Saturday 27 May 2017 News Updated at 11:05 PM IST
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Hell or heaven - Deccan Herald
Hell or heaven
Leela Ramaswamy,
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A Samurai warrior came to a Zen master and ordered him to explain 'Hell' and 'Heaven'. The master told him that a man of violence like him would not be able to understand the concepts. Angered by this, the man drew out his sword swearing he would behead him for the insult. Unperturbed, the master remarked, 'That, Sir, would be Hell'. Disarmed by his instant explanation and cool courage, the Samurai fell at his feet thanking him profusely. 'That, Sir,' continued the master, 'is Heaven'.

Many religions talk of hell and heaven. Even Hinduism, which propounds the concept of 'karma' and 'reincarnation' speaks of 'Naraka' (Hell) and "Swarga' (Heaven). Modern opinion however tends towards the belief that they do not have any geographical identity. They are actually states of awareness.

The derivation of the word 'Hell' makes things clearer. 'Hell' is an Old English term, which was used by estate owners for 'border' or 'fence.' If you wanted to keep a cow or pig, you had to 'hell' the animal in a barn. In other words, it was 'helled', a word that has evolved into 'held'. Hell therefore is 'captivity'. In spiritual terms, we are imprisoned or 'helled' when we let our egos rule us. We fall prey to anger, jealousy and ill will. Sense of proportion is lost and inner calm that is fundamental to happiness and peace is absent. When a person is at odds with others, he is also at odds with himself. Isolated and alienated, he finds himself in the confines of 'Hell'.

On the other hand, we experience 'Heaven' when we liberate ourselves from selfishness and anger. By keeping the needs of others in mind and living a life of integrity, we enjoy a peace that passes understanding. This is what 'Heaven' truly means. Indeed, we feel we are in heaven when we practise goodness of heart.

We do not have to wait for death to find 'Heaven' or 'Hell'. Both exist in everyday life and in our daily conduct. During our days on earth, we can live in 'hell' or in 'heaven'. The choice is ours. As poet John Milton says, 'The mind in its own place, and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell or a Hell of Heaven.'

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