Thursday, January 13, 2011
Two Monks and a Woman
A senior monk and a junior monk were traveling together. At one point, they came to a river with a strong current. As the monks were preparing to cross the river, they saw a very young and beautiful woman also attempting to cross. The young woman asked if they could help her.
The senior monk carried this woman on his shoulder, forded the river and let her down on the other bank. The junior monk became very upset, but said nothing.
They both were walking and senior monk noticed that his junior was suddenly silent and enquired “Is something the matter, you seem very upset?”
Enraged, the junior monk replied, “As monks, we are not permitted to even touch a woman, how could you then carry that woman on your shoulders?”
The senior monk replied, “I left the woman a long time ago at the bank, however, you are still carrying her in your head.”
(The story of Two Monks and a Woman is a very well known Zen story and there are many versions of it, but the origin is not clear.)
The older monk, having a mind free of attachments, saw the situation, responded to it, and continued to be present to the next step after letting the woman down. The younger monk was bound by ideas, held on to them for hours, harboring negatives emotions like anger and regret. In doing so, he missed the experiences of the next part of the journey.
Mental attachment to ideas, experiences or attitudes blocks the full experience of the present, “the here and now”. Attachments slow the mind, interfering with appropriate responses to the immediate situation. We make excuses for our attachments when we say “this is the way it always being done” or “this is the way I was taught”. We become prejudiced and our first response is always “no” or “I don like that” it, instead to be open minded and try something new or better.
Leaving the attachments behind is like peeling the onion, the journey gets lighter and easier every time. If you had an argument with your spouse, your children, your neighbor...don’t hold on to that anger or grudges for too long. We are humans and is perfectly normal to have feelings. But just like the older monk in the story, once you finish crossing the river with your anger, leave it on the river bank and continue your journey....
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called "the present." -Master Oogway from Kung Fu Panda