The Danger of Uncontrolled Anger:
Told Through a Famous Zen Story
A Japanese warrior approached a Zen master to request answers to some questions that had been troubling him.
“What is it you want to know?” queried the Zen master.
“Tell me, sir, do heaven and hell exist?”
“Ha! snorted the Zen master in a tone that was half-laugh, half-sneer. “What makes you think that you could understand such things? You are only an uneducated, brutish soldier. Don’t waste my time with your silly questions.”
For an instant the warrior froze in shock. No one, but no one, ever spoke to a Japanese warrior like that. It meant instant death.
“Are you too stupid to understand what I said?” roared the Zen master. “Stop wasting my time and get out of here.”
The warrior exploded with rage. His hand flew like lightning to his sword and swept it aloft for the kill. But in the split second before the sword descended to crush the monk’s skull, the warrior heard the words:
“This is the gate to hell.”
Again the warrior froze in astonishment. His own rage brought hell to him and those he attacked. And the master had risked his life to make this fact inescapably clear. Breathing deeply, he slowly replaced his sword and bowed humbly in awe and respect.
“And this,” smiled the Zen master, “is the gate to heaven.”
This Zen story was taken from Essential Spirituality, written by Roger Walsh, M.D., Ph.D. The author says this of uncontrolled anger:
“The great religions warn again and again of the dangers of uncontrolled anger. Jewish sages warn that anger “can prevent enlightenment,” while Christians view it as one of the seven deadly sins. Buddhists compare it to a forest fire roaring through the mind, consuming what is good.”
It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles.
Then the victory is yours.
It cannot be taken from you,
not by angels or by demons,
heaven or hell.