Heaven and hell are our own creations

Zen Practice


Don’t be tricked by the monsters in your mind.

The heart is a demon. The word “heart” suggests a somewhat pure and benign image, however, the heart controls our mental state and hides a negative side, which leads to bad behavior. Regretting the past, being unable to start what you should, and only worrying about the future – your heart distracts you as it pleases.

For many people who always feel uneasy and upset, the “heart” becomes their master. Properly speaking, you are the master of the “heart” and should be in control.

The Diamond Sutra says that past, future, even the present, which becomes the past from the moment you say “the present”, cannot be controlled as we wish. Therefore, there is no use mentally struggling over these things.


Zen Master Rinzai says, “The heart is formless. Though without form, it is at work east, west, south, north, above, below and in every direction. The heart, does not exist in our bodies as a concrete object, but manifests itself in our attitude toward our daily actions. As the heart does not have a shape, it can be anything and can work in any way.

The feelings that make you uneasy or happy are only illusions, which your heart creates. Illusions are only delusions. That is to say, you can make this moment in which you live a heaven or a hell depending on your way of thinking. The following is a story to tell how a slight change in your way of thinking can change a hell into a heaven:

    In Hell, people are sitting around a table set with many delicious dishes.
    However, long chopsticks are tied around their hands, so they cannot put food
    into their mouths. They try very hard to eat food but the chopsticks get their way.

    In Heaven, just as in the Hell, long chopsticks are tied around people’s hands and disrupt their eating. The difference is, however, that people here are feeding each other using their long chopsticks.

As in this story, our daily lives, in the same way, can become a heaven or a hell depending on how we think about things. It could be that although your happiness is right in front of you, you may not notice it. Moreover, you put yourself in agony though you do not have to.


Our minds change at will – happy, sad, joyful and tormented. What is the true nature then, of hearts that rock with out of control emotions?

In fact, the true nature of our heart is desire. As a rule, this is undeniable since our desire or wishes can become a life goal. However, if desire is for your benefit and profit only, and is bound by a strong ego, you yourself make your life painful.

For that reason, Buddhism preaches the importance of being in firm control of our five senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. If these five senses start working as they please, every desire such as eating, sex, materialism, success, jealousy and laziness results.

In order to overcome these desires, Zen practices meditation and emptying the mind. Your mind is a truly scary thing. Once your mind is controlled by desire, your behavior becomes uncontrollable and comes to crave it. In a case like this, your mind becomes upset and unstable.
In Zen, the expression “Maku mou zou”, “Do not have delusions”, is often used. When we are upset and feeling anxious, we tell ourselves not to be delusional.


All things good and bad are illusions that your mind creates. For example, the way back home after having getting laid off is very different from the way back home after a promotion, even if the scenery along the way is the same. The scenery in itself is neither good nor bad; it is only natural. However, when a human mind complicates the scenery, it indeed changes.

Take a deep breath when you feel uneasy or upset. Then calm down and consider whether you are not confused by a delusion your mind created. Look at yourself objectively and ask yourself if you are not controlled by an evil mind or by your mind. Tell yourself that you are the master of your mind, and that your mind is not your master.