Thank you Julie Pasqual, my Yoga teacher and a great storyteller, for sharing the original story.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…a Jedi dies.
The Force appears in front of him, and commands,
‘You need to spend time in both hell and heaven before you become the part of the ubiquitous power. Where do you want to go first?’
The Jedi thinks for a moment. He had heard about hell – an eternal fire – where souls are subjected to punitive sufferings, darkness, loneliness and isolation. No one can be happy there. Then there is Heaven – a Paradise – where souls enjoy goodness, richness, prosperity and divinity.
‘Why don’t I first suffer before I enjoy all the worldliness of heaven?’ he says.
‘Then hell it is!’ the Force commands, and in a flash, he is in hell.
He looks around. There is no fire, no tortured souls, no sufferings. He sees a river, clear as crystal, flowing from a shining mountain, and on each side of the river, there is a tree of life, yielding different kinds of fruits and flowers.
‘These are the most beautiful flowers I have ever seen, and the most magnificent mountain ranges. Look at that sunset,’ he thinks getting lost in the beauty of hell.
‘Am I really in hell?’
Far away, he sees a city with beautiful castles and a street made of pure gold heading to the city. He walks towards the city, that is surrounded by a wall adorned with every kind of jewels, emeralds, etc. As he reaches the main gate, it automatically opens. There are no guards, no demons, and no beings around. He keeps walking inside the city that has every sort of luxury that one could ask for.
Suddenly, he sees a large banquet hall. As he enters the hall, he sees songbirds flying out. The hall is an impressive feat of theatre with high-quality decorative fixtures, wall paintings, and stucco reliefs, as well as portable luxury objects, such as artworks, sculptures and furniture. He sees flute girls, dancers and courtesans.
‘I cannot be in hell,’ he thinks again.
Suddenly he sees a group of men and women entering the hall. They look sad, fragile, and lonely. Their right hand is tied behind them, and the left hand is carrying a spoon with a long handle . As they enter the hall, a dining table appears with a simmering large metal hotpot filled with soup at the center of a table.
A fairy-like godmother appears and says in her soft and polite tone, ‘Please proceed and eat. Once you finish your soup, you will be served with lavish food and drinks.’
They extend their left hand to dip a small spoon with a long handle, as they turn the spoon towards them, most of the soup spills to the floor. They try to do the same and fail again and again. In no time, they get frustrated, angry and aggressive. Some start fighting with each other, and some throw their spoon to go close to the boiling soup pot just to burn themselves. In no time, the place turns into absolute chaos.
‘It is an absolute hell,’ Jedi shouts and pleads folding his hands, ‘Save me. We are hungry, food is in front of us, but we are not able to eat. Out of hunger, we have become like animals, and we are killing each other. If this is not hell, I am not sure what it is. Send me to heaven immediately.’
The Force announces, ‘Heaven it is!’
And in a flash, the Jedi is in heaven.
He looks around. The heaven looks exactly the same as hell. The city, the wall, the street, the castles, the shops- everything is the same. He sees the same large banquet hall with the same decoration. As he enters the hall, songbirds are flying out, flute girls and dancers are dancing, and courtesans are smiling – exactly the way he saw in hell.
He then sees a group of men and women entering the hall. They look happy, strong, and content. Their right hand is tied behind, and the left hand is carrying the same long-handle spoon. Once again, a dining table appears with a simmering large metal hotpot filled with soup.
‘I know what’s going to happen, they will fight and kill each other,’ he thinks.
The godmother appears again and asks to proceed with soup.
Once again, they extend their left hand to dip a small spoon with a long handle, and instead of turning the spoon towards themselves, they extend it straight to the mouth of the other person standing next to them. As they are feeding each other, they are socializing, laughing and having fun with each other. They look happy and blissful serving each other.
‘This is an absolute Paradise, no joy can equal the joy of serving others,’ Jedi exclaims with great delight.
This is how our life works – be it at home or at work.
Hotpot soup, long-handled spoon and tied-hand signify opportunity, resources and challenges respectively. We always have an opportunity to grow, we are provided with resources; at the same time, we face challenges too. But what and how we choose determines if we are in hell or heaven.
The people in hell were focused on challenges and never looked at the opportunities. They were motivated by personal gain, driven by fear and did not recognize the significance of others in their lives. The ones in heaven focused on supporting the success and well-being of others. Along with others, they too prospered.
There is hell that is marked by excessive desire, significant drama and infighting. We instill fear, we are led by our egos, and we always feel unappreciated. We notice others’ weakness and judge them. We want everything for ourselves and we are consumed by jealousy, fear and insecurity.
And there is heaven where we get a sense of purpose and meaning in life by helping others including our colleagues and clients. We instill hope, we are led by our confidence, and we always feel connected to our inner self. We notice others’ strength and appreciate them. We want to create experiences and we enjoy better mental and physical well-being.
Choice is ours, journey is ours.