A Zen Buddhism Koan
A Buddhist was a very devout follower of the Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva of Compassion, also known as Guan Yin in Chinese. One day, the village in which he lived was flooded by a overflowing river, and the water was rising rapidly. He escaped to the roof top of his house and prayed to the Bodhisattva for help, because according to the Lotus Sutra, when the Bodhisattva of Compassion hears the cries of the world, she will come down to help anybody in despair.
As he was praying to the Bodhisattva, a native Indian rowed a canoe along the flooded river and cried out, “Hi. Fellow, do you need a ride in my canoe?” He did not like natives because most of them are not Buddhist and so he replied, ” No. I do not need your help. The Bodhisattva will come and help me out.” And he continued to pray to the Bodhisattva.
After a while, an Anglo Saxon American arrived in a speed boat and cried out, “Hi! Do you need help? If you do, just come and ride in my speed boat.” But he did not like white people either because most of them are Christians. So he refused his help also.
Next, a helicopter flew above the house and the pilot shouted to him, “Do you want to come fly with me?” But he thought that Buddhist should live a simple life, free from high technology. So he replied, “No thank you. I am sure the Bodhisattva will safe my life, if I pray to her.” The pilot left.
Finally, the house gave way to the flood and he was drowned. After his death he went before King Yama (the God of Hell) and filed a complaint, “According to the Lotus Sutra, the Bodhisattva of Compassion promises to come and save my life whenever I pray to her. Why did she break her promise?”
King Yama replied, “the Bodhisattva did appear to help you out three times. First, she appeared as a Native, then as a Anglo Saxon, then as a pilot. But you did not recognize her and refused her help. Therefore I have to dismiss your complaint. However, since you have read the Lotus Sutra, you do not have to stay here. I will arrange your rebirth as soon as possible. You may go now.”