Japanese Buddhist Folktales
Where Hell Exists
Long ago, a lord invited a priest he knew well to dine at his castle and have a friendly conversation.
"Priest, they say that both hell and paradise exist, but no one has
ever returned from either. How can we know that they are real?"
"Hell and paradise are everywhere. They may exist before our very eyes."
"If that is so, priest, then show me hell." The lord, who thought the
comfortable life he led in the castle was paradise, was interested in
"Very well, I will." The priest bowed respectfully before him and then stood up and started slapping the lord on the head.
"Priest, have you lost your senses? I ought to cut you to pieces. Sit back down!"
His face red, the lord stood up, waving his fist with a furious look.
Quite unconcerned, the priest said with a cool expression on his face:
"Lord, here is the boundary between hell and paradise."
Turning toward the lord whose shaking fist was still raised high, the
priest continued to speak. "Your mind, lord, which is consumed by such
anger that you are about to kill is now in hell. But the meal we were
enjoying just moments ago, that was paradise."
When the lord heard this, he took a deep breath and sat down again with
deep emotion. "In all my life, I have never been so angry. That was,
indeed, hell. Truly, you have shown me the hell and the paradise in my
The lord put his faith in the priest, and thereafter, deeply revered the Buddha.
(A story from Tochigi Prefecture)
This article was originally published in the January-March 2007 issue of Dharma World.