments and attitude make you perceive life as heaven or hell?

Are you ready to change your concepts, opinions, belief, judgments and attitude in order to reflect life as it is really? 

Thank you.

Ven. Ji Gong Sunim October 2015

✪ See also incoming talk called: “Standing on our own shadow”

Complete list of Dharma talks (Zen teachings):

http://www.mindfulnesszenmeditation.ca/category/zen-keys/: è list of subjects (posts) on the left.