Two monks and a Woman — Zen story

taken from,that%20is%20hurtful%20towards%20us.

Table of Contents

The Story

“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 cross to the other side.

The two monks glanced at one another because they had taken vows not to touch a woman.

Then, without a word, the older monk picked up the woman, carried her across the river, placed her gently on the other side, and carried on his journey.

The younger monk couldn’t believe what had just happened. After rejoining his companion, he was speechless, and an hour passed without a word between them.

Two more hours passed, then three, finally the younger monk could contain himself any longer, and blurted out “As monks, we are not permitted a woman, how could you then carry that woman on your shoulders?”

The older monk looked at him and replied, “Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river, why are you still carrying her?”


The story imparts several lessons.

Firstly, it underscores the importance of letting go of past actions and decisions, emphasizing that dwelling on them can hinder our present and future interactions. Secondly, it suggests that rigid adherence to rules without understanding their intent can lead to inner turmoil and misjudgment.

Lastly, it hints at the wisdom that often comes with experience, where the senior monk was able to discern the compassionate action despite the existing vow, demonstrating a nuanced understanding of their moral commitments. Through these lessons, the narrative invites reflection on our own perceptions, actions, and the importance of understanding the principles behind rules.

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