Once a samurai came to the master Hakuin and asked, “Master, tell me, is there really such a thing as heaven and hell?”
The master was quiet for quite some time while gazing at the man. “Who are you?” he asked at last.
“I am a samurai swordsman, and a member of the emperor’s personal guard.”
“You a samurai!” said Hakuin doubtfully. “What kind of emperor would have you for a guard? You look more like a beggar!”
“What?” the samurai stammered, growing red in the face and reaching for his sword.
“Oho!” said Hakuin. “So you have a sword, do you! I’ll bet it’s much too dull to cut off my head!”
The samurai could no longer contain himself. He drew his sword and readied to strike the master.
Hakuin responded quickly, “That is hell!”
The samurai, understanding the truth in the master’s words and the risk he had taken, sheathed his sword and bowed. “Now,” said the master, “That is heaven.”