A Confucius Lesson: Two Monks Crossing A River

October 12, 2012

Two Buddhist Monks were on a journey, one was a senior monk, the other a junior monk. During their journey they approached a raging river and on the river bank stood a young lady. She was clearly concerned about how she would get to the other side of the river without drowning.

The junior monk walked straight past her without giving it a thought and he crossed the river. The senior monk picked up the woman and carried her across the river. He placed her down, they parted ways with woman and on they went with the journey.

As the journey went on, the senior monk could see some concern on the junior monk’s mind, he asked what was wrong. The junior monk replied, “how could you carry her like that? You know we can’t touch women, it’s against our way of life”. The senior monk answered, “I left the woman at the rivers edge a long way back, why are you still carrying her?”

The moral of the story:
The senior monk had broken rules but for good reason. Once the purpose was fulfilled he put her down and continued on. He never gave it a further thought. The junior monk however did not touch the woman but he had brought up the actions of the senior monk when it was an action of the past. Therefore the junior monk was carrying the burden of what the senior monk had done as emotional baggage.

We have little use for the past except for the purpose of learning from our experiences, good and bad. Just like in the story, we need to let go of any burden the past may place on us. It’s happened, it’s over, it cannot be changed, we can only move forward and create a compelling future.

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