John Suler's Zen Stories to Tell Your Neighbors
Two traveling monks reached a river where they met a young woman. Wary of the current, she asked if they could carry her across. One of the monks hesitated, but the other quickly picked her up onto his shoulders, transported her across the water, and put her down on the other bank. She thanked him and departed.
As the monks continued on their way, the one was brooding and preoccupied. Unable to hold his silence, he spoke out. "Brother, our spiritual training teaches us to avoid any contact with women, but you picked that one up on your shoulders and carried her!"
"Brother," the second monk replied, "I set her down on the other side, while you are still carrying her."
(some versions of this story describe the monk as carrying the woman across a mud puddle )
People's reactions to this story:
"Reminds me of the fundamentalist type of preachings that are so moralistic and full of admonitions against secular things that they actually create the problems they seek to avoid."
"Rigidity gets in the way of your growth. Being rigid usually means you are denying something."
"It's better to do what you need to do and get it over with, than not do it and carry it with you in your mind."
"If we humans didn't dwell on things we've done in the past, then we wouldn't be who we are. We contemplate and feel guilt - it's in our nature."
"The first monk listened to his conscience rather than to what he had been taught by his religion - and he ended up doing the right thing."
"What happens, happens. Take the good with the bad, and the only way to get over the bad is to acknowledge it, accept it, and leave it in the past. There's no reason to be obsessed."
"I think the second monk was a bit jealous. He really wanted to carry that woman himself, and now he can't get sex off his mind."
"Kindness to people will always leave you with a clear conscience."
"The time I spend deciding whether or not to do something often takes longer than if I just did it in the first place."
"You have to go with your first reaction to a situation. Trust your instincts. If you think about something too long, any deed will seem like its the wrong thing to do."
"Any action you take should be without guilt or regret, despite what other people may say or think. This is what it means to be independent."
"Monks should help anyone in need."
"Obviously, the second monk is feeling guilty about not helping the woman."
"If you don't act on your wishes and desires, you become obsessed with them. The second monk is left wondering what it would have been like if had he acted on his impulses. You can't let thinking get in your way. I should have acted on my impulses last night. I should have just picked my man up!"
"Sounds like the first monk was able to confront and deal with his problems, while the second monk still harbors them in his soul."
"I find that when things happen, there are those people who forget about it and move on. Then there are those people who dwell on insignificant things - maybe because they feel they should have contributed more or should have taken control."
"What if the woman fell into the water and drowned? Who would be responsible?"
"We all carry with us the weight of our past mistakes, regrets, and mistaken beliefs."
"Treat others as you would like to be treated."
""What's this about how you're supposed to avoid women? It doesn't make any sense!"
"What I'd like to know is what is worse - physically touching a woman or thinking about one."