Heaven and Hell

A violent samurai who was known for picking fights for no reason at all arrived at the door of a Zen monastery and asked to speak to the master.

Without a moment’s hesitation, Ryokan came out to meet him.

“They say that intelligence is more powerful than strength,” said the samurai. “I wonder if you could explain to me the meaning of heaven and hell.”

Riokan remained silent.

“You see” roared the samurai. “I could explain that very easily: to show what hell is, all I need to do is beat someone up. To show what heaven is, just let a person go free after menacing him a lot.”

“I don’t argue with stupid people like you,” said the Zen master.

This made the samurai’s blood boil. His mind was filled with hatred.

“Now, that is hell,” said Ryokan, smiling. “Letting yourself be angered by silly things.”

The monk’s courage disconcerted the warrior, and he relaxed.

“And that is heaven,” added Ryokan, inviting him in. “Not reacting to silly provocations.”

Paulo Coelho is a Brazilian author who has sold more than 100 million books, which include 14 short story collections and the novel “The Alchemist.” He has been a fan of the Internet since the early 1990s. He spends at least three hours a day online, writing e-mails back and forth with his readers and posting photos on Flickr, MySpace and a blog.

Coelho’s online activities also include promoting pirated copies of his own books. Since 2005 he’s been directing his readers to an online site where they can download his books, in languages from German to Japanese, for free. “I always thought that when, at the beginning of your career, you strive to be read, you can’t change your mind later and become greedy about it.”

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