Chapter 3: The Gates of Heaven and Hell
Christians have evolved a technique of confession. You commit sin? Go to the priest and confess. Confessed, you are relieved. If you confess honestly you are ready to sin again; the past sin is forgiven. Once you know the trick, the key - that you can commit a sin and can be forgiven - who is going to prevent you from committing more? So the same people keep on coming to the priest every Sunday and they go on confessing. Sometimes the ego is such that people have confessed sins that they have never committed. Ego is such that if you start confessing, you may become so involved in it that you may start confessing sins you have not committed. Because to be a greater sinner is so ego-filling - and then the greater the sinner, the greater will be the forgiveness of the divine.
It is said.. Leo Tolstoy has written his autobiographical notes. Those who have studied Leo Tolstoy deeply say that many sins he says he committed he never committed. He is enjoying. Jean-Jacques Rousseau has written Confessions, his autobiography; the sins he confesses he never committed. The same is possible with Mahatma Gandhi; in his autobiography the things he depicts himself as committing may be exaggerations. This is how the ego works: whatever you say it goes to the extreme, and then there is a beautiful feeling that “I have confessed, and now I am relieved, now I am forgiven. I was a sinner in the past but now I am a saint.” And if you were a great sinner, how can you be a great saint? To be a great saint you must have been a great sinner.
Last judgment, confession, are tricks of the mind. Heaven and hell are not at the end, they are here and now. Every moment the door opens; every moment you go on wavering between hell and heaven. It is a moment-to-moment question, it is urgent; in a single moment you can move from hell to heaven, from heaven to hell.
This is the meaning of the story. In a single moment - not even a single moment has passed and Hakuin says, “This is the gate of hell. Now the gate of hell opens.” And not a single moment has passed and he says, “Look, this is the gate of heaven.”
Heaven and hell are not very distant, they are neighbors; only a small fence divides them. You can jump that fence even without a gate. You go on jumping from this to that. In the morning you may be in heaven; by evening you are in hell. This moment heaven, that moment hell. It is just an attitude, just a state of your mind, just how you are feeling. Many times in a single life you may visit hell, and many times you may visit heaven. In a single day also..
There is a beautiful story of a disciple of Mahavira. He was a great king; he renounced and became a disciple of Mahavira. He was very ascetic, austere, and did whatsoever Mahavira said to the very extreme. His name spread all over the country - it was Prasannachandra. Even kings started coming to pay homage to him.
Another king, Bimbasar, who had been a friend of Prasannachandra when he was also a king, came to the cave where Prasannachandra was standing naked under the sun, with closed eyes. Bimbasar bowed down before Prasannachandra and thought, “When will the time come when I will also become so peaceful, so silent, blissful? This man has achieved. Just a statue.!”