10 December 2014 – A Zen story

Photo by Maria Gair, http://mariagphotography.com/

Photo by Maria Gair, http://mariagphotography.com/

This is one of my favourite Zen stories I’ve come across.  I changed it to winter, for today’s prompt, but really, this could happen any time of the year.

Two monks were once travelling together in winter. A heavy snow was falling. Coming around a bend, they met an old woman, unable to cross a river.

‘Come on,’ said the first monk. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her across the river.

The second monk said nothing.  He did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. Then he no longer could restrain himself. ‘We monks don’t go near females,’ he said. ‘It is dangerous. Why did you do that?’

‘I left the woman by the river,’ the first monk said. ‘Why are you still carrying her?’

What have you left by the river?  What are you still carrying?

How does this writing prompt advent calendar work?
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5 Responses to 10 December 2014 – A Zen story

  1. Melissa says:

    I’m not very good at leaving things at the river. I’m like that second monk. But maybe I carry things for just as long as I need to. I carry them as long as I don’t understand them, turning them this way and that, looking for just the right perspective. And then, when I know their front from their back and sides, I can set them down. It’s usually miles away from the river. But I do set them down..


  2. Christine says:

    This is a story that my Reiki Teacher told me once. I had forgotten how it went and saw another version posted on another Reiki Facebook page. Finally I have the version as I wanted to remember it from you Melissa, my writing guru. How fabulous that I should join in on this particular day with a prompt that I really relate to! Rivers are also wonderful metaphors for how we live our lives. Do we go with the flow or do we drown in things? Do we just keep our heads above water sometimes or do we float along without a care in the world. I’m like the English weather; I can do all these things in the space of an afternoon.


  3. suki60 says:

    But was the first monk right to rescue the old woman, and then to leave her in equally difficult circumstances? I understand that we hang on to our baggage for far longer than is good for us, but surely we need to be sure, when we feel that we are being benevolent, that we are not just gratifying ourselves.


    • Melissa says:

      Your comment makes me think about doing good and what our motivations are for good deeds. If in the moments after the deed is done the situation is dismissed or forgotten, is this charity? I guess we can’t hold on to everything forever, our arms would be too full, but knowing when to put something down may be linked to knowing how we, too, have been changed by what we have held.


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