"The Difference Between Happiness and
Suffering"(Two Dining Rooms)
Long ago there lived a boy who learned about heaven and hell
while working hard at learning the Buddha's teachings. He
meditated in the front of his Buddha image, wondering "What is
hell like? What is heaven like? I want to know more about the
That night, he dreamed of a Buddha. "Hello, little boy," the
Buddha said to him. "You asked to know more about heaven and
hell. First, I will show you hell."
In his dream, the boy was taken to a blue door. As he got
closer, it opened without a sound. He carefully stepped through
the door, and inside was a dining room. He saw a beautiful table
with delicious-looking dishes of meat and fish and piles of
fruit spread all over it. It was the most wonderful feast he had
"How could this place be hell?" the boy wondered.
Then, suddenly, appearing out of nowhere, ghosts began to
gather. Restless and impatient, they were unhappy and
scary-looking. The boy had never seen anything like them before.
When all the ghosts were finally seated, they picked up their
chopsticks. The chopsticks started to grow, becoming longer and
longer and longer, until they were all a yard (a meter) long.
The ghosts tried to eat with their long chopsticks, but they
couldn't. Even when they could pick something up, they couldn't
put it into their mouths. They tried again and again, but it was
no use. Frustrated, they started getting upset and fighting with
Suddenly, the back doors of the dining room opened, and a large
gaping black hole appeared. Mealtime was over. The ghosts were
still very hungry, but they disappeared into the dark hole.
The Buddha turned to the boy and said, "You look so sad. Now let
me show you the dining room in heaven."
Quietly, another door opened to a dining room that looked
exactly like the room in hell.
"What's the difference?" he wondered. Just then, happy-looking
people started to quietly gather around the table. "But how are
they going to eat with those same long chopsticks?" the boy
After sitting down, the people began picking up food with their
very long chopsticks and, instead of trying to feed themselves,
they began putting the food into the mouths of the people
sitting on the other side of the table. They took turns feeding
each other, giving the other person whatever they wanted to eat.
They enjoyed the meal so much!
"You see," said the Buddha gently, "the rooms are the same. It
all depends on your heart. Your kindness makes heaven."
The boy nodded and said, "Thank you so much for showing me the
two worlds. Now I understand. The difference between heaven and
hell is in the hearts of people themselves!"
The Buddha smiled and said good-bye to the boy, just as he awoke
from the dream. But he never forgot the teaching, and helped
many other people to find the difference between heaven and