homeaboutarchives + tagsnewslettermembership!
aboutarchivesnewslettermembership!
aboutarchivesmembers!

kottke.org posts about Zen Shorts

The Story of Two Monks and a Woman

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 26, 2020

Something shitty just happened to me. (Don’t worry, I’m alright!) But after it happened, I was pretty preoccupied by the whole thing: feeling victimized, rehashing the stupid mistake I’d made in my mind, wondering what I should have done differently, feeling shame about it all. This incident was on its way to ruining my day and perhaps even my next few days. Then I remembered one of the stories from the lovely Zen Shorts, a book I used to read with the kids.

The tale of two monks and a woman is a well-known Buddhist parable. The story goes that two monks were traveling together, a senior and a junior. They came to a river with a strong current where a young woman was waiting, unable to cross alone. She asks the monks if they would help her across the river. Without a word and in spite of the sacred vow he’d taken not to touch women, the older monk picks her up, crosses, and sets her down on the other side.

The younger monk joins them across the river and is aghast that the older monk has broken his vow but doesn’t say anything. An hour passes as they travel on. Then two hours. Then three. Finally, the now quite agitated younger monk can stand it no longer: “Why did you carry that women when we took a vow as monks not to touch women?”

The older monk replies, “I set her down hours ago by the side of the river. Why are you still carrying her?”

The story is a reminder to not dwell on the past in a way that interferes with living in the present moment. I’m glad to have remembered it today — I’m feeling much better now.