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Chapter 3: The Gates of Heaven and Hell

A warrior came to the Zen master Hakuin and asked,
“Is there such a thing as heaven and hell?”
Hakuin said, “Who are you?”
The warrior replied, “I am chief samurai to the emperor.”
Hakuin said, “You, a samurai? With a face like that, you look more like a beggar.”
At this the warrior became so angry he drew his sword.
Standing calmly in front of him Hakuin said, “Here open the gates of hell.”
Perceiving the master’s composure,
the soldier sheathed his sword and bowed.
Hakuin then said, “And here open the gates of heaven.”

Heaven and hell are not geographical. If you go in search of them you will never find them anywhere, because they are within you, they are psychological. Mind is heaven, and mind is hell, and mind is the capacity to become either. But people go on thinking everything is somewhere outside. We always go on looking for everything outside because to be inwards is very difficult. We are outgoing. If somebody says there is a God, we look at the sky. Somewhere, sitting there, will be the divine person.

One psychologist working in a school in America asked small children about God, what they think about God. Children have clearer perception: they are less cunning, more true. They are more representative of the human mind, they are unperverted. So he asked the children and the answers were collected. The conclusion was very ridiculous. In conclusion almost all the children depicted God something like this: God is an old man, very tall, bearded and very dangerous. He creates fear. If you don’t follow him he will throw you into hell; if you pray and follow him he will give you paradise and all the pleasures. He is sitting on a throne in the sky and watching everybody. You cannot escape him; even in your bathroom he is looking.

The outgoing mind projects everything outside. This is your God. Don’t laugh, don’t think this is a child’s conception - no, this is you. This is how you think about God - as a cosmic spy, always searching to condemn, to throw you into hell, to punish, and very ferocious, revengeful. That’s why all religions are based on fear: if you do this you will be appreciated, rewarded; if you don’t do this you will be punished. But the base seems to be fear, and God seems to be just a very powerful emperor sitting on a throne in heaven. The whole concept is foolish but human. Human mind is foolish. The whole concept is anthropocentric.

In The Bible it is said God created man in his own image. The reality seems to be quite otherwise: man created God in his own image. We have projected God in our own image; it is a blow-up of the human mind - a bigger human mind, that’s all. Remember, if you think God is somewhere outside you, then you have not even taken the first step towards being religious.

The same happens with all the concepts: heaven is without, hell is without, as if there exists nothing like the within. What is within you? The moment you think of the within it seems that everything goes empty. What is within? The world is without, sex is without, sin is without, virtue is without. God, heaven, hell - everything is without. What is within you? Who are you? The moment you think of the within the mind goes blank, there is nothing.

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