ESCAPE FROM HELL - A Zen Buddhism Koan
Once upon a time a very wicked man died and ended up in Hell. As he was brought before King Yama, (the Lord of Hell in Buddhism), he pleaded to the King, "I am asking your Majesty to be merciful because I always recited Namo Amitabha Buddha." pleaded the wicked man.
"Can you give me a description of any good deed that you had done on Earth?" asked King Yama. "If you can, then I will be more than willing to let you go to Heaven instead of staying here."
The wicked man thought for a long time and said, "I recall I saved the life of a spider. A bird flew into my garden and destroyed a spider web, and I chased the bird away."
"OK, I will ask my Officers to verify what you say." said King Yama. So he sent two Hell Officers off to look for the spider whom the wicked man said he had saved.
After spending some time looking for the spider, the two Officers finally located her in the Heavenly Garden, serving as the Goddess of Silk under Emperor Sakra' s (the King of Thirty Three Heavens in Buddhism) command.
"Yes, it is true that he saved my life," the Goddess of Silk told King Yama's Officers. "I am very grateful for this and therefore I am willing to help him get out of Hell"
"How would you do it?" asked the Officers.
"I will spin a long fine piece of silk and drop it from Heaven to Hell. Then he can hold on to it and I will lift him to Heaven. There is one condition: My silk looked thin, but very strong. He must have faith in it before he can be lifted to Heaven."
The scheme was approved by both Emperor Sakra and King Yama. A long thin piece of silk was produced by the Goddess and dropped all the way from Heaven to Hell. The man held on the silk and the Spider Goddess started to lift him out. Everything seemed to work well until ........
As the wicked man was being lifted out of Hell, he looked down and found hundreds and hundreds of Hell residents also held on to the piece of silk and tried to get out of Hell into Heaven. The weight of all those people was stretching the spider silk tremendously. Suddenly, a thought came to his mind, "Can I trust this thin piece of silk to hold so many people? If I cut the other Hell residents loose, this piece of silk need not bear so much weight and I am sure that I can to go to Heaven safely!" And he remembered he had a knife in his pocket.
He tried to reach his pocket to find his knife, but as he took his hand off the piece of silk, he fell back into Hell. Thus, while the other residents reached Heaven safely, he was unable to get out. The Goddess of Silk sighed and told the two Hell Officers, "Well. My piece of silk is very strong but elastic. It will not break no matter how many Hell residents held on to it. He did not have faith in it and did not want anybody else come to Heaven. There is little else I can do to bring him out."