It is a very proud thing to be a samurai in Japan. It means a perfect warrior, a man who can give his life in a single moment, he will not hesitate. For him, life and death are just a game.
He said, “I am a samurai, I am a leader of samurais, and the emperor pays respect to me.”
Hakuin laughed and said, “You, a samurai? You look like a beggar!”
The samurai’s pride was hurt, his ego hammered. He forgot for what he had come. He took out his sword, he was just going to kill this Hakuin. He forgot that he had come to this master to ask where the gate of heaven is, and where the gate of hell is. Then Hakuin laughed and said, “This is the gate of hell. With this sword, this anger, this ego, here opens the gate.” This is what a warrior can understand. Immediately he understood: This is the gate. He put his sword back in its sheath. And Hakuin said, “Here opens the gate of heaven.”
Hell and heaven are within you, both gates are within you. When you are unconscious, behaving unconsciously, there is the gate of hell; when you become alert and conscious there is the gate of heaven.
What happened to this samurai? When he was just going to kill Hakuin, was he conscious? Was he conscious of what he was about to do? Was he conscious of what he had come for? All consciousness had disappeared. When ego takes over, you cannot be alert. Ego is the drug, the intoxicant that makes you completely unconscious. You act, but the act comes from the unconscious, not from your consciousness. And whenever any act comes from the unconscious, the door of hell is open. Whatsoever you do, if you do it in a way that you are not aware of what you are doing…unawareness is the gate of hell. Immediately the samurai became alert. When Hakuin said, “This is the gate, you have already opened it,” suddenly the very situation must have created alertness.
Just imagine what would have happened to you if you had been the warrior, if you had been the samurai, sword in hand, just going to kill. A single moment more and Hakuin’s head would have been cut, separated from the body – a single moment more. Sword in hand…and Hakuin says, “This is the gate of hell.” This is not a philosophical answer; no master answers in a philosophical way. Philosophy exists only for mediocre, unenlightened minds. A master responds. A response is not verbal, it is total. Hakuin is playing with danger. This man may have killed him. But that is not the point. “Even if you kill me and it makes you alert, it is worth it” – Hakuin played the game. A single moment lost and this man would have killed him. In the right moment Hakuin said, “This is the gate.”