Namaste. As I’m sure many of you can relate, I tend to go in search of a few chuckles now and then by digging into the comments section on controversial posts that pop up on my grand’ole Facebook feed. Last Tuesday, I found myself a spectator in what I can only describe as a full blown comments war. The insults were flying, man. Memes thrown across the cyber-trenches like grenades. Feelings had been hurt and many a mother insulted. What started such a rage-fueled keyboard free-for-all?
Well, an article was posted by a large online news blog stating that Pope Francis allegedly denied the existence of a literal hell. Now, my research concluded the report was a hoax, but the flames of fury had nonetheless already been lit and the argument had escalated quickly. On one side you had those arguing that heaven and hell exist as real places, and on the other were those who say they are but metaphors. Others argued that they are tools used throughout history by those in power to dissuade the breaking of the rule of law, religious or man-made. There were, literally, thousands of comments from people truly furious at each other, angry at names on a screen that meant nothing to them. Angry to the point of letting their rage ruin their day…..all over over a fake post on heaven and hell.
So, on to my point.
This brought to mind another old zen parable that I would like to share with you, The Samurai and the Monk.
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 disdain, “Teach you about heaven and hell? I couldn’t teach you about anything. You’re dirty. Your blade is rusty. Why you probably couldn’t cut a branch with that sword! You’re a disgrace! An embarrassment to the samurai class!”
The samurai was furious. He got all red in the face and was speechless with rage and anger. He pulled out his sword and raised it above him, preparing to slay the monk in retaliation.
“That is Hell,” said the monk softly.
The samurai was overwhelmed. He slowly put down his sword, and filled with gratitude, bowed to the monk.
“And that”, whispered the monk, “…is Heaven.”
This little story teaches a huge lesson. No matter what you believe, the front lines of “heaven and hell” start deep within us, where the greatest battles are fought between love and hate, anger and joy, fear and hope, happiness and sorrow, self-importance and humility. The ultimate choice as to which we chose to manifest in our everyday lives is our own, and so we must be ever mindful of the power we give our emotions to lash out into the physical world to become reality. While it is healthy to express our feelings to others, there is a difference between a feeling and an emotion. When we give in to our primal emotions like anger or fury, we shift out of focus with the principles of mindfulness practice and become reactive to that which is created around us instead of being active in creating our own circumstances. Next time you’re on the verge of an angry argument with your significant other, your parent, your boss, or even a random troll in cyberspace, remember it is up to you to create more happiness than anger, more communion that division, more heaven than hell.